Saturday, 28 November 2015
1) Device and software
It is genuinely small! This piece of hardware is tiny! You can see the picture below with all the parts labelled. In terms of robustness, it beats the raspberry pi, mainly due to all the components being flush with the board. Can this survive life in a classroom? Yes.
Software wise, there several different options for programming it, listed here https://www.microbit.co.uk/create-code . I tried out block and touch develop. One language is graphical the other is code, but the programming environment online is really useful. Both output a compiled file which you drag and drop onto the microbit (it appears like a memory stick when attached).
The programming environments work ok, but I wouldn't go too much past ok. I found there to be odd issues getting the right thing selected or moving to particular point in the code, causing a bit of frustration. The graphical editor was better than the text based editor. That said, they have been a whole host of updates that the BBC team have implemented since I had a play, so this maybe out of date.
I only played with the prototype, so I think it would be unfair to make any judgement about hardware function as yet!
Firstly is this going to be useful in the classroom... Yes. How useful though is a different matter. I can see a year 7 group enjoying using it for the a term of so, but after that I would suspect that those that pick it up the fastest will have reached the two native language's maximum and will want to try something more advanced. The answer I would go for is to use the python option, and get it acting as a interface for a raspberry pi, now that would be cool!
In summary, I would use for it a term, and then hand it away with a nice big competition for however goes away and makes the coolest thingy, supported by an after school club.
The BBC microbit is yet another tool in the arsenal of hardware and software available for teaching computing in schools. Its been well thought out and constant development should iron out any niggles. The fact it's free for all year 7s should help! All in all I look forward to teaching with it!
Thursday, 22 October 2015
So I've been wanting to get my pupils using physical computing for a while now. Some have been doing it, but others have been unwilling to engage / point blank refusing. I put this down to them being anxious because they've never seen it before, and therefore the think they will fail etc etc (the joys of teaching pupils who self confidence is so low trial and error is not a valid learning technique).
Enter scratch - an easy to use, colour coded graphical programming system that works with the raspberry pi GPIO! However, whilst a lot of the scratch resources out there were good, for my pupils with low reading ages (or unable to read at all), the heavy text content meant they would be out the window in seconds. So, I set about making a series of guide, which could be followed independently or in a group, with minimal text and maximum diagrams, and here they are.
Feel free to use and adjust, like all things it's under creative commons license :)
Have they worked? Yes - all my pupils have coded GPIO in scratch. A weakness? Not enough extension for the top end pupils. See what you make of them, all comments welcome!
Update - Raspbian Jessie contains a new updated version of scratch with yet more GPIO support, for more details click here
Tuesday, 8 September 2015
Friday, 7 August 2015
As previously mentioned, I'm at New Wine this week and this blog is changing. One of the big focuses at New Wine is community development, something that is pretty important in school!
Our pupils are constantly learning how to act within community. We teach that via our pedagogy and how we act in community with pupils and staff. How does our teaching influence pupils values, perceptions and interactions within community?
Our pupils are hopefully going to spend the rest of their lives in community (isolation and loneliness being toxic killers). We as teachers get to have a say as to what role they will play in community. Let's make it positive!
Let's make community key, letting pupils know they are visible and significant.
and it's brilliant! Expect a lot of posts in the near future based on my week here.
For the first time, I'm going to be writing about my faith, and how I see God interacting with education. It's a bit of a big thing. They're aren't very many teachers who blog about their faith (in fact I haven't found any, so if you know any let me know).
To end this post, I have one thing I have to share-
God is interested in teachers, TAs, receptionists, reprographics teams (everyone involved in education- kids included). He says you are visible and significant. He is up for meeting you where you are.
And lastly, the café's are great :)
Sunday, 28 June 2015
I started the day talking about the raspberry pi and doing a spot of coding with members of the public to use them to record wind speed and rainfall. However, then I moved tents to program Lego Mindstorms based Daleks with members of the public. One observation made by one of my fellow raspberry pi-ers was that most of the interest in the raspberry pi's came from adults (guys in particular), whereas when I moved to the Dalek tent the youngest programmer was 3 years old! So in the space of 7 hours I saw everyone from aged 3-92 programming! How cool is that?!
The BBC learning team deserve special credit - their activities were superbly designed to engage all ages, and they used computing language, such as "algorithm" throughout. The BBC staff were brilliant throughout the day, I have never felt quite so welcome as a volunteer at an event, so thankyou BBC team!
The BBC Make It Digital roadshow continues, check it out here
(all opinions are my own - not affiliated to the BBC)
Monday, 15 June 2015
Saturday, 6 June 2015
Monday, 1 June 2015
- The "classic" STEM projects have become boring
- STEM has to be relevant or ridiculously fun to grab and engage EBD pupils
- Don't start a practical project the group cannot complete
- Use a project that pupils can relate to
- Only give out the required equipment/materials
Tuesday, 12 May 2015
Tuesday, 5 May 2015
Friday, 1 May 2015
How easy was it? On the whole it was very easy to get Edubuntu and LTSP installed and working. The system functioned from the first turn on. However, it has been a pain trying to configure custom menus. The pupils have limited accounts, but it would still be nice to customise the items displayed on the menus. Despite my best efforts, I haven't achieved this yet, despite using Edubuntu's own menu editor tool.
Epoptes is an excellent tool I have used before for managing computers in class. Haven't got that working yet but I'm sure it will.
In summary, would I reccomend Edubuntu and LTSP for a teacher looking to set up a low cost computing lab? Without a doubt. By recycling older hardware you can have a perfectly functional system at zero cost. For computing, the software is excellent (although it would be great to have a newer version of scratch working on it), plus you get all the benefits of the support network surrounding Ubuntu!
Thanks team Edubuntu for a great OS!
Tuesday, 28 April 2015
As a teacher in a PRU, you are able to experiment with different schemes of works/projects/teaching methods/activites etc etc etc. You have real freedom and that is fantastic! In addition, the options for career advancement are varied and numerous (mostly thanks to the excellent SLT where I work).
On a more down to earth note, whilst you may not teach your subject as much as you like or in as much depth as you like, you can make real, lasting differences to pupils lives for the better. There is nothing like teaching in a PRU, if you haven't experienced, try it for a day!
Monday, 27 April 2015
Saturday, 25 April 2015
Sunday, 19 April 2015
Firstly, what entry level isn't. It is not an alternative to GCSE, it doesn't carry nearly the same weight and is not nearly as rigorous in either it's content or development of scientific thinking. Personally, I view entry level as something to be taught alongside GCSE if there is a chance that pupils will not complete the GCSE course.
What entry level is, however, is a great safety net! My pupils come from unstable backgrounds and quite often school is the only consistent point of contact. Therefore, as teachers, we need to make the most of their time with us and make sure they have something to show for their work developing their subject knowledge and understanding by the close of year 11 or year 10, depending on whether pupils are moving out of area or returning to mainstream.
The drip drip of entry level assessments, married up to the appropriate place in the GCSE course, means that most pupils will have achieved a bronze qualification, if not a silver by the end of year 10. When this happens, entry level has done its job in science.
At some point I will blog about the need for entry level in computing, but that's for another time.
Sunday, 12 April 2015
Over a few week we have built a system that links a raspberry pi to the current Sonifex Silence Detector. Whenever either the studio feed or the backup feed go quiet, the silence detector triggers an alarm. This causes a relay to connect, joining two pins on the rear DIN connector. The pi connects to these and sends a text, stating which feed is down. Really useful real time information!
The system also sends a text once a week to say it's alive, and if a feed goes down and then comes back, reports that all is well once again. This is a bit of an oversimplification of the program to say the least.
The python program with reads the GPIO inputs on the Pi and sends texts via the USB 3G modem is a really neat bit of software (entirely written by the student). Hopefully I'll post the source code here in time, but we forgot to back it up before installing the device in a hard to access spot. For the meantime, here's a photo-
It looks a bit rough and ready but works a treat!
Wednesday, 8 April 2015
- I trained as a secondary science (biology) teacher at Leicester University via PGCE
- I've just started my third year teaching at a PRU (it is my first non-supply job!)
- Raspberry Pi's are awesome, I wish I had more time to experiment and build cool stuff using them. Their education potential is amazing too!
- Open source software as much as I can, I experimented several times with using Linux as a teacher. However as the rest of the teaching world uses propitiatory software didn't last long!
- Running to de-stress is great, particularly in the company of a particular crazy spaniel. Been known to do a bit of mountaineering (obviously outside of the South West)
- A Christian