A busy few months

I know you guys love hearing about what I’m up to so here are a few fantastic events that I’ll be appearing it either running workshops or giving talks – it’d be great if you could come along and join in the fun!

Firstly, this weekend I’m taking the pi-top Champions to The National Museum of Computing and Bletchley Park museum for a weekend of training and fun – the most exciting thing about it is that on Sunday 19th the Champions will be running workshops in the National Museum of Computing, showing off exactly why we chose them – I’m so excited about this weekend and hope some of you can join and bring your kids along to what will be an incredible day of opportunities. Let us know you’re coming by signing up here!

tnmoc-logo_3

I’m really excited about the Champions day as I feel like we’re bringing together some of the best of the best when it comes to running workshops, training and all things Raspberry Pi – we’ve picked an amazing team of people for our Champions and I can’t wait to share further details with you all!

I’m looking forward to joining Nic Hughes at the London CAS conference on Saturday 25th February. Nic and I are working together with him leading a Crumble workshop and me leading a Physical Computing Raspberry Pi workshop. It’s always good fun working with Nic and we’re looking forward to inspiring some teachers to innovate their computer science classrooms.

Raspberry Pi is celebrating it’s 5th year at the Junction in Cambridge on 4th and 5th of March and I’ll be there both days and doing a talk on the importance of teaching children to code on Saturday 4th at 1.30. The birthday party is always a great fun community event and tickets can be bought here.

Throughout March and April, I’m running workshops through pi-top for a number of great charitable groups such as STEMSussex, BECSLink and London CLC which will be great fun and I’m hoping to be able to do something for International Women’s Day on 8th March.

</edit> I forgot to mention my own event – Coding Evening for Teachers, in Twickenham on Friday 24th March – tickets are here.</edit>

At the end of March, I’m VERY excited to be attending three incredible events – first up, the NAACE conference in Leicester (28th-29th March), where I’m running not one, but TWO break out sessions – one for pi-top and one talking about the amazing Active Lit as a tool for writing text adventures. Looking at the speaker list, I have a feeling this is going to be a very exciting event and it seems that the people at NAACE are really determined to make it a very successful couple of days.

Next up is PiWars in Cambridge – I’ve always been a big fan of Mike Horne and Tim Richardson, especially their really helpful CamJam EduKits for teaching physical computing with Raspberry Pi so I was incredibly honoured to be asked by them to be a judge at PiWars, an event so popular it’s had to extend to cover two days instead of just one! The blurb for the event describes it as:

logo-v2-rgb-sm

Pi Wars is a challenge-based robotics competition in which Raspberry Pi-controlled robots are created by teams and then compete in various non-destructive challenges to earn points. There are prizes awarded at the end of the day. Last year, we had teams from schools, families and groups of hobbyists and 30 of these teams competed for a full day of robot fun and games! Pi Wars takes place in Cambridge, UK and is open to anyone from around the world. It is run by the same team that organises the Cambridge Raspberry Jam.

How much fun does that sound? There are still spectator tickets available if you want to bring your children or even your class up to inspire them to create their own robots and one of the two days is dedicated entirely to schools and youth groups!

Following on the heels of PiWars is ATI 2017 in Malvern. Primarily an Apple event, this year ATI has extended to include some more general computer science skills, particularly Raspberry Pi and the lovely Joe Moretti asked me to suggest some workshops. I feel like a bit of an interloper seeing my name surrounded by some of the big names in Apple Education, but I’m really excited about offering some Physical computing and Minecraft hacking information for some teachers, most of whom will be completely new to Raspberry Pi and then entire Pi ecosystem. ATI looks like n exciting event and I know that the other presenters are all incredibly inspiring so I’m really glad to be part of the team – there are still tickets available and it’s worth going along just to meet people like Joe, Mark Anderson, Catherine Jessey and Jon Neale, all of whom I’ve seen present before and know are incredibly inspiring!

c4n_svmwaaa5kgf-jpg_large
Photo credit – Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist/ATI event page

You’d think that’d be enough events, but no… in May, I’ve been invited by the STEM Centre in York to run a ‘Scratch Roadshow‘ taking sessions to Truro, Bristol, Swindon and Reading. This will be an intro to Scratch for primary school teachers who want to build their confidence a little – the best thing about it is that there is a bursary which makes the training completely free so it’s well worth letting your local primary school know if you think they could do with a boost!

Anyway, there are more events later in the year, but that will do for now! I hope you can come along to some of these events and please do come over and say hi – I love meeting you all ‘IRL’. And remember – if you can’t come to any of these events but are still interested in the type of training I can do, please drop me an email cat@crossover.solutions – I offer workshops and CPD training bespoke to your school or group’s needs!

 

A Raspberry Pi Scratch Resource

Tomorrow I will be running a workshop for MozFest, a massive community event in London organised by Mozilla. Young Raspberry Pi enthusiast, PiNet creator and all round evil genius Andrew Mulholland somehow found himself organising a Rasperry Pi Zone at the event (I definitely had no involvement in this whatsoever) and so he coerced/bullied me into helping out.

This will be my first time running a workshop by myself for strangers (working with children you’ve known since they were four really doesn’t count) and I’m a little bit nervous, but I am pleased with the worksheet that I’ve created, so I figured it was worth sharing it with you guys. If you’d like to take a look, it can be found here. Please feel free to take it and use it in your own classrooms if you think it’s useful.

I’ve tried to make the worksheet easy to follow and easy to use with minimal resources – you need a Raspberry Pi with either Scratch GPIO or Raspbian Jessie, a PiStop, a PIR sensor and some female to female cables and that’s about it!

I’m planning on introducing the workshop by taking about the Pi and what you need to get it started; it never ceases to amaze me how little children know about the actual parts of a computer and most of them think that the monitor is the computer itself, so I like to spend time talking about what the parts do – the screen is so that you can see what it is thinking, the the mouse and keyboard are so you can control how it thinks, the SD card is it’s brain so that it can think and store memories, if you want to hear what any sound you need to plug in some speakers, if you want it to connect to the internet you need to give it a wifi card etc. The whole point of the Pi is to help children understand computers better so let’s make sure we’re using it properly!

You’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve forced myself to cut back on extra curricular activites after this weekend so hopefully I’ll have a bit more time to blog and try things out – I have so many toys in my collection ready to go!!

Thanks for reading and I hope the resources is of use to you!

Cat

Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) 2015

So, this post isn’t specifically about coding in the primary curriculum, but I wanted to share with you nevertheless.

Last week I spent a week in The Netherlands courtesy of Apple who selected me as one of their distinguished educators for 2015. The ADE programme has been running for 21 years, since 1994, and there are currently over 2000 ADEs across the globe who are using Apple technology to support teaching and learning. This year, they selected around 650 worldwide, 50 of whom were from the UK, and these educators were invited to attend an institute in either Florida, Amsterdam or Singapore.

How are teachers selected?

In order to apply to become an ADE, teachers are required to answer 4 questions (within a specific character limit) and create a 2 minute video to share their story with the team. The idea is to show how you are making a difference and how Apple has helped in some way. For my application I focused on my community support work with Coding Evenings and supporting teachers within my school and the wider community. I mentioned use of iPad within the school and how 1:1 deployment has changed the way children study. For my video, I focused on the changes I’ve made and how I support people in my school – if you really want to see it, you can find it here.

My impression, from talking to other people there, was that Apple selected teachers who were collaborating, inspiring, innovating, supporting teachers and communities and making a difference to more than just their own class. The people who are seeking out new and innovative technologies that can truly make a difference to teaching and learning and are reaching out to share what they are doing with those around them.

What can you expect?

The first thing I found from joining the ADE community was that I had a ready made group of friends – there were lots of people who were keen to share their ideas and practice. There were lovely people as excited as I was to meet each other and one lovely teacher from France suggested we all bring souvenirs from our own country for a gift exchange. On the community site, I found a primary school teacher from Lincoln on the same flight as me and we headed off for a week in The Netherlands.

When we arrived at the hotel we were surrounded by loads of people wearing matching lanyards; we were all given a badge, jacket, t-shirt and itinary on Filemaker Pro and told to make sure we had our lanyards on display at all times.

The institute didn’t start until Monday, but we arrived on Sunday to have a chance to get to know each other, and it was a welcome opportunity to relax and get used to our surroundings. On Monday morning, we were in the hall by 7.45am and ready to start. Each morning started with some very loud house music pumping into the hall, which was overwhelming at first, but become completely unconcerning by day two.

Part of our first day was to split into learning communities – the presenters were keen to stress the importance of selecting a community that reflected your passions and not just what you teach and so, by lunchtime on day one, I found myself labelled as group leader of the primary coding group – 11 educators from around the EMEIA region (Europe, Midde East, India and Asia) with a similar passion for code.

There were a few activities that were focused on corporate stuff (correct use of the Apple logo, guidelines on creating iBooks in the Apple style) and presentations on Apple software, which encouraged me to think more carefully about some software that I’d previously dismissed, but the best and most interesting part of the whole week were the showcases by new and existing ADEs letting us know what they were doing to inspire other teachers and learners. All of the showcases were interesting and fascinating, but one or two were truly inspiring – my particular favourite were two women from the Czech Republic working in a special needs school and using iPad to support learning (they had me in tears with their story).

I also met some really wonderful educators that I plan to stay in touch with and share ideas with – I already can’t wait to meet up with them again. Special mention to my room mate for the week, Sarah Jones, who is using technology to bring together journalism students from around the world in a collaborative and interesting way; Benji Rogers, who supports and trains our next generation of teachers at Plymouth University whilst being a real life magician; Caz Barnes, a primary computing teacher in Geneva using green screen to make learning in Geography more interesting; Tim Lings, an inpiring techy teacher from London, who can moonwalk like a pro and last, but by no means least, my plane buddy and all round amazing teacher and amazing person, Chris Copeman, who kept me sane no matter what else was happening during the week.

Apple let us play with a load of third party tech such as Sphero and Dash, which can be controlled from an iPad as well as some other really cool tech and I’m already thinking about better ways to integrate this into my teaching in a cross curricular way.

I know there is a lot of anti-Apple sentiment out there, including some in the Pi Community, and I know some people will assume that the week consisted of a load of fans who love apple and love everything about them, but actually I felt like it was more about creating a learning community and collaborating with peers. Yes, there was a focus on Apple devices, but at the end of the day, the most important thing was about getting together and sharing what works. No one blinked an eye at me setting up a Raspberry Pi to demonstrate, in fact, a couple of the Apple staff came to take a look at what I was doing! I wouldn’t describe myself as a massive Apple fan, but I like my MacBook Air and iPhone and I like what they’re trying to do – I went in with my eyes open and was fully prepared to become annoyed with an overwhelming corporate message, but that just wasn’t the case. It was a lovely opportunity to meet some truly inspiring people as well as playing with some great resources and I’m so grateful to Apple for giving me a chance to meet them in such a lovely, friendly atmosphere.

So, if you are using Apple tech in an innovative way, consider applying because it really is an opportunity not to be missed.

Egham Jam & Picademy Round 2

As some of you may have noticed from my twitter, I’ve recently been invited to talk a couple of times about the things I’ve been doing since I attended Picademy last year. Firstly, I went to Egham Jam and met the lovely Albert Hickey, as well as a bunch of lovely and enthusiastic Pi people. Albert was showcasing his mind reading, flappy birds game, which had decided not to play ball, but was still interesting nevertheless. I also took a look at Seven Segments of Pi – a simple DIY introduction to coding and making, which really interested me and, when I have more time, I will definitely be taking a proper look. I was realy grateful to have the opportunity to talk to a room full of people which included school governors, children and makers. There were lots of questions, mostly from governors, who were really keen to get their schools involved with Coding Evening.

My next stop was day two of Picademy in Cambridge, where Carrie Anne Philbin had invited me to speak to the current cohort of RCEs about my journey over the last twelve months. It was a strangely exhilerating experience for me since it was exactly a year to the day since I attended Picademy and it was so refreshing to feel the energy and enthusiasm in the room. What I was not expecting was for Carrie Anne to tell the ‘students’ that I’d be on hand to do some primary level Scratch projects should anyone want to do that for their independent project so I was a little bit anxious when I sat down with two lovely ladies, Gill & Carol, to come up with a project that they could take home and show to their headteachers and demo easily in the staffroom. They both insisted that they wanted to use only the resources they had been given in their goodie bags, so we were lucky that they’d been given both a PiStop and a CamJam EduKit.

Without any input from me, the ladies came up with a project that I’d been looking at for a number of months, but still hadn’t put into practice: using Scratch with the PiStop, then the EduKit to demonstrate how to use a breadboard to create a circuit.

For the first part of the project, I knew what to do so I let the ladies work it out themselves, with a few gentle nudges from me; I was so impressed with their attitude and willingness to give things a go, especially with the difficult task of wiring up the breadboard. Just as we got it all working, Carrie Anne came in with a PIR sensor so that we could make our traffic lights sensitive to motion. All credit goes to James Robinson for help with Scratch as well as Martin O’Hanlon who helped us to solve the problem of how to detect someone jumping the lights! The ladies were really pleased with their final project and couldn’t wait to take it back to school; I felt so excited and proud to have been involved and to help inspire them further.

I was also really pleased with the overwhelming interest the other RCEs had in my Coding Evening project – there were at least three people who were keen to start their own and I’m really excited to be able to support teachers and other community groups with sharing their learning and ideas.

So, I’ve attended Picademy for the second time and, once again, I’ve left feeling ultra enthusiastic after meeting a great bunch of people who are all so eager to teach the new curriculum properly. I loved my first experience at Picademy, but I loved my second experience too and it still counts as my best training EVER. If you’ve not applied yet, make it your first priority next term – convince your SLT to let you take a couple of days off, do whatever it takes to get yourself up to Cambridge, or wherever else the course might be.

So, a final note, on Sunday, I fly over to Amsterdam to take part in ADE training with Apple (Apple Distinguished Educator) and I plan on wearing my Raspberry Pi Certified Educator badge with pride.

An Update

Earlier this week, following on from the success of my previous Coding Evenings, I launched CodingEvening.org to share my idea for free evenings for teachers to learn from experts about how to implement the coding aspect of the new computing curriculum. My reasoning behind this is that I’ve had a few other teachers ask me about how to launch their own evenings so I thought it was worth having a dedicated site to help guide them. I hope that other people are willing to either organise their own or at least get involved if there is one in your local area!

In the last week I was invited to speak at both a Code Club London meetup and a CAS hub in Hammersmith. At the first event I was invited to talk about my Coding Evenings and about getting people involved in helping out in schools. At the latter I spoke to teachers about Raspberry Pi and demonstrated using the PiStop in the classroom. I also went to my first Raspberry Jam in Cambridge and got a chance to meet up with lots of lovely people. I didn’t get there in time to buy any Learn to Solder Zoo Badges from the PiHut, but I did manage to order some and I’m looking forward to writing up a blog about my first attempt at soldering. All praise to Tim and Mike for organising CamJam, it was a fabulous day and I’m so glad I was able to go.

For anyone interested in going, PyconUK have just announced an amazing offer for teachers – the first 40 that turn up will not only get a heavily discounted ticket, but their school will received £200 towards cover costs – what a bargain! Thanks to Nicholas Tollervey for sorting it out. Here’s my blog post about last year’s event. I would thoroughly recommend going if you can – it was really amazing last year.

Finally, if you’re interested in coming, the final Twickenham Coding Evening of the year will be on Wednesday 1st July in the Stokes and Moncreiff in Twickenham as usual. I hope to see lots of you there.