Your brand-new issue of the free Hello World magazine for computing educators focuses on all things health and well-being, featuring useful tools for educators, great ideas for schools, and inspiring projects, ideas, and resources from teachers around the world!
One such project was created by the students of James Abela, Head of Computing at Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur, Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, founder of the South East Asian Computer Science Teachers Association, and author of The Gamified Classroom:
Protecting children from breathing hazardous air
In 2018, Indonesia burned approximately 529,000 hectares of land. That’s an area more than three times the size of Greater London, or almost the size of Brunei. With so much forest being burned, the whole region felt the effects of the pollution. Schools frequently had to ban outdoor play and PE lessons, and on some days schools were closed completely. Many schools in the region had an on-site CO2 detector to know when pollution was bad, but by the time the message could get out, children had already been breathing in the polluted air for several minutes.
My Year 12 students (aged 16–17) followed the news and weather forecasts intently, and we all started to see how the winds from Singapore and Sumatra were sending pollution to us in Kuala Lumpur. We also realised that if we had measurements from around the city, we might have some visibility as to when pollution was likely to affect our school.
Making room for student-led projects
I’ve always encouraged my students to do their own projects, because it gives programming tasks meaning and creates something that they can be genuinely proud of. The other benefit is that it is something to talk about in university essays and interviews, especially as they often need to do extensive research to solve the problems central to their projects.
This project was […] a genuine passion project in every sense of the word.James Abela
This project was much more than this: it was a genuine passion project in every sense of the word. Three of my students approached me with the idea of tracking CO2 to give schools a better idea of when there was pollution and which way it was going. They had had some experience of using Raspberry Pi computers, and knew that it was possible to use them to make weather stations, and that the latest versions had wireless LAN capability that they could use. I agreed to support them during allocated programming time, and to help them reach out to other schools.
I was able to offer students support with this project because I flip quite a lot of the theory in my class. Flipped learning is a teaching approach in which some direct instruction, for example reading articles or watching specific videos, is done at home. This enables more class time to be used to answer questions, work through higher-order tasks, or do group work, and it creates more supervised coding time.
I was able to offer students support with this project because I flip quite a lot of the theory in my class.James Abela
I initially started doing this because when I set coding challenges for homework, I often had students who confessed they spent all night trying to solve it, only for me to glance at the code and notice a missing colon or indentation issue. I began flipping the less difficult theory for students to do as homework, to create more programming time in class where we could resolve issues more quickly. This then evolved into a system where students could work much more at their own pace and eventually led to a point at which older students could, in effect, learn through their own projects, such as the pollution monitor.
Building the pollution monitor
The students started by looking at existing weather station projects — for example, there is an excellent tutorial on the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s projects site. Students discovered that wind data is relatively easy to get over a larger area, but the key component would be something to measure CO2. […]
Check out issue 17 of Hello World to read the rest of James’s article and find out all the details about the hardware and software his students used for this passion project. He says:
This project really helped these students to decide whether they enjoyed the hardware side of computing, and solving real-world issues really encouraged them to see computing as a practical subject. This is a message that has really resonated with other students, and we’ve since doubled the number of students taking A level computer science.James Abela
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Issue 17 of Hello World is bursting with inspiring ideas for teaching your learners about computing in the context of health and well-being. And you’ll find lots more great content in its 100 pages!
James’s article is also a wonderful example of an educator empowering their students to build a tech project they care about. You’ll discover more insights and practical tips on making computing relevant to all your learners in the following articles of the new Hello World issue:
- Inspiring Young People With Contexts They Care About
- Computing for all: Designing a Culturally Relevant Curriculum
- Going Back to Basics: Part 2 — a follow-on from issue 16 about how to take beginner digital makers through their first physical computing projects
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