Sir Michael Wilshaw to deliver speech calling for improved education for disadvantaged children 'unseen' by current system
New superteachers should be parachuted into areas with "mediocre schools", the chief inspector of schools in England will say in a radical speech on Thursday, as part of a drive to improve education for poor children "unseen" by the current system.
Sir Michael Wilshaw will also spell out a tougher approach from Ofsted to schools that are believed to be failing poor children. Schools previously judged outstanding but which are not doing well by their poorest children will be reinspected by the inspectorate.
The head of Ofsted argues that a cadre of "national service teachers" should be created, employed directly by central government rather than by local authorities or individual schools. They would be sent to teach in parts of the country that struggle to attract accomplished teachers, into schools that are said to be failing their most disadvantaged pupils.
Wilshaw believes that schools in large cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham have been successfully turned around since Ofsted first raised the issue 20 years ago, and that the children now most at risk of missing out on the benefits of education are "hidden" in otherwise well-off areas, including Kettering, Wokingham, Norwich and Newbury.
"Today, many of the disadvantaged children performing least well in school can be found in leafy suburbs, market towns or seaside resorts. Often they are spread thinly, as an 'invisible minority' across areas that are relatively affluent," Wilshaw will say.
"These poor, unseen children can be found in mediocre schools the length and breadth of our country. They are labelled, buried in lower sets, consigned as often as not to indifferent teaching.
"They coast through education until – at the earliest opportunity – they sever their ties with it."
Ofsted's latest report identifies deprived coastal towns and rural, less populous regions of the country, particularly down the east and south-east of England, as having been overlooked by national initiatives. It also found that a significant number of poorer children are being failed by schools in areas of higher income.
Wilshaw is calling for the London Challenge programme – in which successful schools partnered with weaker establishments in the capital – to be extended nationwide. "The most important factor in reversing these trends is to attract and incentivise the best people to the leadership of underperforming schools in these areas," Sir Michael is to say.
Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers praised the school collaboration model of the London Challenge but was otherwise sceptical of Wilshaw's superteacher proposal.
"Sir Michael's idea of individual teachers being catapulted into schools to help with pupils achievement will not have anywhere near the same impact," she said. "It really is time government and Ofsted stopped trying to reinvent the wheel and just work with what we know achieves results," she said.
The speech marks 20 years since Ofsted published its first report on the educational barriers for the most disadvantaged children in seven deprived areas in England. "Our report shows that poverty of expectation is a greater problem than material poverty because we know of examples of schools serving areas of great disadvantage that are doing very well by their children," Wilshaw says.
Sir Peter Lampl of the Sutton Trust said: "Sir Michael Wilshaw is absolutely right to focus on the poor attainment of low income pupils, particularly outside London, where results have been patchy. Good teaching across the board, strong leadership and effective use of data are all absolutely vital."
Company responds to global outcry and removes daily online requirements and restrictions to pre-owned sales. Xbox president, Don Mattrick, thanks gamers for "candid feedback"
Microsoft has sensationally abandoned its controversial plans to restrict the sharing of Xbox One games, and has also removed daily online authentication requirements for its forthcoming console.
In a statement released on the Xbox website on Wednesday, Don Mattrick, the president of Microsoft's interactive entertainment business, wrote that the company had listened to "candid feedback" from gamers. Before listing the changes, he states, "You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world."
When the new console is released this November, there will be no need to authenticate the system online every 24 hours – a requirement thought to have been introduced as a digital rights management measure. According to the statement, "After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again."
Furthermore, plans to restrict the sales of pre-owned titles, as well as the sharing of games among friends, have also been cancelled. There will now be no limits on gifting, re-selling, sharing or renting Xbox One game titles.
The announcement follows a huge backlash against Microsoft which began when the company first revealed the Xbox One console at a press conference in May. Company representatives explained to journalists that all Xbox One games would need to be fully installed onto systems before play and that this copy would then be watermarked to the owner. Attempts to then sell on or give away the boxed copy of the game, would then be controlled by Microsoft – although the details have always been ambiguous, it appeared that the company would work with selected retail partners for the sale of pre-owned titles, and that publishers may have had the opportunity to charge purchasers of second-hand titles for the right to play the games.
There were also confusing limitations on merely sharing games with friends. Microsoft informed gamers that they would be able to make their software library available to 10 friends, but that concurrent access to games would not be possible.
At the major E3 video game conference in June, Sony used the widescale backlash against Microsoft's plans to boost the popularity of its rival PlayStation 4 machine. At Sony's E3 press conference, company executives made it clear that PS4 would place no restrictions on pre-owned sales and wouldn't require daily online authentication – the announcements received a huge applause. Earlier this week, Amazon ran a poll on its website, asking readers to vote for PS4 or Xbox One as the best next-gen console; reportedly, the results were so overwhelmingly skewed toward the Sony console, the online retailer removed the survey.
Xbox One is the follow-up to Microsoft's hugely successful Xbox 360 console, launched in 2005. The machine will feature an eight-core CPU, Blu-ray player and a more advanced version of its Kinect motion control device. PlayStation 4 is also set to launch this winter. Both now face a very different fight for the support of the huge global gaming audience.
We have approached Microsoft for comment and will update accordingly.
Blow to Gove education policy as inspectors fear West Sussex Discovery school pupils are at risk of illiteracy
One of the first free schools to open has been placed on special measures and given an inadequate rating by Ofsted inspectors, in an untimely blow to the government's flagship education policy.
Only days after Labour announced it would end the opening of free schools, curtailing a policy aggressively promoted by the education secretary, Michael Gove, Ofsted inspectors have published the highly critical report into the Discovery Free School, in Crawley, West Sussex, which opened in September 2011.
Inspectors were severe on the primary school's leadership, saying its governors failed to grasp the school's "serious shortcomings", while school leaders "believe the school is far better than it is".
The inspection team gave the school the lowest grade, of "inadequate", in three of four categories, for pupil achievement, quality of teaching, leadership and management. "Too many pupils are in danger of leaving the school without being able to read and write properly," inspectors concluded. "Unless this is put right quickly, pupils are unlikely to flourish in their secondary schools and future lives."
According to Ofsted's scale, a school requiring special measures is "one where the school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education", and the school's managers and board of governors appear unable to make improvements.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We expect those in charge of Discovery Free School to take urgent action to address the failings identified by Ofsted. We will closely monitor the situation and will not hesitate to take action, including terminating the funding agreement, if the school does not make rapid improvements."
Discovery is a mixed primary taking children from ages four to 11, and describes itself as having "small class sizes, teachers free to teach, parent participation, and Montessori curriculum and approach".
The school has 48 pupils. Montessori is an approach popular in the US and Europe that emphasises independence and self-discipline among pupils, who are often allowed to progress at their own pace.
The establishment of free schools, which are granted approval by the Department for Education after bids from groups of parents or teachers, is one of the reforms of state-funded schooling in England launched by Gove.
On the day the Discovery Free School opened, Gove said: "These schools are opening because of demand from parents for a new or different type of education. Free schools offer a genuine alternative. They offer smaller class sizes, longer hours and higher standards."
So far, Ofsted has inspected 11 free schools out of 81 in the 21 months since the first group of schools opened. Three have received "requires improvement" ratings and seven have been rated "good". No free school has yet been given an "outstanding" rating, while one now has an "inadequate" judgment.
Gove has written to his shadow, Stephen Twigg, attacking Labour's policies in a four-page letter. "I and many other anxious parents would be grateful if you could clear up the confusion surrounding your free schools policy," Gove wrote.
In response, Twigg suggested Gove paid more attention to his own policies. "I fear, however, that you will continue to while away the hours sending letters to me, writing forewords to the bible and dreaming up new names for GCSEs," Twigg wrote.
As we teach kids how to cross the road, so parents must now teach them about porn and consent
'How was school?" As every parent knows, this question is usually met by a grunt and "Why haven't you bought the biscuits I like?" Then later on they accuse you of not being interested in what they do all day.
This week was different. My youngest came in outraged. "Today was the most disgusting day ever. Our teacher showed us pornography."
The "porn" in question was a film of a woman giving birth, part of my daughter's sex education. It was, she said, the most revolting thing she had ever seen. "Really?" I asked, because we watch Embarrassing Bodies together. Like many a young girl or indeed sensible woman she had decided not to have a baby unless it was a kitten and certainly not THAT way.
But at 12 she certainly knows what actual porn is. The boys at school have it on their phones. Talk to any primary school teacher and they will tell you this has been an issue for some time.
The latest summit, then, on how to stop this awfulness has been another "damp squib". Its chair Maria Millerpromised she would "throw down the gauntlet to companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter". These companies should do more to block access to porn via parental controls, and block images of child abuse outright. This, like chocolate oranges at tills, used to be one of David Cameron's big issues also. But it wasn't big enough for him to show up at the summit.
So Miller, not surprisingly, did not throw down any gauntlet, a) because she is Maria Miller and – apart from squeaking "as a mother" every so often – appears clueless, and b) because her job is impossible. She is Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and also Minister for Women and Equalities. This is the buy one, get one free cabinet post. And what are "Equalities" when they are at home?
She is concerned about images of child abuse online. Well who isn't? Who defends them? The fact is that an image of child abuse is an image of a rape, a crime that is already illegal. You can't make it more illegal.
The easy access to hardcore porn is indeed problematic. Typing "internet porn summit" into a search engine, I got to "sumi pussy licking sluts". My typing is awful. But porn is ubiquitous and hardcore torture porn is everywhere – and no it's not Fifty Shades of Grey. It's blood, vomit and faeces.
Even the softcore stuff presents us with the "new normal". A nice 14-year-old boy I know told his mum when he was going on his first date (the girl was 13) that he was taking a condom to be sensible "for the anal".
The young feminists who, understandably, say they don't want their viewing censored by the state remain somewhat bamboozled by the happy-hooker mythology that recasts sex work as just another choice but tends to forget the trafficked woman locked up 16 hours a day, and the porn stars who are extremely damaged before they get into the industry and are even more damaged when they come out.
The punters' websites which review prostitutes or porn also promulgate the idea that the women basically love their job and it's just another choice, though one few punters would want their wives making.
As for the state taking on the internet, it's a joke. The free market wants commodities that sell and nothing sells like sex or drugs. So leglislators tinker at the edges, while all forms of sex are sold online.
In such a world, just as we teach our kids how to cross the road, so we have to teach them about porn and about consent. Both of which make the Boden-loving right deeply uncomfortable. They make all of us uncomfortable, to be honest.
Mostly, though, we discuss not kids accessing porn but what images of themselves they put on social media sites. "Did you see what she put on Facebook?" "Why all the 'likes' on Instagram?" "How do you do the privacy settings?" One dithers between paranoia and laxity. What is definite, though, is that the redefinition of what is public and what is private has already happened. What happens online stays online forever. Education, not censorship, is the answer. Children are sexual beings. It's simply that late capitalism is commodifying their sexuality earlier, extending its market. But we are governed by technophobes, who, on one hand, tell us that the state via surveillance must be able to see everything and, on the other, that we must stop our children from seeing what they easily can. Even our state broadcaster the BBC has on its iPlayer a simple tick box to confirm you are over 18.
To admit we can't control what our kids see online is hard. But show me a parent who hasn't used the internet as a babysitter (as we used to use TV) and I will show you a liar.
Those most vulnerable are those who do not know their way round the online environment, not those posting pictures of their toddlers. Google will not protect your child, any more than the government. We have to teach our kids about the worst aspects of the internet and of sex. Both involve consent. In order to do this we have to trust our children. Are we grown up enough to do that?
• Comments on this article will be switched on on Thursday morning.
David Drummond reiterates firm's line over leaks and calls for global governmental action to regulate secret collection of data
Governments must codify regulations on silent data gathering so that users around the world can regain confidence in the use of the internet, Google's chief legal officer, David Drummond, has said.
Drummond also forcefully reiterated the company's position that it has not given the US National Security Agency (NSA) access to its servers, and that it did not know of the Prism programme before the Guardian revealed it last week.
He said that the company would continue to push to be able to publish more information about secret requests for data. "But we don't write the laws," he said.
In a Q&A session for the Guardian, Drummond said "it's high time that governments get together and decide some rules around [secret data gathering]. Remember that this is not just about the US government, but European and other governments too. It's really important that all of us give close scrutiny to any laws that give governments increased power to sift through user data."
He reiterated Google's position on Prism: "We're not in cahoots with the NSA and there is no government programme that Google participates in that allows the kind of access that the media originally reported."
A PowerPoint presentation from the NSA suggested that it had "direct" access to the systems of nine companies – Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Apple, Skype, PalTalk, YouTube, Facebook and Google. The companies have denied allowing such access. Google has said that it did provide a secure file transfer system for data requested by the NSA under Fisa (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) orders, whose contents are secret.
Drummond said that the search firm had finally managed this year to be allowed to say how many national security letters (used by US government agencies such as the FBI and CIA) it has received demanding data on users. "We don't question that there are legitimate requests for data – in a criminal attack, for example, or a suspected terrorist attack. We simply believe there should be more transparency around the breadth of these requests." But he dodged questions on whether Google had been pushing to publish data about Fisa requests before the scandal broke.
Restating the position of many Silicon Valley companies, Drummond suggested that the news of the extent of the surveillance scheme had surprised Google too. "We didn't know [Prism] existed," he said.
He said that Google backed the work of Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European commission, , to simplify privacy laws "in a way that both protects consumers online and stimulates economic growth", insisting both were possible.
Questions posed by Guardian readers to Drummond suggested that some have lost a measure of trust in the company, and are unsure whether business data could be seized in the same way as individuals' data.
Drummond's response suggested that the company is feeling the effects of the leaks and is keen to rebuild its reputation. Asked how users would be able to tell if Google were lying, he answered: "Our business depends on the trust of our users. And I'm an executive officer of a large publicly-traded company, so lying to the public wouldn't be the greatest career move." To another user, he said: "I'm really troubled if you've lost trust in us because of this idea that we're collaborating in a broad surveillance programme. We're not."
Drummond has worked at Google since 2002, and was its first outside counsel. His history working with the firm goes back to 1998.
Hip-hop group's new single will be given away for free, with fans invited to remix it
After 25 years challenging authority with their music, Public Enemy are still finding new frontiers in their quest to reach new fans. The latest: BitTorrent.
The veteran hip-hop group is launching its new single, Get Up Stand Up, as a free track on BitTorrent. If fans who download it hand over their email address, they unlock a "bundle" including the music video, outtakes and 37 instrumental stems and acapella vocals to remix.
"Make your own Public Enemy mix, and if the group likes what they hear, they'll release it digitally for you. Call it creative activism," explains BitTorrent's blog post announcing the partnership.
Distributing music on BitTorrent may sound controversial given the music industry's historic battles against filesharing. In the UK, music industry body the BPI has won several High Court orders in recent times forcing ISPs to block their customers from accessing popular torrent sites.
BitTorrent the company is trying to prove itself as a legitimate (but still free) distribution platform for digital music, though. It has worked with artists on similar bundles including DJ Shadow, Kaskade and Alex Day.
The theory is that musicians – although filmmakers and authors have also experimented with BitTorrent bundles – make something available for free to the 170m active users of BitTorrent's software, in the hope that will lead to income from other areas: sales of music, tickets and merchandise for example.
The blog post quotes manager and producer Gary Rinaldo on Public Enemy's suitability for a BitTorrent campaign. "For many established people in the music business, there's a fear that comes along with it. We don't have that fear," says Rinaldo.
"The ability to freely share an archive and have flexibility on how it can be used is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to making music and media available."
Public Enemy, and Chuck D in particular, are longstanding innovators when it comes to digital media and finding ways to connect directly to fans. 12 years ago, he was telling the music industry not to be scared of digital disruption.
"The labels need to see that trying to fight MP3s is trying to shout at a thunderstorm, it's going to happen, you've got to come up with ways adapt to it, and make it work for everybody," he said in 2001 at the NME's NetSounds conference in London. At that time, he was already exploring self-distribution of MP3s, as well as online radio.
Public Enemy's direct-to-fan experimentation hasn't always gone smoothly, though. The group was one of the first high-profile artists to try crowdfunding, in 2009 on a site called SellaBand. The attempt to raise $250k was not successful.
Just four years later, though, the digital music ecosystem is a very different place. Kickstarter has proven its worth as a crowdfunding tool for artists, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube provide mass-scale platforms to communicate with fans, and now BitTorrent is keen to show it can help artists make money rather than lose it too.
Technology is just a tool for Public Enemy in 2013, though. What will define the group's success will be the quality of the new music.
Silicon Valley worships at the altar of laissez-faire, trickle-down economics. It's a flawed vision, but it speaks to a generation
As Google reels from stinging condemnation for its tax avoidance from Margaret Hodge's parliamentary committee, and the hi-tech companies are embarrassed by allegations of state surveillance, the general response has been one of astonished disbelief.
But we should not be surprised. The "iCapitalists" have long been zealots for a radically neoliberal vision of capitalism. It is their skill at making this harsh approach palatable to the modern zeitgeist which will probably save their skin – though with potentially disastrous consequences for our economy.
Big tech, originating in California's Silicon Valley, has always been about more than cutting-edge engineering. It embodies a value system that merges a counter-cultural 60s romantic individualism with a cold-eyed commitment to free markets. Apple's Steve Jobs, the Zen Buddhist of canny entrepreneurialism, captured the worldview with Apple's famous 1997 slogan: "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers …"
And it is this rebellious pose that reconciled a whole swath of the educated professional classes – the "creatives" – to free-market capitalism. In the 1980s, it was besuited corporates who were in the vanguard of Thatcher's and Reagan's neoliberal revolution – people such as the hard-faced, downsizing financier Mitt Romney. The iCapitalists, however, presented a far more appealing vision to liberals – one of denimed democracy, of gender-blind and colour-blind egalitarianism. For many of us, Google's own Big Brother house-style offices, with their Play School sofas and pool tables, seemed the very epitome of a creative, "happening" workplace; while Facebook's Silicon Valley HQ was a mini-utopia of subsidised gyms, dentists, and personal stylists.
But this is an egalitarian utopia only for the networked and highly educated, not for the many. For the iCapitalist culture is not so much liberal as libertarian, and is founded on the belief that we should be led by elite hi-tech businesses and their shinily packaged semi-conductors and microchips; the state, a lumbering, bureaucratic drag on creativity and innovation, has a minimal role.
This worldview lies behind Eric Schmidt's defending Google's tax affairs with reference to the company being "a key part of the electronic commerce expansion of Britain, which is driving a lot of economic growth for the country." It is not necessary, it seems, to worry about taxation, and indeed the state, as long as company profits are trickling down to the rest of us. The PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has taken this anti-state view to its logical conclusion, and contributed funds to "Seasteading" – a project inspired by the libertarian writer Ayn Rand, to create mobile "islands" of entrepreneurs on cruise-ships and oil-rigs, where they can be free of tax and state regulations.
As the iCapitalists have become richer, they have aspired to project this libertarian vision beyond their sunny, frisbee-friendly Californian campuses to society more generally. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has set up FWD.us to lobby American politicians. It has been pressing for looser rules on immigration – a cause his critics argue is primarily driven by company's appetite for foreign tech-engineers, and a cheap alternative to improving the American education system.
Of course, we need hi-tech, and Britain should be investing more in the sector. But the iCapitalist vision of society is deeply flawed, and potentially destructive. It is based on the false premise that the tech industries are a triumph of and justification for pure laissez-faire economics – refusing to acknowledge, of course, that the US department of defence drove the development of Silicon Valley. Also, it erroneously assumes that economic growth can be driven by a small group of super-wealthy, highly educated individuals, producing technologies that allow employers to cut wage costs for the majority, while resisting taxation and redistribution. This was precisely the highly inegalitarian economic model that led governments to maintain consumption by allowing a debt build-up among us lesser mortals – contributing to the crisis of 2008.
Since the financial crisis, the iCapitalists, like the bankers, have come under more scrutiny. They will clearly now have to pay more tax, at least in the UK, and they are under pressure elsewhere.
And now we have the possibility that the tech companies have allowed the US government wide access to their users' data, something that they have denied. If true, it leave them open to the charge of gross hypocrisy; for despite their much-vaunted libertarianism, it seems, they can also collaborate with an overbearing state.
It may be this scandal, rather than the tax-dodging, that undermines faith in big tech.
But there is little sign of any rebellion yet. For the iCapitalist vision of liberation and creativity still resonates with many of us, and particularly the young. British polls show that those born since 1979 are more likely to be socially liberal on race, gender and sexuality, but also more pro-market and anti-state than their older peers. They are also less likely to engage in boycotts of companies guilty of tax avoidance.
One explanation may be that this generation came of age when the iCapitalist vision seemed to be working and jobs were plentiful. And it may be some years before the hollowed-out neoliberal economy takes its toll and the flaws of iCapitalism are finally exposed.
Key points from David Drummond's responses to questions about the NSA leak, Prism and privacy
David Drummond, Google's senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, took part in a live Q&A on Wednesday to answer questions about internet security, privacy and surveillance, and the NSA and Prism. Here are some key things we learned:
If by what has now been "revealed" you mean the allegation that Google is allowing the NSA unfettered access to user data or that we're handing over data willy-nilly to the government, again, that's just not true. It's not rhetoric, it's just a fact.
I'm not sure I can say this more clearly: we're not in cahoots with the NSA and there is no government programme that Google participates in that allows the kind of access that the media originally reported. Note that I say "originally" because you'll see that many of those original sources corrected their articles after it became clear that the Prism slides were not accurate. Now, what does happen is that we get specific requests from the government for user data. We review each of those requests and push back when the request is overly broad or doesn't follow the correct process. There is no free-for-all, no direct access, no indirect access, no back door, no drop box.
We're not in the business of lying and we're absolutely telling the truth about all of this. Our business depends on the trust of our users. And I'm an executive officer of a large publicly traded company, so lying to the public wouldn't be the greatest career move.
Nope. No gun to my head
We've long pushed for total transparency so users can better understand the extent to which governments request their data, for any reason. Earlier this year we managed to get clearance to release numbers for National Security Letters, but we're going to keep pushing for more. We were also the first company to publish a transparency report.
I'm really troubled if you've lost trust in us because of this idea that we're collaborating in a broad surveillance programme. We're not, and that's why we are pushing back so hard on these allegations. We hope that our actions, in pushing for more transparency and legal reform and in continuing to take steps to protect our users, will win you back.
We do push back where we can, and do everything we can to protect our users' data. But we don't write the laws. Maybe one positive outcome of all this will be to have a deeper debate on this and come up with laws that are more transparent to the public.
We promote that at all levels. I've been involved with Google since about the beginning and I'm extremely proud of the technology we've built that helps millions of users every day to make the world a better place. We don't get everything 100% right 100% of the time, and when we mess up, we admit it and we work to correct our mistakes. And we're also going to speak up – loudly – when we are falsely accused of something, like we have been here.
Read the full Q&A here.
'I showed it to the caretaker who'd wiped it – he was surprised he'd created such a beautiful image'
A few years ago, I became increasingly interested in all the academic institutions around the world that are working on new theories of reality – in particular quantum mechanics, which says nothing is for certain, everything is a matter of possibilities. I began to visit them to photograph their blackboards. They were full of equations, numbers and symbols, written by physicists making statements about the world and what it looks like to them. They were precise and exact, yet to me they looked like abstract paintings.
I found this one in Cambridge University. Even though it's a shot of a clean blackboard, it represents what I want to say about the relationship between reality and abstraction. I was in a classroom after a lecture and the caretaker was there, tidying the room. As he wiped the blackboard, this image revealed itself. The caretaker was the artist, even though he didn't have any artistic intentions, and the marks he left on the board make it look like a Cy Twombly or Jackson Pollock. I showed him the photograph afterwards and he was surprised he had created such a beautiful image.
Although it's blank, there are still the remains of things that had been written there, traces of the past. So in a way, I'm not just photographing one moment. It's a bit like the history of science: someone invents a theory, then someone else comes along with a different theory, erasing what has gone before. So it continues: theories are written and erased, but traces remain.
I called the series Momentum. When I photograph a blackboard, I measure it and reproduce the image at exactly the same size. So when you are standing in front of my photograph, it's as if you are really looking at a blackboard. I like to explore how photography can trick you, make you think something is part of reality when it's not.
I've visited top universities all over the world for this project: Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford, Berkeley, Cern in Switzerland, Brussels, Vienna and institutions in China and Spain. It was a challenge to find places that still had blackboards rather than whiteboards or interactive screens. Many of the boards were in professors' own rooms where they do their research. Some of them were intrigued, wondering why I wanted to photograph work they didn't consider important. They didn't see what they had done as art.
Born: Madrid, 1979.
Studied: MA in photography, Royal College of Art, London.
High point: "My first solo show, Momentum, last year."
Low point: "I'm super-optimistic. When bad things happen, I try to move on."
Influences: Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko.
New degrees in biotechnology, facilities management, the music industry and aviation reflect a trend towards specialisation
Ranging from music to disaster management, the specialist MBA is challenging the view that there is a science of management applicable to any sector.
There is so much supply in the market for general MBAs that management schools are seeking to attract students through variation and a neater fit, says Matthew Higgins, senior lecturer in marketing and consumption at the University of Leicester.
Leicester will be launching a new biotechnology MBA in the new year, in collaboration with an umbrella body for the industry in the Netherlands. "It will help scientists develop their approach to business and ways of commercialising their ideas," says Higgins.
Among the industry-inspired courses is the new facilities management MBA at Sheffield Hallam University, developed with the Facilities Management Association and identifying the subject as a distinct discipline. Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen offers an oil and gas MBA and Coventry has drawn up a range of specialist MBA programmes including aviation management, public health and international fashion.
The University of Strathclyde Business School is collaborating with the Leadership Trust for its MBA with a specialism in leadership studies. Full or part-time, the course includes residential courses presented by the Leadership Trust.
Perhaps the most surprising marriage between industry and a management school is the new MBA for the music industry offered by the world-renowned and solidly traditional Henley Business School. Music industry executive and entrepreneur Helen Gammons approached Henley to put on the programme and then amassed a star-studded list of music industry executives to act as a steering committee for the course built.
"The music industry is at a turning point," she says. "It works with hi-tech companies, social media and all kinds of sectors. Industry sales may be declining, but business opportunities are increasing. We take experience from other industries and contextualise it back to our industry, seeing it with fresh eyes," she says.
As news of the unique course spread across the Atlantic, US rapper and five-times Grammy award winner Malik Yusef got in touch for help with a new business venture. The student nominated to provide back-up was subsequently hired by Yusef as an executive vice-president.
Google's David Drummond answered Guardian readers' questions about the NSA, security, privacy and the limits of law
WPP chief says internet companies have to take responsibility for the editorial content appearing on their sites
• Jimmy Wales: Revelations a serious issue for Barack Obama
• Vivienne Westwood: Edward Snowden did a wonderful thing
The founder of the world's biggest marketing services company, Sir Martin Sorrell, has said he believes revelations about the National Security Agency's Prism internet surveillance program are a "game changer" that will spark a fundamental rethink of web privacy by web users.
The WPP chief executive said that Prism, which allows the NSA to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, according to documents obtained by the Guardian from whistleblower Edward Snowden, is so important that even young people who often have a cavalier attitude to what they reveal online are likely to be concerned about privacy.
"I think Prism and what's happening in the US will have a very significant impact, I think it is game changing," he said, speaking to the Guardian at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Wednesday. "I think the privacy issue is going to be raised to a new level by this. It will alter people's views on privacy, even younger people."
He added: "I think even amongst under 35s, people will become very concerned about privacy. It is going to get aired I think quite extensively publicly, I think it is a matter of great public interest."
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, also speaking to the Guardian in a video interview at the Cannes Lions festival on Wednesday, said he thought most people would find the Prism revelations "pretty astonishing".
Wales cautioned that it was still not 100% clear what was going on and it may be many years before all the relevant information is declassified.
But he said it was going to be a serious issue for US president Barack Obama. "Simply because he did make a lot of really positive noises about not doing this kind of thing, or cutting back on it, or being more transparent about it," Wales added. "For this to all come out – it doesn't feel right for the Obama base. I think that's going to be potentially something he has to deal with."
"What I would forecast in the long run is that more and more and more services online are going to go to encryption. Not just to make sure the government is not snooping on people, but just for basic security."
Sorrell said 25% of WPP's £10bn-plus in annual revenues comes from what he calls "data investment management" for advertising and marketing clients.
However, he admitted even he was stunned when he learned the extent of what the US government could do with Prism.
"The fact that the government has access to this data on an organised basis came as a surprise to me," said Sorrell. "And I would pride myself as being perhaps one of those people that knew more about those things than the average."
He said: "I can't imagine what people of my age and much younger think about it and I think it will alter their views. I think it is very significant."
Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer who appeared at the Cannes festival on Tuesday, hailed Snowden as a hero.
"I'm a huge supporter of Bradley Manning ... but what Snowden did is even more important as we are all directly involved," Westwood said, speaking at a Cannes session as a guest of agency Sapient Nitro to promote her brand of storytelling and campaigning. "People feel huge sympathy for what's happening in Afghanistan – just shooting people – but everybody is directly affected [by the NSA leaks].
"I think it's wonderful what he did, really brave. The really dangerous thing is that people are going to self-censor after this. It's a real problem for free speech."
Sorrell said that he spoke to a number of senior executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google at a private WPP event in Cannes on Tuesday, but they were reluctant to talk about the issue.
"I asked the question about Prism. It is not something people feel comfortable, even in a semi-private or private environment, talking about," he said.
Sorrell has previously said he believes companies such as Twitter, Google and Facebook are "media companies masquerading as technology companies".
He returned to that theme on Wednesday, recalling a debate he hosted at Cannes a few years ago with Google, Yahoo, Facebook and AOL.
"They all answered [that they were a] technology company," he said. "Well they are hiding behind it … If you have responsibility for the pipes, you can't ignore the responsibility for the editorial content. It is no good saying I am just an engineer tightening the nuts on the pipe, making sure it works. You have to be responsible for the editorial content too, you can't abrogate responsibility for it. It is the same thing. They are media owners."
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William Hill is most popular by active users, but bet365 beats it for monthly engagement, says Onavo
4.3% of iPhone owners in the UK are using at least one sports betting app, according to data shared with The Guardian by mobile data startup Onavo.
Bookmaker William Hill's app is the most popular, actively used by 38% of those iPhone-owning sports gamblers, followed by Paddy Power (32%) and bet365 (24%).
"There's a lot of overlap: people are using a bunch of these apps rather than just sticking with one," says Onavo chief executive Guy Rosen.
"If you look at the users of bet365, 17% of them are also using Betfred, and 10% are also using Paddy Power. Or if you look at William Hill, 10% are also using bet365. There's a lot of interplay between these."
The company has been analysing data from usage of its Onavo Count and Extend apps, which help people monitor their data usage and compress it to eke more out of their monthly plan respectively.
It found that bet365 is the most engaging sports betting app in the UK, with people using it on an average of 5.6 days every month, compared to 4.1 days for William Hill and 3.3 days for Paddy Power.
In December 2012, comScore estimated that there were 8.65m active iPhone users in the UK. If that figure has stayed constant, based on Onavo's 4.3% figure, it would mean around 372k Brits are using sports betting apps on their iPhones.
Rosen says that companies in the US are watching the UK closely, since it's one of the most established mobile gambling markets in the world, ahead of what they hope will be legislation to make real-money gambling legal on mobile phones across the US.
Onavo has been talking more about the data from its apps in recent months, launching an Onavo Insights service to help developers and brands understand which apps are being actively used on iOS and Android, rather than just downloaded.
"It's all about the active users," he says. "That's the key thing that has become the metric that matters, and the industry is waking up to the fact that downloads don't matter. They're a vanity metric where you can fake your way in. What's important is what apps are really sticking around."
Cannes Lions: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales talks to John Plunkett about the implications of the National Security Agency leaks
These iPhone, iPad and Android apps won't leave you with a big bill, but will provide stimulating education, creativity and entertainment for children
Oh SpongeBob. The memory of seeing my sons' favourite square-panted cartoon character putting his name to a mobile game selling Jellyfish Jelly in-app purchases for up to £69.99 still makes me sad.
Nickelodeon is far from the only big brand pushing the upper limits of IAP in its children's apps though, as that 10 mobile games for kids with £69.99 in-app purchase options feature pointed out.
My Little Pony, Skylanders, Snoopy, Hello Kitty, Stardoll… it was a dispiriting gallery of greed. What's been bothering me since writing that article, though, is concern that it may have persuaded some parents that all children's apps are like that.
They're not. There are accessible education apps, beautiful storybooks, wonderful creative apps and playful digital toys to be found on smartphones and parents. Some of them use IAP in an ethical way too: smaller sums for non-consumable items, under the control of parents.
This article spotlights 50 of the best recent examples, all released in 2013, and from a range of developers – from big brands through to indie studios.
Lots of the latter, too, because they're the companies that can struggle most to be discovered on the crowded app stores, even though they're making well-crafted apps and trying to do the right thing when it comes to making money.
Yes, most of these apps are on iOS, with a smattering on Android. That's a reflection of the overall children's apps market, rather than lickspittle Cupertino-bribed bias. Really, it is. That said, Android is definitely higher in the priorities for kid-app developers in 2013.
I've tried to include the widest possible range of developers in this roundup, so there are more Android apps to explore from companies like StoryToys, Oceanhouse Media, Intellijoy, GiggleUp, Wombi Apps and Intellijoy.
Every developer mentioned in the piece has a link to its website so you can click through to see what other apps they make. Clicking on the platform names (iPhone, iPad and Android) will take you straight to the app stores.
I'd love to hear your recommendations of apps I've missed (although remember, this roundup is just 2013 releases, which is why some of your favourite apps may be missing). On with the 50:
Endless Alphabet (Free + IAP)
A joyful collection of words, and monsters to explain them. Sorted alphabetically, each word gets children to drag its letters into place, after which they'll see a characterful animation for its definition. The app includes ads, which you can remove with a single 69p in-app purchase.
iPhone / iPad by Callaway Digital Arts
Comics in the Classroom (Free + IAP)
This is an interesting approach to teaching history to children through digital comics, with topics including Pearl Harbour, Florence Nightingale and Jack the Ripper. Children fill in the speech bubbles to prove their understanding of the subjects. Three comics are included, with additional ones available as 69p in-app purchases.
iPad by Comics in the Classroom
Hakitzu: Code of the Warrior (Free)
iPhone / iPad by Kuato Studios
My First 101 Words (£1.49)
This is another app for teaching toddlers their first words – you can probably guess how many – but using video rather than just text and narration. Each of the words is demonstrated through video clips starring a boy and girl, with the ability to play and replay each, or shuffle them.
iPhone / iPad by Blueprint.tv
Mystery Math Town (£1.49)
Yes, there's an "s" missing: this is an American app. But my six year-old has taken to it strongly: a game where you explore a series of spooky houses by tapping on stairs, ladders, doors and windows, solving sums before you can go through them using numbers collected along the way. You can tweak the difficulty level and sum-types to suit the age of your child.
iPhone / iPad by Artgig Apps
Kids' Vocab – Mindsnacks (Free + IAP)
Another impressive app to help children build their essential vocabulary: 7-12 year-olds in this case. The app splits the learning into lessons, each with up to 20 words and phrases taught through colourful mini-games. The first lesson is free, with the full 25 unlocked with a single £2.99 in-app purchase.
iPhone / iPad by MindSnacks
Symmetry School: Learning Geometry (£1.99)
More maths here, focused on geometry. Developed in Ireland, it gets children to drag and drop coloured counters onto a virtual board to form patterns: as much a puzzle game as it is a maths lesson. Its developer is also providing print-outable extra activities, as well as whiteboard versions and the ability for kids to email their results to a teacher.
iPad by PixelSoup
Kids ABC Trains (£2.56)
Aimed at pre-school children, this uses trains and railways as a way to teach kids about letters and phonic sounds. They build a railway by learning each letter, before "driving the train" – tracing letter shapes – loading letter-sound boxes onto it, and matching upper and lower case letters to stop the train running away. A neat metaphor for a neat game.
Android by Intellijoy
Kids Learn Mandarin Beginner (Free + IAP)
Trying to futureproof your child's career prospects by getting them to learn Chinese? It's more common a parental strategy than you'd think in the Western world. This app aims to help, with more than 200 Mandarin words taught through mini-games, videos and text. It's aimed at 2-8 year-olds. One lesson – Numbers – comes with the initial free download, then the rest can be bought in a Basic Pack for £2.99 or a Full Pack for £5.49.
iPhone / iPad
On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects (£3.99)
This is one of dozens of official Dr. Seuss book-apps, with an educational focus on teaching children about the world of insects "from butterflies and crickets to fireflies and honeybees". The Cat In The Hat hosts the action, with all the rhyming silliness you'd expect of a Seussian story.
iPhone / iPad by Oceanhouse Media
Kids Learn Spanish with busuu (Free + IAP)
More kid-linguistics from online community busuu, which offers similar apps for Italian, French and other languages. This is a collection of 150 key Spanish words taught over 30 lessons with mini-games and revision quizzes. There's a clever "language garden" feature to keep track of progress, too. It's aimed at 4-7 year-olds, with packs of lessons available as £1.49 in-app purchases, or the whole thing unlockable for £6.99.
iPad by busuu
Wildlife Jigsaw Puzzles 123 HD (£1.49 - £1.99)
Back to animals with this app, which teaches children more than 40 animals' names through jigsaw puzzles, reading their names aloud as it goes. Puzzles can be played as two, four or nine-piece jigsaws to suit different ages, with hints and voice narration to encourage children along the way.
iPhone / iPad / Android
Justin's World: Goldilocks and the Three Bears (£2.99)
CBeebies star Justin Fletcher (of Something Special and Justin's House fame) fronts this fairytale app, which turns Goldilocks and the Three Bears into a fable about tidying up and being helpful. But in an entertaining way, of course. Light education elements like counting and matching are included, with the big draw being video of Fletcher telling the story, and getting into character as its stars.
iPhone / iPad by Justin's World
Little Red Riding Hood by Nosy Crow (£3.99)
Another fairytale, this time bewitchingly retold through a mixture of animation, interactivity and toothy wolves in flat-caps. This beautifully-crafted adventure gets children to help Little Red Riding Hood take different routes through the forest, with the items she collects influencing how the story ends. Although here's a spoiler: it never ends well for the wolf.
iPhone / iPad by Nosy Crow
Me Books (Free + IAP)
This is a pre-2013 app in the UK, but it's just gone live in the US, making it worth its place in this list. Me Books is a store+reader app for digital picture-books, including faous characters like Peppa Pig and a host of Ladybird classics. Children can turn the pages and listen to voice narration, but the app also lets them record their own dialogue and sound. The app is free, with stories sold as individual in-app purchases for between 69p and £1.99.
iPhone / iPad by Made in Me
Kung Fu Robot (Free)
Aimed at slightly older children, this graphic-novel tale of "the unicycle champion of the 3rd Northern District... the reigning champion of continuous nunchucking" fizzes with character from start to finish. The brainchild of illustrator Jason Bays, it's a madcap tale of a kung fu-kicking robot, with additional soundboard and ninja-whacking mini-game. It's entirely free for now with three chapters, and the promise of more to come.
iPad by Kid Rocket
Disney Junior Appisodes (Free + IAP)
Spun off from the Disney Junior TV channel, this app offers appisodes – definition: "an interactive version of a full-length TV episode" – for shows including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Jake and the Never Land Pirates. Each adds mini-games and other interactivity to the original animations. It's free with one appisode, and others available as £2.99 in-app purchases individually.
iPhone / iPad by Disney
My Story World (Free + IAP)
This shares some features with Me Books, in that it's a collection of digital picture-books including some familiar names (Sid the Science Kid, and Little Red Riding Hood for example). Each story includes creative activities like drawing and colouring, wiht he promise of new stories added to its collection every week. You pay £3.99 via in-app purchase for a six-month subscription, giving access to everything.
iPad by Mindshapes
Jörgits & the End of Winter (£3.99)
Jörgits is a storybook app with an environmental message, telling the tale of a group of aliens whose planet is cooling down, and their expedition to "a planet nearby which is rapidly heating up – ours". Its message about global warming is delivered with charm and a light touch, though, as well as plenty of extra animation and interactivity.
iPad by Tank & Bear
Beauty and the Beast (£2.99)
Developer StoryToys specialises in turning familiar fairytales into pseudo-3D pop-up book-apps, telling the stories through a mixture of text and animated, interactive scenes that pop up from the virtual pages. There's even a spot of gaming: playing ping-pong against the Beast, and running away from a hungry wolf.
iPhone / iPad / Android by StoryToys
Hunches In Bunches (£2.99 - £3.34)
This is a digital version of a more-traditional Dr. Seuss book: the tale of a young boy getting distracted by all manner of surreal creatures ("a Sour Hunch, a Very Odd Hunch, the Homework Hunch, a Four-Way Hunch, the Nowhere Hunch..." as he tries to figure out how to spend his day. Aimed at 3-6 year-olds, its voice narration and word-highlighting aims to encourage early reading.
iPhone / iPad / Android
The Phoenix Weekly Story Comic (Free + IAP)
This is the digital edition of print comic The Phoenix, which comes out once a week with a mixture of stories, puzzles, competitions and other stuff for kids. If you've seen the print version, you'll know that the content is very good. The ability to save favourite pages is useful on iPad too. Subscriptions cost £1.99 a week, £5.99 a month or £32.99 for six months.
iPad by The Phoenix Comic
Classic Winnie-the-Pooh (Free + IAP)
This new app stays faithful to the original A.A. Milne Winnie-the-Pooh books, including the famous illustrations by E.H. Shepard. Pooh and his friends have been animated, but the app avoids the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach of some appy retellings. Actor Rufus Jones provides voice narration. One story is included for free, with others costing £1.99 each as in-app purchases.
iPhone / iPad by Egmont UK
Jackie Junko (£1.49)
Claiming to be "the first app to push the boat out – quite literally", this is a story about a boat named Jackie who goes on an adventure, meeting animals and other boats as he goes. Aimed at 3-7 year-olds, its illustrations are marvellously-vintage in style, while the interactivity never comes at the expense of the story.
iPad by Springy Thingy
Pan: The Fearless Beribolt (£2.49)
A number of interesting children's app-makers are springing up in the US in 2013, with Hullabalu one of the latest. This is its first app starring a panda named Pandora Beribolt, who sets off on an adventure to find her family. High production values, lots of activities and some fun photo silliness make it a treat.
iPad by Hullabalu
A Cautionary Tail (£2.99)
This is based on a short film rather than a book: an Australian short that's been taking the world's film festivals by storm in recent months. The story focuses on a girl born with a tail, told through rhyming verse, movie-quality animation and voice narration from one of the film's stars, David Wenham.
iPad by Rawr Media
A Troop is a Group of Monkeys (£2.49)
This is great fun: an animated app teaching children the various plural nouns for animals: monkeys, bats, owls, parrots and so on. It's a musical story, too, with a theme song that will be nagging on your internal jukebox for hours after you use the app with your children.
iPad by Little Bahalia
This app is a digital aquarium, but the problem is it's an empty one. That's where your children come in, drawing and colouring in fish with real pencils and pens on real paper, then scanning them in to swim around in the app. The fun comes in seeing how many different fish they can create.
iPad by Stripey Design
Night Zookeeper Teleporting Torch (£1.99)
More drawing here, although this time it takes place entirely on the touchscreen. It's set in a zoo full of magical animals, and structured around "drawing missions" – daily challenges that suggest what kids might want to draw. For example, drawing a hareplane – "the fastest animal in the Night Zoo and it transports the animals around". Drawings are stored on Night Zookeeper's server for safekeeping, and there's an online dashboard for parents and teachers to keep tabs, and set their own missions if they like.
iPad by Night Zookeeper
Toy Story: Story Theater (£1.99)
Disney's latest official Toy Story app turns the tables and puts kids in charge of the storytelling. They choose a setting, characters, props and actions to create a tale, while recording their own voice narration to be played back afterwards. Buzz, Woody and Jessie are all present and correct, among other characters.
iPhone / iPad by Disney
This is an absolutely fab idea, getting children to draw the outer bits of animals (legs, ears, whiskers and so on) around their iPhone or iPad, before the device provides an animated face. There's an animal for every letter of the alphabet, and many of them will make parents and kids alike laugh out loud.
iPhone / iPad by Lucas Zanotto
Great British Chefs Kids (Free)
This free app wants to get children cooking, with 105 recipes from 21 British chefs, split into categories like snacks, mains, cakes and biscuits, pastry, chocolate and "vegetables & salad" (good luck with that one, most parents!). Step-by-step text, photographs and videos explain everything, and there's a Tesco tie-in to help parents buy the ingredients from their device.
iPhone / iPad by Great British Chefs
Toontastic Jr. Shrek (£1.99)
File this alongside Toy Story: Story Theater, in the way it allows children to make their own stories featuring much-loved film characters. In this case, it's Shrek, Fiona and Donkey from the Shrek films, with 12 scenes, voice recording and the chance to use a "StoryShare" feature to collaborate with family and friends on other devices.
iPhone / iPad by Launchpad Toys
Caspar Babypants Music Time (£1.49)
Chris Ballew made his name in band the Presidents of the United States of America – they did Lump and Peaches, which should give your internal jukebox another jolt. Nowadays he also makes well-crafted music for children, which has now been turned into an app. Kids can play along on virtual instruments, and instead of in-app purchases, the app points parents to Apple's iTunes Store if they want more music to use.
iPhone / iPad by Catnap Apps
Puppet Workshop (£1.99)
Most kids I know like sock puppets (the original kind, not the review-their-own-books-on-Amazon kind), but Puppet Workshop takes the idea digital. Kids start with a virtual sock or glove, and decorate it with buttons and other items, before placing it on a background and taking a picture. What I loved most about this app, though, is that it got my children into making real sock and glove puppets: digital play sparking physical play, rather than replacing it.
iPad by JumpApp
Mibblio (Free + IAP)
A number of children's apps are doing fun things with music in 2013, with several represented here. Mibblio is a "musically interactive storybook app" with a selection of stories, each with their own song. Kids can listen to the song while reading its lyrics, or play along by tapping on virtual instruments, from a keyboard to percussion. Individual songs cost £1.49 each as in-app purchases.
iPad by Mibblio
File this alongside Puppet Workshop: it's another app that mirrors creativity in the real world, while trying to spark kids' imaginations to carry on once the iPad is switched off. Here, they're making virtual cats from lifelike materials and household objects – "the things you'd find in grandma's secret drawer".
iPad by Ovolab
Freckleface Strawberry: Monster Maker (Free)
The Freckleface Strawberry books are the work of actor and author Julianne Moore, and have received lots of critical acclaim. This app isn't a straight story, although there is a storytelling element. It gets children to create their own monster from different body parts, with the ability to insert it into photographs of themselves and friends or family members. A creative introduction to the Freckleface series.
iPad by Nymbly
Easy Studio – Animate with Shapes (£2.49)
French studio Les Trois Elles have made a series of polished, characterful children's apps over the last year or two. This is great fun: an app designed to help children start making their own animations, using geometric shapes as the basis for their moving scenes. Two difficulty modes – Easy and Expert – cater for different ages. Its potential is only limited by each child's imagination.
iPad by Les Trois Elles
Faces iMake - ABC (£1.49)
If your children tire of making sock puppets, cats or monsters, how about alphabetical objects? This is an app with 26 collages of household items for children to reassemble. The idea: they learn their letters and spatial skills while feeling pride at putting the various objects together
iPad by iMagine Machine
Toca Hair Salon 2 (Free - £1.59)
In truth, you can buy any Toca Boca app and expect marvellousness: the publisher has a well-earned reputation for quality. Toca Hair Salon 2 is its newest app, and a good introduction. It gets kids cutting, colouring, brushing and styling the hair of a collection of quirky characters, with no set goals beyond having creative fun. Note, it's currently free on iOS as a promotion, but may well revert to paid in the next few days.
iPhone / iPad / Android by Toca Boca
Sago Mini Forest Flyer (£1.49)
Sago Sago is actually a subsidiary of Toca Boca, after it bought Canadian developer Zinc Roe earlier in the year. Its apps focus on younger children: toddlers. This is a bright and colourful app based on Robin, a bird who flies through the forest discovering more than 20 characters, locations and items. That means animated scenes, but kids are left to make up their own storyline.
iPhone / iPad by Sago Sago
Bloomsbury Pirate Activity (£2.99)
Book publisher Bloomsbury was behind this digital stickering app, which apes the kind of sticker/activity books you can buy in the real world, but with no chance of the stickers ending up plastered all over the house. Pirates are the theme (although a separate princesses app is also available) with mazes, puzzles and colouring also included.
iPad by Bloomsbury Publishing
The Letter Monster (£1.99)
This is a good introduction to the playful apps of Swedish developer Wombi, starring a friendly sea-monster who wants to eat letters. So it's educational as well as fun, as kids drag and drop letters into his gaping maw. A friendly gaping maw...
iPhone / iPad / Android by Wombi
Peppa Pig's Holiday (£2.99)
P2 Games has the official Peppa Pig licence, and has released a series of fun mini-game collections based on her adventures (including a couple of pre-2013 releases on Android). Peppa Pig's Holiday is the latest, and sees the Pig family off on their travels, with games set at the airport, on the beach and in the swimming pool.
iPhone / iPad by P2 Games
Petting Zoo by Christoph Niemann (£0.69)
One of my favourite apps of the year so far – and in more digital-to-physical fun, it's one of the reasons my sons were so keen to go to a real-world zoo earlier in the year. It's the work of author and illustrator Niemann: a collection of 21 animals whose animations respond to your swipes up, down and across the screen. Craft and humour in spades.
iPhone / iPad by Christoph Niemann
More Trucks by Duck Duck Moose (£1.49)
If you have a child with a yen for big-wheeled trucks, they'll love this app from well-established developer Duck Duck Moose. It sees them driving four trucks, including a fire engine and crane. In the latter case, they get to build (and then, more importantly, knock down) some structures.
iPhone / iPad by Duck Duck Moose
Yummiloo Rainbow Power (£1.49)
This colourful game revolves around characters called Yum Yums, whose annual carnival has been derailed by a lack of food. That means children get to help the Yum Yums harvest it, with the game aiming to entertainingly introduce ideas about healthy eating as they sort ripe from spoiled foodstuffs.
iPhone / iPad by Night & Day Studios
I Spy With Lola (£0.69 - £1.49)
Part of a bigger series of Lola Panda games, this sees the heroine travelling the world on an "I Spy adventure", collecting items based on different letters, and unlocking new locations to explore as she goes.
iPhone / iPad / Android by BeiZ
Dr Panda's Handyman (£1.49)
Finally... more pandas! In fact, there are lots of Dr. Panda games to investigate, but this is one of the latest ones. It's based on DIY, with 13 activities in a virtual home: making a bed, tearing up old floors and painting everything.
iPhone / iPad / Android by TribePlay
Phew! That's the 50 done and dusted, but what apps have your children been enjoying this year? Make your recommendations by posting a comment.