Code to the beat of your own drum during Black History Month 2023

When we think about a celebration, we also think about how important it is to be intentional about sound. And with this month of February being a celebration of Black history in the USA, we want to help you make some noise to amplify the voices, experiences, and achievements of the Black community.

Two young people using laptops at a Code Club session.

From the past and present, to those still to come in the future, countless remarkable achievements have been made by Black individuals who have chosen to move to the beat of their own drum. Music and sound can be tools to tell stories, to express ourselves, to promote change, to celebrate, and so much more. So take some time this month to make your own music with your young coders and start dancing.                

Computing curriculum fundamentals | Hello World #20

Why are computing systems at the heart of our computing curriculum design? Senior Learning Manager Sway Grantham from the Foundation team explains in her article from the brand-new issue of Hello World, our free magazine for computing educators, out today.

Cover of Hello World issue 20.

Whether you plan lessons on a Computing topic, develop curriculum content, or even write curriculum policy, you have to make choices. What are you going to include and what is less of a priority? You have to consider time constraints and access to resources, prior learning and maybe even pupil interests. You probably also have to consider the wider curriculum context. Well, here is my first principle to help you: computing systems should be the foundation of your Computing curriculum.

A computing systems epiphany

As a primary teacher, when I first began writing Computing lesson plans for children aged 9 to 10, I started with programming. This was a very visual entry into Computing, and children were excited to create projects that were familiar to them, such as games and animations. However, as my understanding of Computing grew, I realised that something was missing.

Two learners do physical computing in the primary school classroom.

My learners could explain what an algorithm is, as well as explaining that a program is ‘a set of instructions that runs on a computer to tell it what to do’. Both of these met the curriculum needs, but I wasn’t convinced that they could link these two concepts together. Could they connect what they were doing on a floor robot to the computing systems around them? Did they understand what a computer was? Well… I asked them to see what they’d say!

According to my class, a computer was:

  • A piece of technology
  • A keyboard and a screen
  • A search engine
  • A machine used for work
  • A metal brain
  • A machine with a keyboard
  • An information device
  • Electric

This very simple question highlighted a wealth of alternate conceptions about programming and computing systems. The other commonality of my learners’ definitions was that they described the computer’s function, as if, in order to define what a computer is, we just need to know what it does. This view of a definition greatly limits learners’ ability to understand what potential computers have beyond personal use.

My learners had two discrete chunks of knowledge: how to program a floor robot, and that laptops were computers. However, without a bridge to connect them, this learning was disjointed. Learners needed to have a concrete, conceptual understanding of ‘what a computer is’ before they could start to comprehend the more abstract role of a program in that system.

Knowledge of computing systems empowers people to take control of technology and not just consume it.

Beyond the experiences of my young learners, we see examples of a lack of understanding about computing systems all the time in society. Many competent users of software are able to regularly complete the tasks that they need, but if one day something doesn’t work, they do not know how to find a solution. Equally, many people enjoy exploring digital making projects, yet if they want to personalise the project, they don’t know what they can or can’t change to do this. Knowledge of computing systems empowers people to take control of technology and not just consume it.

Planning computing content today

Both of these examples highlight the importance of introducing computing systems as both life skills and as support for developing other areas of computing. More recently, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been creating 100 hours of curriculum content in partnership with non-profit organisation Amala Education. Through this content we aim to give refugee learners who may never have used technology enough understanding to build a website that encourages social change.

Whilst we know that the material needs to include some foundational knowledge of computing systems, we must first consider the core content that learners must understand to achieve the end goal, such as:

  • Webpage creation 
  • HTML/CSS/JavaScript
  • Project management 
  • Project development

These areas of learning are a great place to start as, undeniably, learners aren’t going to be able to build a website without knowing the process of creating a website, the languages used to create web pages, or the project management skills to see a project from start to finish.

This could be the entirety of the content, but instead, I encourage you to think back to those children who could program but didn’t know on what devices programs could run. We need to connect the core content to that foundational content: how is building a website related to computing systems?

Prior knowledge

All learning is built on prior knowledge, even if that prior knowledge has been gained through life experience and not formal education. To build a website, we need to know how to type and use a mouse. We need to know what a website is, why people use websites, and what sort of media is found on them. Beyond that, we need to know how the files that we are creating are being shared with other people. We need to understand that a computer can communicate with another computer and what the process is to make that happen. None of this learning is the core content of building a website, but if you tried to build a website without understanding these things, it would be difficult to do.

All learning is built on prior knowledge, even if that prior knowledge has been gained through life experience and not formal education.

As the learners we support together with Amala Education might have no prior experience of using technology, we needed to ensure that enough foundational computing systems content was built into the learning sequence — things such as:

  • Recognising digital devices
  • Decomposing computing systems
  • Digital painting (mouse skills)
  • Combining text and images (desktop publishing)
  • Networks and the internet
  • Internet searching

By incorporating this content into the learning sequence, we ensure that learners do not just learn a process for creating a website. They understand the impact of the choices they make when building a website, they have the skills to implement their ideas, and they can connect their understanding to solve any unexpected challenges they find along the way. This more holistic approach should support learners’ knowledge transfer and offer them a much broader range of opportunities. 

This more holistic approach should support learners’ knowledge transfer and offer them a much broader range of opportunities.

Whatever your curriculum requires, you will have the core content you need to teach. This could be the requirements of your standardised curriculum, it could be the specific project you’re trying to build, or it could be the aspirations that you have for your students. However, rather than stopping at that part of your learning sequence, take a step back and consider the prior knowledge you’re connecting to. I expect you will find that computing systems is what you need to ensure learners’ new knowledge has a solid foundation.

Read the new Hello World issue today

Computing systems and networks is one of those computer science topics in which misconceptions abound. Hello World issue 20 focuses on how you can support your learners to grasp even the tricky ideas within this topic, giving you practical ideas, activities, and insights from practicing educators. Download your free PDF copy now, and subscribe to never miss an issue.

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Source: Raspberry Pi – Computing curriculum fundamentals | Hello World #20

Combining computing and maths to teach primary learners about variables

In our first seminar of 2023, we were delighted to welcome Dr Katie Rich and Carla Strickland. They spoke to us about teaching the programming construct of variables in Grade 3 and 4 (age 8 to 10).

Celebrating the community: Adarsh

In our work, we get to meet so many super inspiring young people who make things with technology. Our series of community stories is one way we share their journeys and enthusiasm for digital making with you.

Today we’re introducing you to Adarsh from California, USA.

Young tech creator Adarsh with his Raspberry Pi projects.

Meet Adarsh

What to expect from the Raspberry Pi Foundation in 2023

Welcome to 2023.  I hope that you had a fantastic 2022 and that you’re looking forward to an even better year ahead. To help get the year off to a great start, I thought it might be fun to share a few of the things that we’ve got planned for 2023.

A teacher and learner at a laptop doing coding.

Whether you’re a teacher, a mentor, or a young person, if it’s computer science, coding, or digital skills that you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered. 

Your code in space 

Through our collaboration with the European Space Agency, theAstro Pi, young people can write computer programs that are guaranteed to run on the Raspberry Pi computers on the International Space Station (terms and conditions apply).

Two Astro Pi units on board the International Space Station.
The Raspberry Pi computers on board the ISS (Image: ESA/NASA)

Astro Pi Mission Zero is open to participants until 17 March 2023 and is a perfect introduction to programming in Python for beginners. It takes about an hour to complete and we provide step-by-step guides for teachers, mentors, and young people. 

Make a cool project and share it with the world 

Kids all over the world are already working on their entries to Coolest Projects Global 2023, our international online showcase that will see thousands of young people share their brilliant tech creations with the world. Registration opens on 6 February and it’s super simple to get involved. If you’re looking for inspiration, why not explore the judges’ favourite projects from 2022?

Five young coders show off their robotic garden tech project for Coolest Projects.

While we all love the Coolest Projects online showcase, I’m also looking forward to attending more in-person Coolest Projects events in 2023. The word on the street is that members of the Raspberry Pi team have been spotted scouting venues in Ireland… Watch this space. 

Experience AI 

I am sure I wasn’t alone in disappearing down a ChatGPT rabbit hole at the end of last year after OpenAI made their latest AI chatbot available for free. The internet exploded with both incredible examples of what the chatbot can do and furious debates about the limitations and ethics of AI systems.

A group of young people investigate computer hardware together.

With the rapid advances being made in AI technology, it’s increasingly important that young people are able to understand how AI is affecting their lives now and the role that it can play in their future. This year we’ll be building on our research into the future of AI and data science education and launching Experience AI in partnership with leading AI company DeepMind. The first wave of resources and learning experiences will be available in March. 

The big Code Club and CoderDojo meetup

With pandemic restrictions now almost completely unwound, we’ve seen a huge resurgence in Code Clubs and CoderDojos meeting all over the world. To build on this momentum, we are delighted to be welcoming Code Club and CoderDojo mentors and educators to a big Clubs Conference in Churchill College in Cambridge on 24 and 25 March.

Workshop attendees at a table.

This will be the first time we’re holding a community get-together since 2019 and a great opportunity to share learning and make new connections. 

Building partnerships in India, Kenya, and South Africa 

As part of our global mission to ensure that every young person is able to learn how to create with digital technologies, we have been focused on building partnerships in India, Kenya, and South Africa, and that work will be expanding in 2023.

Two Kenyan educators work on a physical computing project.

In India we will significantly scale up our work with established partners Mo School and Pratham Education Foundation, training 2000 more teachers in government schools in Odisha, and running 2200 Code Clubs across four states. We will also be launching new partnerships with community-based organisations in Kenya and South Africa, helping them set up networks of Code Clubs and co-designing learning experiences that help them bring computing education to their communities of young people. 

Exploring computing education for 5- to 11-year-olds 

Over the past few years, our research seminar series has covered computing education topics from diversity and inclusion, to AI and data science. This year, we’re focusing on current questions and research in primary computing education for 5- to 11-year-olds.

A teacher and a learner at a laptop doing coding.

As ever, we’re providing a platform for some of the world’s leading researchers to share their insights, and convening a community of educators, researchers, and policy makers to engage in the discussion. The first seminar takes place today (Tuesday 10 January) and it’s not too late to sign up.

And much, much more… 

That’s just a few of the super cool things that we’ve got planned for 2023. I haven’t even mentioned the new online projects we’re developing with our friends at Unity, the fun we’ve got planned with our very own online text editor, or what’s next for our curriculum and professional development offer for computing teachers.

You can sign up to our monthly newsletter to always stay up to date with what we’re working on.

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Source: Raspberry Pi – What to expect from the Raspberry Pi Foundation in 2023

Gender Balance in Computing — the big picture

Improving gender balance in computing is part of our work to ensure equitable learning opportunities for all young people. Our Gender Balance in Computing (GBIC) research programme has been the largest effort to date to explore ways to encourage more girls and young women to engage with Computing.

A girl in a university computing classroom.

Commissioned by the Department for Education in England and led by the Raspberry Pi Foundation as part of our National Centre for Computing Education work, the GBIC programme was a collaborative effort involving the Behavioural Insights Team, Apps for Good, and the WISE Campaign.

Gender Balance in Computing ran from 2019 to 2022 and comprised seven studies relating to five different research areas:

  • Teaching Approach:
  • Belonging: Supporting learners to feel that they “belong” in computer science
  • Non-formal Learning: Establishing the connections between in-school and out-of-school computing
  • Relevance: Making computing relatable to everyday life
  • Subject Choice: How computer science is presented to young people as a subject choice 

In December we published the last of seven reports describing the results of the programme. In this blog post I summarise our overall findings and reflect on what we’ve learned through doing this research.

Gender balance in computing is not a new problem

I was fascinated to read a paper by Deborah Butler from 2000 which starts by summarising themes from research into gender balance in computing from the 1980s and 1990s, for example that boys may have access to more role models in computing and may receive more encouragement to pursue the subject, and that software may be developed with a bias towards interests traditionally considered to be male. Butler’s paper summarises research from at least two decades ago — have we really made progress?

A computing classroom filled with learners.

In England, it’s true that making Computing a mandatory subject from age 5 means we have taken great strides forward; the need for young people to make a choice about studying the subject only arises at age 14. However, statistics for England’s externally assessed high-stakes Computer Science courses taken at ages 14–16 (GCSE) and 16–18 (A level) clearly show that, although there is a small upwards trend in the proportion of female students, particularly for A level, gender balance among the students achieving GCSE/A level qualifications remains an issue:

Computer Science qualification (England): In 2018: In 2021: In 2022:
GCSE (age 16) 20.41% 20.77% 21.37%
A level (age 18) 11.74% 14.71% 15.17%
Percentage of girls among the students achieving Computer Science qualifications in England’s secondary schools

Building community with our global clubs partners

As part of our mission to enable young people to realise their full potential through the power of computing and digital technologies, we work in partnership with organisations around the globe to grow and sustain the Code Club and CoderDojo networks of coding clubs for young people. These organisations are our global clubs partners, and they undertake activities including training educators and volunteers, providing access to equipment, and running clubs and events for young people at a local or national level.

Educator training in a classroom in Benin.
Educator training in Benin, run by our global clubs partner Impala Bridge.

Meeting in the middle

Given that many people at the Raspberry Pi Foundation are based in the UK and Ireland, and that meeting in person has been restricted during the coronavirus pandemic, our work to connect with the global clubs partners network has largely taken place via video calls these last years. We don’t only connect with partners one to one, we also link them to each other so they can share insights, approaches, and resources. Video calls offer a unique opportunity for bringing together partner organisations located all over the world, but they provide a very different experience to building community in person.

A group of educators.
Our meetup in Malaysia brought together global clubs partners from Malawi, Tanzania, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, Vietnam, and Malaysia itself.

With a network of 41 organisations in 35 countries, meeting in person requires careful consideration so we can accommodate as many partners as possible. That’s why we decided to hold several regional meetups in 2022 to make it feasible for all partners to join at least one. In October, a meetup took place in the Netherlands, coinciding with DojoCon Netherlands run by local partners. Our most recent meetup happened in early December, the day before the Coolest Projects Malaysia 2022 event, in Penang on the west coast of Malaysia.

Workshop attendees stand around a table.
Meetups with global clubs partners are about connection and knowledge sharing.

At the December meetup, we welcomed participants from 10 partner organisations across Asia, Oceania, and Africa. This group spent a whole day building connections and sharing their work with each other. Together we covered several areas of interest, including volunteer recruitment, training, and recognition — all crucial topics for organisations that rely on volunteers to support young people. Meet-up participants shared resources, discussed how to sustainably grow networks, and planned for the future. The next day, participants had the chance to visit Coolest Projects Malaysia to find even more inspiration while seeing local young people showcase their own tech creations.

At Coolest Projects, a group of people explore a coding project.
At Coolest Projects, young people from Code Clubs, CoderDojos, and beyond showcase tech projects they’ve made.

Although it was only one day, the impact of the meetup has been clear. As we had hoped it would, feedback from the partner organisations was very positive and revolved around community and learning, with participants expressing “feeling better connected” and “interconnectedness”, as well as “learning a lot” and “sharing best practices”. One participant even volunteered to host a future meetup, saying “Next year I would like to run this in my country.”

Workshop attendees at a table.
At the meetup, we discussed topics including club volunteer recruitment, training, and recognition.

Here at the Foundation, we very much share these sentiments. Ellie Proffitt, Code Club Global Partnerships Manager, said: “It was great to see our partners sharing how they support their clubs with each other and bouncing new ideas around. I think we all left feeling very inspired.”

Looking to the future

After the success of these in-person meetups in 2022, we and our global clubs partners are looking forward to future opportunities to work together. Planning for 2023 is of course well underway, with creative, ambitious projects and new partnerships in the pipeline. We all feel renewed in our commitment to our work and mission, and excited for what’s on the horizon. In the words of Sonja Bienert, Senior Community Manager: “Through this collaboration, we’ve reached a new level of trust that will positively influence our work for a long time to come.”

You can find out more about joining our global clubs partner community on the CoderDojo and Code Club websites, or contact us directly with your questions or ideas about a partnership. 

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Combining research and practice to evaluate and improve computing education in non-formal settings

In the final seminar in our series on cross-disciplinary computing, Dr Tracy Gardner and Rebecca Franks, who work here at the Foundation, described the framework underpinning the Foundation’s non-formal learning pathways. They also shared insights from our recently published literature review about the impact that non-formal computing education has on learners.

Training teachers and empowering students in Machakos, Kenya

Over the past months, we’ve been working with two partner organisations, Team4Tech and Kenya Connect, to support computing education across the rural county of Machakos, Kenya.

Coolest Projects Global will be back in 2023

Young tech creators, get ready: Coolest Projects Global will be back in 2023 and we want to make this the year of your big idea!

A young person is excited about something on a computer screen.

Coolest Projects Global is the world’s leading online technology showcase for young creators across the world, and we’ll soon be inviting young people to share their creations in the 2023 gallery when project registration opens on 6 February

A group of Coolest Projects participants from all over the world wave their flags.

For young creators, Coolest Projects Global is the unique opportunity to share their big ideas with the whole world. All projects in our open online showcase receive personalised feedback from judges, and all creators get some awesome limited-edition swag too. To bring all the participants together, we’ll host a live-streamed celebration event online on 6 June 2023, where we’ll also reveal the favourite projects of our very special VIP judges.

How does Coolest Projects Global work?

  • Coolest Projects Global is completely free, it’s all online, and it’s open to all digital creators up to age 18 from anywhere in the world. Creators can take part independently or in teams of up to five.
  • Tech creators of all skill levels are encouraged to participate. Coolest Projects is for young people who are beginners, advanced, or anything in between.
  • We love to see works in progress, so projects don’t need to be completed to be registered.

Computational thinking all year round with UK Bebras

This November, teachers across the UK helped 367,023 learners participate in the annual free UK Bebras Challenge of computational thinking.

Bebras UK logo
‘Bebras’ is Lithuanian and means ‘beaver’.

We support this challenge in the UK, together with Oxford University, and Bebras Challenges run across the world, with more than 3 million learners from schools in 54 countries taking part in 2021. Bebras encourages a love of computational thinking, computer science, and problem solving, especially among learners who haven’t yet realised they have these skills.

More and more schools are taking part in the UK Bebras Challenge

Nearly every year since 2013, more UK schools have been participating in Bebras. We think this is because for teachers, registering and entering learners is easy, the online system does all the marking automatically, and teachers receive comprehensive results that can be helpful for assessment.

A line graph showing the number of annual participants in the UK Bebras Challenge, from less than 50,000 in 2013 to over 350,000 in 2022.

The computational thinking problems within Bebras are tailored for different age groups, use clear language, and are accessible to colour-blind learners. There is also a challenge for learners with visual impairments. Teachers who run Bebras in their schools seem to love it and regularly tell colleagues about it. 

“Our pupils really enjoy [Bebras] and I find it so helpful to teach computational thinking with real-life strategies. We also find the data and information about our pupils’ performance extremely helpful.” — Teacher in London

Age-appropriate computational thinking problems

In the UK Bebras Challenge, the younger learners aged 6 to 10 usually take part in teams and have plenty of time to discuss how to solve the computational thinking problems they are presented with.

Reflecting on what we teach in computing education and how we teach it

Reflecting is important within any line of work, and computing education is no different. Reflective practice is always valuable, whether you support learners in a non-formal setting, such as a Code Club or CoderDojo, or in a more formal environment, such as a school or college. When you reflect, you might for example evaluate a session or lesson and make changes for next time, or consider whether to reorder activities and learning across a longer time period, or even think broadly about what you teach and how you teach it.

Two special editions of Hello World: The big book of computing content, and the big book of computing pedagogy.

This is where our two special editions of Hello World come in: The Big Book of Computing Content and The Big Book of Computing Pedagogy. Both available as free downloads, they help you reflect on what you teach within Computing and how you teach it.

768 teams of young people have entered Astro Pi Mission Space Lab 2022/23

This year, 768 teams made up of 3086 young people from 23 countries sent us their ideas for experiments to run on board the International Space Station (ISS) for Astro Pi Mission Space Lab.

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Mission Space Lab is part of the European Astro Pi Challenge, an ESA Education programme run in collaboration with us at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Mission Space Lab teams can choose between ‘Life on Earth’ and ‘Life in space’ for their experiment idea. As in previous years, ‘Life on Earth’ was the most popular experiment theme: three quarters of the teams chose to submit an idea with this theme, for experiments using one of the Astro Pi’s High Quality Cameras. Half of these experiments involved using the near-infrared sensitive camera to investigate topics such as deforestation. Across both themes, over 40% of teams expressed an interest in using machine learning in their experiment.

Mission Space Lab teams are now getting ready to write and test their code

A panel of 25 judges from the Raspberry Pi Foundation and ESA Education assessed the submitted ideas. We are restricted in how many teams we can accommodate, as time to run experiments on board the ISS is limited, especially for ‘Life on Earth’ experiments which need time in a nadir window. The standard of the submitted ideas was higher than ever, making this the toughest judging yet. We are delighted to announce that 486 teams will move on to Phase 2 of Mission Space Lab: writing the code for their experiments.

An Astro Pi unit at a window on board the International Space Station.
A Mark II Astro Pi in the NODE window on the ISS. Credit: ESA/NASA

If your experiment idea was unsuccessful this time, we understand that this will be disappointing news for your team. We encourage them to submit a new experiment idea in next year’s Mission Space Lab. We will let you know when Mission Space Lab 23/24 will be launching.

All the teams whose experiment ideas we’ve selected will receive a special Astro Pi hardware kit, customised to their idea, to help them write and test the Python programs to execute their experiments. Once the teams of young people have received their kits, they can familiarise themselves with the Astro Pi hardware and then create and test (and re-test!) their programs.

Young people’s Mission Space Lab code will run in space next year

The deadline for Mission Space Lab teams to submit the code for their experiments to us is Thursday 24 February 2023. Once their program code has been through our rigorous checks and tests, it will be ready to run on the Astro Pis on board the ISS during April/May 2023.

Astro Pi computers on the ISS.
The Mark I and Mark II Astro Pi computers on board the ISS earlier this year. Credit: ESA/NASA

Congratulations to the successful teams, and thank you to everyone who sent us their ideas for Mission Space Lab this year. And a special thank you to all the teachers, educators, club volunteers, and other wonderful people who are acting as mentors for Mission Space Lab teams. You are helping your young people do something remarkable that they will remember for the rest of their lives, and the Astro Pi Challenge would not happen without you.

Welcome back, Ed and Izzy! 

Every year since 2015, thanks to our annual Astro Pi Challenge, teams of young people have written computer programs to run scientific experiments on two Astro Pi computers on the ISS.

Mark I Astro Pi computers Ed and Izzy back on Earth on a desk, after 5 years on board the International Space Station.
Mark I Astro Pi computers Ed and Izzy back on Earth after five years on board the International Space Station. Credit: ESA

This is the second year that experiments will run on the Mark II Astro Pi computers, named after Nikola Tesla and Marie Curie, but lots of people have been wondering what would happen to their predecessors. After running over 50,000 young people’s computer programs, the Mark I Astro Pi computers, Ed and Izzy, have safely returned to Earth for a well-earned rest.

Young people can take part in Astro Pi Mission Zero

Astro Pi Mission Zero is a one-hour beginners’ programming activity. In Mission Zero, young people, in teams or as individuals, write a program to display an image or series of images of their own design on one of the Astro Pi computers, to remind the astronauts on the ISS of home.

Using relevant contexts to engage girls in the Computing classroom: Study results

Today we are sharing an evaluation report on another study that’s part of our Gender Balance in Computing research programme. In this study, we investigated the impact of using relevant contexts in classroom programming activities for 12- to 13-year-olds on girls’ and boys’ attitudes towards Computing.

Two female learners code at a computer together.

We have been working on Gender Balance in Computing since 2018, together with partner organisations Behavioural Insights Team, Apps for Good, and WISE, to conduct research studies exploring ways to encourage more girls and young women to engage with Computing in school. The research programme has been funded by the Department for Education, and we deliver it as part of the National Centre for Computing Education. The report we share today is about the penultimate study in the programme.

Components of a Computing curriculum

A typical Computing curriculum is built around content: a list of concepts, knowledge, and skills that will be covered during the course. For some learners, that list will be enough to motivate and engage them in Computing. But other learners require more to engage with the subject, such as context about how they can use the computing skills they learn in the real world. Crucially, this difference between learners is often gendered. Research has shown that many boys become absorbed by the content in Computing courses, whereas for many girls the context for using computing skills is more important, and this context needs to relate to a variety of relevant scenarios where computing can solve problems.

In a computing classroom, a girl laughs at what she sees on the screen.

Developing teaching materials to highlight the relevance of Computing

In the Relevance study, we worked together with colleagues from Apps for Good to create teaching materials that present Computing in contexts that were relevant to pupils’ own interests. To do this, we drew on a research concept called identification. This states that when learners become interested in a topic because it relates to part of their own identity, that makes the subject more personally meaningful to them, which in turn means that they are more likely to continue studying it. In the materials we created, we drew on learners’ identities based on the communities that they belonged to (see image below). The materials asked them to identify the connections they had to their own communities, and to then use this as the context to design and create a mobile phone app.

A slide from a Computing lesson inviting learners to identify the communities they are part of based on their family, beliefs, school, interests, etc.
The intervention materials asked learners to think about the communities they belong to.

“I feel a sense of achievement in Computing when making your ideas a reality makes you proud of your creation, which is rewarding.” (Female learner, Relevance study evaluation report p. 57)

The Relevance research study

Between January 2022 and April 2022, more than 95 secondary schools were part of our study investigating the effect that learning with these resources might have on the attitudes of Year 8 pupils (aged 12–13) towards Computing. We are very grateful to all the schools, pupils, and teachers who took part in this study.

To enable evaluation of the study as a randomised controlled trial, the schools were randomly divided into two groups: a ‘control’ group that taught standard Computing lessons, and a ‘treatment’ group that delivered the intervention materials we had developed. The impact of the intervention was independently evaluated by the Behavioural Insights Team using data collected from pupils via surveys at the start and end of the intervention. The evaluators also collected data while conducting lesson observations, pupil group discussions, teacher interviews, and teacher surveys to understand how the intervention was delivered.

The girls who took part in the intervention chose an interesting range of contexts for their apps, including: 

  • Solving problems in the school community, such as homework timetabling and public transport
  • Interest-based communities, such as melody-making and interior design 
  • Issues in wider communities, such as sea life population and mental health

“I feel like it’s an important subject, and I feel like sea life is at risk right now, and I want to help people realise that.” (Female learner, Relevance study evaluation report p. 60)

“I feel like computing can create apps to do with solving mental health problems, which I think are very important and personally need a lot of improvement on the way we can cope with mental health.” (Female learner, Relevance study evaluation report p. 60)

What we learned from the Relevance study

The start of this blog refers to the core components of a Computing curriculum: concepts, knowledge, and skills. One way of building a curriculum is to list these components and develop a scheme of work which covers them all. However, in a recent computing education paper, researchers present an alternative way: developing curricula around the possible endpoints of learners. For computing, one endpoint could be the economic opportunities of a programming career, but equally, another could be using digital technologies for creative expression. The researchers argue that when learners have the opportunity to use computing as a tool related to personally meaningful contexts, a more diverse group of learners can become engaged in the subject.

A group of young people in a computer science classroom pose for a group photo.

Girls who took part in our Relevance study expressed the importance of creativity. “I think last term we had instructions and you follow them, whereas now it’s like your own ideas and your own creativity and whatever you make,” said one female learner (report, p. 56). The series of lessons where learners designed a prototype of their app was particularly popular among girls because this activity included creative expression. Girls who see themselves as creative align their interests with subjects that allow them to express this part of their identity.

A slide from a Computing lesson inviting learners to design a mobile phone app on paper.
With the intervention materials, learners developed a paper prototype of their app before going on to create code for it.

Based on learner responses to a ‘yes/no’ question about whether they were likely to choose GCSE Computer Science, the evaluators of the study found no statistically significant differences between the students who were part of the treatment and control groups. However, when learners were asked instead to select from a list which subjects they were likely to choose at GCSE, there was a statistically significant difference in the results: girls from schools in the treatment group were more likely to choose GCSE Computer Science as one of their options than girls in the control group. This finding suggests that it would be beneficial to gender balance in Computing if educators who design Computing curricula consider multiple endpoints for learners and include personally meaningful contexts to create learning experiences that are relevant to diverse groups of learners.

Find out more about making computing relevant for your learners

This is the penultimate report to be published about the studies that are part of the Gender Balance in Computing programme. If you would like to stay up-to-date with the programme, you can sign up to our newsletter. Our final report is about a study that explored the role that options booklets and evenings play in students’ subject choice.

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Source: Raspberry Pi – Using relevant contexts to engage girls in the Computing classroom: Study results

Spotlight on primary computing education in our 2023 seminar series

We are excited to announce our next free online seminars, running monthly from January 2023 and focusing on primary school (K–5) teaching and learning of computing.

Two children code on laptops while an adult supports them.

Our seminars, having covered various topics in computing education over the last three years, will now offer you a close look at current questions and research in primary computing education. Through this series we want to connect research and teaching practice, and further primary computing education across the globe.

Are these seminars for me?

Our upcoming seminars are for everyone interested in computing education, not just for primary school teachers — you are all cordially invited to join us. Previous seminars have been attended by a valuable mix of teachers, volunteers, tech industry professionals, and researchers, all keen to explore how computing education research can be put into practice.

Learner using Scratch on a laptop.

Whether you teach in a classroom, or support learners in a coding club, you will find out how our youngest learners develop their computing knowledge. You’ll also explore with us what this means for your learning context in practical terms.

What you can expect from the online seminars

Each seminar starts with a presenter explaining, in easy-to-understand terms, some recent research they have done. The presentation is followed by a discussion in smaller groups. We then regroup for a Q&A session with the presenter.

Attendees of our previous seminars have said:

“The seminar will be useful in my practice when our coding club starts.”

“I love this initiative, your choice of speakers has been fantastic. You are creating a very valuable CPD resource for Computer Science teachers and educators all over the world. Thank you. 🙏”

“Just wanted to say a huge thank you for organising this. It was brilliant to hear the presentation but also the input from other educators in the breakout room. I currently teach in a department of one, which can be quite lonely, so to join other educators was brilliant and a real encouragement.” 

Learn from specialists to benefit your own learners

Computer science has been taught in universities for many years, and only more recently has the subject been introduced in schools. That means there isn’t a lot of research about computing education for school-aged learners yet, and even less research about how young children of primary school age learn about computing. 

Young learners at computers in a classroom.

That’s why we are excited to invite you to learn with us as we hear from international primary computing research teams who share their knowledge in our online seminars:

  • Tuesday 10 January 2023: Kicking off our series are Dr Katie Rich and Carla Strickland from Chicago with a seminar on how they developed new instructional materials for teaching variables in primary school. They will specifically focus on how they combined research with classroom realities, and share experiences of using their new materials in class. 
  • Tuesday 7 February 2023: Dr Jean Salac from the University of Washington is particularly interested in identifying and addressing inequities in the computing classroom, and will speak about a new learning strategy that has been found to improve students’ understanding of computing concepts and to increase equal access to computing.
  • Tuesday 7 March 2023: Our own Dr Bobby Whyte from the Raspberry Pi Foundation will share practical examples of how primary computing can be integrated into literacy education. He will specifically look at storytelling elements within computing education and discuss the benefits of combining competency areas.
  • May 2023: Information coming soon
  • Tuesday 6 June 2023: In a collaborative seminar, Aim Unahalekhaka from Tufts University in Massachusetts will first present her research into how children learn coding through ScratchJr. Participants are encouraged to bring a tablet or device with ScratchJr to then look at practical project evaluations and teaching strategies that can help young learners create purposefully.
  • Tuesday 12 September 2023: Joining us from the University of Passau in Germany, Luisa Greifenstein will speak about how to give children appropriate feedback that encourages positive attitudes towards computing education. In particular, she will be looking at the effects of different feedback strategies and present a new Scratch tool that offers automated feedback.
  • October 2023: Information coming soon
  • Tuesday 7 November 2023: We are delighted to be joined by Dr Aman Yadav from Michigan State University who will focus on computational thinking and its value for primary schooling. In his seminar, he will not only discuss the unique opportunities for computational thinking in primary school but also discuss findings from a recent project that focused on teachers’ perspectives. 

Sign up now to attend the seminars

All our seminars start at 17:00 UK time (18:00 CET / 12:00 noon ET / 9:00 PT) and take place in an online format. Sign up now to receive a calendar invitation and the link to join on the day of each seminar.

We look forward to seeing you soon, and to discussing with you how we can apply research results to better support all our learners.

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Source: Raspberry Pi – Spotlight on primary computing education in our 2023 seminar series

Celebrating the community: Selin

We are so excited to share another story from the community! Our series of community stories takes you across the world to hear from young people and educators who are engaging with creating digital technologies in their own personal ways. 

Selin and a robot she has built.
Selin and her robot guide dog IC4U.

In this story we introduce you to Selin, a digital maker from Istanbul, Turkey, who is passionate about robotics and AI. Watch the video to hear how Selin’s childhood pet inspired her to build tech projects that aim to help others live well.  

Meet Selin 

Selin (16) started her digital making journey because she wanted to solve a problem: after her family’s beloved dog Korsan passed away, she wanted to bring him back to life. Selin thought a robotic dog could be the answer, and so she started to design her project on paper. When she found out that learning to code would mean she could actually make a robotic dog, Selin began to teach herself about coding and digital making. Selin has since built seven robots, and her enthusiasm for creating digital technologies shows no sign of stopping.    

Selin is on one knee, next to her robot.
Selin and her robot guide dog IC4U.

One of Selin’s big motivations to explore digital making was having an event to work towards. When she discovered Coolest Projects, our global technology showcase for young people, Selin set herself the task of making a robot that she could present at the Coolest Projects event in 2018. 

When thinking about ideas for what to make for Coolest Projects, Selin remembered how it felt to lose her dog. She wondered what it must be like when a blind person’s guide dog passes away, as that person loses their friend as well as their support. So Selin decided to make a robotic guide dog called IC4U. She contacted several guide dog organisations to find out how guide dogs are trained and what they need to be able to do so she could replicate their behaviour in her robot. The robot is voice-controlled so that people with impaired sight can interact with it easily. 

Selin and the judges at Coolest Projects.
Selin at Coolest Projects International in 2018.

Selin and her parents travelled to Coolest Projects International in Dublin with Selin’s robotic guide dog, and Selin and IC4U became a judges’ favourite in the Hardware category. Selin enjoyed participating in Coolest Projects so much that she started designing her project for next year’s event straight away:    

“When I returned back I immediately started working for next year’s Coolest Projects.”  

Selin

Many of Selin’s tech projects share a theme: to help make the world a better place. For example, another robot made by Selin is the BB4All — a school assistant robot to tackle bullying. And last year, while she attended the Stanford AI4ALL summer camp, Selin worked with a group of young people to design a tech project to increase the speed and accuracy of lung cancer diagnoses.

Through her digital making projects, Selin wants to show how people can use robotics and AI technology to support people and their well-being. In 2021, Selin’s commitment to making these projects was recognised when she was awarded the Aspiring Teen Award by Women in Tech.           

Selin stands next to an photograph of herself. In the photograph she has a dog on one side and a robot dog on the other.

Listening to Selin, it is inspiring to hear how a person can use technology to express themselves as well as create projects that have the potential to do so much good. Selin acknowledges that sometimes the first steps can be the hardest, especially for girls  interested in tech: “I know it’s hard to start at first, but interests are gender-free.”

“Be curious and courageous, and never let setbacks stop you so you can actually accomplish your dream.”    

Selin

We have loved seeing all the wonderful projects that Selin has made in the years since she first designed a robot dog on paper. And it’s especially cool to see that Selin has also continued to work on her robot IC4U, the original project that led her to coding, Coolest Projects, and more. Selin’s robot has developed with its maker, and we can’t wait to see what they both go on to do next.

Help us celebrate Selin and inspire other young people to discover coding and digital making as a passion, by sharing her story on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Source: Raspberry Pi – Celebrating the community: Selin

Introduce young people to coding with our updated projects

A year ago we launched our Introduction to Scratch path of six new coding projects. This was the first path to use our new 3…2…1…Make! approach for prioritising fun and engagement whilst enabling creators to make the things that matter to them. Creators learn how to add code, costumes, and sounds to sprites as they make animations, a game, an app, and a book.

Young person using Scratch.

As the first birthday of the Introduction to Scratch path approached, we decided to review and refresh each project. We used input from the community, looked at remixes of the projects, and analysed visitor data to guide us in our review.

We would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who engaged in focus groups, provided input via social channels, or clicked the project feedback buttons. We really appreciate you taking the time to reach out and we hope you will be pleased with the changes. 

An illustration of the 3-2-1 structure of the new Raspberry Pi Foundation coding project paths.
Our project paths have a 3-2-1 structure (click the image to enlarge)

The updates are split into two parts, those we made specifically to the Introduction to Scratch path, and changes made across all of the 3…2…1…Make! projects.

3…2…1…Make! projects

The first thing you might notice is the revamp of our Introduction step, now called ‘You will make’. This simplified step focuses on setting the scene and encourages creators to play with a completed project example.

Young person using a computer.
Picture Conor McCabe Photography

Also changed is the Reflection step, replaced by ‘Quick quiz’ — a much neater page that guides creators through three questions before awarding a project badge. 

Introduction to Scratch

Here is an overview of the Scratch path to tell you more about the projects and the changes we’ve made to the content.

Creators can start using the updated Scratch projects right away!

Three Explore projects

Our first three projects in the path introduce creators to a set of skills and provide step-by-step instructions to help them develop initial confidence.

Explore 1: Space talk 

In this project, creators design a space scene with characters that emote to share their thoughts or feelings. We received some amazing feedback from a member of the Deaf community to enhance the Nano uses sign language task and include a great new boxout to prompt discussion amongst our creators.

We also heard from a couple of club leaders that the Text to Speech extension in Scratch was a great addition to this project so we added an optional Text to Speech information card to the Upgrade your project step.  

Three alien characters stood still on a planet. One alien has a speech bubble that says, "Hello!". Another has a thinking bubble that reads, "Hmm...".

Explore 2: Catch the bus

The bus in the Catch the bus project is a tour bus, but we originally used the school backdrop as a departure point. We liked how the backdrop looked but now recognise that doing a project about a school bus whilst in a club was probably not the most popular choice. Please forgive us! The project now uses a nighttime city scene.

We also removed the use of the ‘Timer hat block’ from this project — it isn’t needed for the rest of the path and has behaviour that complicates things. The ‘timer hat block’ has been replaced by a ‘wait block’.

A bus drives along a cityscape at night. Scratch cat is faced towards the bus. A hippo with wings flies alongside the bus and towards Scratch cat.

 

Explore 3: Find the bug

We have loved engaging with the community submissions of this project and really enjoyed seeing how quickly we can find the small bugs on each level of the games that have been created. With replicating that enthusiasm in mind, our changes to this project focused on young creators sharing their project and playing projects created by others.

Our new Share and play step has a number of options, including sharing in a club, submitting your project to a shared studio, and experiencing remixes as a user. We have also embedded some community projects into the step to provide upgrade ideas and inspiration.

An insect is on a blackboard. Next to the insect is a speech bubble that contains "13.10". A parrot is below the blackboard.

Two Design projects

The next two projects in the path encourage creators to practise the skills they learned in the previous ‘Explore’ projects, and to express themselves creatively while they grow in independence.

The revamped Get ideas task on the first step of each Design project now has a featured community project that will be regularly updated. You may also notice that the inspirational examples have been reordered or changed using analysis from interactions with them.

Additional community submissions can be found in the Share and play steps to provide upgrade ideas and creators are encouraged to look at remixes of the starter project for even more inspiration. 

Design 1: Silly eyes

Interacting with remixes of the Silly eyes project is one of our favourite things to do! The project involves creating a character whose eyes follow the mouse pointer. We love seeing how design decisions have shaped each project and how various upgrades have been used.

For this project, we decided to remove the ‘Add stage effects’ step as it was largely a repeat of the earlier ‘Add sprite effects’ step. Stage effects is now an optional upgrade which means creators can get through to the ‘Share and play’ step to look at the design decisions made by others, then use those to choose which ideas to include in their project. 

A sea creature with large eyes.

Design 2: Surprise animation

This project consists of creating an animation of a story. We looked at the remixes so far and realised the main steps of the surprise animations were:  

  1. Create your scene
  2. Show curiosity
  3. Add a surprise

Sometimes projects had a reaction in them but others relied on creating a reaction in the user watching the animation. With this in mind we moved the Reaction step and added it as an optional upgrade. We also added graphics to each step to explain the step position in the animation timeline.

A new option to remix one of the example projects was added to this project as a starting point if creators were short of time, needed help with ideas, or had perhaps already thought of an extension to the example animations. 

A filmstrip that contains three images.

One Invent project

Our final project in the path is where creators use their skills to meet a project brief for a particular audience.

The project brief has been revamped to make it more concise with the Reflection step becoming a checklist to keep track of how the project is meeting the brief. 

Invent: I made you a book

This project consists of creating a book with multiple pages to tell a story or share facts. The major change to this project is a reorganisation of the steps. The original planning step has now split in two — the first step to decide the high-level purpose and audience for the book and the second step to plan the book in more detail using either the starter Scratch project or our new planning sheet

A storyboard with images that have been drawn by hand.
Creators can use the new planning sheet to sketch their ideas on paper

The build and test step has also been restructured to break up the skills into categories and make the tasks clearer. At the end of the step, creators are encouraged to ask for feedback then repeat the process to work on their book until it is ready to share.  

What next?

We will start refreshing another path soon but in the meantime, we hope you and your creators enjoy using the revamped Introduction to Scratch path. We would love to hear your feedback on any of our projects via the feedback button on the bottom of each project page. 

Two learners working together at a computer.

We look forward to seeing what your creators make. 

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Source: Raspberry Pi – Introduce young people to coding with our updated projects

Take part in the Hour of Code

Launched in 2013, Hour of Code is an initiative to introduce young people to computer science using fun one-hour tutorials. To date, over 100 million young people have completed an hour of code with it. 

A girl doing a physical computing project.

Although the Hour of Code website is accessible all year round, every December for Computer Science Education Week people worldwide run their own Hour of Code events. Each year we love seeing many Code Clubs, CoderDojos, and young people at home across the community complete their Hour of Code. You can register your 2022 Hour of Code event now to run between 5 and 11 December. 

To support your event, we have pulled together a bumper set of our free coding projects, which can each be completed in just one hour. You will find these activities on the Hour of Code website.

Two young digital makers using Raspberry Pi

There’s something for all ages and levels of experience, so put an hour aside and help young people make something fabulous with code:

Ages 7–11

Beginner

For younger creators new to coding, a Scratch project is a great place to start. 

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With our Space talk project, they can create a space scene with characters that ‘emote’ to share their thoughts or feelings using sounds, colours, and actions. Creators program the character emotes using Scratch blocks to control graphic effects, costume animation, and sound effects. 

Alternatively, our Stress ball project lets them code an onscreen stress ball that reacts to user clicks. Creators use the Paint and Sound editors in Scratch to personalise a clickable stress ball, and they add Scratch blocks to control graphic effects, costume animation, and sound effects. 

We love this fun stress ball example sent to us recently by young creator April from the United States:

Another great option is to use Code Club World, which is a free tool to help children who are new to coding.  

Creators can develop a character avatar, design a T-shirt, make some music, and more.

Comfortable

For 7- to 11-year-olds who are more comfortable with block-based coding, our project Broadcasting spells is ideal to choose. With the project, they connect Scratch blocks to code a wand that casts spells turning sprites into toads, and growing and shrinking them. Creators use broadcast blocks to transform multiple sprites at once, and they create sound effects with the Sound editor in Scratch. 

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Ages 11–14

Beginner

We have three exciting projects for trying text-based coding during Hour of Code in this category. The first, Anime expressions, is one of our brand-new ‘Introduction to web development’ projects. With this project, young people create a responsive webpage with text and images for an anime drawing tutorial. They write HTML to structure the webpage and CSS styles to apply layout, colour palettes, and fonts. 

For a great introduction to coding with Python, we have the project Hello world from our ‘Introduction to Python’ path. With this project, creators write Python text-based code to create an interactive program that shows text and emojis based on user input. They learn about variables as they use them to store text and numbers, and they learn about writing functions to organise code and do calculations, retrieve the current date and time, and make a customisable dice. 

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LED firefly is a fantastic physical making project in which young people use a Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller and basic electronic components to create a blinking LED firefly. They program the LED’s light patterns with MicroPython code and activate it via a switch they make themselves using jumper wires.

A blinking LED with paper wings.

Comfortable

For 11- to 14-year-olds who are already comfortable with HTML, the Flip treat webcards project is a fun option. With this, they create a webpage showing a set of cards that flip when a visitor’s mouse pointer hovers over them. Creators use CSS styling and animations to add interactivity, then they customise the cards with fancy fonts and colour gradients.

Young people who have already done some Python coding can try out our project Target practice. With this project they create a game, using the p5 graphics library to draw a colourful target, and writing code so that the player scores points by hitting the target’s rings with arrows. While they create the project, they learn about RGB colours, shape positioning with x and y coordinates, and decisions using if, else-if, and else code statements. 

Ages 14+

Beginner

Our project Charting champions is a great introduction to data visualisation and analysis for coders aged 15 and older. With the project, they will discover the power of the Python programming language as they store Olympic medal data in lists and use the pygal library to create an interactive chart.

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Comfortable

Teenage coders who feel comfortable with Python programming can use our project Solar system simulator to code an animated, interactive solar system model using the Python p5 graphics library. Their model will be interactive, as they’ll use dictionaries to store planet facts that display when a user clicks on an orbiting planet.

Coding for Hour of Code and beyond

Now is the time to register your Hour of Code event, then decide which project you’d like to support young people to create. You can download certificates for each of the creators from the Hour of Code certificates page.

And make sure to check out our project paths so you know what projects you can help the young people you support to code beyond this one hour of code. 

We don’t just create activities so that other people can experience coding and digital making — we also get involved ourselves!

Two members of the Code Club working at computers.

Recently, our teams who support the Code Club and CoderDojo networks got together to make LED fireflies. We are excited to get coding again as part of Hour of Code and Computer Science Education Week.

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Source: Raspberry Pi – Take part in the Hour of Code

Out now: Hello World’s special edition on Computing content

Hello World, our free magazine for computing and digital making educators, has just published its second special edition: The Big Book of Computing Content.

Cover of The Big Book of Computing Content.

A special edition on the content we teach in the Computing classroom

While Hello World‘s first special edition, The Big Book of Computing Pedagogy, focused on how we can teach Computing, this new book is about what we mean by Computing. It aims to demonstrate the breadth of knowledge and skills contained within this constantly evolving subject.

At what age can a child start coding?

Coding, or computer programming, is a way of writing instructions so that computers can complete tasks. Those instructions can be as simple as ‘move a toy robot forwards for three seconds and then make a beep’, or more complicated instructions, such as ‘check the weather in my local area and then adjust the heating in my house accordingly’.

A boy types code at a CoderDojo coding club.

Why should kids learn to code? 

Even if your child never writes computer programs, it is likely they already use software that coders have created, and in the future they may work with, manage, or hire people who write code. This is why it is important that everyone has an understanding of what coding is all about, and why we at the Raspberry Pi Foundation are passionate about inspiring and supporting children to learn to code for free.