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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Ticking that ICT box!

Yesterday I gave a presentation to all the student teachers in my borough about ways in which they can use ICT in their practice. The idea was to really push their concept of ICT in teaching. To move away from simply using slides to help explain the lesson, and show how creative you can really be.

My hope is that they remix what I do and make it way better in their chosen subject areas.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Free CPD for teachers from Teen Tech

Some days ago during Mozfest I had the great fortune to meet Maggie Philbin from Tomorrows World and Big Bang. With such a unique surname, I've always been asked if I am related to Maggie, and probably also because of my interest in STEM. What you may not know is that Maggie started Teen Tech, to inspire young people.

@teknoteacher takes great photos!

On 14th November from 4pm till 6pm at BL-NK Space in Hackney, Maggie and Teen Tech are running a free cpd event for teachers. To take part, all you need to do is email to grab a spot.

"We have an amazing line up for the TeenTech Teachers event to help empower Teachers in preparation for Curriculum changes in 2014.  We will be helping Teachers learn more about computer science and the ways students can pursue a career in the Tech Industry."

As well as ways to inspire them in the classroom today! There will be:
  • Interactive TeenTech exhibits from Queen Mary University
  • Showcasing new technology businesses from Reward Technology and Moment.Us
  • A presentation about inspiring young people through practical learning from Maggie Philbin
  • Gensler - global architecture company sharing their research into workspace and learning spaces of the future
  • London Legacy sharing their curriculum based resources for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
  • A chance to have a play with Sonic Pi and access the free scheme of work to accompany it. 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Running a Raspberry Pi Workshop for Young People

I've had a large number of requests on twitter to give details of my experience running a Raspberry Pi workshop at my local library during half term. I hope this post will give you the audience everything you need to do something better!


During the summer holidays I contacted my local libraries to see if they would be interested in running a Raspberry Pi workshop. Havering Libraries are fantastic at organising events for both young and old. Every month I attend my local library book club and this weekend a local library is running a craft event where I intend to buy some Christmas sticking fillers! I used the Havering Libraries facebook group to make contact initially and very quickly I was put in touch with the tech savvy member of the libraries who was really enthusiastic about the idea. This half term has been 'Geek Week' at Havering Libraries with a large number of events taking place. It seemed ideal to run a Raspberry Pi workshop as part of that, during half term. I am a secondary school computing teacher by trade, and such a profession allows me to be able to work with children as I have had all the checks to do so. I would thoroughly recommend if you have not had a CRB or DBS check through Stemnet


I have a set of roughly 10 Raspberry Pis, mainly due to the kind donation by RS Electronics a few months ago specifically for running workshops with children. I purchased 10 SD cards and added the latest version of Raspbian to them all. I borrowed 10 HDMI to DVI cables and a few headphone splitters from my school. Romford library has an IT suite with DVI monitors and they managed to get enough usb keyboards and mice, as well as some headphones together for the session. 


Running a workshop in my mind is different to teaching a lesson. I believe that workshop sessions should really be student led. After all they really want to get hands on and have some fun. I also insist that attendees set up their Pis themselves. This enables them to discover how easy it is to do, and you can have discussions about inputs, outputs and talk about the Pi as a computer. All the young people I have ever done this with have always enjoyed this responsibility, whether inside the classroom or during a workshop. Once set up you can discuss the difference between command line interface and the GUI.  

There are a number of activities that you can run workshops on:
  • Minecraft Pi
  • Sonic Pi
  • Basic electronics with GPIO
  • Scratch
  • Basic networking (see David Whale's blog)
Once setup I ran a sonic pi session. One of the great things about a sonic pi session is that it practically teaches itself to any age range or ability user. I showed them how to play a single note, a chord, how to add delays, how to iterate, before they went and discovered it for themselves. They spend an awful lot of time creating their music all by themselves. This allows you time to wander around and then give help to those who are stuck, or more challenges to those who are a little older or more experienced with code. I had two 15 year old lads in my session who had written some Python before. I was able to quickly demonstrate some sonic pi data structures or other different snippets of syntax to help them improve their code.

Could be some good ideas for workshops in here *shameless plug*:


In all honesty I was not sure during the session if the children were enjoying themselves. Only at the end of the two hour session did I find out that it was a success, when many of the children came to ask me if I'd do another session. I tried to find out what they would like to do and minecraft pi and scratch seemed to be popular themes. The library manager and other colleagues were keen to have me sign up to run another workshop. The feedback from parents must have also been very good. 


When I decide to do these types of workshops, I have no idea really what it will be like, other than that young people will do some coding. Each session is different, but one thing remains the same, everyone enjoys it and takes something away from the experience. If you want to run a workshop I say DO IT! You will not regret it. It's rewarding and fun.