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11 posts
by Stef Goff » Sat Sep 24, 2011 9:27 am
I am a teacher and head of dept for ICT in a UK school. I am entirely self taught on computers but my skills revolve around what is now ICT i.e. MS Office, Adobe CS5 products like flash, dreamweaver, fireworks, paint shop pro and a few freebies like audacity, scratch, google sketch up.

I am very interested in learning more about programming and incorporating it into the curriculum and this device looks to me like something that would appeal to my students. My problem is that I don't even really know what I'm looking at. Where do I start?

I like the sound of something I saw in somebody else's post about some sort of gaming stuff. I have taught basic games with scratch and back in the day when I first blagged my way into ICT teaching from my business and maths background, we used to teach Klik'n'Play and RPG Maker 2000. My last programming effort I remember was when I had to type in the code for the games I wanted to play on our family computer the TRS-80. Does anyone know how steep the learning curve will be?

I am very sympathetic to the idea of getting genuine computing back into schools alongside ICT not as an either or thing. They are very different subjects and each has its place. I have consistently run into a wall when trying to convince any of the schools I have worked at to offer Computing at A level and it is largely due to the fact that nationally these subjects are difficult to obtain high grades in.

I think a device that gets students interested in computing from a young age is exactly the sort of thing we need to create the demand for the subject from the students themselves. I think that is probably the best chance we have to get computing back into the mainstream and I applaud the efforts of your organisation in helping to achieve this.

All assistance greatly appreciated. The most important questions I have are definitely: What do i need to know to get started? and Where can I go to learn these things?
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by tonygo2 » Sat Sep 24, 2011 10:24 am
I am a retired teacher of Computing and ICT. I started in the late 60s with C&G319 assembler and moved on via FORTRAN 4, IBM 1130 BASIC with input via pre-punched cards and error messages in Portugese. Students had to know the hole codes and remove chads with the tip of a biro after writing the characters with a pen along the top of the card. After school I took the piles of cards to Southampton Technical College and processed them on the 1130 (8K of magnetic core storage!) Later I moved to Cambridgeshire and we used a Data General computer at CCAT with communication via a teletype, very large 300 baud modem and papertape.

I then got a PET and linked it up to the teletype and employed a secretary to type the students' programs from coding sheets. This was in the 70s. Our next move was to a small set of Ohio Scientific Super boards and an early Epson dot-matrix printer. At this time I was teaching programming to most of the students at age 14. We even at a CSE examination which mixed Maths and Programming called "BASIC mathematics" and another called "Computer Programming."

When the BBC Micro came out I joined the training team in Cambridgeshire and helped train teachers in its use.

In 1984 I moved to Leicestershire and was the first in the county to have a BBC micro with a disc drive. I was teaching 'A' level and Computing and and lower level programming full time. This was the 'best' period of my teaching of programming. I had keen and able students and we were making great use of the input/output features of the Beeb. Controlling devices by voice commands and getting artificial speech output. After the BBCs we moved onto ATARI STs with the chance to program great games and simulations with the improved graphics.

With the introduction of Networked PCs out went programming in came MS Office for all. The Students lost interest as they were all forced to follow a CLAIT course (Word, XL, Publisher, Access) with the bare minimum of time. It was very examination focused and no spare time for interesting things such as programming and control.
I was still able to teach 16-19 year olds GNVQ ICT but starting programming at 16 from nothing was hard for many of them. Most students enjoyed using VB6 and macros in XL and loved the hardware module when they were took PCs apart and added to/upgraded them. (This was later dropped because of the difficulty in finding teachers who could understand the requirements.)

The final straw was when it was decided to stop ICT teachers teaching ICT. The legal requirement was split up and was to be an 'covered' within other subject areas. (Very little extra training provided and mainly ignored.)

I've recently bought an Arduino and have been having great fun with breadboard, soldering-iron and and getting the things to work with cut down C.

I am so pleased with this project and hope that many more younger students (and teachers) will be able to gain access to the world of programming. Getting the teachers trained to use a different OS will be very difficult. The package supplied will need to connect-up, plug-in and go. Good documentation will be essential as well as local helpers willing to offer advice and help. We have to bring back the FUN.

[Edit: mod edit to improve readability - our forum software doesn't automatically add paragraph breaks between paragraphs :(]
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by tonygo2 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:33 am
I am getting a bit concerned that the forum is so little used by teachers and parents. If the project is really going to take off with students we will need plenty of help and backup from schools.

I would suggest that if you want to make a start the best way would be to install Python on your own machine and follow the excellent online-book “Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python” which can be downloaded from:

http://inventwithpython.com/index.html

The program can be downloaded from: http://www.python.org/

The documentation with Python is excellent and very easy to follow. Since Python is expected to be supplied with the Pi in the second phase you would then be in an excellent position to offer help and advice.

There is one small problem. Most teachers are supplied via their school with a Windows laptop which connects to the school’s network. These are often locked so that the user is unable to install additional programs, such as Python, so that they can try then out. Teachers in this position would need to persuade their network technician to install Python on their machine, or better still the school network.

Since most teachers only use Windows OS very clear guidance will need to be provided on how to prepare new SD Cards, backup and copy SD cards so that nothing gets lost.

How can we get more teachers to join in the discussion?
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by NachoC » Sat Oct 08, 2011 10:32 pm
Quote from tonygo2 on September 27, 2011, 11:33
I am getting a bit concerned that the forum is so little used by teachers and parents. [...]
How can we get more teachers to join in the discussion?


It's still too soon, I'm afraid.

I teach computer programming in Spain, and I think the Raspberry Pi can be a great tool to bring back the "interesting part" of computing to schools and to hobbyists. But until I have one in my hands (or a very accurate and easy-to-install software emulation), I cannot develop any educative software, nor write any tutorial.

Let me try to make myself a bit more clear: when I heard that the Raspberry Pi would include a Python interpreter, which I consider a great idea, I asked (even before this forum existed) "which graphic toolkit are you planning to use?" because in a text-only programming environment you can teach little more than algorithmics, but with a graphical enviroment, you can use drawings and animations to teach almost anything. But I had no answer, and graphic libraries tend to be so different that developing for one and then rewriting for another can be VERY time-consuming. So I cannot develop anything yet, even though I am interested in the Raspberry Pi, I am a developer, I am a teacher, and I have the kind of pupils that might "spread the word".

When I have one in my hands, I'll try to help with the testing, with translations to Spanish (if the Raspberry Pi team think of an easy way for such cooperations), with the creation of basic tutorials, with the development of educative software and with the creation of tutorials on this subject, too.

And I hope I'm not the only one. I'm almost sure that people (teachers / developer / hobbyists) from all other the world would do the same in their languages, for their communities, as it has happened with Linux. But until we have a real device (which should be ready soon) or a very good emulation and development environment (which I'm afraid will take quite longer), we cannot help at all.
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by Jim Manley » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:24 am
There should be an internationalization (I18N) option built into the Linux operating systems being ported to the R-Pi that allow alternative languages to replace English in all menus, dialogs, buttons, help, keyboard layouts, etc.  When most OSes (or their installers) are booted up the first time, they ask what language should be used, and these language resources are contained in various directories included as part of the installation.
The best things in life aren't things ... but, a Pi comes pretty darned close! :D
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- W.B. Yeats
In theory, theory & practice are the same - in practice, they aren't!!!
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by nick.mccloud » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:09 am
NachoC said:


It"s still too soon, I"m afraid.


Very correct I'm afraid, even us geeks are struggling with some aspects of the distributions and 99.999% of us haven't even laid our hands on a real one yet.


Let me try to make myself a bit more clear: when I heard that the Raspberry Pi would include a Python interpreter, which I consider a great idea, I asked (even before this forum existed) "which graphic toolkit are you planning to use?" because in a text-only programming environment you can teach little more than algorithmics, but with a graphical enviroment, you can use drawings and animations to teach almost anything. But I had no answer,


Recent versions of Python come with TKinter bundled with it - not the best looking GUI in the world but very accessible to student programmers. To be fair to the Foundation, they were still figuring out how to make the PCB fit the budget when you asked, details of software were some where in the future for them.

Nothing stops YOU choosing a package.


But until we have a real device (which should be ready soon) or a very good emulation and development environment (which I"m afraid will take quite longer), we cannot help at all.


There are several simulation/emulation packages around - mine for a start - using Qemu &/or VirtualBox. I'll be releasing a Fedora14 setup shortly - the simulation is very close and good for the vast majority of projects, it would need to be something very esoteric to require developing only under the emulator.

Away from the forum there are books being prepared (5 I believe) ready for an educational release in September. Stay tuned.
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by spurious » Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:05 am
It's nice to see that teachers are getting interested in the project.

I am a little surprised at this statement though:


...because in a text-only programming environment you can teach little more than algorithmics...


You can write any application in a text-only programming environment!

I would prefer kids were taught to use a text environment at the start of the process of learning, as this would focus the thoughts on programming technique and not this drag and drop simplistic approach.
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by TheManWhoWas » Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:57 am
spurious said:

You can write any application in a text-only programming environment!

I don't think that's what the poster meant. He was talking about output from the program e.g. making interesting graphical stuff happen, rather than just printing text like "Hello World".

So he was asking about what Python graphics libraries were going to supported / "standard" on the Pi (if any).
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by antiloquax » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:02 am
I am a teacher and I have started teaching programming.

Here's my blog.

http://teampython.wordpress.com/

Pygame is great for 2d graphics - if you want to get started right now, you could use RacyPy2 - it's a remastered Puppy Linux with Python 2.7.2 and 3.1.4 both with pygame installed. Also some tutorials are include in "my-documents".

More info here:

While you wait for your Raspberry Pi, why not use RacyPy2?
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by spurious » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:04 pm
TheManWhoWas said:


So he was asking about what Python graphics libraries were going to supported / "standard" on the Pi (if any).


but my point is you don't need a GUI dev environment to write a GUI application.

IMO - it's better when you are learning not to use a GUI dev environment so you can see exactly what is going on.
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by TheManWhoWas » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:28 pm
spurious said:

but my point is you don't need a GUI dev environment to write a GUI application.

Not sure anyone was saying you did were they?

But I do think you need more than just text output to motivate the budding programmer. Writing a program that calculates for seven and a half million years and then just prints out 42 isn't very satisfying.
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