#picademy projects – conjuring cooperative learning in computer science class

Although it’s way over a calendar month ago, I’ve been thinking about #picademy Dublin a lot since those two days, April 23 & 24, in the Science Gallery Dublin. James Robinson and his team did a tremendous pre setup for the thirty who took part in Raspberry Pi educator training.

 

It was a vibrant mix of learners – full mix of experience, sector, gender. Day 1 was a whistlestop tour of all the possibilities working with Raspberry Pi can offer – scratch and python coding, sonic pi music, physical computing – as long a piece of thread as anyone could want. The coolest lesson of the day at our table was learning about pitch, roll, and yaw; I reckon none of us will ever take a flight – or for those inclined, a rollercoaster – again without remembering this afternoon.

Day 2 was a huge gently guided maker project day – attendees could follow their dream theme. I worked with Mary Jo, Irene, Julie, Thomas and Seamus; our group’s goal was to put our pitch roll yaw learning into action and use one pi as a remote control to control a vehicle motor powered by another pi. We worked in two physical crews – the boys got busy building a lego car while the girls got busy programming each pi so that they could communicate over bluetooth. [Disclosure #1: for this part we got a lotta lotta help from Martin O’Hanlon in the use of bluedot – manual here – thank you Martin.]

What was really really important during this exercise, although we were far too living it busy to actually be aware of it at the time, was that we were conjuring the will o’ the wisp of the classroom – authentic cooperative learning. One half of the coding group was programming the pi 1 as the remote controller, the other half of the group was programming pi 2 to drive the motor of the vehicle on receipt of command from pi 1. [Disclosure #2: Irene and Julie took the lead as programmers, Mary Jo and me assisted.]  Both groups needed knowledge of each others programmes, dovetailing almost line by line, in order to progress.

In terms of cooperative learning we were experiencing all elements of learning cooperatively as a formal group – positive interdependence, individual and group accountability, promotive interaction, interpersonal and small group skills, group processing. During the ‘show and tell’ session at the end of the day, it was obvious other groups had experienced these elements also.  As a cooperative learning teacher, this made me comfortable at the time, and very very happy in reflection afterwards. I’m now curious to know if / how my colleagues Richard Millwood, Stephen Howell, and Keith Quille, who’ve each have been working with teacher groups using micro:bits, have seen the weaving of true cooperative learning into programming and maker projects.

 

So massive thanks to James and his Picademy team, you brought something good to Dublin, and you’re all welcome back anytime.

 

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