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Welcome to Coding Corner-this is a column about computing and coding. Written by Dan Aldred (@Dan_Aldred) who is well worth a follow on Twitter. Dan’s article is about engaging students with the Raspberry Pi.

 

Much has been said of the Raspberry Pi and its usefulness as a tool for learning. The long waiting lists and competitive price of the Pi have created widespread euphoria and excitement.

However, as all the excitement dies and we begin to receive your Pi many critics have appeared asking how useful is the Pi?

Many critics and blog posts are comparing it to the iPad and which is futile as they are polar opposites. The Pi was developed as a tool to invoke learning not as a wow piece of technology. The Pi is for content creation as oppose to content consumption. It is not the physical Pi that is the exciting technology. You don’t purchase it because of the processor speed, graphics ability or even its size. Its fundamental strength is as vehicle to develop students computing competence and understanding.

Despite the long waiting list several students have purchased a Pi and brought them into school. This is where the true purchase and usefulness of the Pi becomes apparent. This is where the true learning begins.

The first learning curve was the set up. Students read blogs, forums and websites for months to discover how to flash the SD card and install the software. There was excitement and competition amongst students as to who would complete the first successful install

Other students who were less confident shared their knowledge and issues with each other. Looking for ways to resolve and support each other. Independently, with no teacher input, students knew how to and were, setting up a computer, installing hardware and drivers, operating system and software.

Students would then come in each day discussing, sharing and collaborating about what they had learnt, experienced and even failed to do the evening before, with their Pi. Each studentcontinuously developing their own computing skills, at their own pace.

Many students become competitive about how to shutdown the Pi, well it’s just, ‘halt’ but what about a complete system shutdown. Several students spent time searching more websites or just logically trying to work out what the command was.

Then they shared this knowledge with each other.One student cracked it when he realised that you had to be a super user and searched the Internet for the shutdown command for a super user.

Complete experimentation and unadulterated independent learning and still no teacher input.

The following week a student broughtin theirown simple command line program using the Python language which is free with the Pi. The student had taught himself the Python language, the program asks the user to enter a word, if the word is bigger than 5 characters then the program continuouslyloops a response, if not it says goodbye.

This simple program impressed the student and inspired them.It was not the physical Pihardware; it was the program and the fact that it had been created by their peer group. Severalother students, having seen this program went home and ordered a Pi.

The next day another student came in and had written an advanced version of the program

So far 27 studentshave ordered a Pi and in September when we return to school, we start the Pi Club. However, I know that many of the students will have spent their summer holidays self learningPython and the Raspberry Pi’s functions.

sudo shutdown -s

 

https://twimg0-a.akamaihd.net/profile_images/1449106051/IMG00746-20100613-1408.jpgDan Aldred is a teacher of Computing and Head of IT. He is also a member of the school extended leadership team and teacher learning group.  He’s interested in how technology and software move learning forward.

He also has a very useful Scoop it page full of great links.

Written by Julian S Wood - www.ideasfactory.me/about/"rel="author"
  • Felix Jotham

    Hi Dan,

    I am wondering if the approach of letting the students figure out how the Raspberry Pi works on their own is a good thing for them.  I personally think it is because this is how I learned to program as a child but I feel as though they are expecting the Raspberry Pi to be the next Xbox as this is what they are used to.  Another problem for the children especially the younger children is obtaining and understanding the information without spending hours on the internet.  One child has managed to find a book for schools which has been helpful.  The books is called Raspberry
    Pi For Schools
    .  If you know of any other resources or books please post them.

    Thanks

    Linda J.
     

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