MK:Pi – Introductions and Hellos

Following my time at Picademy, I decided to set up a local Raspberry Pi Networking group to try and connect with other schools that are using Raspberry Pis. Not only this, I wanted to show other schools what could be done on Raspberry Pis and how they could play an important role in the implementation of the new Computing curriculum. I’ve since decided that MK:Pi (with a little help from @Denbigh_TSA) is a better name for the group as the former is a bit of a mouthful!

I sent out some emails and advertised it in a local teaching news email and hoped that someone would come! Luckily, they did! A mixture of KS2 and KS3 teachers attended and I had my 5 Pis set up with some activities and two lovely Digital Leaders who stayed behind to show off what they’d been doing on the Pis.

The activities which I had set up on the Pis were:

  1. Scratch controlled by a Makey Makey you can do much cooler stuff with this and anything which conducts electricity such as fruit, plasticine, water, people etc. We just needed something we could set up quickly. Yes all of this can be done on any computer and is not Pi specific
  2. Pibrella was the add-on board which had lights and buttons and can be controlled either via Scrtach GPIO or by Python
  3. Seven Segments of Pi) is a game which children can develop through various stages which come entirely with instructions! Beware though unless specifically listed otherwise it does come unsoldered – great if you want your class to experience soldering, time-consuming if not! What I like about it is that in the beginning there are code stubs for the children to read and understand before they begin writing their own. There have been lesson plans written.
  4. Sonic Pi was the idea of programming music and exploring the concepts that are there. There are also full schemes of work written for this
  5. Harry’s Python Game was something that he was proud of and wanted to show. He has been using Carrie Anne’s book to work on this independently and I have had very little to do with it!

Getting Started

To start with, the Raspberry Pi foundation has a great range of resources which you might find helpful should you choose to use Raspberry Pis in your institution. The ‘Help’ section is a useful place to start and has some good videos to share with students or other members of your team who may not be aware of a Raspberry Pi. There are also some great lesson/project ideas in their ‘Learn’ section. There is also an ‘Education’ section on their forum which is worth checking out:http://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/ You may also want to apply to Picademy where you can attend a 2 day CPD event and become a Raspberry Pi Certified Teacher – there is no prior knowledge required you just need to be happy to learn! This is open to both primary and secondary school teachers:http://www.raspberrypi.org/picademy/applications/

A few people were looking at Carrie Anne’s book, it is great both for students to work from independently or for ideas to get you started. There’s a link to it on Amazon. I believe the foundation have just released a starter ‘kit’ with all the things you need for the activities in the books.

I was asked about things like the VGA to HDMI adapters and power supplies, just be aware that they don’t all work with a Raspberry Pi. I believe it’s something to do with voltage (maybe) but this is not my area of expertise. Some people I can’t recommend enough is a company called Cyntech who stock a range of things for Raspberry Pis at reasonable prices. More than this, however, is they’re completely happy to chat to you or explain things to you. As well as this, they’re based in Milton Keynes and are happy for you to go in and they’ll show off the stuff which you’ve been asking about so you can see it working and try it out before you commit to anything.

I also mentioned to some people that if you have a Computer Suite already set up, it will obviously be a pain having to regular unplug everything and plug in Pis. KVM switches (like this but I haven’t tried these personally) are a solution to this as they allow you to press a button and switch the monitor, keyboard and mouse from one device to another without unplugging anything. It also means that you’re only having to pay for a Pi (SD card and power) and not the extra peripherals.

If you haven’t seen my blogposts already you might be interested in my Raspberry Pi series:

  1. Raspberry Pi in the Classroom – Step 1: I have a Pi but I haven’t plugged it in and I’m not sure where to start
  2. Raspberry Pi in the Classroom – Step 2: Now, should I plug the Pi in? How will I know what to do?
  3. Raspberry Pi in the Classroom – Step 3: Now, the children understand what a computer is – what do I do with it now?

I also wrote a couple about Picademy.

If you’re looking for things you can ‘dip in’ (and out) of then you might be interested in MagPi which is a magazine with various things to try, it also includes a Scratch section. If you can, it’s nice to buy the bulk packs and have them in the classroom as a choice reading material for students. PiWeekly is also a nice email subscription which sends out an overview of interesting Pi activity over the last week – although it nearly always surpasses my own technical ability I like to show it to students to inspire them and show them what is possible if they’re interested in going down that path.

At the previous meeting we decided that meeting termly would be useful so we could see the progress and the development of Pis in the classroom so I’ll be arranging that for the Autumn term. If you didn’t make it last time don’t worry, hopefully some of the information above will be helpful to you. I will be in touch in the new (school) year about the next meeting.

4 Comments [Add Yours]

  • Jen

    June 22, 2014 7:25 am Reply

    Hi Sway Your blog is amazing! I found out about you when I was reading an article you wrote for the Guardian about trial interview lessons. I was wondering whether I could ask more questions about this? I have an interview this week, and I am really inspired by your idea about the plastic cup! I am thinking about what item I might take in myself. Can I ask what advert you show the children? Also do you have any more detailed planning I could look at for more inspiration? I have a small baby at home so inspiration will help me out loads to prepare for this interview!! Thanks in advance. Jen
    • Sway Grantham

      June 22, 2014 8:48 am Reply

      Hi Jen, Really it depends on the interests and age group of the class! You want them engaged! It also depends what persuasive techniques you want to focus on! Most of the information for the lesson plan is included on that site and the other bits need to fit with your teaching style. Remember the school are looking to see who you are :) I hope everything goes well for you and do let me know how you get on!
      • Jen

        June 23, 2014 1:59 pm Reply

        Hi Sway Thanks for your reply. I'm definitely going to teach this lesson. I'm curious - in your lesson did the children create a TV advert or a paper advert (poster)? I've got 25 minutes for my interview and I'm keen to do drama with them. I was just wondering which one you did. Thanks Jen
        • Sway Grantham

          June 23, 2014 4:42 pm Reply

          We just 'performed' the adverts so it was all oral, but not recording. Then had a chance for some peer feedback against the success criteria!

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