This video of the closing panel discussion from last month’s Raspberry Jamboree has just appeared, and if you’re interested in applications of the Pi in schools, it’s well worth your time. If you want to find out more about the successful teaching of Computing in schools, this is a great place to start.
The OCR materials that are mentioned in the discussion are available for download for anyone: you don’t have to be a teacher. They’re only the start of a large planned scheme of work, and you’ll find materials for both pupils and teachers.
So watch the video, have a look through the worksheets, and let us know what you think. I’m meeting Alan O’Donohoe, who runs the Raspberry Jams, in…about ten minutes – if you have any questions for him please leave them in the comments, and I’ll pass them on!
Liz: I was going to post this tomorrow, but it’s so good I just couldn’t wait. We’ve just had some mail from Geert Maertens, from Anzegem in Belgium. He’s been working with a small group of volunteers to raise money to bring computing to a school in a remote area of Cameroon. I’ll quote him in full: what he’s got to tell us is fascinating, and makes us feel very, very proud. Thank you Geert, Kristel, Griet and Hans - please keep us posted!
I am a volunteer in a group that provides the funding to build a secondary school (Saint Marcellin Comprehensive College, or SAMACCOL) in a small village in Cameroon. The village is called Binshua and is located close to Nkambe in the Northwest region of Cameroon. This is a relatively poor region of the country, with no reliable water and electricity supply. Also, at present, the nearest internet connection is found in a town called Kumbo which is a three hour drive from Binshua, not so much because of the distance but rather because of the quality of the road.
Ever since we learned about the Raspberry Pi, we were dreaming of a computer lab equipped with these little wonders. And so we pursued this dream. For the necessary funds, we found a generous partner in Rotary International. Thanks to the efforts of the Rotarians in Waregem, Kortrijk and Kumbo and of the Rotary International Foundation, we have the money to provide the essential infrastructure for the school.
And so last month, we travelled with a group of four Pi enthusiasts (Kristel, Griet, Hans and myself) to Cameroon with 30 Pis in our suitcases. Also, we bought HDMI to VGA convertors here in Belgium because we knew it might be hard to find HDMI screens over there. Furthermore, the network equipment (router, switches, hard drive) and a small load of books all came along from Europe. The screens, keyboards and mice were bought in a local computer shop in Bamenda, Cameroon. Currently, it is not possible to connect the school to the public power network, so the class needs to be powered by a small generator of Chinese manufacture.
In the lab, we installed 25 Raspberry Pis. The remaining 5 RPis are currently unused. They certainly play a role in our plans for the future, but currently serve only as spare parts. All of the systems run on the Raspbian image from December, with LibreOffice and CUPS installed. The Pis are currently used to teach the children the basics of working with an Office suite. But we made sure that we gave the teacher a little introduction (and a good book) on programming in Scratch. So, now we are hoping that this will get Scratch introduced in the school curriculum as well.
The computers are all connected in a network. The central point of the network is a router that’s ready to be connected to a WAN modem. We hope to be able to provide a connection to the internet in the near future, which would certainly bring a small revolution into this rural area. Even without an internet connection, we believe that we created an advanced computer lab in this underdeveloped area. Giving the children in the area a chance to work their way to a better future. And that is our motivation.
I met Tom Dubick about a year ago at Hackerspace Charlotte, NC. He teaches engineering to the girls at Charlotte Latin School, and we believe his class was the first to be using the Raspberry Pi in the United States.
He and a group of his 13-year-old pupils have just given a TEDx talk called How Girls Should Serve Raspberry Pi. The girls here are presenting the projects they’ve made with Raspberry Pi over this semester, but there’s another important message here: we know that STEM subjects are not just for boys, but we should recognise that not all girls are the same, so our teaching approach is doomed if we decide that the only way to get girls into engineering subjects is to “shrink it and pink it”.
Keep watching – the projects get better and better. (Rolling backpack indicator lights FTW!)
A few months ago PA Consulting Group ran a competition that challenged young people to make the world a better place using a Raspberry Pi. Last Wednesday I went along to help judge the 14 teams who made it to the final.
Walking into the presentation room there was a real creative buzz as the contestants set up their projects and carried out last minute tweaks. They were excited and nervous and proud to have made something both cool and useful. The room was suffused by the Essence of Awesome that I’d love to put in an atomiser and spray on people who proudly tell me that they don’t see the point of the Raspberry Pi.
It was also great to see mixed and all-girl teams well represented and something that we need to see more of. The creative side of computing often gets overlooked but was very evident here. As well as writing code, the contestants had built mini wired-up houses; roving robots; prototypes from Lego; hacked an energy monitor; hooked up RFID sensors to time races and built lots of other practical computing stuff that we think is a powerful hook to get people into computing.
Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, computing isn’t about millions of lines of scrolling, arcane code: it’s about concepts and ideas and it’s about solving problems. The fun bit for me is in taking an idea and making it real. What was once only in your head is now alive and kicking in the real world. Better still, you can easily share your creation with the rest of the world via the Net. It doesn’t get much better than that if you like making things. What all of the entries had in common was a useful idea plus a level of creativity that the Raspberry Pi always seems to encourage.
8-11 years The Richard Pate School who designed a system to help elderly or disabled people answer the door. A great idea that was well thought out and we were impressed by the teamwork.
12-16 years: Dalriada School with their web-controlled pill dispenser. We were impressed with the professional level of research and prototyping as well as the clever idea.
Dalriada School’s brilliant pill dispenser. Various prototypes (front) are made from Lego and 3d-printed.
16-18 years: Team Meteoros from Westminster School, whose AirPi gathers air quality data and provides a web interface for monitoring and analysis. The judges loved the teamwork, passion and the potential (each AirPi will feed information to a central server). It was my personal favourite: I’ll be making one with my son to stick in our garden and will blog about this as we put it together. Full build instructions and how to get involved are on their site.
AirPi: senses 99.9% of all known stuff
Open category: UNOP who reverse-engineered the communication protocol of an off the shelf electricity monitor to make better use of the data. I loved the hacker ethos: “this doesn’t do what I want it to so I’m going to make it better.”
These projects were a taster of exactly what the Raspberry Pi Foundation set out to do and we look forward to see more and more of this as people get a chance to mess about on an open and accessible platform. We want what was happening in that room to start happening in schools and clubs and homes everywhere.
So congratulations to the winners, thanks again to PA Consulting for running a quite brilliant competition and a special thanks to all of the young people who showed us yet again that given the opportunity and a Raspberry Pi they will surprise us with their ideas, creativity and tech skills. It was a pleasure to be there.
N.B. I have used the words ‘creative’ and ‘creativity’ a lot. I make no apologies. Get a Raspberry Pi. Get creating. I’m off to pitch Essence of Awesome™ to Chanel.
Emma is in the second grade (7-8 year olds). And she’s already well on her way to being a fully fledged engineer.
Every year, Emma’s school runs a State Board project, where each kid in the second grade is assigned a US state to make a trifold poster about. Emma’s already a Maker Faire veteran who knows how to solder and how to use a milling machine. She programs in Python, and she’s very keen on electronics; so with some help from Dad she used a Raspberry Pi to turn her poster into an all-singing, all-dancing interactive Vermont extravaganza.
Here’s a great bit of video of Emma showing off her soldering skills; she’s constructing a Perma-Proto that’s used in the project. She learned how to solder at Maker Faire in NY last year; those adults among you who sometimes comment here saying you haven’t ever done any soldering and don’t feel you have the time to learn should hang your heads. (And then go and buy a soldering iron.) Remember: Soldering is Easy.
When I was Emma’s age, I was glueing fake fur, lentils and macaroni onto a large cut-out ankylosaurus. If I remember correctly, I wasn’t allowed to use the scissors on my own, so someone else did the cutting-out for me. I feel a little outclassed.
Well done Emma – we’re all really impressed by your project and your technological skills, and we hope you’ll let us know if you use a Raspberry Pi in any of your future schoolwork!
A short video from last week’s announcement of Google’s $1m grant for Raspberry Pi kits and teaching materials has just appeared in my inbox. No new news here, but we thought you’d like to see just how well the kids at Chesterton Community College got on with the morning’s programming; and to watch Eben trying his hardest not to break into a giant grin.
If you’re at BETT this week, come over to Stand B240 to meet one of the Robs, Clive and a bunch of impaled Jelly Babies.
The Department for Education (DfE) has just announced that Computer Science is to be added to the new English Baccalaureate or EBacc. The EBacc is a series of new qualifications to replace the GCSEs that English kids take at 16, designed to be more rigorous than the existing standards.
This is an enormous curricular change for England, which has traditionally recognised only Physics, Biology and Chemistry as core science subjects. Computer Science is now on a level footing with those subjects, carrying the same weight and prestige, and having an equal impact on choices pupils can make later about A Levels and University courses. This is wonderful news.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said today:
It is great news that Google is helping the brilliant Raspberry Pi project. We are replacing the old-fashioned ICT curriculum with a Computer Science curriculum. This will combine with the Raspberry Pi project to spread teaching of computer coding which is so educationally and economically vital.
The new Computer Science curriculum replaces the old ICT curriculum, discontinued last year. The old ICT courses did not prepare students for studying Computer Science at university (or for much else); we’re delighted to see their replacement being treated as a proper, exacting academic subject. There’s a statement from the DfE that you can read in full over at their website; it’s worth a look.
What specifics would you like to see included in a new CompSci curriculum?
Today’s been a bit unlike most Tuesdays at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Today we’re the recipients of a very generous grant from Google Giving, which will provide 15,000 Raspberry Pi Model Bs for schoolkids around the UK. Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, has just been to visit Cambridge, and he and Eben have been teaching a classroom of local kids to code all morning. Lucky kids.
(Usually on Tuesday mornings we eat biscuits and do engineering. This is a bit of a change of pace.)
We’re going to be working with Google and six UK educational partners to find the kids who we think will benefit from having their very own Raspberry Pi. CoderDojo, Code Club, Computing at Schools, Generating Genius, Teach First and OCR will each be helping us identify those kids, and will also be helping us work with them. You’ll already have seen the Raspberry Pi teaching materials from Computing at Schools; OCR will also be creating 15,000 free teaching and learning packs to go with the Raspberry Pis.
We’re absolutely made up over the news; this is a brilliant way for us to find kids all over the country whose aptitude for computing can now be explored properly. We believe that access to tools is a fundamental necessity in finding out who you are and what you’re good at. We want those tools to be within everybody’s grasp, right from the start.
The really good sign is that industry has a visible commitment now to trying to solve the problem of CS education in the UK. Grants like this show us that companies like Google aren’t prepared to wait for government or someone else to fix the problems we’re all discussing, but want to help tackle them themselves. We’re incredibly grateful for their help in something that we, like them, think is of vital importance. We think they deserve an enormous amount of credit for helping some of our future engineers and scientists find a way to a career they’re going to love.
We know that a lot of the teachers who read this blog will be there, and we’d love it if you could drop by the stand to meet us: Rob Bishop will be doing whizz-bang demonstrations there and showing you how easy incorporating the Pi into your computing classes can be; he’ll also have some fun physical computing projects to talk about (he’s been muttering about making machines that interface with Twitter, and making dark hints about robots). You can find out about some exciting new resources from OCR, and we’ll also be introducing you to our new Director of Educational Development, whose identity we’re keeping secret until the end of the month; he and Dr Rob Mullins will be presenting at the weekend. We’ll have more details about that closer to the event.
OCR are helping us to run a special prize draw for UK teachers, who can win ten Raspberry Pis for use in their classroom. (Sorry, non-teachers – this one’s for educators only.) We’re running on-stand demos throughout the event plus a ‘Learn Live’ session on Friday 01 February 2013 at 1.15pm. Don’t miss it!
Liz: Our friend Dr Andrew Robinson (whom you may have spotted on this site before) has been working hard to introduce schools to the Raspberry Pi, and recently he’s been teaming up with STEMnet ambassadors to run workshops. Here’s a post from him about a recent visit to Fairfield High Girls’ School in Manchester.
Just before Christmas we were inspired when we saw the Raspberry Pi engaging young people with computing at an event in a Manchester School. It’s great to see how well the Pi goes down with young people, the folks it was designed for!
The girls got to grips with both Python and Scratch, with basic interfacing and control-building games and reaction timers. The now famous Twitter Chicken also made an appearance and was well received, with the students wanting to build their own. By the end of the session some wanted Raspberry Pis and Scalextrics for Christmas.
The workshop was organised by Miss Nisbet, an IT teacher, after she came to our first CPD/networking event organised with STEMnet. We were really pleased when the workshops were a huge hit with a number of teachers, and the STEMnet Ambassador framework provided a means to support them.
The latest workshop was supported by Mike Sanders, a STEM Ambassador, and employee of Waters, who helped with technical support as well as showing the importance of computing in industry and as a career. If you work in computing and are looking at ways of getting involved in education I’d really recommend you contact your local STEMnet office.
We found the event really positive – the energy and enthusiasm of the girls have spurred us on to do more workshops. Some teachers we’ve met have concerns about using Raspberry Pi in the classroom, and we are able to show them that it’s possible. Actually getting hands on gives us experience of some to the problems schools face and the chance to come up with solutions; e.g. some schools were concerned that Raspberry Pis only worked with HDMI monitors, and we’ve found ways round this. There’s still more things to sort, like networking, but we’re convinced these can be overcome. The main thing is to experiment give things a go and then find a way round challenges when they occur.
We’ve got more workshops planned after Christmas. One school is working with a team of Ambassadors for a near-space mission, with others building robots and mobile apps. In all our workshops we focus on building and making something, not just learning to code. Many people don’t understand why they’d want to bother to learn programming, so our approach is to tempt them to make something, so they become thirsty for the knowledge of how to achieve it. We then push them to customise what they make so they realise they can shape technology for their needs rather than just having to consume shrink-wrapped products.
We want to package up materials from the workshops, together with experiences using Raspberry Pi in classrooms and practical ways to manage it. We expect to get the step-by-step guide to building the ‘techno bird box’ out after Christmas, ready for spring nesting season once we’ve finished road testing it with more youngsters.
If you’ve got ideas for more workshops or want to support us then get in touch, either comment below or get in touch though http://pi.cs.man.ac.uk/contact.htm. We’re keen to hear from people that would be keen to work with us to develop more workshops.