Raspberry Pi and Scottish Software developments in Education

Where do I expect my use of the Raspberry Pi to go?

Well there has been much play of the use of the Raspberry Pi to re-establish programming amongst youngsters in school and the need to bring back computing in school. This issue is different for those of us who live in Scotland as our education system never let go of Computing.

In our junior school we teach programming using scratch and have done for a few years now.  This is the most recent addition to programming within the curriculum. Scratch Logo

The raspberry pi can further help pupils play with scratch as can be seen on some of the youtube videos demonstrating Raspberry Pi.  More traditionally most Scottish Secondary Schools teach Computing Studies at Standard Grade which includes an introduction to programming which includes sequence, selection and iteration. We use Visual Basic to deliver this element of the course. However we have previously used pascal, comal and basic in years gone by.

At Higher, we further teach parameter passing, modular programming and simple searching whilst at Advanced Higher we study Searching Techniques, Sorting Techniques, File Handling, Record Structures, Classes, Polymorphism and Encapsulation and pupils create a project which encompasses some of these features.

Many schools, like ours, elect to study the Artificial Intelligence and use prolog to allow pupils to develop their knowledge.

Are we overly complacent about this? No!

That’s why we agree wholeheartedly with the philosophy of the Raspberry Pi. I’d like to see them used to allow pupils to develop their programming skills and having watched many tutorials from many YouTubers like Liam Fraser

http://www.youtube.com/RaspberryPiTutorials

and

http://www.youtube.com/Metalx1000

I’ve spent many hours learning python using these tutorials and others from MIT via iTunes U. Personally, this has been a very interesting learning experience but even knowing a lot about computing my main observation is that for a large number of learners there is a large learning curve.

Python

One of the other nice things is that the open source cross platform nature of python allows pupils to continue to develop their skills outside of school.  This is a hurdle with respect to Visual Basic which we currently use.  If pupils can program at home as well as school then we can further develop the curriculum beyond that which we currently offer.

In that direction I’d like to start a Pi club which pupils could come to at school.

Our curriculum is moving on…   We have a new national curriculum, a Curriculum for Excellence, which is gong to take us a further step forward. Programming will increase in this new curriculum and the development of computational thinking will develop further.  One of the further considerations which I have in this respect is given our finite allocation of time and what language should we teach.  Yesterday, I attended the Learning Through Technology conference at Our Dynamic Earth by Holyrood.  At this conference, I had a brief chat with a senior professor who shall remain nameless.  Whilst computational thinking should be our focus rather than any specific language the reality is that the 14 Scottish Universities seem to rely on Java as their language of choice when is comes to teaching programming.  This begs the question should schools be teaching this?  This could potentially create a more coherent joined up approach to computing and allow the Universities to elevate their expectations and starting level to beyond the current benchmark but Java is not the easiest language to get started with conceptually for pupils. Is it within the reach of pupils to understand Java as a post scratch experience?  And does this meet the needs of our curriculum!

The computing outcomes within Curriculum for Excellence have a strong focus on games development which is easily achieved in Scratch.  But what next?  Does Java easily allow development in this way within the time allowed at school? I’m sure the answer can be yes!  But how easily can this be achieved and how much CPD will be needed or provided to allow this to happen? Python has a number of extensions which in my limited experience of them look attractive, PyGame as already mentioned, PyGTK+, PyQt4/5 etc

I have no answers at the moment but lots of questions.  Will Raspberry Pi save us?  I doubt it but that does mean that it’s not going to be fun to play with.

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