Today, we’re excited to announce the expansion of Code Club to secondary school ages up to 13. When we made our plans known last May, we were beginning work with a pilot group of 50 UK secondary schools to discover how we could best support them, and how we could make Code Club work as well for children aged 12 and 13 as it does for its original age range of 9 to 11 years. Now, new projects are available for secondary-aged children, and we will continue to create more resources to build on the support we offer this age group.
One in five UK secondary schools
In extending Code Club’s age range to 9-13, we’re responding to huge demand. One in five UK state-sector secondary schools has already registered with the programme, and most of these – almost 600 of them – are already running Code Clubs.
By giving secondaries access to the Code Club support network and providing new, more advanced programming projects, we will help schools better to meet the needs of their students, and offer many thousands more children the opportunity to develop essential skills in programming and computing. Libraries and other non-school venues will also be able to welcome children of a wider range of ages to their clubs.
New Code Club resources
Our first five projects for older children offer a variety of ways for more advanced coders to build on their skills and explore further programming concepts.
From ‘Flappy Parrot’ and Where’s Wally-inspired ‘Lineup’, to ‘Binary Hero’ and quiz-tastic ‘Guess the Flag’, there’s something to spark everyone’s imagination. You can read more about these new resources in today’s Code Club UK blog post.
Help Code Club in your local school
Around 300 secondary schools across the UK have registered with Code Club but have not yet started their club, because they’re still looking for volunteers to support them. Can you help these keen teachers and students get up and running? If you can volunteer an hour each week, either on your own or by taking turns with friends or colleagues, you could make all the difference to a Code Club near you.
A Code Club in every community
We want every 9- to 13-year-old to have the opportunity to join a Code Club, and we will continue working hard to deliver our goal of putting a Code Club in every community. Make sure your local school, youth club, or library knows how to get involved.
At Raspberry Pi, we’re determined in our ambition to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world: one way we pursue this is by developing high-quality learning resources to support a growing community of educators. We spend a lot of time thinking hard about what you can learn by tinkering and making with a Raspberry Pi, and other devices and platforms, in order to become skilled in computer programming, electronics, and physical computing.
Now, we’ve taken an exciting step in this journey by defining our own digital making curriculum that will help people everywhere learn new skills.
We have a large and diverse community of people who are interested in digital making. Some might use the curriculum to help guide and inform their own learning, or perhaps their children’s learning. People who run digital making clubs at schools, community centres, and Raspberry Jams may draw on it for extra guidance on activities that will engage their learners. Some teachers may wish to use the curriculum as inspiration for what to teach their students.
Raspberry Pi produces an extensive and varied range of online learning resources and delivers a huge teacher training program. In creating this curriculum, we have produced our own guide that we can use to help plan our resources and make sure we cover the broad spectrum of learners’ needs.
Learning anything involves progression. You start with certain skills and knowledge and then, with guidance, practice, and understanding, you gradually progress towards broader and deeper knowledge and competence. Our digital making curriculum is structured around this progression, and in representing it, we wanted to avoid the age-related and stage-related labels that are often associated with a learner’s progress and the preconceptions these labels bring. We came up with our own, using characters to represent different levels of competence, starting with Creator and moving onto Builder and Developer before becoming a Maker.
Progress through our curriculum and become a digital maker
We want to help people to make things so that they can become the inventors, creators, and makers of tomorrow. Digital making, STEAM, project-based learning, and tinkering are at the core of our teaching philosophy which can be summed up simply as ‘we learn best by doing’.
We’ve created five strands which we think encapsulate key concepts and skills in digital making: Design, Programming, Physical Computing, Manufacture, and Community and Sharing.
One of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s aims is to help people to learn about computer science and how to make things with computers. We believe that learning how to create with digital technology will help people shape an increasingly digital world, and prepare them for the work of the future.
Computational thinking is at the heart of the learning that we advocate. It’s the thought process that underpins computing and digital making: formulating a problem and expressing its solution in such a way that a computer can effectively carry it out. Computational thinking covers a broad range of knowledge and skills including, but not limited to:
By progressing through our curriculum, learners will develop computational thinking skills and put them into practice.
What’s not on our curriculum?
If there’s one thing we learned from our extensive work in formulating this curriculum, it’s that no two educators or experts can agree on the best approach to progression and learning in the field of digital making. Our curriculum is intended to represent the skills and thought processes essential to making things with technology. We’ve tried to keep the headline outcomes as broad as possible, and then provide further examples as a guide to what could be included.
Our digital making curriculum is not intended to be a replacement for computer science-related curricula around the world, such as the ‘Computing Programme of Study’ in England or the ‘Digital Technologies’ curriculum in Australia. We hope that following our learning pathways will support the study of formal curricular and exam specifications in a fun and tangible way. As we continue to expand our catalogue of free learning resources, we expect our curriculum will grow and improve, and your input into that process will be vital.
We’re proud to be part of a movement that aims to empower people to shape their world through digital technologies. We value the support of our community of makers, educators, volunteers, and enthusiasts. With this in mind, we’re interested to hear your thoughts on our digital making curriculum. Add your feedback to this form, or talk to us at one of the events that Raspberry Pi will attend in 2017.
It’s nearly two years since Computing became a subject for all children in England to study, and we’re now seeing some amazing work to bring opportunities for digital making into schools. Recently I visited Eastwood Academy in Southend-on-Sea, where teacher Lucas Abbot has created a digital making room, and built a community of young programmers and makers there.
Lucas trained as a physics teacher and got hold of a Raspberry Pi for projects at home back in 2012. His head teacher heard about his hobby, and when the move towards all children learning programming started, Lucas was approached to take up the challenge of developing the new subject of Computing in the school. With the help of friends at the local Raspberry Jam, Linux user group, and other programming meetups, he taught himself the new curriculum and set about creating an environment in which young people could take a similarly empowered approach.
In Year 7, students start by developing an understanding of what a computer is; it’s a journey that takes them down memory lane with their parents, discussing the retro technology of their own childhoods. Newly informed of what they’re working with, they then move on to programming with the Flowol language, moving to Scratch, Kodu and the BBC micro:bit. In Year 8 they get to move on to the Raspberry Pi, firing up the fifteen units Lucas has set up in collaborative workstations in the middle of the room. By the time the students choose their GCSE subjects at the end of Year 8, they have experienced programming a variety of HATs, hacking Minecraft to run games they have invented, and managing a Linux system themselves.
Fifteen Raspberry Pi computers have been set up in the centre of the room, at stations specifically designed to promote collaboration. While the traditional PCs around the edges of the room are still used, it was the Pi stations where pupils were most active, connecting things for their projects, and making together. A clever use of ceiling-mounted sockets, and some chains for health and safety reasons, has allowed these new stations to be set up at a low cost.
The teaching is based on building a firm foundation in each area studied, before giving students the chance to invent, build, and hack their own projects. I spent a whole day at the school; I found the environment to be entirely hands-on, and filled with engaged and excited young people learning through making. In one fabulous project two girls were setting up a paper rocket system, propelled using compressed air with a computer-based countdown system. Problem-solving and learning through failure are part of the environment too. One group spent a session trying to troubleshoot a HAT-mounted display that wasn’t quite behaving as they wanted it to.
Lessons were impressive, but even more so was the lunchtime making club which happens every single day. About 30 young people rushed into the room at lunchtime and got started with projects ranging from figuring out how to program a robot Mr Abbot had brought in, to creating the IKEA coffee table arcade machines from a recent MagPi tutorial.
I had a great conversation with one female student who told me how she had persuaded her father to buy a Raspberry Pi, and then taught him how to use it. Together, they got inspired to create a wood-engraving machine using a laser. Lunchtime clubs are often a place for socialising, but there was a real sense of purpose here too, of students coming together to achieve something for themselves.
Since 2014 most schools in England have had lessons in computing, but Eastwood Academy has also been building a community of young digital makers. They’re linking their ambitious lessons with their own interests and aspirations, building cool projects, learning lots, and having fun along the way. We’d love to hear from other schools that are taking such an ambitious approach to computing and digital making.
Once in a while you come across a project that you can’t help but share. One that exemplifies the way people across the globe are using Raspberry Pi to make a difference in ways we didn’t quite anticipate.
HolaMundo is one of those projects. They’re using Raspberry Pis for the training they describe (click CC for subtitles to the signed and spoken parts of the video).
¿De qué trata el proyecto? Se trata de darles una opción a estos jóvenes con discapacidad auditiva y de escasos recursos. Brindar una base tecnológica a 12 jóvenes con discapacidad auditiva a través de un curso presencial de cómputo y programación dividido en 3 partes: Introducción a la computación y al Internet Diseño de sitios web con HTML5 y JS Introducción al sistema operativo y funcionamiento de Raspberry Pi ¿Cómo vamos a utilizar el dinero?
Alejandro Mercado and his team in Mexico City are currently crowdfunding to build a teaching programme for young people with a hearing disability. The programme aims to help educate them in computing and web design using Raspberry Pi, with the objective of increasing their educational and employment opportunities in the future.
A trainer teaches a class at HolaMundo, and a sign interpreter signs for him
For young people in Mexico City such as Jorge (the star of the campaign video), the prospects moving forward for those with a hearing impairment are slim. The programme aims to increase the opportunities available to him and his fellow students so that they can move on to higher education and find jobs that might not otherwise be accessible to them.
Jorge, a fifteen-year-old student taking part in the HolaMundo training, signs to the class
Projects like this remind us of the capacity of our low-cost computer to provide educational opportunities in all kinds of settings. We’re thrilled to see determined educators worldwide using Raspberry Pi to give young people new opportunities and wider prospects.
It’s been a long wait, but our latest single board computer for review is finally here! The BBC micro:bit, given free to every seventh-grade British child, has landed at Hackaday courtesy of a friend in the world of education. It’s been a year of false starts and delays for the project, but schools started receiving shipments just before the Easter holidays, pupils should begin lessons with them any time now, and you might even be able to buy one for yourself by the time this article goes to press.
It’s a rather odd proposition, to give an ARM based single board computer to coder-newbie children in the hope that they might learn something about how computers work, after all if you are used to other similar boards you might expect the learning curve involved to be rather steep. But the aim has been to position it as more of a toy than the kind of development board we might be used to, so it bears some investigation to see how much of a success that has been.
Opening the package, the micro:bit kit is rather minimalist. The board itself, a short USB lead, a battery box and a pair of AAA cells, an instruction leaflet, and the board itself. Everything is child-sized, the micro:bit is a curved-corner PCB about 50mm by 40mm. The top of the board has a 5 by 5 square LED matrix and a pair of tactile switches, while the bottom has the surface-mount processor and other components, the micro-USB and power connectors, and a reset button. Along the bottom edge of the board is a multi-way card-edge connector for the I/O lines with an ENIG finish. On the card edge connector several contacts are brought out to wide pads for crocodile clips with through-plated holes to take 4mm banana plugs, these are the ground and 3V power lines, and 3 of the I/O lines.
It is obvious when compared to other single board computers that this one has been designed with the pocket of a 12-year-old in mind. It’s a robust 1.6mm thick board that is devoid of pins and spiky connectors, and on which care has obviously been taken to ensure as low a profile as possible.
In hardware terms it has an ARM Cortex M0 processor from Nordic Semiconductor, a compass, accelerometer, Bluetooth Low Energy and USB as well as the previously mentioned switches, LEDs, and GPIOs.
To use the device, you have the choice of connecting it to your computer via USB, or to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth Low Energy. Sadly none of our devices support BLE so for this review we’ll be taking the former approach.
All programming is performed through a selection of web-based environments, with code editing and compilation performed online and the resulting binary file arriving as a download before being placed on the micro:bit by the user through the filesystem. Since the micro:bit is also an mbed under the hood we’d expect it to be programmable using the mbed toolchain, however that is beyond the scope of this review.
In use, the Code Kingdoms editor is straightforward and intuitive, the code for a simple compass you can see in our screenshot was very quick to assemble as a first effort. Unfortunately though in our browser at least it was extremely slow, at times almost to the point of being unusable. In particular when you wish to remove a code block it starts up an animation of its waste bin opening up which slows the browser to a crawl. It is not a good sign when you load a web page and hear your processor fan spin up.
Following the Code Kingdoms editor is Microsoft’s Block Editor. This is a drag-and drop visual editor in the same vein as the Code Kingdoms editor, except that there is no pretence of building a more traditional coding language and it is a much faster and smoother experience. The interface is broadly similar in layout to the Code Kingdoms editor, except for the compile and run commands which are at the top, above the coding window.
In our screenshot you’ll see a very simple environmental monitor designed to display readings from the micro:bit’s various sensors. Yet again this was a simple and intuitive piece of software to assemble for someone using the environment for the first time.
The third environment is another one from Microsoft, their Touch Develop editor. This is different from the other editors in that it is designed especially for use in touch environments on tablets and phones, so we tested it on an Android phone.
While the Touch Develop editor follows the same idea as the previous two of building code by selecting blocks from menus, it creates something a lot closer to text code, and requires the user to manually enter for example function parameters. We found its help system to be a little difficult on this front, it’s doubtless a useful editor if you know its intricacies but there is quite a learning curve for a first-time user.
The Touch Develop team have made as good a good job of putting a development environment onto a phone screen as they could and it is very usable, however due to the limited screen space it is still a little awkward and crowded. With luck this should be less of an issue for tablet owners.
It is worth pointing out that this editor can be stored as an offline bookmark allowing it to be used without an Internet connection, however it is not clear how any code written in this way might be compiled.
The final editor choice for the micro:bit is Python, in fact a micro:bit build of MicroPython. This editor lacks the software micro:bit emulator, but is much more like the kind of software environment that Hackaday readers will be used to. The main window is a straight text editor ready to type your Python into, and there is no menu of predefined code blocks. Instead there is a comprehensive introduction, tutorial, and documentation of the various micro:bit Python libraries, and once you are armed with those you can step right in and start writing code.
In use if you are happy with Python it is very straightforward. If your code generates any errors they are displayed scrolling across the micro:bit’s LED matrix which can be rather tedious, however at least the errors we generated were informative and led us straight to the points in our compass code which had gone wrong.
Looking at the libraries available in this editor it becomes clear that Python is the most powerful way to control your micro:bit. As well as the simple functions available in the other editors it offers libraries for I2C, SPI, UART, Neopixels and more. It’s immediately obvious that this is where the micro:bit’s “Wow!” hacks are most likely to be created.
Having looked at all the editors, our choices would be Python as the most powerful coding environment for experienced coders, and the Microsoft Block editor as the most useful drag-and-drop environment for beginners. The Code Kingdoms editor is nice but glacially slow, and the Touch Develop editor is a bit fiddly. It’s worth mentioning that all the editors have an option to save code locally, this produces an LZMA-compressed file with raw code in a JSON structure.
Of course, though some of us may benefit from it, this board is not made for Hackaday readers but for children. If it gets the recipe right, in a decade’s time it will be cited by a generation of new graduates as the machine that got them into software, but has it hit the mark? Since the children in question are only now receiving their first lessons it’s a bit early to tell, but the teacher lent us this micro:bit for the review tells us there are only two minor gripes. Not having an on-off switch they go through batteries at a phenomenal rate, and since their failed programs show no LEDs they think they’ve killed it when their software doesn’t work. The first it’s possible the kids will fix themselves by learning to unplug the packs, and perhaps the micro:bit people can fix the second with a software update. If these are the worst things that can be said about it though there can’t be too much wrong with it.
If this blog was an Ealing comedy, it would be a speeded-up montage of an increasingly flustered postman delivering huge numbers of huge boxes to school reception desks across the land. At the end, they’d push their cap up at a jaunty angle and wipe their brow with a large spotted handkerchief. With squeaky sound effects.
Over the past couple of days, huge brown boxes have indeed been dropping onto the counters of school receptions across the UK, and they contain something wonderful— a Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station.
The next code club project has just arrived! Can’t wait to get stuck in! @Raspberry_Pi @clivebeale pic.twitter.com/axA7wJ1RMF
We’re running the UK delivery as a short pilot scheme. With almost 1000 schools involved worldwide, it will give us a chance us to tweak software and resources, and to get a feel for how we can best support schools. In the next few weeks, we’ll send out the remainder of the weather stations. We’ll have a good idea of when this will be next week, when the first kits have been in schools for a while.
Once all the stations are shipped, we’ll be extending and expanding our teaching and learning resources. In particular, we would like resources for big data management and visualisation, and for non-computing subjects such as geography. And, of course, if you make any of your own we’d love to see them.
Super exciting raspberry pi weather station arrived, very lucky to be one of the 150 uk schools @rasberrypi pic.twitter.com/ZER0RPKqIf
“Just” a milestone
This is a big milestone for the project, but it’s not the end by any means. In fact, it’s just the start as schools start to build their stations, using them to investigate the weather and to learn. We’re hoping to see and encourage lots of collaboration between schools. We started the project back in 2014. Over time, it’s easy to take any project for granted, so it was brilliant to see the excitement of teachers and students when they received their kit.
We were really excited to receive our @Raspberry_Pi weather station today. Indoor trial tomorrow. @clivebeale pic.twitter.com/7fsI7DYCYg
It’s been a fun two years, and if you’ve opened a big brown box this morning and found a weather station inside, we think you’ll agree that it’s been worth the wait.
Building and setting up your weather station
The weather station page has tutorials for building the hardware and setting up the software for your weather station are here, along with a scheme of work for teachers and other resources.
The community is hugely important to us and whether you’ve just received a weather station or not, we’d love to hear from you. The best way to get involved is to come to the friendly Weather Station corner of our forums and say hi. This is also the place to get help and to share ideas. If you’re tweeting, then you can reach us @raspberry_pi or on the hashtag #weatherstation – thanks!
Our weather station has arrived!Thanks to @Raspberry_Pi now need some students to help us build it! @BromptonAcademy pic.twitter.com/8qZPG3JTaQ
Buying the kit
We’re often asked if we’ll be selling the kits. We’re currently looking into this and hope that they will be commercially available at some point. I’d love to see a Raspberry Pi Weather Station attached to every school – it’s a project that genuinely engages students across many subjects. In addition, the data gathered from thousands of weather stations, all sending data back to a central database, would be really useful.
That’s all for now
But now that the kits are shipped there’ll be lots going on, so expect more news soon. And do pop into the forums for a chat.
As well as the talented and lovely folk at Pi Towers, we’ve only made it this far with the help of others. At risk of turning into a mawkish awards ceremony speech, a few shout-outs are needed:
Oracle for their generous funding and the database support, especially Nicole at Oracle Giving, Jane at Oracle Academy, and Jeff who built our Apex database.
Rachel, Kevin and team @cpc_tweet for the kit build (each kit has around 80 parts!) and amazing logistics support.
@HackerJimbo for sterling software development and the disk image.
If I’ve missed you out, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.