Why I’ve used it/ initial experiences.
The first time that I happened across Raspberry Pi’s was via the CAS forums that I get emailed in early 2012. I then looked at the then Raspberry Pi website/ what was then blog. It intrigued me and sounded really interesting. At this point I hadn’t touched programming since 2005 when I finished my degree, with the exception of Scratch, which we used at KS3 in a previous school. I signed up to get one when they were released but like everyone else had to wait and ended up cancelling the order out of frustration at the wait. I got a glimpse of one who when one of the A-level IT students bought one in.
That next academic year I took a role as a HOD at another school with the intention of buying a few and trying to use them to gain student interest in CS. Bought I got bogged down in the HOD role and found that I didn’t get chance to even buy a few. About two and half years ago I took up a teaching post at my current school and was given two Raspberry Pis, it was given to our school by Coventry BCS as part of a Pi competition. With this a couple of sixth formers built an arcade emulator and ran a few retro games (see below). I struggled through this whole process with basic things like how to get it working on vga monitors. They managed to build something quite cool. At that moment I was still struggling to find a way to make it useful in the classroom.
Then I discovered a half finished book by Craig Richardson about programming with Python and Minecraft. That is when I was converted! This book has now been completed and is available for sale(http://goo.gl/9KOn1u ). At the same time our school was about to start teaching CS as a GCSE so I spent the next few months refreshing my knowledge of programming by working through and creating Minecraft Programming task sheets which I share online (https://goo.gl/gWPf6S). Other people also contribute and it is a fun form of CPD.
Using Pi’s in the classroom
During this time I started to use Twitter to try and speed up the problem solving journey and it worked a treat. Through problem sharing on social networks I came across a reliable configuration file that meant that the Pi’s booted every time that we used them on our VGA monitors. By asking on social networks I got hold of a reliable config file from David Whale(him and Martin O’Hanlon have been nothing but superb in their support and encouragement in the last 14 months, Thanks guys ☺). Now the Pi’s we had were working I asked my boss for another 7 and we started putting Pi’s permanently in my room.
This was a massive turning point because it meant that I could now start to experiment a little in a few KS3 lessons. I created 3-4 Minecraft and Python lessons and to see how students reacted to using the Pi’s. With the reliable VGA boot up now working I started using them with a regular lunch time Minecraft club, the students were really engaged in the fact they could play networked and build cool projects like this.
I spent some time using this lunch time club as a vehicle for a bit of cross school competition with some building competitions with a few schools across the country. This kept student interest with building over a long period of time.
What did all this experimentation actually achieve?
The biggest difference that I found was the increase in engagement from students in computing and lessons in general. The uptake in CS increased from initial 18 in pilot year to 37 in the current cohort of year 10 and 40 in the new year 9 option groups. On a personal level I have rapidly improved my own knowledge of programming, dusting off 10 years of cob webs and learning a new language. I have developed a new found self confidence and set of really supportive bunch of people on twitter and in the RPI community.
During February and January2015 I went to the Jam packed event and Picademy. Picademy was an amazing two days that really helped expand my horizons and provide the best CPD that I have had in 10 years of teaching. I would highly recommend it!
In the later part of last academic year I chose to try and open up the Raspberry Pi fun for more kids in our school and the wider community and held our first Raspberry Jam. It was a part of our Arts festival week. During the day we ran some Minecraft creative and coding sessions(https://griffinartsfestival2015.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/ict-raspberry-pi-and-minecraft/) and one evening ran our first Jam, which albeit small was a really enjoyable and rewarding experience.
You can view more pics here.
All the resources created for this Jam can be downloaded here
Our 2nd Raspberry Jam was in October and was focussed on coding with Minecraft and more of a hacking session than the previous.
The resource pack is available here and photos of the event here.
In 2016 we have now a 3rd Jam which is much like the first a mix and match of everything beautiful about Raspberry Pi show and tell projects and Minecraft coding galore. At the time of writing it has 43 tickets gone which is amazing if you are interested then you can get your free tickets here. If you cannot make it then you can download the updated resource pack here.
If you are interested in Pi or CodeClub then you are warmly welcome to our joint informal and friendly show and tell on 21/01/16 6-8pm. Get your free tickets here.
Overall in the 18 months or so of messing around with Raspberry Pi it has truly changed the lives of students that I work with and mine too. I hope that is motivation enough to get you or your kids involved my kids are 5< but brimming with enthusiasm.
Adam from Cambridge TV has made a great video from PiWars which went live today here
You can also check out more of Cambridge TV at their vimeo page here
While you are here also check out their homepage here
If you would like even more PiWars do have a look at my YouTube videos.
Re-live the excitement of Pi-Noon
PiWars 2015 - the extended version
PiWars 2015 - the highlights