Learning to Code

I recently came across an excellent infographic which attempts to provide a visual overview of the main programming languages as well as the possible benefits of learning each one:

What Programming Language to Learn?

Reproduced with permission from whoishostingthis.com

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World Food Programme – Gaming For Good

I have been meaning to write about the United Nations World Food Programme and their amazing work for sometime. WFPs Free Rice website is a wonderfully simple concept, in essence it provides a range of “games” mainly in the form of multiple choice questions covering a wide range of subjects including English, Maths, Sciences and Language Learning.  Every correct answer given “earns” a donation of 10 grains of rice to help fight hunger, as the website says

WARNING: This game may make you smarter. It may improve your speaking, writing, thinking, grades, job performance…

What a wonderful way for children (of all ages) to learn, revise and help to fight world hunger! As of March 8th 2012 the programme had donated 95 097 040 800 grains of rice.

They have also just launched a new quiz to coincide with International Women’s Day

Today, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate Molly and girls like her who are beating the odds and having lots of fun along the way. Celebrate with us by watching Molly’s World. Then, take our brand new quiz to test just how much you know about this incredible young lady.




By taking Molly’s Quiz, you’re joining a growing community taking action to make sure more boys and girls like Molly have the chance at a better future. For every quiz taken, WFP can provide one more meal in school.


Working together, we can make a lasting impact on children’s lives all over the wold.


Celebrate International Women’s Day with us today by taking a few moments to get to know Molly. I hope she inspires you as much as she inspires all of us here at WFP.



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Generate your own Android Apps For Free!

The MIT Center for Mobile Learning has just announced that they are meeting their goal of making MIT App Inventor available as a public service in the first quarter of 2012.


For the past two months, we have been conducting a closed test of the system for an increasing number of testers, and we’ve currently scaled to 5000 testers. Today, we’re taking the next step, and opening the MIT App Inventor service to everyone. All you will need is a Google ID for log-in (for example, a Gmail account).

App Inventor will now be suitable for any use, including running classes. But please be aware that this is the first time the system will be under load from a large number of users, so there may be bumps and adjustments as the load increases. For now, we suggest that you maintain backup copies of important apps, as we see how things go.

Of course, there are glitches and minor errors and lots of room for improvement. We’ll be turning our attention to these improvements, once we have more experience with running the system at scale. We will also be developing more resources and support for using App Inventor as a learning tool. We look forward to working with you over the coming months to build the community of App Inventor educators.

We owe a large debt to our testers of the past few months; it’s been their feedback that’s given us the confidence for today’s announcement. And we’re tremendously grateful to the folks who have been running their own system with the MIT JAR files. Their experiences have been an invaluable source of information, and their work has been critical in keeping App Inventor alive while the MIT service was not yet available. We also want to acknowledge the growing group of developers who are starting to explore the App Inventor source code. They are the seeds of an open source community that we hope will take App Inventor beyond anything we could do by ourselves at MIT. And our extreme gratitude and admiration goes to the Google App Inventor team who, even while their project transitions out of Google, have continued to share their expertise and the fruit of their hard work of the past three years.

Please join with us in helping the system move to its next phase as an MIT service. You can learn about MIT App Inventor by visiting our new home at http://appinventor.mit.edu.

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Gametuned on The Gene Pool

I was this weeks guest on Martin Franklin’s Digital Culture Podcast “The Gene Pool” which can be accessed directly here or played in iTunes by clicking on the banner below.

It takes 10,000 hours of practice for musicians to approach virtuoso status. With a new generation who have grown up with gaming, their time spent with computer games gives them the equivalent skills as “master gamers”. Rising to the fast-moving needs of a new workforce of “digital natives” and driving engagement in the workplace – James Monjack of Gametuned.com joins us to talk about the emerging field of “gamification” – the science of applying game mechanics to aid motivation and engagement.

In an information packed conversation, we talk through broadcast techniques that cater for the “dual screening” viewing experience, burning synaptic pathways, large companies setting up their own social networks for employees and taking radical new approaches to keep their workforce productive and engaged with the company brand.

This episode features music by Japanese musician, Saywhut! via SoundCloud.

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Enterprise Gamification – Approach With Caution

Lauren Carlson, CRM Market Analyst for Software Advice the Austin TX based advisory firm has recently posted an excellent article entitled Gamification: The Key to Preventing Support Agent Burnout on the company’s CRM blog.

I found this post of particular interest as Lauren has suggested what I believe to be a highly appropriate use of gamification, Help Desk Software.

The support team environment is a demanding one, where support agents can get easily burned out, leading to a high turnover rate.

Lauren quotes Richard White, CEO of customer support software vendor UserVoice

“We found that part of the reason for the high turnover rate is that there’s no sense of accomplishment for the agents. If you ask a guy in support, ‘What did you do today?’ He’ll say, ‘I answered support tickets.’ If you ask him, ‘What are you going to do tomorrow?’ He’ll say, ‘I’m answering support tickets.’ They have no concept of, ‘Am I getting better at this? Am I achieving anything?’ Many feel like they just get on a treadmill and run every day.”

Clearly this is fertile ground for a gamified system! However not all Enterprise environments are so suitable.

As Lauren notes around a year ago when she first posted on gamification

At the time, the idea was fairly novel. Today, gamification—the process of adding gaming elements to a non-gaming activity to encourage action and participation—is an idea that is moving beyond acceptance and into development.

I couldn’t agree more, back then talking to large corporates about using gamification to increase employee engagement and productivity was a difficult proposition. At that time the vast majority of organisations were extremely skeptical.

How times have changed… in just a few short months it seems the doors have been flung wide open, now everyman (and his dog) appears to be embracing gamification and investigating ways to incorporate game mechanics into their systems, but why the sudden change?

Quite simply gamification is becoming “big business” with an increasingly high level of investment from VCs. Great news! Well, yes it is, in a way. However the problem with these investors is they demand growth and ever increasing returns. This growth imperative means that many of the emerging “plug and play” platforms are tantamount to corporate exploitation systems. The danger here is that some unscrupulous purveyors of gamification goodness, with their requirement to please their investors, end up completely ignoring motivational theory and the “science behind gamification” leaving them peddling purely carrot and stick driven systems.

On the corporate side one can imagine executives rubbing their hands in glee at what they perceive to be “proven” ways to increase employee performance and engagement that are suitable across the entire organisation. And once they hear that non-monetry rewards are perceived as more valuable than cash? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them skip off giggling into the sunset.

Which is why I found Lauren’s post interesting. You see gamification does have a place and a function in the Enterprise, it does have the potential to be an incredibly powerful tool for driving engagement, loyalty and productivity. HOWEVER, let us remember gamification is about extrinsic rewards, if a task is intrinsically rewarding adding an extrinsic reward system is often counter productive and will almost certainly have a demotivational effect. Therefore the best, most appropriate uses of gamification in the Enterprise are where it is used to drive engagement in tasks with little intrinsic reward, job functions where

“Many feel like they just get on a treadmill and run every day.”

So I  recommend reading Lauren’s post for an excellent example of an appropriate suggestion for a gamified system.

To be sure, you cannot simply add gaming elements to a system and expect success. You have to take a closer look. Who is your user? What is their motivation? How does that align with the success of the company? When coming up with our ideas, this is where we started, and as software vendors begin to embrace the idea of gamification, this is where they will need to start, too.

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