All posts by Oliver Quinlan

What we are learning about learning

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/what-we-are-learning-about-learning/

Across Code Clubs, CoderDojos, Raspberry Jams, and all our other education programmes, we’re working with hundreds of thousands of young people. They are all making different projects and learning different things while they are making. The research team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation does lots of work to help us understand what exactly these young people learn, and how the adults and peers who mentor them share their skills with them.

Coolest Projects International 2018

Senior Research Manager Oliver Quinlan chats to participants at Coolest Projects 2018

We do our research work by:

  • Visiting clubs, Dojos, and events, seeing how they run, and talking to the adults and young people involved
  • Running surveys to get feedback on how people are helping young people learn
  • Testing new approaches and resources with groups of clubs and Dojos to try different ways which might help to engage more young people or help them learn more effectively

Over the last few months, we’ve been running lots of research projects and gained some fascinating insights into how young people are engaging with digital making. As well as using these findings to shape our education work, we also publish what we find, for free, over on our research page.

How do children tackle digital making projects?

We found that making ambitious digital projects is a careful balance between ideas, technology, and skills. Using this new understanding, we will help children and the adults that support them plan a process for exploring open-ended projects.

Coolest Projects USA 2018

Coolest Projects USA 2018

For this piece of research, we interviewed children and young people at last year’s Coolest Projects International and Coolest Projects UK , asking questions about the kinds of projects they made and how they created them. We found that the challenge they face is finding a balance between three things: the ideas and problems they want to address, the technologies they have access to, and their skills. Different children approached their projects in different ways, some starting with the technology they had access to, others starting with an idea or with a problem they wanted to solve.

Achieving big ambitions with the technology you have to hand while also learning the skills you need can be tricky. We’re planning to develop more resources to help young people with this.

Coolest Projects International 2018

Research Assistant Lucia Florianova learns about Rebel Girls at Coolest Projects International 2018

We also found out a lot about the power of seeing other children’s projects, what children learn, and the confidence they develop in presenting their projects at these events. Alongside our analysis, we’ve put together some case studies of the teams we interviewed, so people can read in-depth about their projects and the stories of how they created them.

Who comes to Code Club?

In another research project, we found that Code Clubs in schools are often diverse and cater well for the communities the schools serve; Code Club is not an exclusive club, but something for everyone.

Code Club Athens

Code Clubs are run by volunteers in all sorts of schools, libraries, and other venues across the world; we know a lot about the spaces the clubs take place in and the volunteers who run them, but less about the children who choose to take part. We’ve started to explore this through structured visits to clubs in a sample of schools across the West Midlands in England, interviewing teachers about the groups of children in their club. We knew Code Clubs were reaching schools that cater for a whole range of communities, and the evidence of this project suggests that the children who attend the Code Club in those schools come from a range of backgrounds themselves.

Scouts Raspberry Pi

Photo c/o Dave Bird — thanks, Dave!

We found that in these primary schools, children were motivated to join Code Club more because the club is fun rather than because the children see themselves as people who are programmers. This is partly because adults set up Code Clubs with an emphasis on fun: although children are learning, they are not perceiving Code Club as an academic activity linked with school work. Our project also showed us how Code Clubs fit in with the other after-school clubs in schools, and that children often choose Code Club as part of a menu of after-school clubs.

Raspberry Jam

Visitors to Pi Towers Raspberry Jam get hands-on with coding

In the last few months we’ve also published insights into how Raspberry Pi Certified Educators are using their training in schools, and into how schools are using Raspberry Pi computers. You can find our reports on all of these topics over at our research page.

Thanks to all the volunteers, educators, and young people who are finding time to help us with their research. If you’re involved in any of our education programmes and want to take part in a research project, or if you are doing your own research into computing education and want to start a conversation, then reach out to us via [email protected].

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Sync modular synths and electronic instruments with a DIY kit

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/eurorack-modular-synth-spink0/

The Raspberry Pi community is wonderfully collaborative, with people all over the world supporting each other to make things they care about. It’s part of a much wider maker movement, and a new project from seismic industries, called spink0, brings the power of Raspberry Pi to another DIY community in the music world: modular synthesizer enthusiasts.

spink0 Raspberry Pi Zero W eurorack modular synth

Modular synths

Modular synthesizers are dedicated machines for creating and controlling electrically generated sounds. Unlike the ubiquitous electronic keyboards, they don’t offer pre-set sounds. Instead, they allow players to deeply manipulate the nature of sounds: by connecting different modules with each other via cables, players use signals from one module to affect and alter the sounds from another, and generally get very creative with not just the musical notes but the sound itself.

MOTM modular - Synth patch for second commission (by Charles Hutchins)

A low to middling number of cables

Modular synths have seen a huge growth in popularity in the last few years. This year’s BBC Proms even featured an improvised modular synthesizer performance in the Royal Albert Hall.

Recent developments in technology, and enterprising module creators, have made these machines much more accessible, largely through a modular synth format called eurorack. A thriving DIY community has also grown, with people assembling their own modular synths using kits or even building their own modules from scratch.

spink0 syncs music

Enter the Raspberry Pi Zero W, just the right size for adding sophisticated computing power to a eurorack module. The spink0 eurorack module uses the power of a Zero W to allow musicians to keep their eurorack synth music in time with music created with more common electronic instruments like drum machines and computers. The Zero W connects to a wireless network and uses the Ableton Link protocol to share timing information across this network. It converts this digital data into the analogue square wave clock pulses that modular synths use for musical timing.

spink-0 jam with launchpad and ableton

jam with spink-0. launchpad, the two spinks and ableton are synchronized with their integrated LINK protocol via a WLAN accesspoint provided by the 2nd spink module. Tempochange in Ableton at 0:37

With spink0, seismic industries have developed shaduzLABS’ original prototype pink-0 into an open-source DIY kit including PCBs and a panel that rather neatly integrate a Pi Zero into a eurorack module (a CLK/RST generator, to be exact).

spink0 PCBs — Raspberry Pi Zero W eurorack module.

The PCBs that seismic industries designed for spink0

Pi-powered electronic music jam sessions

This opens up a whole world of jamming potential to musicians who use these esoteric machines to make their sounds. A group of electronic musicians can get together, connect over a wireless network, and improvise ideas, all kept in time across the network. Thanks to spink0, eurorack synths can coexist with computers and even iPads and other tablets.

spink0 Raspberry Pi Zero W eurorack modular synth

spink0 without its top panel

Now anyone can link their modular synth with other music machines and computers for collaborative jams! Seismic industries offer the DIY kit, plus full instructions and code, so you can solder yours at home, or you can buy spink0 preassembled if you wish.

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Our 2017 Annual Review

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/annual-review-2017/

Each year we take stock at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, looking back at what we’ve achieved over the previous twelve months. We’ve just published our Annual Review for 2017, reflecting on the progress we’ve made as a foundation and a community towards putting the power of digital making in the hands of people all over the world.

In the review, you can find out about all the different education programmes we run. Moreover, you can hear from people who have taken part, learned through making, and discovered they can do things with technology that they never thought they could.

Growing our reach

Our reach grew hugely in 2017, and the numbers tell this story.

By the end of 2017, we’d sold over 17 million Raspberry Pi computers, bringing tools for learning programming and physical computing to people all over the world.

Vibrant learning and making communities

Code Club grew by 2964 clubs in 2017, to over 10000 clubs across the world reaching over 150000 9- to 13-year-olds.

“The best moment is seeing a child discover something for the first time. It is amazing.”
– Code Club volunteer

In 2017 CoderDojo became part of the Raspberry Pi family. Over the year, it grew by 41% to 1556 active Dojos, involving nearly 40000 7- to 17-year-olds in creating with code and collaborating to learn about technology.

Raspberry Jams continued to grow, with 18700 people attending events organised by our amazing community members.



Supporting teaching and learning

We reached 208 projects in our online resources in 2017, and 8.5 million people visited these to get making.

“I like coding because it’s like a whole other language that you have to learn, and it creates something very interesting in the end.”
– Betty, Year 10 student

2017 was also the year we began offering online training courses. 19000 people joined us to learn about programming, physical computing, and running a Code Club.



Over 6800 young people entered Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab, 2017’s two Astro Pi challenges. They created code that ran on board the International Space Station or will run soon.

More than 600 educators joined our face-to-face Picademy training last year. Our community of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators grew to 1500, all leading digital making across schools, libraries, and other settings where young people learn.

Being social

Well over a million people follow us on social media, and in 2017 we’ve seen big increases in our YouTube and Instagram followings. We have been creating much more video content to share what we do with audiences on these and other social networks.

The future

It’s been a big year, as we continue to reach even more people. This wouldn’t be possible without the amazing work of volunteers and community members who do so much to create opportunities for others to get involved. Behind each of these numbers is a person discovering digital making for the first time, learning new skills, or succeeding with a project that makes a difference to something they care about.

You can read our 2017 Annual Review in full over on our About Us page.

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Creative computing at Eastwood Academy

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/creative-computing-at-eastwood-academy/

It’s nearly two years since Computing became a subject for all children in England to study, and we’re now seeing some amazing work to bring opportunities for digital making into schools. Recently I visited Eastwood Academy in Southend-on-Sea, where teacher Lucas Abbot has created a digital making room, and built a community of young programmers and makers there.
Photo 14-06-2016, 12 51 38

Lucas trained as a physics teacher and got hold of a Raspberry Pi for projects at home back in 2012. His head teacher heard about his hobby, and when the move towards all children learning programming started, Lucas was approached to take up the challenge of developing the new subject of Computing in the school. With the help of friends at the local Raspberry Jam, Linux user group, and other programming meetups, he taught himself the new curriculum and set about creating an environment in which young people could take a similarly empowered approach.

In Year 7, students start by developing an understanding of what a computer is; it’s a journey that takes them down memory lane with their parents, discussing the retro technology of their own childhoods. Newly informed of what they’re working with, they then move on to programming with the Flowol language, moving to Scratch, Kodu and the BBC micro:bit. In Year 8 they get to move on to the Raspberry Pi, firing up the fifteen units Lucas has set up in collaborative workstations in the middle of the room. By the time the students choose their GCSE subjects at the end of Year 8, they have experienced programming a variety of HATs, hacking Minecraft to run games they have invented, and managing a Linux system themselves.
Photo 14-06-2016, 10 02 44

Fifteen Raspberry Pi computers have been set up in the centre of the room, at stations specifically designed to promote collaboration. While the traditional PCs around the edges of the room are still used, it was the Pi stations where pupils were most active, connecting things for their projects, and making together. A clever use of ceiling-mounted sockets, and some chains for health and safety reasons, has allowed these new stations to be set up at a low cost.

The teaching is based on building a firm foundation in each area studied, before giving students the chance to invent, build, and hack their own projects. I spent a whole day at the school; I found the environment to be entirely hands-on, and filled with engaged and excited young people learning through making. In one fabulous project two girls were setting up a paper rocket system, propelled using compressed air with a computer-based countdown system. Problem-solving and learning through failure are part of the environment too. One group spent a session trying to troubleshoot a HAT-mounted display that wasn’t quite behaving as they wanted it to.

Lessons were impressive, but even more so was the lunchtime making club which happens every single day. About 30 young people rushed into the room at lunchtime and got started with projects ranging from figuring out how to program a robot Mr Abbot had brought in, to creating the IKEA coffee table arcade machines from a recent MagPi tutorial.
Photo 14-06-2016, 13 04 41

I had a great conversation with one female student who told me how she had persuaded her father to buy a Raspberry Pi, and then taught him how to use it. Together, they got inspired to create a wood-engraving machine using a laser. Lunchtime clubs are often a place for socialising, but there was a real sense of purpose here too, of students coming together to achieve something for themselves.

Since 2014 most schools in England have had lessons in computing, but Eastwood Academy has also been building a community of young digital makers. They’re linking their ambitious lessons with their own interests and aspirations, building cool projects, learning lots, and having fun along the way. We’d love to hear from other schools that are taking such an ambitious approach to computing and digital making.

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Raspberry Pi, Preserving Digital Heritage

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pis-preserving-digital-heritage/

The Raspberry Pi computer was inspired by the machines of the 80s, which were used interchangeably for programming and gaming. In fact, many of you will remember typing in the pages of code from a magazine to make a game. Some people used them as a basis on which to build their own games, taking the early steps into what has become an important industry.

Micro User magazine was an important part of the early computing education of a lot of people who work at Raspberry Pi. Mike Cook, who now writes for our official magazine, The MagPi, was author of the monthly Body Building feature.

In the 1980s, Micro User magazine was an important part of the early computing education of a lot of people who now work at Raspberry Pi. Mike Cook, who now writes for our official magazine, The MagPi, was author of the monthly Body Building hardware feature.

Nowadays, computer games are a crucial part of our cultural history. We see this in the enthusiasm for retro games projects that people create with our computers.

A trip down 8-bit memory lane is a lot of fun, but there’s a serious side to the preservation of games too. The games and machines that inspired a generation of digital creatives are old and obsolete. There will soon come a time when they no longer work; a lot of work is done by organisations like the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge to preserve old hardware, but it’s an uphill battle against the moulds that find the medium inside floppy discs so attractive, the leakage of electrolytic capacitors, tin whiskers developing in solder, and a million and one other sorts of entropy. In the future, there could be no way to revisit this part of our culture in the same way we can with books and objects without the work of archivists and historians.

A tiny part of the Centre for Computing History's collection on display

A tiny part of the Centre for Computing History’s collection on display

The cultural side of games is clear in the way they represent real places. The Museum of London are exploring this with an exhibit of representations of London in games. The earliest example is in 1982 text-based adventure game Streets of London for the ZX Spectrum; more recent ones include Tomb Raider III and Broken Sword.

Streets of London

You can’t understand a game by looking at it in a museum case: it has to be experienced. The museum collection includes ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 machines, but the curators found that these old computers were not robust enough for ‘hands-on’ exhibits. Long load times from cassettes, 30-year-old worn keyboards and obsolete monitor connections all hampered their efforts.

Step up the Raspberry Pi, and the resources for retro gaming provided by RetroPie and the many emulators it supports. This seems appropriate, given that the Pi is the inheritor of the DIY ethos of these early games machines. All the interactive exhibits are powered by Raspberry Pis, emulating Spectrums, Commodore 64s, and even a Windows 95 PC.

Commodore 64 emulator

What’s on-screen is only part of the experience, so the exhibits also have authentic input devices. Adventure game commands are typed (and mis-typed) into the squashy rubber-membrane keys of an adapted Spectrum keyboard. Platform antics are controlled with a C64-like joystick (instinctive flailing of the controller to make characters jump higher is optional). Even the original manuals are included, as referring to them was so often an important part of the experience.

Spectrum keyboard

As custodians of cultural history, it’s also important that the museum uses the right processes to preserve the games. They have acquired copies of games on the original cassettes and disks, and carefully transferred them to modern media. This is important for copyright, to ensure the authenticity of the code, and for the completeness of the collection.

It’s easy to forget that games are important historical artefacts. They tell us about past experiences, and the way they represent places and events is a part of our cultural history. Although digital artefacts are quickly obsolete, people are going to great lengths to develop ways of preserving them for generations to come.

Seeing representations of London in video games alongside the art, objects and literature in the collection at the Museum of London shows just how much a part of life digital objects are now. It also shows how the history of the early video games era is being passed on through the Raspberry Pi. It’s not just inspiring a new generation of digital creatives. It’s also helping us all to remember and understand our digital heritage.

London in Video Games is on display at The Museum of London until the end of April, and the museum plans to continue to explore digital preservation and games emulation. We know there are lots of people in our community with expertise in emulation and archiving of retro games: let us know in the comments if you might be able to lend your expertise to projects like this.

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