My student just had a lesson FROM SPACE! Social media in schools

The Welsh Government have recently announced that schools should stop blocking social media in order to teach responsible use. This week, one of my students has been using various technologies, including social media.

This student is doing a multimedia course and it creating a website for it about his main interest, space. He is incredibly knowledgable about space!

  • iPad– he’s been using the NASA visualizer app on the iPad. We don’t have WiFi in school yet but provided I download the updates at home it works well in school. It meant he could view some alternative ways of presenting information about space.
  • streaming live video – last Friday he spent an hour watching a live broadcast from the International Space Station by Commander Chris Hadfield. My student just got taught from space. From SPACE! How cool is that?!
  • Twitter – this afternoon I handed over the school Twitter account to him and he chatted to Helen Sharman, the first Briton in space during a live chat she was doing with the Science museum. He was delighted that she answered a few of the questions he’d been preparing all week.

He hasn’t said much about all this. He’s a quiet person but has had a big smile on his face! Credit must go as well to his fantastic LSAs who support him to stretch his interests further.


2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 1,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Reflections on Work Experience

Year 11 are out on work experience this week.  It’s a double-edged sword for teachers: we’re pleased to have a little breathing space but concerned about the time they spend out of lessons.

Work experience, if it goes well, can be memorable and beneficial.  When I was at school we did 3 weeks in year 10 and I went to the local sailmakers, Hood in Lymington.  They’re no longer there but this more recent image from Sanders Sails in the same town shows the interior of a sail loft.

My students last week were horrified to learn that for the 3 weeks I was on work experience I had to be in work at 8am and didn’t finish until 5:30pm.  The siren at Berthon Boat Yard that signified the start and end of the working day still echoes round the town now.  I had a 15 minute break morning and afternoon and half an hour for lunch.

Yet I thoroughly enjoyed it.  As the most junior person there I had to sweep the floor every morning but was also taught how to use the enormous and high-speed sewing machines and by the end of my time could sew a reasonably straight seam up a 10m main sail.  Spinnakers were a different matter.  I also used the laser cutter to cut sail parts and numbers.  They were kind enough to give me the pattern to make a sail for my own little Cadet dinghy and I made it, completely by myself!

I was looked after by a girl who left school the year above me with minimal qualifications and was doing well as a machinist.  She took me under her wing and we went back to her house at lunchtimes in a cloud of cigarette smoke (hers not mine).

I enjoyed it so much there (I was a 15 year old sailing nut which helped) that I asked for a Saturday job there.  I knew at that age I wanted to go to university and do a professional job but those 3 weeks at Hoods were an eye opener into the world of work and one I remember fondly.

Nowadays work experience is shorter and more formalised (probably rightly so).  Students only do a week and are generally shown around the whole company.  We’ve had students blog from their time at St. David’s Hall and Western Power recently.  I hope they all enjoy it and make the most of this unique experience!

Cardiff Raspberry Jam

Since the CAS Conference in Birmingham in June I’ve been thinking about holding a Raspberry Jam in the local area.  I had permission to host it in school once evening but it was getting awkward to find an evening that was suitable before the end of term.  Two weeks ago I found out about the Cardiff Science Festival and had the mad idea of holding a Raspberry Jam to coincide.  By coincidence Dr Tom Crick (Computing at School) and Laura Roberts (Technocamps) had a room booked that they could no longer use.

Two weeks later I find myself standing in front of 45 people at the Urdd in Cardiff Bay with no real idea of what their expectations are of this event.  I’d had a few moments of wondering what on earth I was thinking of.  My son Sam has a Raspberry Pi but I’d not really played around with it.  It’s his and I want him to find his own way.  Only a few days beforehand I realised that playing the Raspberry pi through the VGA projector was going to be awkward (Amazon sell an HDMI to VGA converter cable for £4 which proved to be useless – HDMI is a digital format and VGA is analog.  Of course I know that NOW and NOW it seems obvious).  So we tried out the RCA port with a composite cable and that worked.  Looked shocking but it worked!  Thankfully on the day Gareth Edmondson (who couldn’t attend) came to the rescue with his Kanex, kindly transported by Edward O’Reagan. It worked a treat.

Our first demonstration came from Dave Christian, a pHd student and software developer who demonstrated the graphics processing power of the Raspberry Pi.  Apologies for the poor quality of the video, I was standing in the corner of the room with my Flip camera.  We had the lights down as Dave’s Mandelbrot sets appeared quite dark on the screen.

Thankfully Dave has published his code on GitHub! Next time I’ll plan video a little more!  You can see that while Dave was talking high graphics processing, a 4-year old girl is totally engrossed in a Scratch game on another Raspberry Pi set up for further demonstrations.

a 4 year old on the Raspberry Pi

Dr Tom Crick then gave us his promotion of Computing at School and explained how he saw the Raspberry Pi fitting in with with this.  A reminiscent discussion about the BBC Micro followed.  Many of the attendees were parents concerned about the state of ICT education. With some saying their child had dropped ICT at school as it wasn’t relevant.  To all those this resonates with, please join Computing at School and get involved. I outlined the 4 GCSE’s that are now available in Computing, although sadly these have come too late for some of the students attending the Raspberry Jam.  We also mentioned Young Rewired State which is a fantastic summer opportunity culminating in the Festival of Code on 10-12th August.  What I should also have talked about are the Technocamps Bootcamps taking place this summer – they have iOS App development, and Kodu game design in Swansea.  Both are aimed at 16-19 year olds but they will accept slightly younger students who are keen.  They also have the “build your own internet” workshops in Bangor for 11-15 year olds.

Sam Sherratt, age 10, then told us what his plans are for his Raspberry Pi.  He talked about the camera that Eben Upton (the developer of the Raspberry Pi) announced at the Raspberry Jam on Cambridge the previous day and his plans for programming LEDs on the pins to flash.  It was great to hear someone from the target audience of the Raspberry Pi talk so confidently about this!  Sadly, I didn’t video Sam – but as his mum I was too busy feeling very proud of him! (Thanks to Tom Crick for the photo).

Finally Edward O’Reagan talked about the Pi User Group he has set up in Swansea, exhorting us to do the same!  Video to follow.  Edward also demonstrated running Quake 3 on the Raspberry Pi – further instructions on his website which is also an excellent Pi resource.

The real audience for the Raspberry Pi?!

At the end of the event we had a surprise visit from Cardiff Hackspace who brought along a Raspberry Pi case they had 3D printed.  Next time we hope they come along and present about their Raspberry Pi door entry system.