Coding Evening and BETT 2015

This week I decided to do something a little different – I’ve seen lots of people chatting about Raspberry Jams (meetups for Pi lovers), I’ve been to a Code Club meetup which had a lot of volunteers and not a lot of teachers and I’ve been to a CAS hub for teachers in Hammersmith. The three things combined inspired me to organise my own event – I didn’t want the formatlity of a CAS hub, but I wanted teachers to feel welcome and have the opportunity to relax after a long day at school. I also wanted to encourage some people from the Raspberry Pi and Code Club communities to come along and share what they’re doing (I also hoped to get a few volunteers without schools to come and find a school to volunteer in).

So, after a few emails and phone calls, I found a local pub with a nice function room that was completely free to hire and sent emails out to my local ISI schools, as well as looking up contacts for all the local LEA schools. I then posted on Twitter, the Raspberry Jam page and CAS events page as well as tweeting Code Club (who very kindly emailed out to their local members).

I ended up with about 15-20 people turning up, which I was really pleased about – people felt relaxed enough to order a pint and a burger in their own time while we chatted about what we were doing in school. I had three Raspberry Pis set up so that I could demonstrate things as necessary and I had my other half and my code club volunteer on hand for tech support. Mostly the people were teachers from my local ISI group, but a few people had seen my tweets and the retweets from other groups. I was slightly disappointed not to have any response from the LEA schools, but I’m hoping they’ll come to the next one.

What I enjoyed about the evening is that there was no sales pitch, there was no agenda, it was just a chance to chat. I found that a lot of people had done the same as I had – either bought or planned to buy some Raspberry Pis, but with no idea of what to do with them and that just chatting to the people in the room with experience helped them to feel a bit more confident in trying it out.

The overall conclusion was that people left feeling like they were more confident with trying things out, but could we have another evening in a month or so to catch up and compare – so I’ve already booked the venue again for Friday 13th March!

The next day I went to BETT 2015, but unlike usual, I wasn’t going to hunt around for freebies and find some cool new tech for my school – this year I had volunteered to talk on the Raspberry Pi stand and then been invited to a panel talking about coding in the primary curriculum.

In all honesty, I was so excited about talking that I didn’t look around as much as usual, but I did get a chance to pop to Education City and chat to their staff – we use this resources in the lower school (EYFS and KS1) as it’s a bright colourful website that the children love – in the upper school we just use it for MFL as it’s a useful website for aiding learning. They have a clever marketting ploy for BETT – it’s very simple, if you chat to them about your account, they give you a free mug, so I did and I was actually fairly impressed – they’ve finally made it easy to upload a CSV file of users to have individual accounts, you can easily add in teachers and admin users and the whole admin interface is just a little simpler. They’ve also added in a coding module, which I intend to take a look at in the next few weeks so keep an eye out for a blog!

So, I did a presentation on the Raspberry Pi stand with Tom Sale from Mereside Primary school in Blackpool, talking about how to use the Pi in a primary school, which was great fun – as it was my first time speaking about my teaching in this way, Tom kindly took the lead, but I now feel more confident standing up and having my say. The next thing we both did was a panel with Clive Beale and Carrie-Anne Philbin on the BETT futures stage and, already more confident, I talked for around ten minutes about all the things I’ve been doing with coding since attending Picademy in July (and all of my bad experiences before then) and was able to answer a couple of questions fired from the audience.

So all in all a lovely day at BETT. Now I need to get planning my next coding evening in Twickenham!!

<edit>The March coding evening will be on Friday 13th March – details here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/twickenham-coding-meetup-part-2-registration-15481779419 See you there! </edit>

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