Getting to grips with digital making at Picademy

‘Picademy? What’s it all about?’ I hear you say. Liz, Code Club’s Regional Coordinator for the North West, tells us more…

When I began volunteering with Code Club I had no idea what a Raspberry Pi is, and by the time I started working at Code Club I wasn’t that much wiser. So when the Google Garage came to Manchester, and with it a chance to attend Picademy, the free 2-day CPD programme for UK educators delivered by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, I jumped at the chance to go.

There are so many ‘best things about Picademy’ that I’m not sure where to start. The swag was fantastic, the tutors were brilliant, and the workshops were varied and inspirational. On Day 1, we’d covered Scratch GPIO, Python, Sonic Pi, and Minecraft all before lunch, and afterwards expanded our digital skills repertoire in workshops about the Explorer Hat and the Pi Camera. By the end of the day, I’d made flashing things, spinning things, noisy things, and so much more!

If I thought Day 1 was good, then Day 2 was amazing! It was so amazing that I forgot to stop for lunch, and I’m not the kind of person who does that often! Day 2 of Picademy is a hack day where you use your new skills and your imagination to bring something to life. My project was a hat for people playing Minecraft which lights up in different colours depending on which surface Minecraft Steve is standing on – totally useless, completely impractical, and definitely not something that’s going to feature at New York Fashion Week, but so much fun to make! I combined my new knowledge of circuits with some Python code and Minecraft linking, then did a lot of debugging and tweaking until everything worked as intended, and I finished with around 2 minutes to spare!

Each Picademy ends with a big show-and-tell where everyone presents what they’ve made, and there is a lot of laughter, applause, and shared insights. You then you get a badge, a certificate, and are welcomed to the Raspberry Pi Certified Educator community – I think I smiled all the way home!

image1

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Picademy a few more times since then. First I gatecrashed the end of the Picademy at Madlab earlier this year, so I could loudly applaud the new batch of Certified Educators and see their creations firsthand. Then I attended a staff Picademy session at our Cambridge office where the team I worked with created a ‘mug shot’ device (a camera seated on a plastic mug!) that takes your photo, adds a cartoon, and tweets you the result.

image4

If you’re is thinking about attending a Picademy near you, I completely recommend it. And if you’re not able to go to a physical Picademy, have a go at one of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s FutureLearn courses and really immerse yourself in the online community of Raspberry Pi-trained educators – you’ll get loads out of it!

If you’ve already attended a Picademy, make sure you take part in the Raspberry Pi Certified Educators survey 2017

 

#VolunteersWeek – Sharing skills with the next generation

It’s the final day of #VolunteersWeek, and we’ve been profiling the fantastic contributions of the people who help run Code Clubs across the UK. We spoke to James, a first-year student at Ulster University studying Computing Science. As a part of his role as a STEM Ambassador, James has been volunteering to run a Code Club at his former primary school, St.Colmciles in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.

image1

With a previous connection to the school, it was very simple to get the club started. James visited there to make arrangements for how the club would be run. He says, “I had a meeting with the teacher involved, Mrs McAleer. We discussed suitable times and agreed to hold the club for one hour each Friday afternoon.” With the logistics planned, he was ready to get started!

“On the first day, 15 pupils attended and were very enthusiastic about the club. I started with a ten-minute presentation introducing coding to them. We encouraged the pupils to interact with each other and work in pairs, following a tutorial project devised by the school, as this was their first time using Scratch. When the pupils had finished the tutorial project and had a feel for how Scratch worked, they moved on to their first Code Club project.

“Over the following weeks, the pupils had a go at new projects from the Code Club website, which built up their coding skills, each project addressing a new concept per week. Throughout, I encouraged the pupils to seek help from myself and/or fellow pupils.”

image2

James found that the club members all worked at different paces, but it was easy to adapt to the needs of the children. “Some pupils would spend more time on a particular project, and continued working on it the next week. I also encouraged them to ask their parents for permission to use Scratch online so that they could complete projects at home. If a pupil finished a project early, I asked them to try out the extra challenges, and to make their code more efficient, adding more functionality and/or more sprites with different features.”

Running the club has been really rewarding for James, and a great way to share his skills. “The children have each been rewarded for their hard work and creativity by receiving certificates, which I presented to them at the end of each set of projects. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of helping these pupils grow in confidence and knowledge whilst attending Code Club.”

Interested to share your skills with the next generation, and learn new skills whilst your at it? Head to our website for further details on volunteering as a student.

#VolunteersWeek – Inspiring stories from Hampshire Libraries’ Code Clubs

by Dan Powell, Code Club’s Regional Coordinator for the South East

About 18 months ago, Code Club started a project with Hampshire Library Service to start five Code Clubs in key libraries across the county. This was around the time the Society of Chief Librarians announced its Code Green initiative, which foregrounded digital engagement in libraries, and Jade Bower at Hampshire Libraries and I were excited about the opportunity to get young people coding in their libraries.

The first five clubs proved to be a success and so the project rolled out to a second group of libraries: there are now 17 active Library Code Clubs across Hampshire! There is also a great community of Code Club leaders and Librarians who share ideas about what works for them, and who actively support new clubs as they start up.

I spoke to a group of Code Club volunteers and librarians to see what they think of the project and what the benefits of running a club are.  

Radka Ford, who is Library Team Manager for Winchester Discovery Centre and Chandler’s Ford Library, started off by telling me a bit about her club: “We have been running a Code Club at Chandler’s Ford Library for about 18 months. We have two great volunteers who are supported by two library staff. Children code on laptops and work through ready-made projects available on the Code Club website, and some of them code on micro:bits and also in HTML. Kids really love coding, we seem to have a never-ending waiting list of children wanting to learn to code!” Radka also had this to say about the Code Club volunteers at the library: “We couldn’t do this without Code Club volunteers! One Code Club volunteer landed a paid job in programming rather than working for a supermarket. How inspiring!”

image007

One of the volunteers at Eastleigh Library, Andrew Daniels, got involved because he wants to pass on the skills and experience he’s developed during his career as a programmer. Andrew finds it rewarding working with the children who attend the club, and he says Code Club “brings a new change to my routine. I get to help shape lives. It’s amazing when parents of children tell me how important Code Club is to their lives.”

Librarian Lucy Geary, who is based at the Basingstoke Discovery Centre, talked about her experience of coding and Code Club. “As a member of library staff, I was pleased to get involved as I enjoyed the little bits of coding I did at University and this was an opportunity to get something mentally stimulating involved in my job at the library. I have very much enjoyed learning the different languages.” Lucy’s club is supported by volunteers from New Voice Media, a local company, and she describes the volunteers as “amazing – their staff are professional programmers and bring amazing knowledge and enthusiasm to the club”. But the best thing to her is seeing how the children who attend the club grow and learn: “It has been very satisfying and a pleasure to see the different groups of children grow in their ability and in their level of interest and commitment as the weeks progress. Sometimes the difference from week one to the end is unbelievable!”

David Hughes has been volunteering at the Farnham Library Code Club since the end of last year. Like many Code Club volunteers, he is not a coder by trade but is enthusiastic about digital making and a member of the Raspberry Pi Community. For him ,“it is important to give back in line with the values of the Raspberry Pi community. Code Club allows me to help the next generation of coders and budding techies.”

All in all, the Hampshire Library Service project has been a great success, and there are libraries starting Code Clubs in Hampshire almost every month now! A huge thank-you to all of the Code Club volunteers and Hampshire Libraries staff who have shared their skills and enthusiasm for coding with so many children across the county.

Interested to run a Code Club in your local library? Head over to our website to learn more and sign up! You can also watch our video below, featuring Tile Hill library in Coventry.