A teacher writes…

Liz: This post is written by Clive, a Computing teacher from the UK who wishes to remain at least moderately anonymous. Clive will be contributing posts to the Raspberry Pi blog for as long as I can keep twisting his arm, as he introduces the hardware to his students and gets to grips with it himself. Thanks very much for writing this, Clive; we’re really glad to have you here!

Somewhat slightly dazed

See the happy moron, he doesn’t give a damn.
I wish I were a moron, my god! Perhaps I am!

Hello. I’m Clive and I’m a teacher. Reading these forums leaves me rather bewildered, as if a cow had appeared by my bedside one morning and started shouting at me. In Tagalog.

Happy cow

Wake up, son of a grasshopper!

I don’t understand 99% of the technical stuff that goes on here. My knowledge of Linux is rudimentary and what I know about electronics wouldn’t fill the back of a Raspberry Pi board even if it was written in special TeacherFont™ (size 18, underlined Comic Sans if you want to add it to your styles). I don’t dream in machine code and I never got annoyed about the Pi losing I²S because I don’t even know what that means.

None of this matters though because what I want to use the Raspberry Pi for is teaching and learning. This is, after all, why it was made. This September I plan to use the RasPi to teach Computing to 11 to 18 year-olds and to brush up my own CS skills on the way.

My posts here will chronicle my use of the RasPi as a teaching and learning tool. I’ll be looking at resources and training ideas as well as courses such as the new GCSEs in Computing. That’s right–I’ll be making it all up as I go along, in a way that would make a hardnosed Ofsted inspector sob until their clipboard went soggy. All I can promise is that there will be no talk of binary blobs. Or blobs of any kind. We educators will erect our own blobless corner of the forums, where we can lounge about in frayed, corduroy jackets with beige leatherette elbow patches, drinking tea from stained mugs and shaking our virtual fists at unruly urchins.

Computing and ICT education in the UK is big news at the moment (more on the Royal Society Report, Nesta reports, Curriculum review etc. in future blogs) and I’ll be thinking about how the recent brouhaha will affect teaching, training and the job in general. I’ll be thinking hard about this because these are my subjects.

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah!

Most recently the Education Secretary Michael Gove (below) has decided that Computing is the Medicinal Compound (most efficacious in every way) of education and is consulting to disapply the ICT curriculum. This despite the fact that Gove wouldn’t know what Computing was if you stuck a whiteboard marker up his bum and programmed him in LOGO to draw a picture of Hello Kitty on Dave’s new Kahrs walnut kitchen floor. (Left a bit! Right a bit! Up a bit! Fire!).

Michael Gove

Computings is well good. Brap!

When I were a nipper, if you weren’t quick enough out of the orchard the farmer would pepper the backs of your legs with dried corn and rock salt (that’s not a euphemism, he really did load his shotgun shells with that stuff). It was scary and yet it was hilarious at the same time and that’s how I feel about Gove’s Computing ePiphany. (Yes, it’s a capital P. I’ve got to point this out else it may be edited and it took me ages to think of.)

Now, I personally love the fact that the Government has finally acknowledged that Computing–and computational thinking–are essential to a well-rounded education. Because they are. Yet I worry about the fact that very few ICT departments in the country have staff with CS qualifications. Who is going to teach Computing? Who is going to train these teachers? These are big questions with no simple answers. Still, it’s a start.

Shhh, don’t mention the “I” word

I also worry that even the likes of the BBC and the Guardian run headlines shouting, “ICT to be scrapped!” It isn’t being scrapped: it’s compulsory across all Key Stages. ICT is useful and relevant, even though I personally loathe the name. But it has a bad rep, often deserved but not always. Apparently it’s pointless too, because all young people are Digital Natives dontcha know? Feral, digital children are meant to be running rings around me daily, making me look foolish with their mad iSkillz and occasional battle rap. Which is odd, because despite talking to hundreds of young people every week I have yet to witness this.

The fact that people–young and old– do not have these skills is the reason that I get mass emails with everyone’s address visible; why people ring me up crying because they have just lost a week’s work; why, statistically, every PowerPoint I’ve have ever seen looks like it was made by a five month-old chimp by flinging its own faeces at the monitor. Digital Natives indeed.

I’m also a member of CAS, the grass roots pressure group whose mission it is to get Computing back into schools. They are part of the reason (I’d say a large part) that the UK Government has suddenly “decided” that Computing is important. A team of CAS members is writing the User Guide for the RasPi education release this summer, so I’ll be talking about that too.

So for those of you who joined the forum hoping to use the RasPi in education and are currently wondering what the hell you have wandered into, fear not! There’s lot to write about and lots to do. The next few months should be very interesting and very Raspberry flavoured indeed.