Starting our Digital Leader journey

Things have been crazy, mad busy at school already this year. Getting the school ready for the ICT Mark assessment means I currently have my fingers in a lot of proverbial pies (and actual Raspberry Pis!).

One of our projects at the moment is getting a Digital Leader group up and running. This is something I’ve been really keen on ever since I’d seen a lot of chat and posts about it on Twitter (#DLchat) and from the blogosphere (namely Sway Grantham and Chris Sharples). After posting a few cries for help on Twitter and Google+, I managed to collate a wealth of helpful information about the Digital Leader network, and what other schools are doing with their groups.

I decided that a Digital Leader programme at our school is going to be all about empowering the children to take ownership of ICT and the Computing Curriculum. The DLs appointed will be given responsibility over maintaining the laptop/iPad trolleys for a start, making sure that they are put away properly at the end of the day, or deleting unwanted files from the Camera Roll. Having seen some fantastic examples, the DLs will also have control over their own blog (with myself being the all-seeing eye, of course!). I also intend to hold weekly lunchtime meetings for us to discuss ideas, review software and make tutorials for teachers and pupils to use in lessons.

Once we’re fully established, I feel the children would really benefit from a rota that allocates them to classrooms during Computing lessons. Here they can be ‘booked out’ to come and assist teachers during afternoon sessions. I’m also expecting the DLs to be my Pi-oneers as well once we have those up and running (watch this space for updates!).

So many ideas! I had to get the ball rolling ASAP. The plan for implementation became:

  1. Get staff on side with it – this was easy! The concept of having some extra hands when using laptops etc yielded big appeal!
  2. Publicise – a few posters and an assembly was all it took to get the children well and truly excited. As a junior school, the scheme was only open to Years 5 & 6.
  3. Applications – paper versions and online versions on the VLE means the application process is widely accessible. Parents were also encouraged via the school newsletter to help with applications at home. A realistic date was set and stuck to.
  4. Interviews – A 45minute task on Kodu followed by a 5minute chat with a judging panel (myself and the HT). The task was really interesting to stand back and watch. I definitely recommend it. Hardly any pairs finished the task completely but it was brilliant to see them working together. One child, who had more experience with the program, let their partner do most of the driving, They explained to me that, to help their partner understand the program, they used elements from Scratch to teach them. Brilliant! The 5min talk served little purpose, in hindsight, other than to add some kudos to the process, though it was nice to spend time chatting with each of the applicants!
  5. Final selection – No set quota, and positions awarded to the children who deserve the position. Shiny badge included! We really couldn’t decide between any of the candidates, so all 10 were offered a position. My DL team was born!

UPDATE: In total, we had over 40 applications, which was more than I’d anticipated. Interestingly most of these were girls (go Ada!). We have since split into two groups – the Online Team and the Tech Team, and they are all feeling like we’re a legitimate organisation with these new roles. The Online team has a main editor who calls the shots, and they deal with out VLE and, eventually, will sort out the online blog. Tech do all of the maintenance derailed above, plus the lesson help rota.

When school starts up again for the second half of term, we will fly into these roles straight away. I cannot wait to see what sort of projects the children come up with, and I will of course update this blog with updates as we progress. If you’d like to know more, please do let me know via the contact form on this blog.

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#picademy8 project – Buddha Babbage

So this week, Picademy changed my life. That may sound dramatic, but it really was an amazing two days of CPD that has awakened a new understanding and enthusiasm for computer science. I learnt so much about coding, hacking, robotics that my head was spinning on my drive home! For any educator involved in teaching the computing curriculum, I really cannot recommend Picademy enough. The team at Pi Towers have an infectious passion for the subject and you are guaranteed to come away with new ideas, perspective and friends. 
So that’s enough gushing – onto the real stuff! Part of the two days involved us taking over the reins and developing our own projects using the Raspberry Pi. After talking with another Picademy attendee (@mvnorwood) about his idea for a display that could draw from an RSS feed of inspirational quotes on demand, we soon delved into a discussion about all the things this could be used for – news updates, weather, facts about topics, maths questions. What if these quotes could come from a cuddly character? Buddha Babbage was born!

 

Babbage waiting to be wise

   

BUDDHA BABBAGE 
Resources needed:

  • Raspberry Pi 
  • Male to male jumpers
  • Male to female jumpers
  • Button (we used one from CamJam EduKit)
  • 2 breadboards (1 large, 1 small)
  • LCD screen (we used 16×2 2-line screen by Starfun)
  • Potentiometer
  • A Babbage (other bears are available)
  • Electrical tape
  • Card
  • Paper cup or other stand

NB: You will need a lot of jumpers. It takes at least 12 jumpers to connect the breadboard to the Pi, three for potentiometer and two for the button. 

Assembly:
The first thing we had to do was check the LCD screen worked. To do this we found instructions in the wonderful Carrie Anne Philbin’s book Adventures in Raspberry Pi. After wiring the LCD screen to the Raspberry Pi (all pins from the screen except for 7, 8, 9, 10) we typed used Carrie Anne’s Adventure9 git code which you can find in her book, or you can run another test program. 

    
  

NB: Make sure you connect the potentiometer first! This was vital as we thought the test had failed until we realised the contrast needed turning up! Doh!

We then connected the button to the breadboard. 

Next – the code!

 

Message me if you want the code sent to you

 
This photo shows the code we used – largely pinched from other bits of code we found, it worked really well and the results are great for a small amount of code. This code worked after having pulled the Adventure9 git before during the test.  You may need to tweak it. 

The inventory line contains all the phrases that we wanted to be randomised for Babbage to say. You could change these to be anything you want!

The final step is to pop the button under Babbage’s top so it’s under his Pi logo, and set up the screen with card on a stand so that the wires are hidden. 

To improve this, I now need to work out how to make the process repeat itself after a longer period of time, perhaps with another loop, so that Babbage is always waiting for someone to push his tummy. You can also adapt the code to pull info from an RSS feed. 

What ideas can you think of for using this project? Perhaps a character who gives up to date news headlines? 

If you fancy having as much fun as I did, and you’re an educator, then you must sign up for Picademy@Google and Picademy South West! You won’t regret it!

 

#picademy8 graduates looking super

   
Happy hacking!

  

I am now a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator! You can be too!