Has it worked so far?

FREE RESOURCES BELOW  🙂

All of my students did their primary education prior to the new Computing National Curriculum. They are all ‘disaffected’, they all have Special Educational Needs (at the very least arising from their Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties) and many of them have missed large portions of their education. So I make no apology for the fact that my lessons may seem to be a bit primary school-ish for Secondary Alternative Provision.

Yes, I should probably be using Python with my older students instead of Scratch, but that will come. My number one priority is to engage them without letting software and hardware get in the way. I want them to see that Computer Science is something that they can all do and enjoy, it is not a subject just for the ‘boffs and geeks’.

Does  it work? Has it been successful?

I would say a definite yes. There is still disruption, disengagement and damage, but these are students with some quite severe behaviour problems and several of them have to be regularly restrained by staff to stop them hurting others or themselves.

Given the context of our school the improvement in engagement and attitude since using the Raspberry Pi has been dramatic. There are a tiny minority who are not engaging positively with the work, but for 90% of our students deployment of the Pis has been a great success.

For example:

In the past ‘X’ had been very negative towards me, he threw chairs at me, swore and used to regularly tell me how much he hated me. In the very first lesson of using the Raspberry Pi ‘X’ was totally enthralled, he wanted to know everything about where he could get one, the cool cases and how to set up the microSD card. He made me write down the website address of Pimoroni and plans to buy some of his own kit.

This enthusiasm has continued. I haven’t had a single incident of negative behaviour since using the Raspberry Pi with X. His attitude towards me has completely changed. Unfortunately, outside of Computing, X has continued to engage in inappropriate behaviour, calling staff the C word, assaulting other students, etc. But within computing he is now enthusiastic, focussed and willing to experiment and make mistakes.

This is the most extreme example but I have seen an improvement in engagement across our whole student body with the exception of about 3 or 4 students who are disengaged across the curriculum. Even these students have shown an interest at times.

Another student ‘Z’ is nervous, socially anxious and suffers from extremely low self-esteem. He has found working with the Pi to be a great outlet for his hidden creativity. During the first ‘Flashing an LED’ lesson he was genuinely overjoyed to get the LED flashing and asked to film it to show his mum. I have seen his confidence and self-belief grow and he regularly comes up with new and interesting ideas for mini-projects.

Requests to get their mobiles out to film their work have been frequent. Who would have thought that students with such huge problems including drugs, crime and violence would get so much pleasure and sense of achievement from making an LED blink ever more quickly or waving their hand in front of a PIR sensor to trigger a scream?

Below I have included a link to my resources so far. I hasten to add that this is very much a work in progress. I am a behaviour specialist who is new to teaching Computing and I don’t have any specialist qualification (other than attending the wonderful Picademy). So any constructive feedback would be most welcome.

The worksheets are mostly adapted from some of the materials at http://www.raspberrypi.org whereas the whiteboard presentations are mainly my own work. I do hope someone out there finds them useful 🙂 Clickable link here:

MY RESOURCES SO FAR FOR PHYSICAL COMPUTING

The presentations use ActiveInpire from Promethean. The personal version is free and is available here:

ActivInspire UK download page

I will blog again with some observations on the particular challenges of using Pi within Alternative Provision 🙂

This is one student’s FART FX BOX!

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That’s not a computer! – Introducing the Pi

So I introduced the Pi to my student’s during the second week of term.

First we explored the question ‘What is a computer?’, ‘How many do you have in your house? On your person?’ Then I got out the Raspberry Pis In purple Pimoroni Pibow cases and handed them around (my classes vary in size between one and six). Reactions from students were generally very positive

“That’s not a computer!”

“It looks cool!”

“How much does it cost?”

“Where can I get my own one?”

“Where’s the screen?”

We then brainstormed what other things (or peripherals) you needed to plug into the Pi to use it. This then led to a sorting activity: Input or Output or Both?

Next the students got to hook up the Pis and have a play. They were encouraged to simply explore the interface. What games are there? Is there anything like Microsoft Powerpoint?

Due to the needs of our students lessons are only 45 minutes so after a plenary this used up the time available. Generally with all my classes this was a very positive start and they all engaged well 🙂

classpis

I soon discovered that three Pis per table doesn’t work. I now have three tables with two Pis on each.

Getting started

So I was given the task of teaching computing mainly because at the time I was the most technophile member of staff at the school. Probably my own fault for helping sort out other teachers’ computers.

So where to begin? To begin with I floundered. I did some projects on PCs which were mainly M$ Office based and I also got students to make games in Scratch. It was all okay but I was running out of ideas quickly.

So in January 2015 I visited BETT and came across the Raspberry Pi Foundation. I learnt about their free Picademy programme and saw some of the wonderful projects you could do.

I booked into Picademy for April 2015 and I also got a ticket for the Raspberry Pi birthday bash from the wonderful folks at Pimoroni. At the birthday party I attended some great workshops which convinced me even more that RPis were the way forward for our students. I don’t have a ticket for this years party so if anyone has one to donate 😉 …

The Picademy course was brilliant. Really superb training for a newbie like me but also great for more experienced teachers who are new to the Pi. There were so many experts there in their own specialised area of using the Pi. The best thing was that all of them spoke in English rather than the cryptic language used by many in the IT world. Everything was completely focussed on the practical. Constant attention to what could be implemented in the real classrooms of the attendees.

Not only were all of the Picademy tutors inspirational but it was the kind of inspiration that stays with you. Nearly a year later and I am still excited by the possibilities that the course shone a torch on for me.

Anyway it took me the summer term to put a bid together for equipment and persuade SLT to fund it. Throughout the first half of Autumn term 2015 I ordered resources from Pimoroni, The Pi Hut and CPC-Farnell (all suppliers I would highly recommend). The second half of that term I was laid up with a prolapsed disc. As a typical teacher I found it impossible to do nothing schooly, so instead spent my time familiarising myself with the new version of Scratch, playing around with the Balloon PiTay popper, trying to get VNC to play nicely with ‘Jessie’ and building a robot from the wonderful CamJam Edukit #3 (the result was RoboCroc which even got featured on The Guardian website).

When I returned to work at the beginning of January I found that the amount of Computing I was expected to teach had doubled whilst at the same time I had been moved to a room with no computers!

This was probably the best thing that could have happened as it forced me to turn immediately to using the Raspberry Pi.

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Picademy, yes, that weird looking chap in the middle with the green and purple shirt is me 🙂

Alternative Pi :)

I am a behaviour specialist working in Alternative Provision teaching young people excluded from mainstream education.

My background from many years ago is in teaching Drama and Dance but more recently I have specialised in teaching PSHE and Cooking, so it is only natural that I should have been asked to teach Computing to our students.

I have chosen to use the Raspberry Pi to help me do this and after attending Picademy (a wonderful free training course for teachers run by the Raspberry Pi Foundation) I have summoned up the courage to begin using the little computers in class.

On these pages I will share my experiences, insights, opinions and resources.

I am not a computing specialist but a keen teacher finding their way and willing to try anything to engage disaffected SEN students in Computer Science.

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My maximum class size is six so this is a class set of RPis plus one for the teacher!