The Pi, The Parliament and The Palace

Over the past couple of months I have been lucky enough to be invited by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to attend two of their events in London.

The first of these events took place on September 8th, on the terrace of the Houses of Parliament, to celebrate the sale of 10 million Raspberry Pi computers. The event was attending by a wide cross-section of the Raspberry Pi community and afforded me the opportunity to meet with many people who I had, until then, only had had the pleasure of working with on-line. This opportunity also introduced me to a wide range of other partners and people involved in the development and engineering of Britain’s best-selling computer to date.

The second event I was invited to attend was held on the 5th October;  a reception at St James’s Palace hosted by the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s patron, the Duke of York. This event was a celebration of, and a “thank you” to, the many different people and organisations who support and make up the Raspberry Pi community. Again, this event gave me the opportunity to meet up again with many familiar faces and get to know a few new faces, too!

But let me take a few steps back and talk about what the Raspberry Pi computer is, how I got involved with Raspberry Pi computers and why I think they are so important for teaching Computer Science in our school, and also for engaging future generations of young people to get involved with what technology can do for them.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity with an educational aim of helping more people to learn about computing and to learn how to make things with computers. They also happen to manufacture and sell the most successful British computer to date! You can read more about them here and by watching this video:

Back in 2015, my colleague, Dave Grainger and I meet with members of the Senior Leadership at our school to discuss introducing the subject of Computer Science to the students. At this point in time, our students were receiving no formal instruction in the use of computers, let alone being given the opportunity to understand how they worked and what they could make them do. This was a situation that Dave and I, with the backing of the school’s SLT, wanted to change.

Now Dave and I had both tinkered with Raspberry Pi computers a little in our free time, but we had never used them to teach Computer Science. However, the OCR GCSE Computing course at the time was resourced in such a way that it could be taught completely using the Raspberry Pi computer. This meant that we could access the resources made available by OCR and the wider Raspberry Pi community, combine them with a cheap £30 computer, and then we were all set to start teaching Computer Science at the school.

A significant milestone in the development of the Computer Science curriculum at QM was Dave’s success in gaining a much sought-after place on the Raspberry Pi Certified Educator course in July 2015. Dave not only successfully completed this course, but furthermore was invited  by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to be one of the first teachers in the country to take part in the High Altitude Ballooning training course, Skycademy; which he attended during the Summer break. On returning to school, Dave brought a wealth of new knowledge that was a key catalyst in enabling us to step up the level of what we were teaching to the students at our school. We introduced physical computing to the students; using Raspberry Pi computers and Python code to control physical objects such as cameras, LEDs, sensors and switches and also started a High Altitude Ballooning club at the school, called QMSkyPi. You can see the ITV News report from our first launch here:

Inspired by what Dave bought back from the Certified Educator course, and from the potential I saw in using physical computing to engage students in Computer Science, I also applied to attend a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator course in the February half term of 2016. I was accepted on the course and hence spent two days in Manchester, learning from members of the Education team at Raspberry Pi some of the things which were possible to do with the computer and also gain a real understanding of how this could be applied and implemented in the classroom environment.

So now, both people teaching Computer Science at our school are Raspberry Pi Certified Educators!

However, my involvement with Raspberry Pi does not stop there. Whilst spending some time building a Raspberry Pi powered robot with my daughter (yes I really do play with this stuff for fun too!), I connected with another educator using Raspberry Pis to engage young people, Claire Garside. Claire, amongst many other things, runs the Leeds Raspberry Jam events, and I asked her in passing what it would take to set up a similar event in Hull. A few more exchanges over Twitter and calling in some favours from friends and we had set a date for a Hull Raspberry Jam event. We have run a number of HullRaspJam events since then and we are now seeing a growing number of regulars and new faces attend each event.

For those that don’t know, a Raspberry Jam is a community run event which gives those interested in or using the Raspberry Pi, the opportunity to meet up and share what they are doing, learn from each other and generally have some fun with the Raspberry Pi computers!

It was a great honour to be invited to these two events at such prestigious locations; however it is really the Raspberry Pi foundation and all that their small but powerful computer has allowed me to do, that I really have to thank!

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