Although artificial intelligence (AI) was once the province of science fiction, these days you’re very likely to hear the term in relation to new technologies, whether that’s facial recognition, medical diagnostic tools, or self-driving cars, which use AI systems to make decisions or predictions.
By the end of this free online course, you will have an appreciation for what goes into machine learning and artificial intelligence systems — and why you should think carefully about what comes out.
Machine learning — a brief overview
You’ll also often hear about AI systems that use machine learning (ML). Very simply, we can say that programs created using ML are ‘trained’ on large collections of data to ‘learn’ to produce more accurate outputs over time. One rather funny application you might have heard of is the ‘muffin or chihuahua?’ image recognition task.
More precisely, we would say that a ML algorithm builds a model, based on large collections of data (the training data), without being explicitly programmed to do so. The model is ‘finished’ when it makes predictions or decisions with an acceptable level of accuracy. (For example, it rarely mistakes a muffin for a chihuahua in a photo.) It is then considered to be able to make predictions or decisions using new data in the real world.
It’s important to understand AI and ML — especially for educators
But how does all this actually work? If you don’t know, it’s hard to judge what the impacts of these technologies might be, and how we can be sure they benefit everyone — an important discussion that needs to involve people from across all of society. Not knowing can also be a barrier to using AI, whether that’s for a hobby, as part of your job, or to help your community solve a problem.
To help you understand the fundamentals of AI and ML, we’ve put together a free online course: Introduction to Machine Learning and AI. Over four weeks in two hours per week, you’ll learn how machine learning can be used to solve problems, without going too deeply into the mathematical details. You’ll also get to grips with the different ways that machines ‘learn’, and you will try out online tools such as Machine Learning for Kids and Teachable Machine to design and train your own machine learning programs.
What types of problems and tasks are AI systems used for?
As well as finding out how these AI systems work, you’ll look at the different types of tasks that they can help us address. One of these is classification — working out which group (or groups) something fits in, such as distinguishing between positive and negative product reviews, identifying an animal (or a muffin) in an image, or spotting potential medical problems in patient data.
You’ll also learn about other types of tasks ML programs are used for, such as regression (predicting a numerical value from a continuous range) and knowledge organisation (spotting links between different pieces of data or clusters of similar data). Towards the end of the course you’ll dive into one of the hottest topics in AI today: neural networks, which are ML models whose design is inspired by networks of brain cells (neurons).
Before an ML program can be trained, you need to collect data to train it with. During the course you’ll see how tools from statistics and data science are important for ML — but also how ethical issues can arise both when data is collected and when the outputs of an ML program are used.
By the end of the course, you will have an appreciation for what goes into machine learning and artificial intelligence systems — and why you should think carefully about what comes out.
Sign up to the course today, for free
The Introduction to Machine Learning and AI course is open for you to sign up to now. Sign-ups will pause after 12 December. Once you sign up, you’ll have access for six weeks. During this time you’ll be able to interact with your fellow learners, and before 25 October, you’ll also benefit from the support of our expert facilitators. So what are you waiting for?
As part of our research on computing education, we would like to find out about educators’ views on machine learning. Before you start the course, we will ask you to complete a short survey. As a thank you for helping us with our research, you will be offered the chance to take part in a prize draw for a £50 book token!
Learn more about AI, its impacts, and teaching learners about them
To develop your computing knowledge and skills, you might also want to:
If you are a teacher in England, you can develop your teaching skills through the National Centre for Computing Education, which will give you free upgrades for our courses (including Introduction to Machine Learning and AI) so you’ll receive certificates and unlimited access.
Your brand-new issue of the free Hello World magazine for computing educators focuses on all things health and well-being, featuring useful tools for educators, great ideas for schools, and inspiring projects, ideas, and resources from teachers around the world!
In 2018, Indonesia burned approximately 529,000 hectares of land. That’s an area more than three times the size of Greater London, or almost the size of Brunei. With so much forest being burned, the whole region felt the effects of the pollution. Schools frequently had to ban outdoor play and PE lessons, and on some days schools were closed completely. Many schools in the region had an on-site CO2 detector to know when pollution was bad, but by the time the message could get out, children had already been breathing in the polluted air for several minutes.
My Year 12 students (aged 16–17) followed the news and weather forecasts intently, and we all started to see how the winds from Singapore and Sumatra were sending pollution to us in Kuala Lumpur. We also realised that if we had measurements from around the city, we might have some visibility as to when pollution was likely to affect our school.
Making room for student-led projects
I’ve always encouraged my students to do their own projects, because it gives programming tasks meaning and creates something that they can be genuinely proud of. The other benefit is that it is something to talk about in university essays and interviews, especially as they often need to do extensive research to solve the problems central to their projects.
This project was […] a genuine passion project in every sense of the word.
This project was much more than this: it was a genuine passion project in every sense of the word. Three of my students approached me with the idea of tracking CO2 to give schools a better idea of when there was pollution and which way it was going. They had had some experience of using Raspberry Pi computers, and knew that it was possible to use them to make weather stations, and that the latest versions had wireless LAN capability that they could use. I agreed to support them during allocated programming time, and to help them reach out to other schools.
I was able to offer students support with this project because I flip quite a lot of the theory in my class. Flipped learning is a teaching approach in which some direct instruction, for example reading articles or watching specific videos, is done at home. This enables more class time to be used to answer questions, work through higher-order tasks, or do group work, and it creates more supervised coding time.
I was able to offer students support with this project because I flip quite a lot of the theory in my class.
I initially started doing this because when I set coding challenges for homework, I often had students who confessed they spent all night trying to solve it, only for me to glance at the code and notice a missing colon or indentation issue. I began flipping the less difficult theory for students to do as homework, to create more programming time in class where we could resolve issues more quickly. This then evolved into a system where students could work much more at their own pace and eventually led to a point at which older students could, in effect, learn through their own projects, such as the pollution monitor.
Check out issue 17 of Hello World to read the rest of James’s article and find out all the details about the hardware and software his students used for this passion project. He says:
This project really helped these students to decide whether they enjoyed the hardware side of computing, and solving real-world issues really encouraged them to see computing as a practical subject. This is a message that has really resonated with other students, and we’ve since doubled the number of students taking A level computer science.
Download the new Hello World for free!
Issue 17 of Hello World is bursting with inspiring ideas for teaching your learners about computing in the context of health and well-being. And you’ll find lots more great content in its 100 pages!
James’s article is also a wonderful example of an educator empowering their students to build a tech project they care about. You’ll discover more insights and practical tips on making computing relevant to all your learners in the following articles of the new Hello World issue:
Inspiring Young People With Contexts They Care About
Computing for all: Designing a Culturally Relevant Curriculum
Going Back to Basics: Part 2 — a follow-on from issue 16 about how to take beginner digital makers through their first physical computing projects
Download the new issue of Hello World for free today:
On the occasion of Black History Month UK, we speak to Lynda Chinaka, Senior Lecturer in Computing in Education at the University of Roehampton, about her experiences in computing education, her thoughts about underrepresentation of Black students in the subject, and her ideas about what needs to be done to engage more Black students.
Lynda, to start us off, can you share your thoughts about Black History Month?
Black history is a really important topic, obviously, and I think that, when Black History Month was first introduced, it was very powerful — and it continues to be in certain places. But I think that, for where we are as a society, it’s time to move past talking about Black history for only one month of the year, albeit an important, focused celebration. And certainly that would include integrating Black history and Black figures across subjects in school. That would be a very useful way to celebrate the contributions that Black people have made, and continue to make, to society. Children need to be taught a history in which they are included and valued. Good history is always a matter of different perspectives. Too often in schools, children experience a single perspective.
Please tell me a bit about your own history: how did you come to computing education as a field? What were the support or barriers you encountered?
In terms of my journey, I’ve always been passionate about Computing — formerly ICT. I’ve been a Computing subject lead in schools, moving on into senior management. Beyond my career in schools, I have worked as an ICT consultant and as a Teacher Leader for a London authority. During that time, my interest in Computing/ICT led me to undertake an MA in Computing in Education at King’s College London. This led me to become a teacher trainer in my current role. In some sense, I’m carrying on the work I did with the local authorities, but in a university setting. At the University of Roehampton, I teach computing to BA Primary Education and PGCE students. Training teachers is something that I’m very much interested in. It’s about engaging student teachers, supporting them in developing their understanding of Computing in the primary phases. Students learn about the principles of computing, related learning theories, and how children think and learn. Perhaps more importantly, I am keen to instil a love of the subject and broaden their notions about computing.
In terms of the support I’ve received, I’ve worked in certain schools where Computing was really valued by the Headteacher, which enabled me to promote my vision for the subject. Supportive colleagues made a difference in their willingness take on new initiatives that I presented. I have been fortunate to work in local authorities that have been forward-thinking; one school became a test bed for Computing. So in that sense, schools have supported me. But as a Black person, a Black woman in particular, I would say that I faced barriers throughout my career. And those barriers have been there since childhood. In the Black community, people experience all sorts of things, and prejudice and barriers have been at play in my career.
Prejudice sometimes is very overt. An example I think I can share because it prevented me from getting a job: I went for an interview in a school. It was a very good interview, the Headteacher told me, “It was fantastic, you’re amazing, you’re excellent,” the problem was that there weren’t “enough Black pupils”, so she “didn’t see the need…”. And this is a discussion that was shared with me. Now in 2021 a Headteacher wouldn’t say that, but let’s just wind the clock back 15 years. These are the kinds of experiences that you go through as a Black teacher.
So what happens is, you tend to build up a certain resilience. People’s perceptions and low expectations of me have been a hindrance. This can be debilitating. You get tired of having to go through the same thing, of having to overcome negativity. Yes, I would say this has limited my progress. Obviously, I am speaking about my particular experiences as a Black woman, but I would say that these experiences are shared by many people like me.
But it’s my determination and the investment I’ve made that has resulted in me staying in the field. And a source of support for me is always Black colleagues, they understand the issues that are inherent within the profession.
Black students are underrepresented in Computing as a subject. Drawing on your own work and experiences, could you share your thoughts about why that’s the case?
There need to be more Black teachers, because children need to see themselves represented in schools. As a Black teacher, I know that I have made a difference to Black children in my class who had a Black role model in front of them. When we talk about the poor performance of Black pupils, we need to be careful not to blame them for the failures of the education system. Policy makers, Headteachers, teachers, and practitioners need to be a lot more self-aware and examine the impact of racism in education. People need to examine their own policies and practice, especially people in positions of power.
A lot of collective work needs to be done.
Some local authorities do better than others, and some Headteachers I’ve worked with have been keen to build a diverse staff team. Black people are not well-represented at all in education. Headteachers need to be more proactive about their staff teams and recruitment. And they need to encourage Black teachers to go for jobs in senior management.
In all settings I taught in, no matter how many students of colour there were, these students would experience something in my classroom that their white counterparts had experienced all their lives: they would leave their home and come to school and be taught by someone who looks like them and perhaps speaks the same language as them. It’s enormously affirming for children to have that experience. And it’s important for all children actually, white children as well. Seeing a Black person teaching in the classroom, in a position of power or influence — it changes their mindset, and that ultimately changes perspectives.
So in terms of that route into Computing, Black students need to see themselves represented.
Why do you think it’s important to teach young people about Computing?
It’s absolutely vital to teach children about Computing. As adults, they are going to participate in a future that we know very little about, so I think it’s important that they’re taught computer science approaches, problem solving and computational thinking. So children need to be taught to be creators and not simply passive users of technology.
One of the things some of my university students say is, “Oh my goodness, I can’t teach Computing, all the children know much more than me.”, but actually, that’s a little bit of a myth, I think. Children are better at using technologies than solving computing problems. They need to learn a range of computational approaches for solving problems. Computing is a life skill; it is the future. We saw during the pandemic the effects of digital inequity on pupils.
What do you think needs to change in computing education, the tech sector, or elsewhere in order to engage more Black students in Computing?
In education, we need to look at the curriculum and how to decolonise it to really engage young people. This also includes looking out for bias and prejudice in the things that are taught. Even when you’re thinking about specific computer science topics. So for example, the traditional example for algorithm design is making a cup of tea. But tea is a universal drink, it originates in China, and as a result of colonialism made its way to India and Kenya. So we drink tea universally, but the method (algorithm) for making tea doesn’t necessarily always include a china tea pot or a tea bag. There are lots of ways to introduce it, thinking about how it’s prepared in different cultures, say Kenya or the Punjab, and using that as a basis for developing children’s algorithmic thinking. This is culturally relevant. It’s about bringing the interests and experiences children have into the classroom.
For children to be engaged in Computing, there needs to be a payoff for them. For example, I’ve seen young people developing their own African emojis. They need to see a point to it! They don’t necessarily have to become computer scientists or software engineers, but Computing should be an avenue that opens for them because they can see it as something to further their own aims, their own causes. Young people are very socially and politically aware. For example, Black communities are very aware of the way that climate change affects the Global South and could use data science to highlight this. Many will have extended family living in these regions that are affected now.
So you don’t compromise on the quality of your teaching, and it require teachers to be more reflective. There is no quick fix. For example, you can’t just insert African masks into a lesson without exploring their meaning in real depth within the culture they originate from.
So in your Computing or Computer Science lessons, you need to include topics young people are interested in: climate change, discrimination, algorithms and algorithmic bias in software, surveillance and facial recognition. Social justice topics are close to their hearts. You can get them interested in AI and data science by talking about the off-the-shelf datasets that Big Tech uses, and about what impact these have in terms of surveillance and on minority communities specifically.
Can you talk a bit about the different terms used to describe this kind of approach to education, ‘culturally relevant teaching’ and ‘decolonising the curriculum’?
‘Culturally relevant’ is easier to sit with. ‘Decolonising the curriculum’ provokes a reaction, but it’s really about teaching children about histories and perspectives on curricula that affect us all. We need to move towards a curriculum that is fit for purpose where children are taught different perspectives and truth that they recognise. Even if you’re in a school without any Black children at all, the curriculum still needs to be decolonised so that children can actually understand and benefit from the many ways that topics, events, subjects may be taught.
When we think about learning in terms of being culturally relevant and responsive, this is about harnessing children’s heritage, experiences, and viewpoints to engage learners such that the curriculum is meaningful and includes them. The goal here is to promote long-term and consistent engagement with Computing.
What is being missed by current initiatives to increase diversity and Black students’ engagement?
Diversity initiatives are a good step, but we need to give it time.
The selection process for subjects at GCSE can sometimes affect the uptake of computing. Then there are individual attitudes and experiences of pupils. It has been documented that Black and Asian students have often been in the minority and experience marginalisation, particularly noted in the case of female students in GCSE Computer Science.
ITE (Initial Teacher Education) providers need to consider their partnerships with schools and support schools to be more inclusive. We need more Black teachers, as I said. We also need to democratise pathways for young people getting into computing and STEM careers. Applying to university is one way — there should be others.
Schools could also develop partnerships with organisations that have their roots in the Black community. Research has also highlighted discriminatory practices in careers advice, and in the application and interview processes of Russell Group universities. These need to be addressed.
There are too few Black academics at universities. This can have an impact on student choice and decisions about whether to attend an institution or not. Institutions may seem unwelcoming or unsympathetic. Higher education institutions need to eliminate bias through feedback and measuring course take-up.
Outside the field of education, tech companies could offer summer schemes, short programmes to stimulate interest amongst young Black people. Really, the people in leadership positions, all the people with the power, need to be proactive.
A lot of collective work needs to be done. It’s a whole pipeline, and everybody needs to play a part.
What in your mind is a key thing right now that people in computing education who want to engage more Black students should do?
You can present children with Black pioneers in computing and tech. They can show Black children how to achieve their goals in life through computing. For example, create podcasts or make lists with various organisations that use data science to further specific causes.
It’s not a one-off, one teacher thing, it’s a project for the whole school.
Also, it’s not a one-off, one teacher thing, it’s project for the whole school. You need to build it into a whole curriculum map, do all the things you do to build a new curriculum map: get every teacher to contribute, so they take it on, own it, research it, make those links to the national curriculum so it’s relevant. Looking at it in isolation it’s a problem, but it’s a whole school approach that starts as a working group. And it’s senior management that sets the tone, and they really need to be proactive, but you can start by starting a working group. It won’t be implemented overnight. A bit like introducing a school uniform. Do it slowly, have a pilot year group. Get parents in, have a coffee evening, get school governors on board. It’s a whole staff team effort.
People need to recognise the size of the problem and not be discouraged by the fact that things haven’t happened overnight. But people who are in a position of influence need to start by having those conversations, because that’s the only way that change can happen, quite frankly.
Lynda, thank you for sharing your insights with us!
Lynda was one of the advisors in the group we worked with to create our recently published, practical guide on culturally relevant teaching. You can download it as a free PDF now. We hope it will help you kickstart conversations in your setting.
The three panelists provided a stimulating discussion of some key issues in supporting young people in low-income areas in the UK, USA, and Guyana to engage with computing, and we hope their insights are of use to educators, youth workers, and organisations around the world.
The panellists and their perspectives
Our panellists represent three different countries, and all have experience of teaching in schools and/or working with young people outside of the formal education system. Because of the differences between countries in terms of access to computing, having this spread of expertise and contexts allowed the panelists to compare lessons learned in different sectors and locations.
Panelist Lenandlar Singh is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Guyana. In Guyana, there is a range of computing-related courses for high school students, and access to optional qualifications in computer science at A level (age 17–18).
Panelist Yolanda Payne is a Research Associate at the Constellations Center at Georgia Tech, USA. In the US, computing curricula differ across states, although there is some national leadership through associations, centres, and corporations.
Christina Watson is Assistant Director of Design at UK Youth*, UK. The UK has a mandatory computing curriculum for learners aged 5–18, although curricula vary across the four home nations (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland).
As the moderator, I posed the following three questions, which the panelists answered from their own perspectives and experiences:
What are the key challenges for young people to engage with computing in or out of school, and what have you done to overcome these challenges?
What do you see as the role of formal and non-formal learning opportunities in computing for these young people?
What have you learned that could help other people working with these young people and their communities in the future?
Similarities across contexts
One of the aspects of the discussion that really stood out was the number of similarities across the panellists’ different contexts.
The first of these similarities was the lack of access to computing amongst young people from low-income families, particularly in more rural areas, across all three countries. These access issues concerned devices and digital infrastructure, but also the types of opportunities in and out of school that young people were able to engage with.
Christina (UK) shared results from a survey conducted with Aik Saath, a youth organisation in the UK Youth network (see graphs below). The results highlighted that very few young people in low-income areas had access to their own device for online learning, and mostly their access was to a smartphone or tablet rather than a computer. She pointed out that youth organisations can struggle to provide access to computing not only due to lack of funding, but also because they don’t have secure spaces in which to store equipment.
Lenandlar (Guyana) and Christina (UK) also discussed the need to improve the digital skills and confidence of teachers and youth workers so they can support young people with their computing education. While Lenandlar spoke about recruitment and training of qualified computing teachers in Guyana, Christina suggested that it was less important for youth workers in the UK to become experts in the field and more important for them to feel empowered and confident in supporting young people to explore computing and understand different career paths. UK Youth found that partnering with organisations that provided technical expertise (such as us at the Raspberry Pi Foundation) allowed youth workers to focus on the broader support that the young people needed.
Both Yolanda (US) and Lenandlar (Guyana) discussed the restrictive nature of the computing curriculum in schools, agreeing with Christina (UK) that outside of the classroom, there was more freedom for young people to explore different aspects of computing. All three agreed that introducing more fun and relevant activities into the curriculum made young people excited about computing and reduced stereotypes and misconceptions about the discipline and career. Yolanda explained that using modern, real-life examples and role models was a key part of connecting with young people and engaging them in computing.
What can teachers do to support young people and their families?
The panellists also discussed the importance of partnering with other education settings, with tech companies, and with non-profit organisations to provide access to equipment and opportunities for students in schools that have limited budgets and capacity for computing. These links can also highlight key role models and help to build strong relationships in the community between businesses and schools.
What is the role of non-formal settings in low-income areas?
All of the panellists agreed that non-formal settings provided opportunities for further exploration and skill development outside of a strict curriculum. Christina (UK) particularly highlighted that these settings helped support young people and families who feel left behind by the education system, allowing them to develop practical skills and knowledge that can help their whole family. She emphasised the strong relationships that can be developed in these settings and how these can provide relatable role models for young people in low-income areas.
Tips and suggestions
After the presentation, the panelists responded to the audience’s questions with some practical tips and suggestions for engaging young people in low-income communities with computing:
How do you engage young people who are non-native English speakers with mainly English computing materials?
For curriculum materials, it’s possible to use Google Translate to allow students to access them. The software is not always totally accurate but goes some way to supporting these students. You can also try to use videos that have captioning and options for non-English subtitles.
We offer translated versions of our free online projects, thanks to a community of dedicated volunteer translators from around the world. Learners can choose from up to 30 languages (as shown in the picture below).
How do you set up partnerships with other organisations?
Follow companies on social media and share how you are using their products or tools, and how you are aligned with their goals. This can form the basis of future partnerships.
When you are actively applying for partnerships, consider the following points:
What evidence do you have that you need support from the potential partner?
What support are you asking for? This may differ across potential partners, so make sure your pitch is relevant and tailored to a specific partner.
What evidence could you use to show the impact you are already having or previous successful projects or partnerships?
Make use of our free training resources and guides
To help you support your learners in and out of school to engage with computing in ways that are meaningful and relevant for them, we recently published a guide on culturally relevant teaching.
We also support a worldwide network of volunteers to run CoderDojos, which are coding clubs for young people in local community spaces. Head over to the CoderDojo website to discover more about the free materials and help we’ve got for you.
We would like to thank our panellists Lenandlar Singh, Yolanda Payne, and Christina Watson for sharing their time and expertise, and the Tapia conference organisers for providing a great platform to discuss issues of diversity, equality, and inclusion in computing.
*UK Youth is a leading charity working across the UK with an open network of over 8000 youth organisations. The charity has influence as a sector-supporting infrastructure body, a direct delivery partner, and a campaigner for social change.
I am delighted to announce the launch of raspberrypi.com — a new website dedicated to Raspberry Pi computers and associated technologies. Head on over to find all about our low-cost, high-performance PCs, add-on boards or HATs, microcontrollers, accessories, and much more.
As well as being able to learn about and purchase the full range of hardware products, on the new website you can download our latest software, find detailed technical documentation, connect with the community on the forums, and read the latest news about Raspberry Pi technologies and how they’re being used to change the world.
What’s changing at raspberrypi.org
This website (raspberrypi.org) will continue to be the home for the Raspberry Pi Foundation and all of our educational initiatives to help young people learn about computers and how to create with digital technologies.
When raspberrypi.org was first launched as a WordPress blog in 2011, we were talking about a low-cost, programmable computer that was being designed for education.
Fast-forward a decade, and we are now speaking about an increasingly broad range of technology and education products and services to industry, hobbyists, educators, researchers, and young people. While there is lots of overlap between those communities and their interests, it is becoming increasingly difficult to address everyone’s needs on one website. So this change is really all about making life easier for you.
We will continue to provide lots of links and connections between the two sites to make sure that you can easily find what you’re looking for. As ever, we’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.
Connect with us on our new social media channels
Alongside the changes to the websites, we’re also launching new social channels that are focused on the Foundation’s educational initiatives. We look forward to seeing you there.
Our mission at the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to help learners get creative with technology and develop the skills and confidence they need to make things that matter to them using code and physical computing. One of the ways in which we do this is by offering learners a catalogue of more than 250 free digital making projects! Some of them have been translated into 30 languages, and they can be used with or without a Raspberry Pi computer.
Over the last 18 months, we’ve been developing an all-new format for these educational projects, designed to better support young people who want to learn coding, whether at home or in a coding club, on their digital making journey.
Supporting learners to become independent tech creators
In the design process of the new project format, we combined:
Experience of what works in Code Clubs, CoderDojos, and other Raspberry Pi programmes
Feedback from the community
While designing the new format for our free projects, we found that, as well as support and opportunities to practise while acquiring new skills and knowledge, learners need a learning journey that lets them gradually develop and demonstrate increasing independence.
Therefore, each of our new learning paths is designed to scaffold learners’ success in the early stages, and then lets them build upon this learning by providing them with more open-ended tasks and inspirational ideas that learners can adapt or work from. Each learning path is made up of six projects, and the projects become less structured as learners progress along the path. This allows learners to practise their newly acquired skills and use their creativity and interests to make projects that matter to them. In this way, learners develop more and more independence, and when they reach the final project in the path, they are presented with a simple project brief. By this time they have the skills, practice, and confidence to meet this brief any way they choose!
The new content structure
When a learner is ready to develop a new set of coding skills, they choose one of our new paths to embark on. Each path is made up of three different types of projects in a 3-2-1 structure:
The first three Explore projects introduce learners to a set of skills and knowledge, and provide step-by-step instructions to help learners develop initial confidence. Throughout these projects, learners have lots of opportunity to personalise and tinker with what they’re creating.
The next two Design projects are opportunities for learners to practise the skills they learned in the previous Explore projects, and to express themselves creatively. Learners are guided through creating their own version of a type of project (such as a musical instrument, an interactive pet, or a website to support a local event), and they are given code examples to choose, combine, and customise. No new skills are introduced in these projects, so that learners can focus on practising and on designing and creating a project based on their own preferences and interests.
In the final one Invent project, learners focus on completing a project to meet a project brief for a particular audience. The project brief is written so that they can meet it using the skills they’ve learned by following the path up to this point. Learners are provided with reference material, but are free to decide which skills to use. They need to plan their project and decide on the order to carry out tasks.
As a result of working through a path, learners are empowered to make their own ideas and create solutions to situations they or their communities face, with increased independence. And in order to develop more skills, learners can work through more paths, giving them even more choice about what they create in the future.
More features for an augmented learning experience
We’ve also introduced some new features to add interactivity, choice, and authenticity to each project in a path:
Real-world info box-outs provide interesting and relevant facts about the skills and knowledge being taught.
Design decision points allow learners to make choices about how their project looks and what it does, based on their preferences and interests.
Debugging tips throughout each project give learners guidance for finding and fixing common coding mistakes.
Project reflection steps solidify new knowledge and provide opportunities for mastery by letting learners revisit the important learnings from the project. Common misconceptions are highlighted, and learners are guided to the correct answer.
At the start of each project, learners can interact with example creations from the community, and at the end of a project, they are encouraged to share what they’ve made. Thus, learners can find inspiration in the creations of their peers and receive constructive feedback on their own projects.
An open-ended upgrade step at the end of each project offers inspiration for young people to give them ideas for ways in which they could continue to improve upon their project in the future.
Today we’re announcing two brand-new, fantastic, free online courses for educators in the USA. And to kickstart their learning journey, we are giving qualified US-based educators the chance to get a free Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller hardware kit. This is all thanks to our partners at Infosys Foundation USA, who are committed to expanding access to computer science and maker education in public schools across the United States.
You can find both new courses on the Pathfinders Online Institute platform, which supports US classroom educators to bring high-quality computer science and maker education content to their kindergarten through 12th grade students. And best of all, the platform is completely free!
Learn how to teach the essentials of programming
The first course we’ve created for you is called Programming essentials in Scratch. It supports teachers to introduce the essentials of programming to fourth to eighth grade students. The course covers the key concepts of programming, such as variables, selection, and iteration. In addition to learning how to teach programming effectively, teachers will also discover how to inspire their students and help them create music, interactive quizzes, dance animations, and more.
Discover how to teach physical computing
Our second new course for you is called Design, build, and code a rover with Raspberry Pi Pico. It gives teachers of fourth to eighth grade students everything they need to start teaching physical computing in their classroom. Teachers will develop their students’ knowledge of the subject by using basic circuits, coding a Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller to work with motors and LEDs, and designing algorithms to navigate a rover through a maze. By the end of the course, teachers will have all the resources they need to inspire students and help them explore practical programming, system design, and prototyping.
Get one of 1,000 free hardware kits
And thanks to the generous support of Infosys Foundation USA, we’re able to provide qualified educators with a FREE kit of materials to participate in the Design, build, and code a rover with Raspberry Pi Pico course. We’re especially excited about this because the kit includes our first-ever microcontroller, Raspberry Pi Pico. This offer is available to 1,000 US-based K–12 public or charter school teachers on a first-come, first-served basis.
To claim your kit, just create a free account on Pathfinders Online Institute and start the course. On the first page of the course, you’ll receive instructions on how to apply for a free kit.
All of us at the Raspberry Pi Foundation want to thank the Infosys Foundation USA team for collaborating with us on this new resource and learning opportunity for educators. We appreciate and share their commitment to support computer science and maker education.
This time we are delighted to tell you that we’re upgrading the Raspberry Pi computers on the International Space Station (ISS) and adding new hardware to expand the range of experiments that young people can run in space!
What’s new with Astro Pi?
The first Astro Pi units were taken up to the ISS by British ESA astronaut Tim Peake in December 2015 as part of the Principia mission. Since then, 54000 young people from 26 countries have written code that has run on these specially augmented Raspberry Pi computers.
Working with our partners at the European Space Agency, we are now upgrading the Astro Pi units to include:
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with 8GB RAM
Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera
Google Coral machine learning accelerator
Colour and luminosity sensor
Passive infrared sensor
The units will continue to have a gyroscope; an accelerometer; a magnetometer; and humidity, temperature, and pressure sensors.
The new hardware makes it possible for teams to design new types of experiments. With the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera they can take sharper, more detailed images, and, for the first time, teams will be able to get full-colour photos of the beauty of Earth from space. This will also enable teams to investigate plant health thanks to the higher-quality optical filter in conjunction with the IR-sensitive camera. Using the Coral machine learning accelerator, teams will also be able to develop machine learning models that allow high-speed, real-time processing.
Getting into space
The Astro Pi units, in their space-ready cases of machined aluminium, will travel to the ISS in December on the SpaceX Dragon Cargo rocket, launching from Kennedy Space Center. Once the resupply vehicle docks with the ISS, the units will be unpacked and set up ready to run Astro Pi participants’ code in 2022.
Getting the units ready for launch has been a significant effort from lots of people. Once we worked with our friends at ESA to agree on the new features and hardware, we commissioned the design of the new case from Jon Wells. Manufacturing was made significantly more challenging by the pandemic, not least because we weren’t able to attend the factory and had to interact over video calls.
Once we had the case and hardware ready, we could take on the huge battery of tests that are required before any equipment can be used on the ISS. These included the vibration test, to ensure that the Astro Pi units would survive the rigours of the launch; thermal testing, to make sure that units wouldn’t get too hot to touch; and stringent, military-grade electromagnetic emissions and susceptibility tests to guarantee that the Astro Pi computers wouldn’t interfere with any ISS systems, and would not themselves be affected by other equipment that is on board the space station.
Huge thanks to Jon Wells and our collaborators at Airbus, Google, MidOpt, and Shearline Precision Engineering for everything they’ve done to get us to the point where we were able to ship the new Astro Pi units to the Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering Company (ALTEC) in Italy for final preparations before their launch.
There are two Astro Pi missions for young people to choose from: Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab. Young people can participate in one or both of the missions! Participation is free and open for young people up to age 19 in ESA member states (exceptions listed on the Astro Pi website).
In Mission Zero, young people write a simple Python program that takes a sensor reading and displays a message on the LED screen. This year, participation in Mission Zero also gives young people the opportunity to vote for the names of the two new computers. Mission Zero can be completed in around an hour and is open to anyone aged 7 to 19 years old. Every eligible entry is guaranteed to run on board the ISS and participants will receive an official certificate with the exact time and location of the ISS when their program ran.
Mission Zero opens today and runs until 18 March 2022.
Mission Space Lab is for teams of young people who want to run their own scientific experiments on the Astro Pi units aboard the ISS. It runs over eight months in four phases, from idea registration to data analysis.
Have a look at the winning teams from last year for amazing examples of what teams have investigated in the past. But remember — the new Astro Pi computers offer exciting new ways of investigating life in space and on Earth. We can’t wait to see what ideas participants come up with this year.
To start, Mission Space Lab team mentors just need to send us their team’s experiment idea by 29 October 2021.
Today we bring you the fourth film in our series of inspirational community stories! Incredible young people from the community have collaborated with us to create these videos, where they tell their tech stories in their own words.
Watch the new film to meet a “mischievous” tech creator who is helping other young people in his community to use technology to bring their ideas to life.
This is Toshan
Toshan’s story takes place in his hometown of Bangalore, India, where his love for electronics and computing sent him on a journey of tech discovery!
Toshan (16) first encountered coding aged 12, thanks to his computing teacher Miss Sonya. Describing his teacher, he says: “The unique thing is, she just doesn’t stop where the syllabus ends.” The world of digital making and Raspberry Pi computers that Miss Sonya introduced him to offered Toshan “limitless opportunities”, and he felt inspired to throw himself into learning.
“If we help people with their ideas, they might bring something new into the world.”
Having found help in his local community and the online Raspberry Pi Foundation community that enabled him to start his tech journey, Toshan decided to pass on his skills: he set up a CoderDojo for other young people in Bangalore when he was 14. Toshan says, “I wanted to give something back.” Mentoring others as they learn coding and digital making helped his confidence grow. Toshan loves supporting the learners at his Dojo with problem-solving because “if we help people with their ideas, they might bring something new into the world.”
Supported by his mum and dad, Toshan’s commitment to helping others create with technology is leading him to extend his community beyond the city he calls home. Through his YouTube channel, he reaches people outside of Bangalore, and he has connected with a worldwide community of like-minded young tech creators by taking part in Coolest Projects online 2020 with an automated hand sanitiser he built.
Toshan’s enthusiasm and love for tech are already motivating him to empower others, and he has only just begun! We are delighted to be a part of his journey and can’t wait to see what he does next.
While Federal funding programs focus on providing connectivity to students and staff, security is often an afterthought and reallocating funds to protect the network can become a challenge. We are excited to announce our Back to School initiative to further support our mission to provide performance and security with no trade-offs.
From start to finish, education customers will work with our dedicated Public Sector team, well-versed in the specific technical environments and business needs for K-12 districts. Your IT team will have access to 24/7/365 technical support, emergency response and support during under attack situations, and ongoing training to continuously help improve your security posture and business continuity plans.
Attacks Against K-12 Schools On The Rise
Public schools in the United States, especially K-12s, saw a record-breaking increase in cybersecurity attacks. The K-12 Cyber Incident Map cataloged 408 publicly-disclosed school incidents, including a wide range of cyber attacks; from data breaches to ransomware, phishing attacks, and denial-of-service attacks. This is an 18 percent increase over 2019 and continues the upward trend in attacks since the K-12 Cyber Incident Map started tracking incidents in 2016. To support our public education partners, Cloudflare has created a tailored onboarding experience to help education entities receive enterprise-level security services at an affordable price.
The public school system serves over 50 million students and employs nearly 6.7 million people, making it the largest industry by employment in the United States. This government-funded, free education system creates a market size of nearly $806 billion. Schools partner with technology companies for student resources and overall operations, and use SaaS applications and cloud deployments to control costs. Investing in these products and services allowed schools to transition to remote learning during the pandemic and continue educating students.
Despite their reliance on connectivity and technology, school districts rarely invest enough in cybersecurity to combat the high risk of attacks. Cybercriminals see public schools as ‘soft targets’ as they hold a lot of valuable data.
Ransomware attacks make data vulnerable to exposure and block access to a school district’s network. Baltimore County, Maryland schools experienced an attack in November 2020 that shut down schools for two days for 111,000 students, and cost the school system over $8 million to recover.
In September 2020, Toledo Public Schools in Ohio experienced a data breach by the Maze ransomware cartel. Maze posted 9 GB of compressed data that included sensitive student and employee data from at least 2008 to 2017. Less than six months later, in February 2021, parents received identity theft and credit fraud notifications involving their children.
Phishing attacks also continue to be a headache for K-12 school districts. The median amount stolen in attacks are \$2 million and, in 2020, \$9.8 million was stolen from a single school district.
Between the high rate of cybersecurity attacks in 2020 and into the first half of 2021, things are not slowing down, and education entities will continue to be targeted, whether it be directly or indirectly.
The Move to Modern
As it became a focus for K-12 Districts to modernize and move physical infrastructure into a more flexible, scalable solution, many school districts were looking for a way to offload DNS onto a cloud-based offering. Leveraging Cloudflare’s global anycast network, we’re able to provide a single management console to handle application needs: Managed DNS with built-in DNSSEC, DDoS mitigation, and Web Application Firewall. You can learn more on how Mount Pleasant School District in Texas consolidated their web assets in our case study.
Where The Need Has Shifted
The pandemic has exposed network security gaps in education, leaving a few main areas open to vulnerability — namely open/exposed ports that allow malicious actors to stay under the radar and end-of-life software that no longer receives security updates or bug fixes.
As attackers become more sophisticated, it has become imperative that districts implement comprehensive network layer solutions to prevent outages, data breaches, and other cyber-related incidents. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) released a Joint Cybersecurity Advisory that provides recommendations for K-12 for stopping threats and attacks.
How Cloudflare One Can Help
Cloudflare One is a network-as-a-service solution designed to replace a patchwork of appliances with a single network that provides cloud-based security, performance, and control through one user interface.
While districts may be receiving DDoS protection from their upstream ISP, there are a few common issues we see with this setup:
ISPs typically use the same commodity devices that were being deployed up to 20 years ago in data centers.
The devices are typically set up in an “on demand” fashion so that if you begin to experience a DDoS attack they will need to first be notified before assisting. In many cases, if that appliance is overloaded or unable to withstand the size or complexity of an attack, healthy traffic may be dropped as well.
There is limited visibility into the source of the attack and a lack of control around putting security measures in place for future incidents.
As compared to hardware boxes and on-premise appliances, Cloudflare’s service is “always on”. This means we’re agile and will proactively take action in the event of an attack, the time to mitigate is as small as possible, and you get the added benefit of other services being layered into the defense in depth strategy (DNS, CDN, WAF).
Within Cloudflare One, our Layer 3 DDos Mitigation solution called Magic Transit, has helped districts like Godwin Heights stay online by blocking hundreds of large DDoS attacks (just within the first few weeks!). Using anycast and BGP to announce your IP space, Cloudflare absorbs traffic destined for your network and mitigates DDoS attacks closest to the source, before sending the filtered traffic back to your network over low latency paths for fast performance.
Another focus during the pandemic has been supporting remote students and staff. This continues to challenge IT security as we think about how to not only keep our networks up and running, but how to protect students and staff while on the network from phishing attacks, malware, and ransomware.
Cloudflare for Teams is composed of Access and Gateway. Access pairs with identity management systems to protect all internal applications. Gateway is designed to secure access to the outbound Internet through DNS and URL filtering, SSL inspection, and file upload/download policies, which ultimately protects users from malware, phishing, and other security threats. This added layer of protection provides your users access to the applications they need without sacrificing security or performance.
Please inquire at [email protected] for our special Education K-12 Pricing. We look forward to supporting you.
In computing education, designing equitable and authentic learning experiences requires a conscious effort to take into account the characteristics of all learners and their social environments. Doing this allows teachers to address topics that are relevant to a diverse range of learners. To support computing and computer science teachers with this work, we’re now sharing a practical guide document for culturally responsive teaching in schools.
Making computing culturally relevant means that learners with a range of cultural identities will be able to identify with the examples chosen to illustrate computing concepts, to engage effectively with the teaching methods, and to feel empowered to use computing to address problems that are meaningful to them and their communities. This will enable a more diverse group of learners to feel that they belong in computing and encourage them to choose to continue with it as a discipline in qualifications and careers.
Such an approach can empower all our students and support their skills and understanding of the integral role that computing can play in promoting social justice.
Yota Dimitriadi, Associate Professor at the University of Reading, member of the project working group
To get the project off to the best start possible once we had assembled the working group, we first spent time drawing on research from the USA and discussing within the working group to come to a shared understanding of key terms:
Culture: A person’s knowledge, beliefs, and understanding of the world, which are affected by multiple personal characteristics, as well as social and economic factors.
Culturally relevant pedagogy: A framework for teaching that emphasises the importance of incorporating and valuing all learners’ knowledge, ways of learning, and heritage, and that promotes critical consciousness in teachers and learners.
Culturally responsive teaching: A range of teaching practices that draw on learners’ personal experiences and cultural identities to make learning more relevant to them, and that support the development of critical consciousness.
Social justice: The extent to which all members of society have a fair and equal chance to participate in all aspects of social life, develop to their full potential, contribute to society, and be treated as equals.
Equity: The extent to which different groups in society have access to particular activities or resources. To ensure that opportunities for access and participation are equal across different groups.
To bring in the voices of young people into the project, we asked teachers in the working group to consult with their learners to understand their perspectives on computing and how schools can engage more diverse groups of learners in elective computer science courses. The main reason that learners reported for being put off computing: complex or boring lessons of coding activities with a focus on theory rather than on practical outcomes. Many said that they were inspired by tasks such as producing their own games and suggested that early experiences in primary school and KS3 had been very important for their engagement in computing.
Curriculum, teaching approaches, and learning materials
The guide shows you that a culturally relevant pedagogy applies in three aspects of education, which we liken to a tree to indicate how these aspects connect to each other: the tree’s root system, the basis of culturally relevant pedagogy, is the focus of the curriculum; the tree’s trunk and branches are the teaching approaches taken to deliver the curriculum; the learning materials, represented by the tree’s crown of leaves, are the most widely visible aspect of computing lessons.
Each aspect plays an important role in culturally relevant pedagogy:
Within the curriculum, it is important to think about the contexts in which computing concepts are taught, and about you make connections with issues that are meaningful to your learners
Equitable teaching approaches, such as open-ended, inquiry-led activities and discussion-based collaborative tasks, are key if you want to provide opportunities for all your learners to express their ideas and their identities through computing
Finally, inclusive representations of a range of cultures, and making learning materials accessible, are both of great importance to ensure that all your learners feel that computing is relevant to them
You’ll find a lot more information, practical tips, and links to resources to support you to implement culturally relevant pedagogy in all these aspects of your teaching
The document links to different available curricula, and we have highlighted materials we’ve created for the Teach Computing Curriculum that promote key aspects of the approach
We’ve also included links to academic papers and books if you want to learn more, as well as to videos and courses that you can use for professional development
What was being part of the working group like?
One of the teachers who was part of the working group is Joe Arday from Woodbridge High School in Essex, UK. Joe originally worked in the technology sector and has been teaching computing for ten years. We asked him about his experience of being part of the project and how he plans to use the guide in his own classroom practice:
“It has been an absolute privilege to play a part in working towards producing the guide that my own children will be beneficiaries of when they are studying the computing curriculum throughout their education. I have been able to reflect on how to further improve my teaching practice and pedagogy to ensure that the curriculum taught is culturally diverse and caters for all learners that I teach. (Also, having the opportunity to work with academics from both the UK and US has made me think about becoming an academic in the field of computing at some point in the future!)”
Joe also says: “I plan to review the computing curriculum taught in my computing department and sit down with my colleagues to work on how we can implement the guide in our units of work for Key Stages 3 to 5. The guide will also help my department to work towards one of my school’s aims to encourage an anti-racism community and curriculum in my school.“
Continuing the work
We hope you find this resource useful for your own practice, and for conversations within your school and network of fellow educators! Please spread the word about the guide to anyone in your circles who you think might benefit.
We plan to keep working with learners on their perspectives on culturally relevant teaching, and to develop professional development opportunities for teachers, initially in conjunction with a small number of schools. As always with our research projects, we will investigate what works well and share all our findings widely and promptly.
Many thanks to the teachers and academics in the working group for being wonderful collaborators, to the learners who contributed their time and ideas, and to Hayley Leonard and Diana Kirby from our team for all the time and energy they devoted to this project!
Joseph Arday, FCCT, Woodbridge High School, Essex, UK
Lynda Chinaka, University of Roehampton, UK
Mike Deutsch, Kids Code Jeunesse, Canada
Dr Yota Dimitriadi, University of Reading, UK
Amir Fakhoury, St Anne’s Catholic School and Sixth Form College, Hampshire, UK
Dr Samuel George, Ark St Alban’s Academy, West Midlands, UK
Professor Joanna Goode, University of Oregon, USA
Alain Ndabala, St George Catholic College, Hampshire, UK
Vanessa Olsen-Dry, North Cambridge Academy, Cambridgeshire, UK
Rohini Shah, Queens Park Community School, London, UK
The Raspberry Pi Foundation and ESA Education are excited to announce the winners and highly commended Mission Space Lab teams of the 2020/21 European Astro Pi Challenge!
In Mission Space Lab, teams of young people aged up to 19 create scientific experiments that run on the International Space Station’s two Astro Pi computers — space-hardened Raspberry Pis with cameras and an array of sensors.
In the final phase of Mission Space Lab, teams analyse the data captured during their experiment’s three-hour runtime on the ISS and write a short report describing their experiment’s hypothesis, methods, results, and conclusions.
You can read the best reports below! From 154 final reports, the Astro Pi team has now chosen 10 winners and 5 highly commended teams that have each demonstrated great scientific merit and innovative use of the Astro Pi hardware.
Juno from Institut d’Altafulla in Spain,who attempted to determine how much heat the astronauts aboard the ISS experience by using temperature, pressure, and humidity data captured by the Astro Pi’s sensors together with psychrometric calculations.
Albedo from Lycée Albert Camus in France,who investigated albedo on Earth, using photos captured by the Astro Pi’s camera to classify cloud, land, and sea coverage, and analysing their corresponding albedo values.
Magtrix from The Leys School in the United Kingdom, who analysed whether geographical features of Earth such as mountains affect the planet’s magnetic field using the Astro Pi’s magnetometer, GPS data, and photos of Earth captured by the Astro Pi’s camera.
Ultrafly from Ultrafly Coding Club in Canada, who were the youngest team to make the highly commended list this year, with an average age of 8! Their experiment explored whether the environmental variables on the ISS created allergy-friendly living conditions for the astronauts on board.
The prize? A special webinar with ESA Astronaut Luca Parmitano
Every Astro Pi team that reached Phase 2 of Mission Space Lab by having their experiment idea accepted this year will receive participation certificates recognising their achievement, and the winners and highly commended teams will receive special certificates and an additional prize.
The prize for this year’s winners and highly commended teams is the chance to pose their questions to ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano during a webinar in September! We’ll shortly email the teams’ mentors the instructions for submitting their teams’ questions to Luca.
This Q&A event for the finalists will conclude this year’s European Astro Pi Challenge. It’s been an incredible year for the Challenge, with 15756 young people from 23 countries participating in Mission Zero or Mission Space Lab.
Everyone on the Raspberry Pi and ESA Education teams congratulates this year’s participants for their efforts, especially given the obstacles many teams had to overcome due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Thank you and congratulations to everyone who has taken part — we hope you found it as fun and inspiring as we did!
We can’t wait to welcome you back for the next European Astro Pi Challenge!
While this year’s Challenge is coming to an end, the European Astro Pi Challenge will return with both Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab in September!
We invite all teachers, educators, club leaders, and young people who love coding and space science to follow our updates on astro-pi.org and the Astro Pi Twitter account to make sure you don’t miss any announcements.
We’re excited to share another incredible story from the community — the second in our new series of inspirational short films that celebrate young tech creators across the world.
These stories showcase some of the wonderful things that young people are empowered to do when they learn how to create with technology. We hope that they will inspire many more young people to get creative with technology too!
This time, you will meet an accomplished, young community member who is on a quest to encourage more girls to join her and get into digital making.
For as long as she can remember, Avye (13) has enjoyed creating things. It was at her local CoderDojo that seven-year-old Avye was introduced to the world of robotics. Avye’s second-ever robot, the Raspberry Pi–powered Voice O’Tronik Bot, went on to win the Hardware category at our Coolest Projects UK event in 2018.
Coding and digital making have become an integral part of Avye’s life, and she wants to help other girls discover these skills too. She says, “I believe that it’s important for girls and women to see and be aware of ordinary girls and women doing cool things in the STEM world.” Avye started running her own workshops for girls in their community and in 2018 founded Girls Into Coding. She has now teamed up with her mum Helene, who is committed to helping to drive the Girls Into Coding mission forwards.
I want to get other girls like me interested in tech.
Avye has received multiple awards to celebrate her achievements, including the Princess Diana Award and Legacy Award in 2019. Most recently, in 2020, Avye won the TechWomen100 Award, the Women in Tech’s Aspiring Teen Award, and the FDM Everywoman in Tech Award!
We cannot wait to see what the future has in store for her. Help us celebrate Avye and inspire others by liking and sharing her story on Twitter, Linkedin, or Facebook!
Today we are launching an exciting series of impact stories from the community, to shine a spotlight on some of the young people who are learning and creating with technology through our educational initiatives.
These stories get to the heart of our mission: to put the power of computing and digital making into the hands of people all over the world.
Designed in close collaboration with families across the world, our new series of short inspirational films showcases some of the wonderful things that young people are empowered to do when they learn to use technology to address the issues that matter to them.
We are incredibly proud to be a part of these young people’s journeys — and to see the positive impact of engaging with our free programmes, coding clubs, and resources. We can’t wait to share their unique experiences and achievements with you as we roll out the series over the next few months.
And we invite you to celebrate these young people by liking and sharing their stories on social media!
Meet Zaahra and Eesa
The first story takes you to a place not far from our home: London, UK.
Zaahra (12) and Eesa (8) are a sister and brother coding team and live in East London. For the last four years they’ve been learning about computing and digital making by attending regular sessions at their local Code Club. Zaahra and Eesa love working as a team and using technology to solve problems around them. When they found it difficult to communicate with their grandparents in their first language, Sylheti, the siblings decided to code a language learning app called ‘Easy Sylheti’. Eesa says, “We wanted to create something that was helpful to us, but also to our family and the community.”
“I’ve discovered that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought.”
Describing the effect of learning to create with technology and seeing the success of their app, Zaahra declares, “I’ve discovered that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought.” And she’s using her new-found confidence to continue helping her community: Zaahra has recently taken up a role as youth member on the Newham Youth Empowerment Fund Panel.
Digital technology is developing at pace, impacting us all. Most of us use screens and all kinds of computers much more than we did five years ago. The total number of apps downloaded globally each quarter has doubled since 2015, reflecting both increased smartphone penetration and the increasingly prominent role of apps in our lives. However, access to digital technology and the internet is not yet equal: there is still a ‘digital divide’, i.e. some people do not have as much access to digital technologies as others, if any at all.
This month we welcomed Dr Hayley Leonard and Thom Kunkeler at our research seminar series, to present findings on ‘Why the digital divide does not stop at access: understanding the complex interactions between socioeconomic disadvantage and computing education’. Both Hayley and Thom work as researchers at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, where we have a focus on increasing our understanding of computing education for all. They shared some results of a research project they’d carried out with a group of young people who benefitted from our Learn at Home campaign.
Digital inequality: beyond the dichotomy of access
Hayley introduced some of the existing research and thinking around digital inequality, and Thom presented the results of their research project. Setting the scene, Hayley explained that the term ‘digital divide’ can create a dichotomous have/have-not view of the world, as can the concept of a ‘gap’. However, the research presents a more nuanced picture. Rather than describing digital inequality as purely centred on access to technology, some researchers characterise three levels of the digital divide:
Level 1: Access
Level 2: Skills (digital skills, internet skills) and uses (what you do once you have access)
Level 3: Outcomes (what you achieve)
This characterisation is useful because it enables us to look beyond access and also towards what happens once people have access to technology. This is where our Learn At Home campaign came in.
The presenters gave a brief overview of the impact of the campaign, in which the Raspberry Pi Foundation has partnered with 80 youth and community organisations and to date, thanks to generous donors, has given 5100 Raspberry Pi desktop computer kits (including monitors, headphones, etc.) to young people in the UK who didn’t have the resources to buy their own computers.
Computing, identity, and self-efficacy
As part of the Learn At Home campaign, Hayley and Thom conducted a pilot study of how young people from underserved communities feel about computing and their own digital skills. They interviewed and analysed responses of fifteen young people, who had received hardware through Learn At Home, about computing as a subject, their confidence with computing, stereotypes, and their future aspirations.
The notion of a ‘computer person’ was used in the interview questions, following work conducted by Billy Wong at the University of Reading, which found that young people experienced a difference between being a ‘computer person’ and ‘doing computing’. The study carried out by Hayley and Thom largely supports this finding. Thom described two major themes that emerged from their analysis: a mismatch between computing and interviewees’ own identities, and low self-indicated self-efficacy.
Showing that stereotypes still persist of what a ‘computer person’ is like, a 13-year-old female interviewee described them as “a bit smart. Very, very logical, because computers are very logical. Things like smart, clever, intelligent because computers are quite hard.” Four of the interviewees were also more likely to associate a ‘computer person’ with being male.
The majority of the young people in the study said that they could be this ’computer person’. Even for those who did not see themselves working with computers in the future, being a ’computer person’ was still a possibility: One interviewee said, “I feel like maybe I’m quite good at using a computer. I know my way around. Yes, you never know. I could be, eventually.”
Five of the young people indicated relatively low self-efficacy in computing, and thought there were more barriers to becoming a computer person, for example needing to be better at mathematics.
In terms of future career goals, only two (White male) participants in the study considered computing as a career, with one (White female) interviewee understanding that choosing computing as a qualification might be important for her future career. This aligns with research into computer science (CS) qualification choice at age 14 in England, explored in a previous seminar, which highlighted the interaction between income, gender, and ethnicity: White girls from lower-income families were more likely to choose a CS qualification than White girls more from more affluent families, while very few Asian, Black, and Chinese girls from low-income backgrounds chose a CS qualification.
Evaluating computing education opportunities using the CAPE framework
An interesting aspect of this seminar was how Hayley and Thom situated their work in the relatively new CAPE framework, which describes different levels at which to evaluate computer science education opportunities. The CAPE framework highlights that capacity and access to computing (C and A in the framework) are only part of the challenge of making computer science education equitable; students’ participation (P) in and experience (E) of computing are key factors in keeping them engaged longer-term.
As we develop computing education in the curriculum, we can use the CAPE framework to evaluate our provision. For example, where I’m writing from in England, we have the capacityto teach computing through the availability of professional development training for teachers, fully developed curriculum materials such as the Teach Computing Curriculum, and community support for teachers through organisations such as Computing at School and the National Centre for Computing Education. In terms of access we have an established national curriculum in the subject, but access to it has been interrupted for many due to the coronavirus pandemic. In terms of participation we know that gender and economic status can impact whether young people choose computer science as an elective subject post-14, and taking an intersectional view reveals that the issue of participation is more complex than that. Finally, according to our seminar speakers, young people’s experienceof computing education can be impacted by their digital or technological capital, by their self-efficacy, and by the relevance of the subject to their career aspirations and goals. This analysis really enhances our understanding of digital inequality, as it moves us away from the have/have-not language of the digital divide and starts to unpack the complexity of the impacting factors.
Although this was not covered in this month’s seminar, I also want to draw out that the CAPE framework also supports our understanding of global computing education: we may need to focus on capacity building in order to create a foundation for the other levels. Lots to think about!
If you missed the seminar, you can find the presentation slides on our seminars page and watch the recording of the researchers’ talk:
Join our next seminar
The next seminar will be the final one in the current series focused diversity and inclusion, which we’re co-hosting with the Royal Academy of Engineering. It will take place on Tuesday 13 July at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PDT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, and we’ll welcome Prof Ron Eglash, a prominent researcher in the area of ethnocomputing. The title of Ron’s seminar is Computing for generative justice: decolonizing the circular economy.
To join this free event, click below and sign up with your name and email address:
Pi Day is a special occasion for people all around the world (your preferred date format notwithstanding), and I love seeing all the ways that makers, students, and educators celebrate. This year at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we’re embracing Pi Day as a time to support young learners and creators in our community. Today, we launch our first Pi Day fundraising campaign. From now until 14 March, I’d like to ask for your help to empower young people worldwide to learn computing and become confident, creative digital makers and engineers.
Millions of learners use the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s online coding projects to develop new skills and get creative with technology. Your donation to the Pi Day campaign will support young people to access these high-quality online resources, which they need more urgently than ever amidst disruptions to schools and coding clubs. Did I mention that our online projects are offered completely free and in dozens of languages? That’s possible thanks to Raspberry Pi customers and donors who power our educational mission.
It’s not only young people who rely on the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s free online coding projects, but also teachers, educators, and volunteers in coding clubs:
“The project resources for Python and Scratch make it really easy for the children to learn programming and create projects successfully, even if they have limited prior experience — they are excellent.”
— Code Club educator in the UK
“The best thing […] is the accessibility to a variety of projects and ease of use for a variety of ages and needs. I love checking the site for what I may have missed and the next project my students can do!”
Your Pi Day gift will make double the impact thanks to our partner EPAM, who is generously matching all donations up to a total of $5000. As a special thanks to each of you who contributes, you’ll have the option to see your name listed in an upcoming issue of The MagPi magazine!
All young people deserve the opportunity to thrive in today’s technology-driven world. As a donor to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, you can make this a reality. Any amount you are able to give to our Pi Day campaign — whether it’s $3.14, $31.42, or even more — makes a difference. You also have the option to sign up as a monthly donor.
Let’s come together to give young people the tools they need to make things, solve problems, and shape their future using technology. Thank you.
PS Thanks again to EPAM for partnering with us to match your gifts up to $5000 until 14 March, and to CanaKit for their generous Pi Day contribution of $3141!
One of the harsh lessons we learned last year was that far too many young people still don’t have a computer for learning at home. There has always been a digital divide; the pandemic has just put it centre-stage. The good news is that the cost of solving this problem is now trivial compared to the cost of allowing it to persist.
Removing price as a barrier to anyone owning a computer was part of the founding mission of Raspberry Pi, which is why we so work hard to make sure that Raspberry Pi computers are as low-cost as possible for everyone, all of the time. We saw an incredible rise in the numbers of people — particularly young people — using Raspberry Pi computers as their main desktop PC during the lockdown, helped by the timely arrival of the fabulous Raspberry Pi 400.
Supporting the most vulnerable young people
As part of our response to the pandemic, the Raspberry Pi Foundation teamed up with UK Youth and a network of grassroots youth and community organisations to get Raspberry Pi desktop kits (with monitors, webcams, and headphones) into the hands of disadvantaged young people across the UK. These were young people who didn’t qualify for the government laptop scheme and who otherwise didn’t have a computer to learn at home.
This wasn’t just about shipping hardware (that’s the easy bit). We trained youth workers and teachers, and we worked closely with families to make sure that they could set up and use the computers. We did a huge amount of work to make sure that the educational platforms and apps they needed worked out of the box, and we provided a customised operating system image with free educational resources and enhanced parental controls.
The impact has been immediate: young people engaging with learning; parents who reported positive changes in their children’s attitude and behaviour; youth and social workers who have deepened their relationship with families, enabling them to provide better support.
After a successful pilot programme generously funded by the Bloomfield Trust, we launched the Learn at Home fundraising campaign in December, inviting businesses and individuals to donate money to enable us to expand the programme. I am absolutely thrilled that more than 70 organisations and individuals have so far donated an incredible £900,000 and we are on track to deliver our 5000th Raspberry Pi kit in March.
While the pandemic shone a bright spotlight onto the digital divide, this isn’t just a problem while we are in lockdown. We’ve known for a long time that having a computer to learn at home can be transformational for any young person.
If you would like to get involved in helping us make sure that every young person has access to a computer to learn at home, we’d love to hear from you. Find out more details on our website, or email us at [email protected].
Today, I discuss the second research seminar in our series of six free online research seminars focused on diversity and inclusion in computing education, where we host researchers from the UK and USA together with the Royal Academy of Engineering. By diversity, we mean any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. This might be, for example, age, gender, socio-economic status, disability, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or sexuality. The aim of inclusion is to embrace all people irrespective of difference.
In this seminar, we were delighted to hear from Prof Tia Madkins (University of Texas at Austin), Dr Nicol R. Howard (University of Redlands), and Shomari Jones (Bellevue School District) (find their bios here), who talked to us about culturally responsive pedagogy and equity-focused teaching in K-12 Computer Science.
Equity-focused computer science teaching
Tia began the seminar with an audience-engaging task: she asked all participants to share their own definition of equity in the seminar chat. Amongst their many suggestions were “giving everybody the same opportunity”, “equal opportunity to access high-quality education”, and “everyone has access to the same resources”. I found Shomari’s own definition of equity very powerful:
“Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement of all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as the distribution of resources. Tackling equity requires an understanding of the root cause of outcome disparity within our society.”
This definition is drawn directly from the young people Shomari works with, and it goes beyond access and opportunity to the notion of increasing justice and fairness and addressing the causes of outcome disparity. Justice was a theme throughout the seminar, with all speakers referring to the way that their work looks at equity in computer science education through a justice-oriented lens.
Removing deficit thinking
Using a justice-oriented approach means that learners should be encouraged to use their computer science knowledge to make a difference in areas that are important to them. It means that just having access to a computer science education is not sufficient for equity.
Tia spoke about the need to reject “deficit thinking” (i.e. focusing on what learners lack) and instead focus on learners’ strengths or assets and how they bring these to the school classroom. For researchers and teachers to do this, we need to be aware of our own mindset and perspective, to think about what we value about ethnic and racial identities, and to be willing to reflect and take feedback.
Activities to support computer science teaching
Nicol talked about some of the ways of designing computing lessons to be equity-focused. She highlighted the benefits of pair programming and other peer pedagogies, where students teach and learn from each other through feedback and sharing ideas/completed work. She suggested using a variety of different programs and environments, to ensure a range of different pathways to understanding. Teachers and schools can aim to base teaching around tools that are open and accessible and, where possible, available in many languages. If the software environment and tasks are accessible, they open the doors of opportunity to enable students to move on to more advanced materials. To demonstrate to learners that computer science is applicable across domains, the topic can also be introduced in the context of mathematics and other subjects.
Learners can benefit from learning computer science regardless of whether they want to become a computer scientist. Computing offers them skills that they can use for self-expression or to be creative in other areas of their life. They can use their knowledge for a specific purpose and to become more autonomous, particularly if their teacher does not have any deficit thinking. In addition, culturally relevant teaching in the classroom demonstrates a teacher’s deliberate and explicit acknowledgment that they value all students in their classroom and expect students to excel.
Engaging family and community
Shomari talked about the importance of working with parents and families of ethnically diverse students in order to hear their voices and learn from their experiences.
He described how the absence of a background in technology of parents and carers can drastically impact the experiences of young people.
“Parents without backgrounds and insights into the changing landscape of technology struggle to negotiate what roles they can play, such as how to work together in computing activities or how to find learning opportunities for their children.”
Shomari drew on an example from the Pacific Northwest in the US, a region with many successful technology companies. In this location, young people from wealthy white and Asian communities can engage fully in informal learning of computer science and can have aspirations to enter technology-related fields, whereas amongst the Black and Latino communities, there are significant barriers to any form of engagement with technology. This already existent inequity has been enhanced by the coronavirus pandemic: once so much of education moved online, it became widely apparent that many families had never owned, or even used, a computer. Shomari highlighted the importance of working with pre-service teachers to support them in understanding the necessity of family and community engagement.
Building classroom communities
Building a classroom community starts by fostering and maintaining relationships with students, families, and their communities. Our speakers emphasised how important it is to understand the lives of learners and their situations. Through this understanding, learning experiences can be designed that connect with the learners’ lived experiences and cultural practices. In addition, by tapping into what matters most to learners, teachers can inspire them to be change agents in their communities. Tia gave the example of learning to code or learning to build an app, which provides learners with practical tools they can use for projects they care about, and with skills to create artefacts that challenge and document injustices they see happening in their communities.
With so many people all over the world still living in various levels of lockdown, we’ve been working hard to provide free, creative project resources for you to keep young digital makers occupied, learning, and most importantly having fun.
As a dad of two, I know how useful it is to have resources and project ideas for things that we can do together, or that the kids can crack on with independently. As we head into the weekend, I thought I’d share a few ideas for where to get started.
Coding and digital making projects
We offer hundreds of self-guided projects for learning to create with code using tools like Scratch, Python, and more. The projects can be completed online on any computer, they are tailored for different levels of experience, and they include step-by-step guidance that quickly leads to confident, independent young digital makers.
We recently launched a new set of beginner Scratch projects on the theme of ‘Look after yourself’, which include activities designed to help young people take care of their own wellbeing while getting creative with code. They are brilliant.
“I am so excited by the [‘Look after yourself’] projects on offer. It couldn’t be more perfect for everything we are navigating right now.”
If Earth is getting you down, then how about creating code that will be sent to the International Space Station?
As part of Astro Pi Mission Zero, young people up to age 14 can write a Python program to send their own personal message to the astronauts aboard the ISS. Mission Zero takes about an hour to complete online following a step-by-step guide. It’s a fantastic activity for anyone looking to write Python code for the first time!
Make a cool project
We know that motivation matters. Young digital makers often need a goal to work towards, and that’s where Coolest Projects comes in. It’s the world-leading technology showcase where young digital makers show the world what they’ve created and inspire each other.
Coolest Projects is open to young people up to the age of 18, all over the world, with any level of experience or skills. Young people can register their project ideas now and then create their project so that they can share it with the world on our online gallery.
It’s a brilliant way to motivate your young digital makers to come up with an idea and make it real. If you’re looking for inspiration, then check out the brilliant projects from last year.
Happy digital making!
I hope that these resources and project ideas inspire you and your kids to get creative with technology, whether you’re in lockdown or not. Stay safe and be kind to yourself and each other. We’ll get through this.
In this blog post, I’ll discuss the first research seminar in our six-part series about diversity and inclusion. Let’s start by defining our terms. Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. This might be, for example, age, gender, socio-economic status, disability, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or sexuality. The aim of inclusion is to embrace all people irrespective of difference.
It’s vital that we are inclusive in computing education, because we need to ensure that everyone can access and learn the empowering and enabling technical skills they need to support all aspects of their lives.
We kicked off the series with a seminar from Dr Peter Kemp and Dr Billy Wong focused on computing education in England’s schools post-14. Peter is a Lecturer in Computing Education at King’s College London, where he leads on initial teacher education in computing. His research areas are digital creativity and digital equity. Billy is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Education, University of Reading. His areas of research are educational identities and inequalities, especially in the context of higher education and STEM education.
Computing in England’s schools
Peter began the seminar with a comprehensive look at the history of curriculum change in Computing in England. This was very useful given our very international audience for these seminars, and I will summarise it below. (If you’d like more detail, you can look over the slides from the seminar. Note that these changes refer to England only, as education in the UK is devolved, and England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales each has a different education system.)
In 2014, England switched from mandatory ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to mandatory Computing (encompassing information technology, computer science, and digital literacy). This shift was complemented by a change in the qualifications for students aged 14–16 and 16–18, where the primary qualifications are GCSEs and A levels respectively:
At GCSE, there has been a transition from GCSE ICT to GCSE Computer Science over the last five years, with GCSE ICT being discontinued in 2017
At A level before 2014, ICT and Computing were on offer as two separate A levels; now there is only one, A level Computer Science
One of the issues is that in the English education system, there is a narrowing of the curriculum at age 14: students have to choose between Computer Science and other subjects such as Geography, History, Religious Studies, Drama, Music, etc. This means that those students that choose not to take a GCSE Computer Science (CS) may find that their digital education is thereby curtailed from then onwards. Peter’s and Billy’s view is that having a more specialist subject offer for age 14+ (Computer Science as opposed to ICT) means that fewer students take it, and they showed evidence of this from qualifications data. The number of students taking CS at GCSE has risen considerably since its introduction, but it’s not yet at the level of GCSE ICT uptake.
GCSE computer science and equity
Only 64% of schools in England offer GCSE Computer Science, meaning that just 81% of students have the opportunity to take the subject (some schools also add selection criteria). A higher percentage (90%) of selective grammar schools offer GCSE CS than do comprehensive schools (80%) or independent schools (39%). Peter suggested that this was making Computer Science a “little more elitist” as a subject.
Peter analysed data from England’s National Pupil Database (NPD) to thoroughly investigate the uptake of Computer Science post-14 with respect to the diversity of entrants.
He found that the gender gap for GCSE CS uptake is greater than it was for GCSE ICT. Now girls make up 22% of the cohort for GCSE CS (2020 data), whereas for the ICT qualification (2017 data), 43% of students were female.
Peter’s analysis showed that there is also a lower representation of black students and of students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds in the cohort for GCSE CS. In contrast, students with Chinese ancestry are proportionally more highly represented in the cohort.
Another part of Peter’s analysis related gender data to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI), which is used as an indicator of the level of poverty in England’s local authority districts. In the graphs below, a higher IDACI decile means more deprivation in an area. Relating gender data of GCSE CS uptake against the IDACI shows that:
Girls from more deprived areas are more likely to take up GCSE CS than girls from less deprived areas are
The opposite is true for boys
Peter covered much more data in the seminar, so do watch the video recording (below) if you want to learn more.
Peter’s analysis shows a lack of equity (i.e. equality of outcome in the form of proportional representation) in uptake of GCSE CS after age 14. It is also important to recognise, however, that England does mandate — not simply provide or offer — Computing for all pupils at both primary and secondary levels; making a subject mandatory is the only way to ensure that we do give access to all pupils.
What can we do about the lack of equity?
Billy presented some of the potential reasons for why some groups of young people are not fully represented in GCSE Computer Science:
There are many stereotypes surrounding the image of ‘the computer scientist’, and young people may not be able to identify with the perception they hold of ‘the computer scientist’
There is inequality in access to resources, as indicated by the research on science and STEM capital being carried out within the ASPIRES project
More research is needed to understand the subject choices young people make and their reasons for choosing as they do.
We also need to look at how the way we teach Computing to students aged 11 to 14 (and younger) affects whether they choose CS as a post-14 subject. Our next seminar revolves around equity-focused teaching practices, such as culturally relevant pedagogy or culturally responsive teaching, and how educators can use them in their CS learning environments.
Peter and Billy themselves have recently been successful in obtaining funding for a research project to explore female computing performance and subject choice in English schools, a project they will be starting soon!
If you missed the seminar, watch recording here. You can also find Peter and Billy’s presentation slides on our seminars page.
Next up in our seminar series
In our next research seminar on Tuesday 2 February at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PDT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, we’ll welcome Prof Tia Madkins (University of Texas at Austin), Dr Nicol R. Howard (University of Redlands), and Shomari Jones (Bellevue School District), who are going to talk to us about culturally responsive pedagogy and equity-focused teaching in K-12 Computer Science. To join this free online seminar, simply sign up with your name and email address.
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