Blog Post

They Loved Coding! Now What??

In a previous blog post, I wrote about my path to becoming a teacher of computer science and provided some tips to educators finding themselves in a similar situation of being “volun-told” to teach CS. After starting with coding, my students progressed quickly through their lessons. Now I had to figure out how to keep them engaged! Upon attending a NSTA conference, I was introduced to the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) STEM Kits program.

The CAP program came with a plethora of benefits, but most important to me was access to the STEM Kits in exchange for a review and photos of my students using the kits. I could see each available kit being beneficial to my students and was torn about which choice to make. Ultimately, I chose the Raspberry Pi kit (I had no experience with Raspberry Pi).

picture of Civil Air Patrol STEM kit

 

Weeks passed and in the day-to-day of teaching, I forgot about the kit request. Upon receiving the box of supplies, I found myself at a loss on how to proceed. But my students were still moving through the lessons at a rapid pace. So, as most teachers do, I sought out professional development. I learned that the Raspberry Pi Foundation offered a professional development course, Picademy, that allowed educators to become Raspberry Pi-certified educators I signed up and was ecstatic to learn I would be able to attend.

If you give an educator (or a student) a Raspberry Pi… chances are, they are going to want some peripherals like hardware attached on top and other bells and whistles to add to the functionality. Don’t get me wrong, the Pi is a fully functional machine when attached to a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse. For less than the cost of the tennis shoes that my teenager covets, the Raspberry Pi has the functionality of a computer. But it’s the innumerable opportunities presented by the device with additional accessories that make Raspberry Pi a standout. The accessories entice the user to learn and explore in depth. It was in this realization that the real fun began. My students and I launched a Code Club using guidance from the Raspberry Pi codeclub.org website.

One of the best features of the Code Club site is that students can pursue projects based upon interest and access to other programs. While all student pairs had access to a Raspberry Pi or a laptop, we had a limited number of teacher-financed peripherals. With a limited supply of peripherals, students had other projects to work on if the peripherals (usually the Sense Hat) were unavailable to them.

My students soon were able to work independently while accomplishing their goals. Incorporating physical computing activities helped them connect their coding with tangible items. Once this discovery was made, I struggled to keep up with the demand for more attachments and materials. Parents then chipped in and by the end of the first semester, we had enough materials for club pairs to complete the projects without waiting for another group to finish. My students created projects such as a smart mirror, a surveillance camera, and a dash cam that they entered in the Coolest Projects showcase.

What has been your experience with Raspberry Pi and its accessories? Please let me know in the comments!

CS for All Teachers Community Ambassador Yolanda Payne has been in love with computers since her parents bought a Tandy computer from Radio Shack. With over 21 years of education experience ranging from Pre-K to college, Yolanda hopes that her love of learning is the legacy left behind. As a Constellations Fellow at Georgia Institute of Technology, she assists teachers with implementing advanced CS courses in high schools. An avid Raspberry Pi user, Yolanda also hosts Girls Who Code and Code Club chapters at the middle school where she formerly taught.

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