6 – Meeting with Mrs Holian, the ICT coordinator for Bracken Hill Primary School

The idea that I have for my product is to create a program which would provide a friendly interface for children to be able to program separate pieces of hardware attached to the Raspberry Pi such as LEDs and motors using programming concepts such as for and while loops, if statements etc. If the hardware manipulation option does not prove to be viable, then I will attempt to create a virtual representation and allow manipulation of objects on the screen.

I explained the concept of the idea that I have for my product to Mrs Holian and she said that it could possibly be a good idea to use as a teaching method of programming.

She explained similar activities that the children take part in through school, such as making the light shine at the top of a lighthouse using basic circuitry. She believes that the children should be able to put together pieces of circuit to build their own controllable breadboards to attach to the Raspberry Pi so that they can manipulate them. This supports the idea for the hardware option, however it will still have to be researched more to see if it is possible to create a program which will allow the children to control hem easily.

Mrs Holian supported my design choice of iterative development and agreed to allow for multiple testing periods on groups of children. She suggested using small groups of around 12 children of mixed abilities to be able to use the product for roughly 30 minutes at a time. This will allow me to get feedback, redesign poor parts and create a new product several times to refine the product over time. We have decided that we will start doing this at roughly the end of January, in order to allow me enough time to build the first prototype.

We discussed the possibility of training staff how to use the product beforehand. She said this would be a good idea, and that there are several periods of professional development which are not being used after Christmas which could be used for this purpose. It is going to be discussed with the head teacher at a later date which members of staff will take part in this training.

The staff currently have little to no knowledge in programming or a Linux environment. I hope to get around the latter problem by forcing the program to start, full screen as the Raspberry Pi boots. This should take away having to use a Linux interface and should hopefully make it more accessible to use. Mrs Holian agreed with this.

We discussed ethics and he teaching of the material to the children. She said that often children who have difficulty in language or communication are often paired up with children who can perform these skills very well. This should aid getting around a child completely not understanding what is happening with the program. Assessment and teaching will be done by the members of staff that are in the room at the time. They are used to walking around and observing the children’s abilities by seeing what they can do and what they are struggling with. This means that my program does not necessarily have to teach the children, but instead provide an engaging learning environment which can be used for the staff to assess the children.

We talked about the issue of cross-curricular education. She mentioned that children are often taught using themes and concepts as they go through school. An example would be taking them to an automated bridge and then discussing if someone has to be here all the time to operate it, or if a program could be used to do it automatically. This is done over just pure literacy or numeracy concept integration into ICT.

We are going to keep in touch, and she is going to ask the advice of several members of staff from other schools about the use and decisions to acquire Raspberry Pi machines for their schools. She should get back to me with this information in the near future.

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