The Pi @ Night

The Pi at Night from Ed Team on Vimeo.

This term we’ve been working on a collaborative project with teachers and learners at The Rowan Centre in Hull. It’s another example taken from our ‘Opening Door‘ inclusion project, where we’re looking to widen participation through Computing for all students.

The aim was to focus on the new Computing curriculum and plan cross-curricular challenges to deliver this term and use as planning and evaluation mechanism for teachers from September.

The Rowan Centre is a Pupil Referral Unit so at the forefront of our planning were the individual needs of the students working with us.  They’re a small group of mixed age and key stage (9-12 years) pupils who attend on a part time basis.

We spent time considering relevant and engaging projects which would support the strategies in place to help address the students’ emotional and behavioural barriers to learning. We were also mindful that we were all part of the planning process so student voice was going to be important – and it was. 

For one, the students had to decide on a project name!

The opportunities:

  • Using challenge-based projects to support a collaborative approach to learning and evidence individual progress
  • The chance to plan and experiment through a wide range of activities and resources.
  • To use a range of unplugged activities, trial and evaluate innovation kit, use of existing teaching strengths and resources used to deliver areas of computing and consider impact, particularly through engagement
  • Incorporated teacher CPD with observational opportunities alongside discrete support

The challenges:

  • The need to offer a range of tools and activities to give individual choice and help to differentiate tasks and outcomes.
  • Group work environment with varying levels of confidence, knowledge and skills across the curriculum within a mixed age group

The project

“Using Scientific knowledge and understanding to predict, investigate and report on possible nocturnal animal activity in the Rowan Centre garden”

  • Link with Unit 7C: Environment and feeding relationships
  • Link with Unit 6A: Interdependence and adaptation

Example activities

  • Design an investigation and present clues and predictions using iPad and iMovie
  • Consider the most appropriate way to capture evidence and present findings
  • Animation challenges and literacy based activities to present food chains
  • Students as digital creators to present food webs

Observations and outcomes

Introducing a Raspberry Pi into the project resulted in positive impact on engagement, learning, confidence and behaviour of the students involved.   It was more than notable and shared across more teachers at the centre.

Jointly planning the activities at each stage, the Pi was introduced after the students had investigated clues in the garden and decided that a night time camera was needed to capture evidence (a resource that they themselves brought into the conversation).

We explored ideas using computational thinking and set about helping the students to plan by using maths to calculate times, consider timings for image capture and sunset and sunrise.  They were then able to take ‘Pi selfies’ to check out their code and together debug and check syntax.

Some might say challenging activities for this age group of students, but as we worked through plans together they were encouraged to work together and take a risk, knowing that their peers would support with debugging.  We always prioritised and praised the problem solving and computational thinking element of the challenges.

There were many occasions when the Pi in the project was used as an example for positive feelings in the introductory support sessions each week.

Excited‘ was a common theme.

One week ‘Raspberry Pi’ was put at the top of an individual timetable by a student, and so the conversations about ‘Why?’ and ‘What for?’ continued.

Engaging, challenging, exciting, innovative, cool.  The list goes on……