Tag: digitalxtra

digital xtra flummix magician



Flummix – How to Build an Online Shop

Encouraging Ecommerce for Everyone
In 2019, Heart of Midlothian Football Club created its pioneering Innovation Centre, sponsored by Baillie Gifford and powered by Dell Technologies. One of the key goals for the centre was to create educational programmes which would provide the community with accessible opportunities to learn practical and valuable digital skills. The Innovation Centre looked for experienced educators who could create classes, to help pass on skill sets which would help future career opportunities and employability.

Luckily, they had an expert in house.


More Than Magic
Jody Grieg is a former computer science teacher and specialist in digital marketing, who also happens to be a professional magician (and is the resident magician at Heart of Midlothian Football Club). Jody’s STEM learning and performance arts company, Flummix, specialises in educational entertainment, combining Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths to develop skills in creativity, computational thinking, and confidence. With years of teaching experience, Jody now uses magic as a tool for delivering his unique form of educational entertainment.

“It encourages confidence, self-esteem and empathy,” says Jody. “It’s a great tool to build on the natural curiosity of ‘how did you do that?’ and helps learners enjoy solving computational mysteries and make meaning from direct experience.”

When not teaching or astonishing audiences, Jody also continues to develop his career in digital marketing. Through his other company, TreeTopFrog, Jody designs and develops websites and ecommerce stores. He also helps businesses grow online with search engine optimisation and pay per click (PPC) adverts.


Build Your Own Online Store
In January 2020, Flummix was one of 25 successful applicants to the Digital Xtra Fund’s fifth round of grant awards. The support enabled Flummix to develop and run a weekly ‘ecommerce’ club which teaches young people (from S2-S5) how to build and design their own online store, in a way they cannot learn at school. This can be used in a huge range of ways, to sell goods, offer services, or even showcase the developer as a potential employee.

“Creating an ecommerce site brings together a wide range of different STEM skills, which work together to create something really valuable,” says Jody. “It incorporates design, development and creativity. Participants learn how to explore new software and technologies. They integrate content writing and media creation, to build a brand and create something exciting and practical. They can explore their inner entrepreneur to turn their hobby into a business. This is an amazing practical real-world skill that has endless possibilities”

Flummix worked in partnership with Heart of Midlothian FC who kindly offered their facilities at the club’s Innovation Centre without charge, and also supported Jody with the marketing and delivery of the course.


No Coding Required
While some online courses are intensive coding exercises, Jody instead uses the popular WordPress content management system (CMS), which powers approximately 69% of all the websites in the world today. WordPress supports an enormous number of ‘plugins’ – pieces of software which enable the platform to utilise all of the leading software services, such as ecommerce providers, payment systems, social media sites, video providers, image sharing, and online security – without
requiring an in-depth knowledge of coding. This provides a course which requires computational thinking and computer literacy, but without the steep learning curve of traditional programming that can put off many young learners.


Classroom Meets Covid
The ecommerce course was originally created to take place in the Media Suite at Heart of Midlothian FC where all the Innovation Centre programmes are run, to enable hands-on teaching and support. As with so many plans in 2020, the Covid pandemic changed that. When it became clear that a lockdown of some kind would be highly likely for the foreseeable future, the course was adapted for online delivery. Working in partnership with the Club, the ecommerce course was able to use the same successful framework as the other Innovation Centre clubs and courses. Jody identified online tutorials with the core skills required and supported students directly via individual or group videocalls.

The new online course gave students the chance to study at their own pace, revisit material and still have a regular timeslot where they can ask questions, see others’ progress, get feedback, help and input from Jody and the other participants. At the end of the course, each student will have learned all of the components necessary to launch their own online store.


The Future Is Online
“Due to the impact of Covid-19, more and more businesses are now looking for digital solutions,” says Jody. “Young people with the skills to get themselves, friends, family, or small companies online are going to be really valuable.”

While the first cohort of online students started in October 2020, Jody already has plans for a more personal approach to future courses. “I would love to produce my own video tutorials,” says Jody. “It would let me personalise things, use examples closer to home, keep the messaging focused and make it a lot more fun.”

While he doesn’t say so specifically, there’s a strong possibility that Jody’s own online videos would be a little more magical than those produced by other, less mystically gifted teachers.


Retail Reality
“Every kid should be exposed to the opportunities of building a business online,” says Jody. “The BBC ran a news story in early 2020 about a 14 year old girl in London who had created her own online drop-shipping business. This means she’s created her own storefront, full of products that are produced and shipped by other companies. She was earning good money whilst learning at school! Thanks to the help and support of Digital Xtra Fund and Heart of Midlothian FC’s Innovation Centre, young people across Scotland will be able to bring their own ideas and projects to life and either build their own business, or kickstart a successful digital career.”

That sounds magic, Jody!

digital xtra fund port ellen





A robotics club from Port Ellen Primary School (@portellenps) on Islay has been hailed by Digital Xtra Fund as a great example of what schools can do to equip the next generation with the vital tech and interpersonal skills they will need in the future. 

Resilient Robotics was launched at Port Ellen Primary School in January by Class Teacher Jo Clark. A robotics club for children aged between 8 – 12, it teaches children how to code, create apps and build robots. Among other resources, the club uses Marty the Robot built by Scottish firm Robotical; an educational robot designed for kids.  

Jo Clark, who submitted the school’s Digital Xtra Fund grant application, explains the idea behind Resilient Robotics was to create a robotics club where the children not only learn new technical skills, but also develop resilience, improve self-confidence and, most importantly, have fun.  

She explains: “Developing children’s resilience and self-confidence is a key aim. Learning programming and building robots requires skills like investigating, debugging and perseverance. There is a lot of trial and error when it comes to programming; children need to know failure is part of the design process. Overcoming difficulties while creating robots develops resilience and, once they are successful, is also very rewarding.  

“I think lots of children don’t understand the outcomes of being able to code, but once they see what they can achieve, they are hooked. They follow instructions, generate algorithms, and use their skills creatively, developing progressively more complex ways of working as they go on. From simple exploring with Spheros using apps, to building a responsive robot in Marty using Scratch, to more diverse and creative programming using the micro:bit Inventor’s Kit – the children are inspired and motivated. 

“We are very pleased with the success of the programme and are especially delighted it is being adopted in neighbouring Primary schools and now at Islay High School. You can see how much the children are getting from it, and how much they are going to benefit from developing these skills at an early age.”  


Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, added: “It is essential we equip children with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a technology-driven world, no matter what career or industry they may become interested in.  

“What is especially fantastic about Resilient Robotics is the success it has achieved in terms of sustainability. The original grant from Digital Xtra Fund supported the pilot programme at Port Ellen Primary School, however, it was quickly realised there was an excellent opportunity to expand this initiative across the island, including at the High School, as well as on Mull and Jura. The fact that some of the resources are also being translated into Gaelic will only add to the project’s legacy. It’s a fantastic programme which will make a real difference in the lives of young people from the islands.   

Brown adds: “Resilient Robotics is a shining example of the kind of initiative Digital Xtra Fund is looking to support. As a grant awarding charity, it is always the goal to see supported initiatives take root and grow and we hope other organisations and schools can take inspiration from its success.” 

Digital Xtra Fund is currently accepting applications for the next round of grant awards. Grants of up to £5,000 will be awarded to organisations delivering extracurricular activities that teach young people skills such as coding, data analysis, cybersecurity, and computational thinking helping inspire Scotland’s next generation of technologists, developers and digital leaders.  


For further information please visit http://www.digitalxtrafund.scot/ 

digital xtra hearts fc


Heart of Midlothian FC Digital Innovation Centre – Create an App to Save the World


Innovation in Sport
A football stadium may seem an unlikely place to learn about technology, robotics, and software programming, but for a growing number of children and young people across Edinburgh, it’s a valuable new addition to their community. Heart of Midlothian Football Club, (or Hearts, ‘Herts’ or ‘Jam Tarts’ if you prefer), has an unusual addition to the usual sporting facilities – an Innovation Centre. Founded in 2019, the Heart of Midlothian FC Innovation Centre, is sponsored by Baillie Gifford and powered by Dell Technologies. The centre provides hardware, software and equipment to the local community. It also runs a range of courses to help people across the city to learn new digital skills, or find a career in technology.

The presence of the Innovation Centre becomes a little less surprising when you discover that Ann Budge, the owner of the club, is a technology entrepreneur and business leader, with a passion for supporting new talent. The link with the club also helps attract young people who may not otherwise engage with digital technology through school or at home.


Football First
The fact that many young people are first and foremost football fans, enables the Innovation Centre to find new ways to build upon that passion. Tanya Howden, the Digital Education Programme Manager for the Innovation Centre, says that the club’s use of technology provides a way for children and young people to think about the technology in their lives.

“There’s a growing range of technology used within football clubs. From goal-line technology to fitness trackers, we can show children from primary school age upwards, the ways in which a player’s location, speed and fitness levels are captured and measured, in a way which is meaningful to them. We can then work with them to build prototypes for their own trackers and teach them the design and development skills to understand all the other ways in which technology is present in their lives. This really helps show them that technology is not scary, that it’s not ‘just for boys’, and that you don’t need to be a maths genius to make things work.”


Innovation Centre
The Innovation Centre is located within the media suite, where journalists are based on match days. This provides a large and exciting space, which has been designed to support people taking part in the classes and courses. The centre works with a number of Edinburgh’s leading businesses, including Baillie Gifford and Dell Technologies, to provide equipment, from laptops to micro:bit (@microbit_edu) ‘pocket computers’. The centre also has a group of passionate volunteer mentors, to ensure that every participant has the support they need to learn new skills.

In the two years since the centre’s first pilot, it has grown from a single coding club, to offering a whole programme of free educational courses, encapsulating everything from basic digital skills through to employability, with a careers club for school leavers, and workshops on starting a new business.


Building Apps for Good
In January 2020, Heart of Midlothian FC’s Innovation Centre was one of 25 successful applicants to the Digital Xtra Fund’s fifth round of grant awards. The support enabled the centre to introduce a new club, which adapted the UK wide Apps for Good (@AppsforGood) programme, to help young people design and develop their own apps, with a beneficial social impact. Young people worked in groups, supported by volunteers, to determine real world problems that could be solved, or improved with the application of technology.

“We encourage them to think about the things they care about,” says Tanya. “We consider the problems they encounter in their daily lives, or the lives of friends and family, like elderly relatives. We ask them about their local community, mental health, and issues they wish people recognised, or could do something about. We even ask them what’s wrong with the world – that tends to get a LOT of great responses. Young people are very concerned about the planet and ecological harm taking place. So we get lots of ideas about pollution, deforestation, carbon footprints and even poverty, it really strikes a chord. We encourage them to think big crazy ideas and reassure them that there are no bad ideas at this stage. This is one of the things I really love about Apps for Good. It gives the young people real ownership over their ideas and encourages them to get far more involved and put in a lot more effort.”


Real World Skills
Over the eight weeks of the course, the young people will design a practical app idea, with all the features and functionality they wish it to have. They will use online design tools to create the user interface and experience and start to build a prototype using online development tools and potentially live code.

At the end of the course they will have a prototype they can use as part of a portfolio when looking for work, they can keep working on it in their own time, or they can come back to future classes to learn more skills and get the help and support they need to complete and publish the app themselves.

Students can even enter their ideas in the annual Apps for Good competition, which is open to schools and clubs across the UK. The winners will have their app developed and published by a professional studio and published on app stores around the world.

Learning 2020 Style
The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 had a significant impact on the Innovation Centre, as it did most indoor activities. The Apps for Good course hosted two sessions before being forced to move everything online. The Innovation Centre team knew that children and young people would be stuck at home, and wanted to try and channel their creativity and ensure they could provide the levels of support that participants would need in order to keep pushing their concepts forward.

The centre created a number of relatively simple online courses, covering a range of STEM activities, using Google Classroom, for primary and secondary school students. Despite the differing approaches from schools, local authorities and regions, the online programmes were very popular. The Innovation Centre had students from across the whole of the UK take part, from Wick to London.

The team worked on adapting the Apps for Good programme to run online using Microsoft Teams. This enables teams to collaborate remotely, with breakout groups, file sharing, video/voice chat, and the ability to work together despite not being in the same location. Doing this online adds a new challenge, says Tanya: “I’m so used to being face-to-face with
people in a classroom, that doing everything remotely did cause a few unexpected problems. We’ve had situations where there are too many people in a group, or where some people don’t have working webcams. It makes it very difficult to read the room and know whether people understand what you’re telling them. However, we’re getting great feedback from all of the young people and we’re continuing to change our approach to make sure every student is engaged and supported.”


Everyone Welcome
The Innovation Centre has two cohorts of students in the ‘Create an App to Save the World’ programme, one all-female, which runs until the end of 2020, and the other a mix of male and female students, which starts in early 2021. The decision to have female only classes was an important part of the Innovation Centre’s focus on inclusion, says Tanya: “Technology is so powerful, it can be used in so many ways and it’s relevant to absolutely everyone. That’s one of the crucial things we try to get across on the course. We have had girls join in the past who have only stayed for one or two lessons, because they were the only female in the class and despite all of the support and encouragement, they didn’t feel entirely comfortable. We don’t want anyone to feel excluded because of their knowledge, or experience, or their background. So we created an all-girl cohort to encourage more girls to sign up. Our hope is that we can build their confidence and experience and welcome them back to some of the other mixed clubs, where they can contribute and get involved.”


Ongoing Innovation
The Innovation Centre is working to build long-term relationships with the young people taking part in its programmes. From learning new digital skills, through to finding employment, or starting a new business, the club plans to support students and make technology a positive part of their future.

“Scotland is a wonderful place to be,” says Tanya. “There are so many amazing companies here and so many different roles are required across the whole technology industry. We really want to emphasise to young people all of the opportunities they have on their doorstep. We also want to make sure they understand there are a lot of different pathways into
technology. You don’t necessarily have to go to university, or study computer science to find a career you love.”

The centre is now exploring several different ways to further support people into work, with new classes and courses currently being developed. The team is discussing issues such as presenting yourself online, writing a CV, taking part in video interviews, as well as mind mapping future goals and how to achieve them. The club is also finding that a growing number of older fans are starting to take an interest in the Innovation Centre and asking for help with their own digital skills too.


Linking into Industry
The Innovation Centre works with a range of industry partners to help highlight the huge number of roles and jobs which are available across Scotland. “Our industry partners make all the difference,” says Tanya. “Hearing from people working in technology, getting feedback from real developers and designers is so valuable for our young people. It shows them that what they’re doing is real and gives them a sense of what’s possible. We want to make sure that we use the local experience and expertise we have here to encourage and inspire the next generation of designers, developers, founders, and business leaders.”