When Daniel Aldred, head of computing and ICT at a school in Yorkshire, decided to set up a lunchtime computing club with Raspberry Pi, he had no idea how the project would take off – or how excited his students would get about coding.
Raspberry Pi is a low-cost, credit-card-sized computer that plugs into a monitor. It allows people of all ages to learn to program in languages such as Scratch and Python, making it perfect for use in schools.
“The Pi brings coding concepts to life within exciting environments like music composition, Minecraft, gaming, hardware hacking, electronics and more,” says Aldred. “These environments make learning fun, accessible and inspiring. I wanted to create opportunities for all students to get involved; lunchtime seemed like the perfect time to run a club.”
Aldred started his first club six months ago. Since then, interest in the sessions has exploded. To cater for demand, he now runs clubs every lunchtime for between 20 and 25 students of a wide range of abilities, from Years 7 to 13.
Aldred believes this rapid expansion is down to the variety of projects he offers.
“Initially we started with Minecraft hacking, which was really popular,” he says. “We then introduced the Pi Camera module, which appealed to a different group of students. At the same time, a weather station project encouraged those with an interest in geography and meteorology to attend. The learning that takes place branches across so many subject areas.”
Thanks to a recent donation from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Aldred is now in a position to lend the devices to students to practise with at home. This is of particular benefit to pupil premium learners, who may not have access to home computers.
For teachers keen to start similar clubs in their own schools, Aldred shares his top five tips:
1. Start small: a few students, basic projects.
2. Get students to work in groups of two, so they can support each other. Get one student to write the code and the other to check for errors.
3. Invite sixth-formers or Year 11 students to support younger learners, and try letting students run a session, or part of one.
4. Ask students for ideas for new projects. This will help you to evolve the club.
5. Praise resilience. If a student spends 30 minutes coding and the program fails, focus on what they have learned from the experience.