Tag Archives: Education

What does a good computing classroom look like?

via Raspberry Pi

Space matters

In September 2014 (as in a couple of weeks) the new Computing curriculum will come into play in schools in England. Basically this means that ICT as a subject will be replaced by Computing and that students from the age of five will have the opportunity to learn an exciting and powerful new subject.

There has been a lot of discussion on how to prepare for this in terms of teacher training. It’s vitally important and it’s why we run Picademy for example. But as the subject matures we also need to start thinking about what an effective computing classroom looks like and how to set it up so that students can get the most from the subject.

Teaching and learning spaces

My primary school was not like others. Pupils were free to roam about and do what they wanted. It was an interesting educational experiment. I now know what happens when pupils are responsible for their own education: they smear their faces with woad (well, Crayola indigo warmed up on the radiator) and then scuttle up trees. (Student voice, I’m looking at you.)

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Next lesson I will independently investigate the physics of boomerang precession

There were no classrooms in this school of the future, just “bays”—quasi-rooms with no walls, opening onto a central area. It was a terrible environment for most subjects: it’s tricky to concentrate on improper fractions or ‘How come the moon doesn’t fly off into space?’ when the bay across the way is thrashing a class set of percussion instruments like a colony of chimps pummelling the corpse of dead hyena.

So I’ve never been a fan of “learning spaces”. Even typing the phrase makes me start rocking gently and keening. And yet learning spaces are exactly what the new English Computing programme of study needs. Walk into a standard ICT suite in any secondary school in the land and you will be stared down by banks of unblinking monitors lining the walls and the central reservations.

This is not a learning room, it’s a teaching room. It’s set out so that teachers can monitor the monitors (and monitor the monitor monitors if they are lucky enough to have them) and control what the students are doing with their hermetically sealed PCs. What they are typically doing, given the closed nature of hardware and software in most of these suites, is usually pretty anodyne. It should come as no surprise that the word “suite” comes from the old French meaning “a group of identically clad followers”.

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Even Orwell wouldn’t have gone this far

This new-fangled ICT thing: it’s a slippery slope and no mistake

So what the typical student is doing in the typical ICT suite is … ICT. Which is great! Good teachers are running rich and exciting and useful ICT lessons under the old programme of study (PoS). Outstanding teachers have been including elements of computing into their lessons for years (contrary to the belief of those who had never actually read it, the old PoS was pretty flexible and adaptable). But all too often a school’s ICT policy is that the subject should be safe. Not inspiring or useful or thought provoking. Just safe.

Which would be lovely if this meant ‘safe’ for the kids, but more often than not it means ‘safe’ for the senior management. ICT isn’t to be trusted: kids obviously needed watching because they might do bad things. Like play games. Or watch games on YouTube. Or write games and pretend to be testing them. Students have even been known to flip screens upside down using hot-keys; or draw rude pictures in Paint and set them as the desktop of their neighbour’s machine; or stick a Post-it on the bottom of the teacher’s mouse; or Google “funny gifs of cats with glok’s and a bom lol!”

Hence this urge, especially amongst techno-wary management, to constantly monitor and repress and interfere. Technology that enlightens and frees and encourages experimentation is the same technology that is potentially seditious and disruptive and encourages hacking (hurrah!). So it’s sad but unsurprising that in the current climate schools lock down PCs and stop students from messing about. A more open environment doesn’t require lots of time and money (two big barriers to change in schools) but it does need thoughtful policies and a desire to change.

Would you like a handful of magic beans with that interactive whiteboard sir?

All: "Marie France est dans le jardin" ... beeep.

All together now: “Marie France est dans le jardin.” Beeeeeep.

Of course, if all you want to do is to create things on a screen, then a bank of proprietary PCs does the job (though installing some open source software like Inkscape, Audacity, LibreOffice, Firefox and GIMP wouldn’t hurt). But things have changed since the late 90s when IT quietly became ICT and a new curriculum came in: prescribed hardware and proscribed software just aren’t good enough now that Computing is back (in retrospect, they weren’t even fit for purpose then). A generic classroom stifles creativity and if Computing is one thing, it’s creative.

Looking back at my ten years in an ICT classroom it’s clear to me that most ICT suites are the 21st century equivalent of the shiny new language labs that popcorned into secondary schools in the late 70s: shiny and exciting but ultimately a bit rubbish. My old stock cupboard is full of unused smoke-and-mirrors ICT kit that was sold as the next big thing but turned out to be technology for technology’s sake. (We’re very fond of the old magic beans thing in education, but that’s another blog post entirely.) Technology by itself rarely improves learning. Good teachers in stimulating environments always do.

A new classroom for the new programme of study

For the new Computing programme of study let’s give the students the freedom to tinker and to hack and to experiment and to collaborate. And let’s give them the space and the tools to do this. PCs still have a place of course, but ideally there will be a central table(s) full of electronics, robots, sensors, computers, projects kits, stuff you’ve found in skips, printers, bits and bobs, cutters and a runcible spoon. (And, of course, Raspberry Pis!) Let anyone who wants to play come in at break, lunchtime and after school to mess around. Encourage other subjects to use computing as a creative tool, one they can use in their lessons, and to look at Computing and not say “Whatever” but “Hmmm, that’s interesting…” (Because if Computing is not used across the whole curriculum then we are missing both the point and a huge learning opportunity.)

For this we are going to have to change our ICT rooms from teaching rooms to learning spaces. It’s not a trivial thing and it won’t happen overnight. But if you are offered a new room in which to teach Computing this September, or you get the chance to re-purpose an existing ICT suite, please make it the first thing on your agenda. In fact, make a space like this:

In time, ten years perhaps, computing in schools will be a normal tool for problem solving and creativity. Just a tool to do things in the same way that, on a much smaller scale, a calculator is used today in Maths (although the things you can do are very much cooler and more useful than telling your mate to type in ’5318008′ and hand it, upside down, to your teacher). In the meantime, let’s get the learning spaces right. The rest will drop into place.

How you can help

We’re currently writing materials on how to set up a computing classroom and we’d like your help. What would your ideal computing space look like and why? What would you like to see in there, how would it be set up and how could the Raspberry Pi Foundation help you with this? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this and the final materials will be published in our resources area. Comments below would be lovely, thanks!

The first Raspberry Pi computer room in Togo

via Raspberry Pi

Dominique Laloux first got in touch with us in May 2013 when he was on the point of leaving to spend a year in the rural Kuma region of Togo in Western Africa, an area where, until 2012, 75% of teachers had never used a computer. He had previously joined a team of Togolese friends to set up the Kuma Computer Center in the mountain village of Kuma Tokpli for the students and teachers of five local secondary schools, and planned to introduce Raspberry Pis there.

computer room in Kuma Tokpli

The building that currently houses Kuma Computer Center’s first computer room in Kuma Tokpli

We next heard from Dominique earlier this month. We were delighted to learn that besides the Center’s first computer room, which has now been up and running for almost two years, the team has established a fully functional Raspberry Pi computer room, with 21 Pis and a couple of other PCs, in Kuma Adamé, a village about 20 minutes’ motorbike ride from Kuma Tokpli. This will be used daily by the 200 students of the local middle school, and was financed largely by former Adamé residents who have settled in Lomé, Togo’s capital. A team of students and teachers from The International School of Brussels, where Dominique works, helped fund the purchase of the Raspberry Pis and their accessories.

Raspberry Pi computer room in Kuma Adamé

The new Raspberry Pi computer room in Kuma Adamé

The initial focus is on teaching the students basic computer literacy, and the team chose the Raspberry Pi based on its low initial cost, its anticipated low maintenance costs, its low power consumption and its use of Open Source software. Dominique believes – and we think he’s probably right – that this is the first Raspberry Pi computer room in Togo! He says,

The most important thing is that we now have a nearly complete “recipe” for the setup of a computer room anywhere in Togo, that would fit a middle school/high school for a total cost of about 6000€. The recipe includes the renovation of a school disaffected room (see what our room looked like 6 months ago in the picture), the installation of electricity and local area network at European standards, the design of furniture built by local workers, the training of teachers, the development of a curriculum to teach, the selection of a local support team, etc. Quite an experience, I must say.

Soon to be the new Raspberry Pi computer room!

Before work began on the new computer room

Key to the sustainability of the project is that it has been developed within the local community for the benefit of community members, having begun as an idea of teachers in Kuma. Various groups in the community are represented in the management of the project, contributing different kinds of support and expertise. Dominique again:

We are particularly proud of the setup in K. Adamé (we being Seth, Désiré, all other members of the Kuma Computer Center team, and myself). [...] Our project has been operational for nearly 2 years now and it relies mainly on villagers themselves. Seth, who is in charge of the infrastsructure in K. Tokpli, is a local farmer growing mainly coffee and cocoa. A team of villagers is responsible for opening the room every day for 2 hours at least, and “cleaning teams” make sure the rooms stay in perfect condition. Local teachers will now take over the regular “computer classes” I taught during the entire past school year — sometimes going up to 40 hours per week. The newly installed Raspberry Pi reinforces our infrastructure and will serve 200+ students in K. Adamé from the next school year…

Currently the team is constructing a small building in Kuma Tokpli, which will become the permanent base of the Kuma Computer Center (and the second largest building in the small village), superseding the facility currently made available by a local farmers’ association. They also continue to work on the curriculum, and hope to introduce the students to programming in addition to teaching ICT and using the Raspberry Pis and other computers to support learning across the curriculum.

If you’d like to support the Kuma Computer Center, with funds or otherwise, have a look at their website. And if you’ve got an idea as good as this one to teach young people about computing, you’ll want know about the Raspberry Pi Education Fund, recently opened for applications and aimed at supporting initiatives like this with match funding; learn more here!

Upcoming Picademy Dates – Get Teachers Applying Now!

via Raspberry Pi

It’s the summer holidays, and I know teachers will be enjoying a well earned break from thoughts of planning lessons and marking homework. But here at Pi Towers, the Education Team are already busy thinking about the new academic year and the start of term. In particular, we are busy planning the next series of Picademies, and we want to make sure that your favourite teacher doesn’t miss out!

Dates for new academic year diaries are:

  • 29th & 30th September 2014
  • 27th & 28th October 2014

Note: We have changed the date for September’s Picademy from 1st & 2nd September to 29th & 30th, because many schools have Inset days at the start of the month.

So are you a teacher? Do you know a great teacher? Today is ‘Poke a teacher to apply for Picademy day’ (totally official). We need your help to track down wonderful educators to tell them about our free training course known as Picademy and ask them to apply to join the fast-growing ranks of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators (they get a badge and everything!)

Babbage with his Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Badge

Babbage with his Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Badge

Raspberry Pi Academies for Teachers (Picademies) take place in Cambridge, UK. We invite practising teachers with any subject specialism (we’ve had art, design tech, science and even history teachers attend), who teach any age group between 5 and 18 years old, to come to Pi Towers for two days of fantastic fun learning for free. There are no strings. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is an educational charity – offering free CPD to teachers is part of our charitable mission.

Want to know what actually happens at a Picademy? Then read Clive’s report about Picademy 3 or check out the Picademy section on the official Raspberry Pi forums.

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What will you learn? Don’t miss out, apply today!

September’s Picademy will look favourably on applications from teachers in the South West of England, because I love clotted cream, but also because we’re very aware of regional accessibility to training and support, and so occasionally we will focus on specific regions. So if you are a teacher in the South West, we would love to have you here. This does not mean applications are open to teachers in the South West only! Please apply, teachers, wherever you are. And because we’ve had so many requests from teachers overseas, we are also now accepting applications from practising classroom teachers outside the UK too!

Applications for September Picademy will close on Friday 5th September. If you have been successful, we will let you know via the email address that you supplied in your application, no later than two weeks prior to the event. Applications for October will close on Friday 10th October.

What are you waiting for? Go grab a teacher and APPLY HERE NOW! (Do it!)

Young Rewired State – Festival of Code 2014

via Raspberry Pi

So, you may have seen on our twitter or elsewhere that we were a host centre for Young Rewired State’s Festival of Code 2014. We had 6 young people join us at Pi Towers for a week: Ben, Rihanna, Amy, John, Finn and Dan.

YRS in a tree

The aim of Festival of Code is to inspire and support young coders in creating something new – the only specification is that it must include an open data set.

From Monday to Thursday the teams worked on their own projects, Ace Your Place and Moodzi, with mentors and members of the Raspberry Pi team. We even had Twilio and Code on the Road pop by.

Screenshot 2014-08-11 21.30.47

On Friday we all traveled down to Plymouth for the weekend to meet up with all the other centres.

I will hand over to Ben and Finn (part of team Ace Your Place) to tell you more…

Ben:

From the moment I stepped through the doors of Pi Towers I loved it. It was an incredibly creative and friendly atmosphere and all our mentors for the festival were really inspirational.

On the first day we came up with project ideas and split into groups; then worked on developing the project and preparing a presentation before we left on Friday.

I worked in a group of 4 on a project called Ace Your Place, a service that helps people pick the right region to move to when they’re relocating.

The mentors were only there to help us when we needed it, and were brilliant at guiding us through the creative process. I learnt so much in general just from being around similarly minded young people, and of course from the mentors as well.

On Friday we travelled to Plymouth, along with everyone else taking part in the competition. The sheer number of focused young people was amazing, and the atmosphere was so exciting. Everyone couldn’t wait to share their projects and see everyone else’s, and though it was a competition, everyone was extremely supportive.

Ace your Place presention

Ace Your Place Presenting

Through the various rounds of the competition we got to see a lot of the other projects, and I was amazed with the dedication of some of the other teams. It was a truly inspirational experience seeing the range and scope of all the ideas, with some of my favourites being “hook”, a coat hook that interpreted the weather and told you what to wear (powered by a Raspberry Pi) and “QuickAid”, a crowdsourced first aid service which informs and calls first aiders in the area when someone is in need of it.

On the whole, the Festival of Code was an enlightening, motivating and stimulating experience. The first part of my week at Pi Towers couldn’t have been a better learning environment, and the weekend was immensely good fun and extremely inspirational. I’ve made new friends and acquired new knowledge, and I can’t wait for next year!

Finn:

I personally really liked CityRadar, Miles Per Pound and QuickAid – which I thought was a really good idea and very well thought out.

When we had some free time it was mostly dominated by the photo booth…

YRS photobooth

I found the music at the end interesting because I hadn’t really heard that kind of music before – I quite liked it!

I definitely want to go to the Festival of Code again next year and would be delighted if I could do it with the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Thanks Ben and Finn!

Amy and Rihanna’s project Moodzi used the twitter API to tell you when was the best time to tweet particular keywords.

Moodzi Presenting

Screenshot 2014-08-11 20.36.59

Whilst waiting for the coach home I even caught our YRSers hacking their RFID wristbands to send people off to random websites.

Hacking wristtags

Also, in Plymouth Carrie caught up with her biggest littlest fan.

Carrie and little fan

I can’t wait until next year either.

Submit your application to the Raspberry Pi Education Fund

via Raspberry Pi

Got a great idea or project to teach kids about computing?

Need some help raising the finance to make it a reality?

We have some good news: the Raspberry Pi Education Fund is finally open for applications. As a reminder, thanks to all the Raspberry Pis bought by the community over the past 2 years, we have been able to put together a £1 million education fund to help fulfil our charitable mission.

Applications are invited from organisations looking to fund projects that encourage young people to learn about computing or illustrate how computing can be used enhance education in STEM or the creative arts.  You can find more details on the eligibility criteria and submit your application here.

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Coding Marathon at the Cambridge Centre of Computing History sponsored by Raspberry Pi Foundation

Go on, what are you waiting for? This is your chance to make a difference.

Fritzing is out with a new release including Arduino Yún microcontroller!

via Arduino Blog

Fritzing is an open-source hardware initiative that makes electronics accessible as a creative material for anyone. You can easily learn how to build a circuit for you project and also design your own PCB.

Last week, the Fritzing team announced the new release with a number of new parts, especially a number of popular microcontrollers, among which also Arduino Yún:

We have upgraded to their latest version Qt5, which brings stability and speed improvements (especially for Mac OS X users). This also enables us to port fritzing to Android, iOS, etc.

You can download Fritzing 0.9.0b at this link.

 

Exploring computing education in rural schools in India

via Raspberry Pi

Earlier this year, the Raspberry Pi Foundation supported a University of Cambridge team of two researchers, Dr Maximilian Bock and Aftab Jalia, in a pilot project exploring the possibilities of providing computing access and education in rural schools in India. Working with local organisations and using an adaptable three-day programme, they led two workshops in June 2014 introducing students and teachers to computing with the Raspberry Pi. The workshops used specially designed electronics kits, including Raspberry Pis and peripherals, that were handed over to the partner organisations.

Karigarshala students connect Raspberry Pis and peripherals The first workshop took place at Karigarshala Artisan School, run by Hunnarshala Foundation in Bhuj, Gujarat; the attendees were a group of 15-to-19-year old students who had left conventional education, as well as three local instructors. The students started off with very little experience with computers and most had never typed on a keyboard, so a session introducing the keyboard was included, followed by sessions on programming, using the Raspberry Pi camera module and working with electronics.

Karigarshala students mastering hardware control of an LED via the Raspberry Pi GPIO

Karigarshala students mastering hardware control of an LED via the Raspberry Pi GPIO

Students chose to spend their evenings revisiting what they had learned during the day, and by the end of the course all the students could write programs to draw shapes, create digital documents, connect electronic circuits, and control components such as LEDs using the Raspberry Pi.

Chamoli students practise on their own using a TV as a monitor

Chamoli students practise on their own using a TV as a monitor

The second workshop welcomed six- to twelve-year-old pupils of the Langasu Primary School in the remote Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, along with three of their teachers. This younger group of students followed a programme with more focus on activities featuring immediate feedback — for example, Sonic Pi for live-coding music — alongside programming and electronics tasks. As they learned, students soon began teaching other students.

In an Ideas Competition held at the end of the workshop, entries reflected students’ engagement with the Raspberry Pi as a device with which to build solutions: an inverter system to deal with frequent power outages, a weather station that gives warnings, a robot to assist with menial chores.

Weather station/forecaster Battery-operated inverter Pi-controlled chores robot

The Cambridge team’s “Frugal Engineering” approach, delivering computing education without the need for elaborate infrastructure, proved very successful in both schools. Hunnarshala Foundation has decided to integrate the Raspberry Pi into its vocational training curriculum, while students at Langasu Primary School will not only carry on learning with Raspberry Pis at school but will be able to borrow self-contained Raspberry Pi Loan Kits to use at home. The Cambridge team remains in touch with the schools and continues to provide off-site support.

September 2014 and February 2015 will see the team build on this successful pilot with induction workshops in three new schools, as well as follow-up visits to evaluate the use of Raspberry Pi in past project sites and to provide support and resources for expanding the programmes.

Opensourcing imagination and sharing knowledge in Nepal

via Arduino Blog

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David Cuartielles held a worshop at Campus Party Berlin introducing  Arduino and the cool things you can do with it. Some months later, on of the students, Sanjeet Raj Pandey, wrote him to reveal that the event was a life changing moment.

After that Sajeet decided  to share his knowledge and experience organising workshops in a rural city called Janakpur in Nepal. In that occasion a 100 participants got introduced to Arduino. They learnt how to blink LEDs, work with a temperature sensor, light sensor, ultrasound sensor and also to make a DIY Arduino:

Most of it was financed by myself and a bit of donation from Telecommunication department -Technical University of Berlin and Berlin Promotion Agency.

I like to make things which are real and can be put to work for society . Making things, one just cannot see but also touch is awesome.

Hope you will share Janakpur (Nepal) as one more place with Arduino. I would be keeping up pace and will be doing more such projects, workshops, seminars, remote sessions, etc for students in Nepal.

These are some pictures from the workshops:

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Do you have a similar story to share? Submit it to our blog!

YRS Festival of Code 2014 – around the UK and at Pi Towers

via Raspberry Pi

Young Rewired State is a network of coders around the world. Every year an event is held in the UK to give young people the opportunity to collaborate while working on a project to make something interesting with open data, and to learn skills while exposed to new technologies.

yrs-foc-2014

The Festival of Code is a week where volunteer-led centres around the country play host to local kids (18 and under) who work in teams, guided by mentors from industry, to create a software application, a web app, a game, a phone app or even a hardware hack that utilises an open data set to provide a solution to a real world problem. It takes place next week: 28 July – 3 August 2014.

Participants spend most of the week at their local centre where they’re introduced to each other and to the mentors, they’re shown some data sets they have available, they get in to teams and start working on their project. Throughout the week they are introduced to new technologies and given short talks from mentors and other volunteers to help them find the right tech to solve their problems. On Friday all centres travel to Plymouth for the weekend where they present their projects.

yrs4

Last year the overall winners of the Festival of Code were Tom Hartley and Louis Brent-Carpenter, whose hack was a service to provide navigational and other information to cyclists using a series of handlebar-mounted LEDs – powered by a Raspberry Pi – known as PiCycle.

yrs-picycle

Alongside Best in show there are other categories: Best example of codeBest example of design, Code a better country, and the Should exist award. I’d just like to point out that the winners of last year’s Best example of code were mentored by me in Manchester: contag.io.

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Here’s a video showing my centre’s experience:

Come join us for the best week of your summer! Meet up at local centres, be mentored, introduced to open data, build awesome games, apps, hardware and websites, and show off your hack at the weekend in Plymouth!

from the Festival of Code poster – download from festivalofco.de

If you’re 18 or under and want to participate, sign up at festivalofco.de now. We’re running a centre at Pi Towers in Cambridge – so if you’re local to us you’ll be assigned to our centre and you’ll be lucky enough to spend a week at our offices!

If you’re over 18 (even quite a lot over 18) you can sign up as a mentor - centres can always use an extra pair of hands, and you’ll have a great time!

Oh, and Stephen Fry is a fan:

There are also YRS events in Berlin, New York CitySingapore and elsewhere!

A new way of learning and transmitting knowledge with Arduino

via Arduino Blog

cct-verkstad

The training program Creative Technologies in the Classroom (CTC) is a 3-month  educative program designed by David Cuartielles and Arduino Verkstad in collaboration with Fundación Telefónica, Fundación la Caixa and Ultra-lab.

It’s a toolbox comprised of more than 20 hands-on, easily assembled electronic experiments; an online source for course materials and documentation tools; and a collaborative space where teachers can meet with a moderator to share their findings and ask technical questions.

It aims to train teachers of Technology and students to creative technologies, which means technologies empowering young students to make devices, machines, art-works, experiments etc., enable them to learn doing things and to express themselves as creators.

Teachers are trained in programming with Processing and prototyping with Arduino, in order to become a mentor and help all along the program the students, following the different step-by-step experiments of the program.

The beneficial aspect of this program is not only about acquiring new skills and technical knowledge but mainly on experimenting a different methodology of learning and transmitting knowledge, based on sharing information,  questions,  doubts, and resolving them together by experimenting.

This project has been successfully implemented in the Region of Castilla La Mancha and Madrid involving 50 enthusiastic teachers,  around 1200 youngsters who were able to invent, create and exhibit their project made with Arduino.

See the video below for details (in spanish):

Thanks to the support of Fundación La Caixa, the same program will be held in 50 colleges of Barcelona and a new edition, with the renewed support of Fundación Telefónica, will begin again in Madrid in 2015.

Picademy 3. A report of some note: and how you can be at Picademy 4

via Raspberry Pi

On Monday and Tuesday this week we ran our third Picademy - two days of free teacher training (aka CPD – it really is free, and there aren’t any catches) - and it was better than ever.

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I told you it was fun! Picademy 3 cohort July 2014

We make Picademy available to attend for free: it’s part of our charitable mission. Teachers of all subjects – not just computing – who want to incorporate computing and electronics into their classroom, are given two days of what we think is some of the best CPD in the world. But don’t take our word for it – if you’re interested in applying for a place on the September course (you should), here’s what the Picademy 3 cohort had to say via Twitter:

Best two days of work based stuff EVER! Cannot recommend Picademy enough.

Picademy was amazing, superb CPD, networking, hands on projects, expert support when needed.

Thank you … for the best CPD, hospitality and the wonderful things we learnt.

Best goody bag ever! I feel like I’ve been to a party. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s session! I am buzzing from Picademy! Thank you to everyone for making it such an awesome experience.

Thanks … for an excellent #picademy. Great networking and workshops! Very inspiring!

I particularly liked the bit where Clive scooted around in a Little Tikes car shouting ‘Hodor!’ to himself.

All of these are completely not made up. Except one.

Lucky bags

Lots of the attendees arrived the night before and stayed in the same hotel, and it’s great to see the social side of Picademy. As well as encouraging collaboration and team work over the two days, it helps maintain the community and network of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators afterwards.

No night out would be complete without Sonic Pi leaflets

No night out would be complete without Sonic Pi leaflets

There’s always a great buzz in the Pi Towers classroom when the group first arrives and opens up their goody bags. (These bags have been certified by independent adjudicators Bag of Tricks Inc to be the best goody bags in the whole world.) But this time we had an ace up our sleeve (and B in our bonnet). Late on the previous Friday, Eben issued the command to replace the Raspberry Pi model Bs in the bags  with the as yet unreleased B+. There was much rejoicing! And this is why, one hour after the new model was announced, the good people of Picademy 3 were some of the first in the world to own and use the new model.

Lots of projects used the ever useful camera board

Lots of projects used the ever useful camera board

Day 1: filling brains with the good stuff

The first day is all about gaining experience and confidence. Workshops on Sonic Pi; physical computing; programming in Minecraft; and the Pi camera board show what can be achieved if you’re willing to have a go and to think differently, and this cohort did not disappoint. I overheard lots of comments like, “This would be perfect in the classroom…”, “The kids will love this…” and “YES! IT WORKS!” It’s an intensive but satisfying day. Teachers who had never used a Pi before were programming in Python, coding music and making LED traffic lights in Scratch. All of these new skills were preparation for the second day, or The Awesome Day of Messing About with Cool Stuff as we like to call it.

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If it was my classroom they’d be sitting boy-girl-boy-girl. Alphabetically.

Dinner is really interesting. It’s a chance for the group to relax and chat, and to process and sort the vast amount of information that they’ve crammed into their heads during the day. So it’s an important part of the course, where ideas are shared and people start to talk about what they were going to make tomorrow. You could already see some of the projects taking shape. It’s an essential and productive hiatus, like letting meat rest after a blast in the oven or outgassing near the surface of the sea after a long dive. (I have just won a bet that I couldn’t mix cooking and diving metaphors in one sentence. Yes, Pulitzer Board: who’s laughing now?)

Day 2: TADOMAWCS

It's day 2 with Carrie Anne!

It’s day 2 with Carrie Anne!

On day 2 everyone split into groups, had a nice cup of tea, did a little happy dance of creativity and then made stuff. This is the favourite day for both the attendees and the education team. There’s no pressure to produce a specific product and everyone gets to work at their own pace and in their own comfort zone. The day is about building skills and confidence, and about sharing good practice.

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What I particularly enjoyed this week was watching and helping those teams that kept plugging away at problems, debugging software and troubleshooting hardware, until it worked (or nearly worked!) This problem solving, creativity and perseverance is at the heart of computing in the classroom and is what makes it special. We also had inspiring talks from Eben Upton, Lance Howarth and Rachel Rayns (Google them—it’s not as if they are called John Smith or nuffin’!)

Babbage being re-purposed. I actually saw Ben Nuttall with a pair of pliers up his bum at one point,.

Babbage being re-purposed. I actually saw Ben Nuttall with a pair of pliers up his bum at one point.

There were some fantastic projects. Twitter-enabled projects were well represented, perhaps because many of the group were keen social media users, and this type of project has a huge appeal to students. One team wanted to do some robotics, so we scavenged an old robot and they repurposed it using a Pibrella—cheap and cheerful but with huge learning potential. We’ll be getting in a variety of motor boards and roboty things for future Picademies. We like robots.

Creative mode

Creative mode

This cohort has already impressed us with their continued collaboration and engagement via Twitter, our forums and their blogs. We know that some of them have gone back to school and are already changing things for the better, for instance by running CPD events, writing resources and setting up their classrooms to teach computing effectively. Thanks to you all for coming, you have earned your Raspberry Pi Certified Educator badges!

Kelly receiving her RPCE badge from Eben. It was all downhill from here.

Kelly receiving her RPCE badge from Eben. It was all downhill from here.

Picademy 4 applications now open

So it was a fantastic couple of days again and although it’s tiring for the RasPi education team at the time we never get tired of doing it. The next Picademy is in September 2014  where you are guaranteed free, world class CPD; expert support; essential skills and practical ideas to take back to your classroom. And lots of fun. (We also guarantee that you will not get: encyclopaedic PowerPoint printouts; curly, mild cheddar butties; tedious talks; or role play (well, perhaps a tiny bit of the latter. It’s the CPD law.)

Picademy 4 will look favourably on applications from teachers in the South West of England. We’re very aware of regional accessibility to training and support, and so occasionally we will focus on specific regions. So if you are a teacher in the South West, we would love to have you here. This does not mean applications are open to teachers in the South West only! Please apply wherever you are.

I cannot believe that you are still here reading my brain-drool. Apply now – and good luck!

MakerBot Stories | University Gets First Innovation Center

via MakerBot

The State University of New York at New Paltz is home to the world’s first MakerBot Innovation Center: a ground-floor room with 30 MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers. “3D printing is training students to think in a different way,” says Dan Freedman, dean of science and engineering at New Paltz. “If students come out of here knowing about 3D printing and different applications of it, it will give them a better chance of starting a career.”

The Innovation Center, which has a combination of MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printers and MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printers, is located in the Smiley Arts Building, and sculptors and jewelry designers have been flocking there since it opened in February. Engineers and scientists, whose sit across the quad, are also heavy users of the facility.

It’s not only college students at the center. Faculty from many disciplines and other New Paltz staff have attended sessions with MakerBot trainers. Local artists and manufacturers, as well as others who want to learn about 3D printing without pursuing a degree, can enroll in a two-semester program in digital design and fabrication. And New Paltz has plans to bring in students from local public schools. For bringing the community together, says Freedman, “the only thing similar is the gym.”

Interested in a MakerBot Innovation Center? Let us know.

The MakerBot Innovation Center at New Paltz is part of The Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center, a $1.5 million initiative to spur regional economic development. The advanced manufacturing center received $250,000 donations from a local venture-capital fund and a matching grant from the regional utility company. “It was the easiest donation this college has ever gotten,” says Freedman, “We were in the right place at the right time.”

“This is a technology that is just starting, and it’s going to become increasingly important,” says Freedman, who thinks that the university’s investment in 3D printing will make New Paltz the right place for budding artists and the engineers of tomorrow.

Katherine Wilson, a student in New Paltz’s renowned Metal program, says, “When I was looking for graduate schools, I was interested in what kind of technology was available.” Before opening the Innovation Center, New Paltz had a few MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers, and she was careful not to monopolize them. Access to an array of 30 3D printers has freed up Wilson to follow her imagination wherever it takes her.

Freedman adds, “I think we can attract some really outstanding students who are undecided between science-engineering and art and say to them, ‘You can pursue your interests in both areas, and we’re going to make it easier for you to do that.’”

PyConUK Education Track for Teachers

via Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi Education team have really hit the ground running over the past few months, creating resources for the new website, running teacher training courses, and attending conferences and events all over the world! We even employed a Minecraft expert in our efforts to reach more young people and teachers. For the first time this year, we get the opportunity to combine our teacher training efforts with a conference and even a Raspberry Jam thanks to our friends in the UK Python community, who run a volunteer-organised annual conference called PyconUK. This year it runs from the 19th-22nd September in Coventry with a special education track created just for teachers and young people!

PyConUK Education Track Logo

On the first day, Friday 19th, there will be a professional development day for educators. Teachers will have an opportunity to learn Python, collaborate with programmers to produce educational resources, network with other conference attendees and generally have fun exploring technology that will inspire students. The Raspberry Pi education team will be contributing along with other teaching colleagues and an international group of expert Python developers will be on hand to help teachers get the most out of the day. Teachers’ tickets cost only £47 for the whole four day conference including Saturday evening’s conference meal (they’re usually £150 or more) and thanks to some very generous sponsorship, the first twenty teachers who book also qualify for a £200 bursary to cover their school’s cost for a supply teacher on the Friday.

PyConUK 2012 Teacher Track

Recognise any of the people in this picture from PyConUK 2012?

On Saturday 20th, PyConUK opens its doors to up to 60 kids and accompanying adults for a day of inspiring adventures in code, something akin to a Raspberry Jam event. There will be Raspberry Pi, robots, workshops, games programming and lots of other fun stuff. Tickets cost £5 per child and accompanying adults get in for free. They’ll even provide you with lunch! Once again, the Raspberry Pi edu team will be there along with expert teachers and hordes of Python developers who’ll probably be just as excited and enthusiastic as the kids who attend.

Children having fun with RPi at PyConUK 2013

Children at PyConUK last year having fun with Raspberry Pi

If you would like to meet the team, learn more about Raspberry Pi in education and get hands on with computing then get your tickets here.

Creating Resources on GitHub Guide from Picademy 2

via Raspberry Pi

This week started with the second run of Picademy – our free CPD course for teachers. Two days at Pi Towers learning interesting and engaging ways to use Raspberry Pi in the classroom, led by Carrie Anne and supported by our education team. Picademy went fantastically well! We’re holding the next one in July and we’ll be opening applications up for future events once we’ve set a date.

As part of my preparation for Picademy, I started to create a guide for the teachers to help them create learning resources the way we do – for their own use, and for them to submit to us for inclusion on the website. I gave a presentation explaining how we use GitHub (and how much I love GitHub) and explained our process of creating resources with markdown. I showed them how people report issues when they find an error, and how people can fix errors themselves. This was followed by a demonstration of GitHub for Education by Picademy delegate James Robinson who’s been using it to set work for his classes.

Following the event I proceeded to expand upon the notes I’d made on creating resources and published them for general consumption. We’re all working hard on some new material ourselves, including single exercises and full schemes of work – and we look forward to seeing some community contributions too. Whether it’s new or re-purposed, we’d love to see it.

Head along to GitHub to check out the guide – it’s at github.com/raspberrypilearning/creating-resources - and read up on how we write the learning resources on our website, how to use GitHub, how to report issues, how to request changes and how to submit to us. Using GitHub in this way is very easy – don’t be put off, just take a look at the guide and follow the instructions – you can do it all from GitHub’s web interface. Be sure to read the guidelines on style as well as the technical details.

Here are some photographs from Picademy #2:

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And a video of one of the team’s projects on day two:

Teachers: remember to keep an eye on the blog and twitter for the announcement of Picademy #4 applications.

UNICEF Pi Project to Educate Syrian Children in Lebanon

via Raspberry Pi

Ben: here’s a guest post from one of our great community members, Alex Eames, who’s providing his Kickstarter-funded HDMIPi screens to a UNICEF education project in Lebanon.

At the end of December 2013 James Cranwell-Ward (@jcranwellward) a Technologist working for UNICEF Lebanon emailed us about HDMIPi. In case you don’t know, HDMIPi is a 9″ low cost, High Definition (1280×800) HDMI screen for the Raspberry Pi, which was crowdfunded on KickStarter in November 2013.

James was only going to be in the UK for another couple of days and wanted to talk to us about our screen. It looked like exactly what he needed for a large Raspberry Pi based project to help educate displaced Syrian children in Lebanon.

The idea is to have a low-cost computer, containing educational materials, such as Khan Academy Lite, to help get these Syrian children, whose lives have been so drastically disrupted, back into learning.

James is a technologist in the Innovation section of UNICEF, where they use private sector knowledge to assist UNICEF with their projects. He had a couple of Raspberry Pis on his desk and one day his boss walked by and asked about them. James gave a demo and a plan was hatched. But they needed an inexpensive screen. That’s where HDMIPi came in, freshly out of crowd-funding.

At the time, we had our two KickStarter prototypes and just one other working screen, which we gave him (uncased) when Dave Mellor (@Cyntech1) went to meet him in London. He took it back off to Beiruit and made an initial prototype, which he blogged about in February.

Fast forward a couple of months and James is getting ready for a large Raspberry Jam to kick off the Raspberry Pi for Learning (Pi4L) project. He needed 50 units, but we’re not quite into production yet because we’re implementing several new Pi-specific features on the driver board. So our supplier found us a similar but different (more expensive 10″) option that could meet the interim need. But could we handle the case too? Eek!

Dave scooted off up the M1 to the Pirates of Pimoroni in Sheffield and spent a day with Paul, Jon and Rory cooking up this lovely design, with integral stand and the Pi hangs on the back…

HDMIPi-UNICEF-front-1500-1024x765

HDMIPi UNICEF edition prototype 2

Jon then worked double-time at the weekend to get these laser cut (big thanks and much kudos). Paul took a couple with him to the San Francisco Maker Faire last week. He said they generated a lot of interest.

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Nice colours

Over the summer, the plan is that the Pi4L project will go into refugee camps for a pilot test. I’ll let James describe it…

What I am most excited about going forward is a new project which will see the launch of an e-learning initiative in refugee camps, which will be piloted for 3 months this summer. It’s untapped ground and it will be really interesting to see what e-learning can do in a context where schools are drastically overrun and there are just not enough school places for children.

The e-learning programme consists of 3-4 courses delivered on a new cheap computer called a Raspberry Pi. There will be basic literacy, numeracy and science, content based on Khan Academy produced by the Foundation for Learning Equality. We are also going to run a programme called ‘learning to code and coding to learn’. Children will be able to explore how to make games whilst also learning about their rights as a child. It’s a learning activity and it is also fun. There will be another course for teachers, so they can support the children as they start using these tools.

In every location the summer school is running – from schools to refugee camps, we are going to leave the lab in place once the summer school is over so it will be a permanent installation. This will mean that beyond the summer programme children can continue to learn and develop using these tools.

HDMIPi-UNICEF-3-1500-300x132

Integral stand

We are very excited and delighted to be able to be involved in a project that could actually “make a difference” for large numbers of children. Who would have thought, when we started the HDMIPi project a year ago (I’ve just renewed the domain) that a small, portable, inexpensive screen for the Raspberry Pi might find its way into a UNICEF project like this? But now I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see lots of ‘developing country’ projects involving the Raspberry Pi in the next couple of years. It’s a very good fit.

HDMIPi-UNICEF-back-1500-300x189

Round the back

The 9″ HDMIPi should be in production soon. We hope to ship KickStarter rewards towards the end of June. We’d like to emphasise, to those who backed HDMIPi on KickStarter, that this UNICEF project has not and will not delay fulfilment of their rewards. To pre-empt the question, as I will be away on holiday when this article goes live, the case shown here in the UNICEF prototypes is different from the standard HDMIPi case. But, no doubt, if there is demand, alternative case(s) will spring up in due course.