Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Raspberry Pi CodeClub Week 2

I wanted to allow everyone to have plenty of time to get familiar with the Pis before embarking on any significant projects so my plan was to let the children continue exploring the Linux commands we started looking at last week. Also, I had 4 children who, for various reasons, had missed last week's session and for whom this week would be their first introduction to Raspberry Pi.

As I did last week, I showed everyone where the Pis, PSUs and cables were, and let them get everything connected themselves using the one page diagram as a guide. Even with my son and I helping, after about 10 minutes, only a couple of the children had their Pis up and running. Everyone else was still bumbling around and there were lots of pleas for help.

At this point I wondered whether my idea of having the children set up the Pis themselves every week was just stupid and I should simply get everything ready for them when they arrived.

However, after a few more minutes - and a little more help - everything seemed to go from chaos to order and suddenly there was a room full of working Pis. And, very satisfied and pleased children.

Once again Minecraft proved an obvious draw, with last week's veterans smugly showing the others how to build a castle using the Python script. There was also a lot of world hopping and I showed them how to discover their own IP address so that they could work out to whom the world they were connecting belonged.

I also enlisted one of the most able pupils to help me fix the problem with apt-get update. We talked about how proxy servers work and then I got him to configure his apt.conf file using nano (a task he performed perfectly). He then went on to install the updated packages and was pleased with his little piece of sysadmin action.

I have to say, of all the CodeClub sessions I've run, this was probably my favourite and the one I think I'm most pleased with. It was great to see everyone getting to grips with the Pis and the Linux operating environment. I loved it when one of the pupils asked another if the cable he was holding was the HDMI. "No," replied his friend confidently (and correctly), "That's the ethernet cable."

Raspberry Pis too complicated for use in Primary schools? Absolutely not.

Afterwards I drew up a list of all the different things we'd discussed or touched upon during the session:

  • Networking and IP addresses
  • Python
  • Proxy servers
  • The importance of keeping software up-to-date
  • The differences between wired and wifi networks
  • Linux vs Windows
  • HDMI
Not bad for a 45 minutes session. Now I'm not going to suggest that everyone is now an expert on these topics. But they have had an introduction, and one that was relevant to getting things done. They'll remember the stuff about IP addresses because it was useful to them in achieving something they wanted: working out which of the Steve's Worlds to connect to. 

Things to do differently next time?

It was great seeing everyone exploring what the Pis could do, so much so that I forget to stop the session in time for them to dismantle everything before the end. The computing suite was being used straight after the club so I had to hurriedly disconnect everything and move it out of the way before the next class arrived.

I was then left with a lovely spaghetti mess to disentangle:

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