Unreal Engine 4 Is Now Free

The internet is ablaze with the news that Unreal Engine 4 is now completely free to download and use. I have attached Epic Games own statement below to explain the situation better.

Epic Games is committed to supporting students and schools, and helping companies that license Unreal Engine 4 find and hire qualified developers.
Free to use, Unreal Engine 4 can be downloaded and installed to classroom computers as well as student home systems at no cost. With full access to the complete source code and tools, Unreal Engine 4 levels the playing field to give everyone the resources needed to learn professional-quality development.
In addition, schools and their students receive regular updates, making it easy to stay current with the latest and greatest in game development.
With UE4, student developers have unprecedented opportunities to use the skills they learn in class on their own projects at no cost. Launch of commercial products is still subject to the 5% royalty.

This is amazing news for educators and students alike as it levels the playing field and provides industry standard resources to all. For an idea of what people can create with this engine check out the GDC Unreal Engine Promo Reel below.

Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games stated that "We succeed only when you succeed" and that sounds about right, with 5% royalty on commercially made products this is a massive game changer for the industry. I'm very excited to have a go at it!

Ten Pieces by the BBC Brings Classical Music to the Mini Masses

Music is taking a bit of a kicking under this government. With cutbacks across the board one of the subjects suffering is music, however to bring the zing back to the subject check out this resource by the BBC. It aims to bring classic music to the masses by showcasing some pieces from baroque to modern classical. We just did it in our school and the excitement was palpable, especially when children heard the "Alton Towers music" (Griegs 'In the Hall of the Mountain King')

So if you are looking for a fun and interesting way to inspire children and get them responding to classical music this could be just what you are looking for!

Barclays Coding Playground

When you think of Barclays what do you think of? If it was fat cat bankers who ruined the worlds economy and got away with it then correct. But aside from that they do something for the community, apart from taking all our money or playing with foreign exchange markets illegally.

Barclays Coding Playground is a chance to attend coding sessions run by their experts. In their own words:

You rarely see it, but computer code runs our world. Everything from the website you’re reading to the traffic lights on our roads relies on the mysterious world of code. It’s even part of the national curriculum now, and learning what makes tech tick could give your kids a head start in the world of work.

Give them a helping hand by bringing them along to a coding session with our Digital Eagles – experts who’ll guide your children as they take on fun challenges that introduce them to the basics of coding.

Seems like a good opportunity for people to learn coding for free, it might just light the spark that children need. There are sessions across the country and simply by entering your postcode you can find the nearest session to you. Better than a kick in the teeth, or a overdraft fee of 30 quid!

Barclays Coding Playground

Pulseboy- The Free Online Chiptune Maker

For those in the know chiptunes are cool and are overground, gaining traction and fans through bands like Anamanaguchi. Well if you would like to make your own chiptunes then you should check out Pulseboy, a simple in-browser tool that allows you to create and save your files as wav. Check it out and start your own Dr Wily Stage music from Megaman 2!

Even the Star- Space Exploration Game

Created during a game jam, Pol Clarrisou's space adventure allows you to explore a universe by entering 6-digit coordinates into the spaceships sat-nav.You might find something wondrous, or nothing at all but there is an exciting element to the exploration as each time you warp you lose fuel and grow a little older. As a teacher I believe this could be used as an interesting stimulus to create a story or discuss space exploration is Science etc.

Have a look yourself, the game is free to download or play (as long as you have Unity installed)

British Pathe on YouTube

British Pathe, which documented the first 70 years of the 20th century in cinema newsreels, has uploaded its entire 85, 000 films to YouTube. Altogether that's just over 3,500 hours of footage! The news reels range from the sublime (like the Wright Brothers First Flight) to the ridiculous (like the Chain Smoking Chimp).

This is an invaluable resource as it does have some fascinating video, I've selected a few that I thought could be useful for teaching but obviously I have only scratched the surface. Enjoy!

Do Ink Green Screen

I've been using Green Screen by Do Ink to create a background for my classes performances using finger puppets. Gren Screen has been around for a while but has been expensive until quite recently. This app costs just £1.99 but achieves great results.

In their own words;

Green Screen by Do Ink makes it easy to create incredible green screen videos right on your iPad. Classroom-tested by kids and teachers, this app emphasizes ease-of-use and simplicity while still enabling you to get fantastic results. With Green Screen by Do Ink, you can tell a story, explain an idea, and express yourself in truly creative and unique ways.

If you are interested to see what can be achieved quickly and easily look at my article where I share the work done in my class by one group.

LINK- Green Screen Do Ink

Photosynth

Photosynth is a powerful set of tools for capturing and viewing the world in 3D. You can share your creations with your friends on Facebook, publish them to Bing, or embed them in your own blog or Web site. 

Photosynth is available on lots of different hardware but I Ioved using it on my recent trip to Pompeii and Rome on my mobile phone. As an educational tool it really brings things to life. I'm hoping to use the images I made as well as the much better images other people have uploaded to the website for History and Geography lessons. Give it a try, it's free and amazing! 

Here are a couple of images made using Photosynth (not mine) but to really engage with the images click on the links below to see the images I took in more detail, you can navigate and zoom in on the picture too! 

It's really simple and free to use and the results are great... what's not to love?

Meet the Somali's Comic Resources

I want to highlight a new website which went live today. 'Meet the Somalis' is an excellent resource which could be used in a variety of subjects including PSHE and RE. In this time of religious and social tensions 'Meet the Somalis' offers a great way to discuss the various issues in a classroom setting. The website contains 14 stories presented in comic book form with an art style is reminescent of Marjane Satrapi, author of the amazing 'Persepolis', itself a study of identity being an alien in another country. Check out the website below!

Meet the Somalis brings to life the issues many Somali's face, but done in an art style reminiscent of 'Persepolis' or 'Maus'

In the words of the website creators: 

Meet the Somalis is a collection of 14 illustrated stories depicting the real life experiences of Somalis in seven cities in Europe: Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Leicester, London, Malmo, and Oslo.

 

The stories allow readers a unique insight into what everyday life is like as a Somali in Europe. Meet the Somalis is based on the firsthand testimonies of Somalis in Europe interviewed during six months in 2013.
The Somali community in Europe is a vibrant, diverse minority group, including people of Somali origin born in Europe, Somali refugees and asylum seekers, and Somalis who have migrated from one country in Europe to another. There are no accurate figures for the number of Somalis in Europe, but on the whole they are among one of the largest minority groups.
The illustrated stories focus on challenges faced by Somalis in their respective cities in Europe and issues raised in the Somalis in European Cities research, including education, housing, the media, employment, political participation, and identity.
Meet the Somalis depict experiences many of us will never know, like fleeing a warzone with your children or, worse, leaving your loved ones behind. But more often, these stories portray the values shared amongst many of us, like the importance of family, well-being, and identity in an ever-changing world.

 

Touch Autism Website

Touch Autism is a brilliant website which lists great apps on iOS and Android for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down Syndrome and Special Needs. 

Touch Autism- a wonderful website with many tools for autistic pupils.

In their own words;

Touch Autism began to build mobile device applications for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities and other special needs after discovering how incredibly useful this type of technology can be.
Some of the many advantages of these apps are that they suit visual learners, they allow for non-verbal and non-written responding, they provide immediate and consistent feedback, and are very motivating, because they are just so much fun!

Having used a couple of their apps over the past few months I can say that there are some excellent tools here... have a look and enjoy!

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons- by Anjum Razaq

I have recently finished a wonderful game on the Xbox 360 called 'Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons'. The game is a simple tale of siblings going on an epic journey to find the tree of life in order to save their ill father. Whilst a simple premise the game is wonderfully presented and I believe can be used as a stimulus for story writing in lessons. The game is quite dark in places  and not suitable for younger pupils but elements can be used to inspire children. I have linked to an excellent review by Retronauts alumnus Marty Sliva, writing for IGN who gives a detailed review of the game. I have linked to a full playthrough of the game so you can see which parts could be used in lessons. I would recommend you have a look and see for yourself. I hope to be using 'Brothers'  in my fiction story writing lessons soon! 

You meet a colourful array of characters along your journey.

Storyteller

An excellent website where creator Daniel Benmergui allows people to change the position of characters on the screen and it leads to different outcomes- great for developing a story. I know Daniel's work through the excellent flash game ‘Today I Die’ and look forward to seeing 'Storyteller' come out of beta.

Game the News

An amazing website which present current news items as games, that's right games! By immersion it hopes to give people a deeper understanding of complex situations. It also has resources, information packs and lesson ideas for broader themes such as the environment, sale of arms and land grabbing. I've used a few of these games during the 'Simulations' unit and the children loved them and became aware of real world issues. Have a look and see what you think!

Bjorks Biophilia

Biophilia is a multimedia app created by Björk and a team of artists, designers, scientists, instrument makers, writers and software developers to create an immersive experience where the relationships between musical structures and natural phenomena can be explored. It is a stunning app and with the massive cut backs affecting the arts this could be a great way to utilise ipads and ipods in Music lessons. Underneath the video is a link to Biophilia educational resources, check them out as there are some great ideas that can be implemented in the classroom.

Newstoon App

An interesting and controversial app that ridicules public figures through satire. This app is created by the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Mark Fiore.  It's very American in it's content but it does have some more global content too.

Toca Boca Apps

A wonderful company that produces many fun learning tools, these games encourage experimentation and are simply fun but can be used in an educational context too. I have used Toca Boca Hair Salon with the children to write a descriptive character piece. The video below is for Fairy Tale creator, a new app that looks like it could be brilliant. Check the video out!

Sorcery!

As a long time fan of the 'Fighting Fantasy' series of choose your own adventures I had to flag this up. An app that immerses you in a world, much like the revered series, but with atmospheric graphics and music. Imagine using this with your class on the IWB! I'm going to try it out and see how it goes!