So who knew having a good ideas is just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to pulling off a quality project? Luckily for Project Pi – I had teamed up with Moira and Esther (from Urban Shift) who were already planning to take out a group from Bolton to the Khaya Centre, in July 14. They were taking four teenagers and one adult – to help with a project to help improve the quality of living for 15 households in Lehae project. They had been out before as part of the building of the centre and wanted to follow up with some targeted outreach to families accessing the Khaya Centre. It made a lot of sense to partner up with this venture and go out as a group. We arranged with Valencia to sleep within the centre and she agreed to coordinate and organise our overnight security, transport and daily food and refreshments which was fantastic.
Tyson used his background in cloud architecture to design the Raspberry Pi set ups. This included deciding specifically what to buy, from the Raspberry Pi all the way down to the SD cards, mice, cables and monitors. Each had to be sourced, checked for availability, priced up and checked for suitability. For example, the power supplies for the Raspberry Pi had to supply enough current for the Pi’s which were overclocked and running with USB WiFi adaptors – we found out early on that the Pi would just cut out and restart if they did not have enough current available. Tyson was meticulous with side of the project preparation, aiming to keep the number of surprises in South Africa to a minimum. We didn’t know how easy it would be to source things like SD cards, cables or monitors when in Lehae so we decided to take it all out with us.
During the planning phase we tested out a number of free software packages, most of which now come as standard with Noobs (New Out Of the Box Software), a handy bundle of operating system software supplied by the Raspberry Pi foundation. These were Scratch (a visual programming language designed for kids), Minecraft Pi and Python (Minecraft Pi comes with an API that allows kids to write Python code that can interact with the Minecraft world).
We also decided to install Libre Office, Chromeum and gnash. Libre Office is a free office suite which Valencia thought would be very useful for teaching basic word processing and spreadsheet skills as well as writing CVs. Chromeum with gnash (an open source version of Flash) was also installed to allow access to Codecademy.com, an excellent website for learning to code Python (and many more languages).
Teaching and Learning
Right from the start, I had been really keen for this project to be more than just an ICT suite. I wanted the way kids were taught and encouraged to interact with the Pi to be ‘child led’. I had been really impacted by a number of key people:
- Seymour Papert – I had experienced first hand as a child the thrill of making a Logo turtle/robot move by typing in simple lines of code. Having to persevere and iterate to make it move in the way we had imagined.
- Sugata Mitra – and his experiments with putting high speed internet into rural villages in India, leaving children to explore and find for themselves answers to their questions, spontaneously teaching peer to peer.
As well as the materials developed by Craig Richardson (http://arghbox.wordpress.com/) – a curriculum for learning Python using Minecraft Pi.