6 months at Raspberry Pi

Raspberry-Pi-LogoTime flies and it’s been six months now since I joined the Raspberry Pi Foundation. My role, Senior Research Manager, was a new one in a fast developing organisation and I’m often asked questions about exactly what it involves. At the start I was asking these questions myself, and it was great to be in the position of really defining something totally new.

I was brought on board at the Foundation to bring a research perspective and to work with everyone to develop an even better informed and robust approach to their work. It’s worth noting the distinction between the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the Raspberry Pi computer. The computers are invented and brought to market by Raspberry Pi Trading Ltd. This is a company led by Eben Upton that is wholly owned by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. That means all the profits from the low cost computer and official accessories go to the Foundation to deliver on its outcomes as an educational charity. I’m employed by the Foundation so I focus on the educational and community programmes we run rather than work on the computers themselves. Having said that the two organisations do work really closely, share an open plan office, and influence each other.

So what have I actually been doing?

Annual Review 2015

The first thing I worked on was writing and producing the annual review for the charity for last year. This was very well timed, it allowed me to spend some time talking in-depth to all of my colleagues about what they do, what they achieved in the last year and the impact they are trying to make. I put this all together into a really fun publication with the considerable help of illustrator Sam Alder and MagPi editor Russell Barnes and his team of designers. It was good to get a publication out so soon after starting the job, and I’m pleased with it as a statement of what my colleagues achieved in 2015. You can read the publication here.

Teacher Training Development

The Raspberry Pi Foundation have been running Picademy events to train teachers in physical computing for the past few years. Code Club have been running training sessions for primary teachers new to teaching computing. As the two teams have merged it has given an opportunity to develop their offers, and I’ve been helping with this work which is ongoing. I’ve brought my experience in teacher education to the work on how we make this work even more effective, fed in the research on effective teacher professional development, and started to help the teams think about how they define and track the impact they have.

Certified Educators Survey

Linked to the above, we wanted to gather better information on what teachers have done after the training my colleagues have provided them with. We put together an annual survey asking about how they had used what they learned from Picademy and what we could do to support them better. I was amazed at the generous response from Certified Educators, with 60% of them responding to the detailed survey, a response rate I’ve not seen before from an online form! This was in itself an interesting exercise, and we tried out and measured all the different ways we used to contact them so that we can learn from the success.

Code Club trials

Lots of the ideas that I used to reach out to the Certified Educators came from some work we are doing with the Behavioural Insights Team trialling new ways to reach out to volunteers who run Code Clubs, and prospective new supporters. We’re still working on this project, trying out new things, and it’s been really interesting.

Education Grant Fund review

In the last 18 months year the Raspberry Pi Foundation has had a new CEO and a new strategy. The focus is now on running educational programmes ourselves and with partners, but in the past the foundation gave out grants to other organisations to support their educational projects. I undertook a review of this grant funding for the trustees, and it was great to see so many innovative projects providing opportunities for digital making to people all over the world.

Creative Technologists Evaluation

My colleague Rachel Rayns ran a programme over the last year to mentor young people in bringing together digital technology and the creative arts. I worked with her to look at what we had learned from the programme and should incorporate into future work. It was great getting to know the young people involved and experiencing their exhibition of new works of creative technology. More here.

Theory of Change

My latest project is working with everyone in the foundation to build a Theory of Change for our work. This is a plan that describes the change we are trying to make in the world and how the work that we do makes it happen. I’m only in the early stages, but it’s already fascinating talking to everyone about their ambitious aims, and doing the hard work with them to figure out how we make sure that everything we do contributes to reaching those aims. I wrote about Theory of Change a while back here.

Through working on these projects, a series of needs have emerged that research can help with, and even more ambitions have been developed as to how research can contribute even more towards the foundation’s mission to put the power of digital making in the hands of people all over the world. This post is focused on activities, but while doing all of these projects I’ve developed a strategy for research that will guide my work as it continues to develop.

It’s been a great six months. I’ve really enjoyed working with so many people passionate about computing, digital making and creating opportunities for young people. Raspberry Pi is a creative and fun place to work, and it’s a positive challenge being able to work on bringing even more rigour to what we do and developing a better understanding of how projects work and people learn in digital making.

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