Author Archives: Gemma Coleman

Inspiring learners about computing through health and well-being projects | Hello World #17

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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!

Cover of issue 17 of Hello 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.

A forest fire.
The air pollution from a forest fire gets dispersed by winds and can spread way beyond the area of the fire.

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.

Circuit design of the CO2 sensor using just Raspberry Pi, designed on

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

Download the new Hello World for free!

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

Download the new issue of Hello World for free today:

If you’re an educator based in the UK, you can subscribe to receive each new issue in print completely free! And wherever you are in the world, don’t forget to listen to the Hello World podcast, where each episode we dive into a new topic from the magazine with some of the computing educators who’ve written for us.

The post Inspiring learners about computing through health and well-being projects | Hello World #17 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

How do you use data to solve a real-world problem? | Hello World #16

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In our brand-new issue of Hello World magazine, editor Gemma Coleman speaks to Kate Farrell from Data Education in Schools to discuss the importance of teaching data to help students navigate the world.

Cover of Hello World magazine issue 16.
The big theme of issue 16 of Hello World is data science and data literacy, and on how to teach those topics to your students.

When I was searching for contributors for this issue of Hello World, a pattern quickly began to emerge: “Data? You want to speak to Kate.” Kate Farrell is director of curriculum development and professional learning on the Data Education in Schools project, part of the Data-Driven Innovation Skills Gateway in Scotland. With the project developing teaching materials, professional development, and even qualifications for schools that want to teach data education to learners aged 3–18, “It’s not the kind of role that fits easily on a business card,” she laughs.

Kate Farrell.
Kate Farrell

The project started in 2019, with the team looking at the Scottish curriculum and mapping out where data could be embedded and how it could be used to support various subjects. “We know that teachers are under stress and won’t be able to deliver extra stuff, so we’re looking to understand how we get better at doing data literacy within the rest of the curriculum,” Kate explains. “How do we provide and support opportunities to look at data in the rest of the curriculum in cool new ways?”

“We like taking topics that you wouldn’t instantly think are about data science.”

The team runs monthly seminars drawing upon this theme, to help teachers see its applicability across all subjects. “We like taking topics that you wouldn’t instantly think are about data science. Yes, the sciences, computer science, and maths are where you would expect it, but there are huge amounts of data and data use in geography, music, social studies, and even PE.”

One example is the DataFit series of lessons for upper primary and lower secondary students, with a mission to simultaneously increase data literacy and physical activity literacy. This includes an introduction to activity-monitoring devices, such as step counters on phones. The lesson has the twin aims of teaching students how monitoring steps or sleep activity can be a positive thing, and also encouraging them to reflect on how they feel about their phone collecting their personal data.

“A lot of students don’t realise their phone is keeping track of their step count, just by virtue of it sitting in their pockets,” Kate muses. “It’s been interesting to see just how little some learners know about the data that’s being kept and tracked about them.”

Data Education in Schools ran a similarly themed workshop for students aged 10–11, with a series of events in an imagined Data Town being examined, to investigate how data can impact our lives. The day started by giving each student a cardboard mobile phone on which they could install apps in the form of stickers if they gave the town certain pieces of information about themselves, such as their favourite colour or football team. “Some kids would just install anything, give up any data, because they wanted the stickers – just like many kids will just download any app,” Kate explains. The apps and associated products then developed as they gathered more data, which was then presented back to the students. The purpose was to get students to reflect on how they felt about the products and how they used their data.

“[…] a series of ‘aha’ moments for students, as they realised what sharing their data meant.”

Later in the workshop, the mayor of Data Town announced that the town had sold the data to an advertising company who wanted to know people’s favourite colour, and to a gym who wanted to know their fitness data to help them decide the location of a new branch. “This meant a series of ‘aha’ moments for students, as they realised what sharing their data meant. Some of the kids who had opted not to collect the stickers were suddenly very smug!”

The project keeps a balance in the story it tells about data, with teaching materials encompassing both the risks of data collection and the huge benefits it can bring. “That is our main aim: how can we help learners use data to make their lives and the lives of their communities better — data for social good.” In the Data Town workshop, students also chose to share data with hospitals and researchers, and later found that this had helped them to develop new medicines. “We didn’t just want to send across the message that sharing data is bad. Yes, you can share your data, but be aware who you’re sharing it with, who you’re trusting with it.”

“How can we help learners use data to make their lives and the lives of their communities better?”

The materials that Data Education in Schools has produced use a framework called PPDAC: Problem, Plan, Data, Analysis, and Conclusion. This is an established approach to statistical literacy, and using this data problem-solving cycle in a real-world context is a powerful way to engage learners with data topics. “The aim is to empower students with the tools to be campaigning, to be making real-world changes to their lives and their communities using data.”

Kate gives a simple example of how a class could look at how much plastic their canteen is using, collecting the data on plastic products and then using that data to make the case to reduce their plastic consumption.

The project has also worked with Scottish exam board SQA to develop a National Progression Award in Data Science; they believe it is the world’s first data science school qualification. The award is aimed at upper secondary students, colleges, and workplaces as an introductory qualification in data science. It carries the same ethos as their materials for younger learners: to help students understand how data is used in society, both negatively and positively, and develop skills to help them make better decisions.

“We need learners to be able to look at the news, and their social media stream, and question what they’re looking at, or ask: where is the evidence?”

“I want people to realise that although data science sounds scary, it’s so important to learners’ lives these days. We’ve seen it with the pandemic. Being able to interpret and analyse data is hugely important. We need learners to be able to look at the news, and their social media stream, and question what they’re looking at, or ask: where is the evidence? This is so important, whether or not they go on to become a data scientist… although we’d love it if they did!”

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Issue 16 of Hello World focuses on data science and data literacy; it is full of teaching ideas and inspiration to help you and your students use data to make decisions and to make sense of the world. Also in this issue:

  • Key digital skills for young people with SEND
  • Top tips and case studies on how to run a successful computing club
  • Reflections on decolonising the computing curriculum
  • And more

Subscribe now to get each new digital issue straight to your inbox! And if you’re based in the UK and do paid or unpaid work in education, you can subscribe for free print issues.

PS Have you listened to our Hello World podcast yet? Episode 4 has just come out, and it’s great! Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

The post How do you use data to solve a real-world problem? | Hello World #16 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.