I’ve started at the foundation as Research Manager, and I’m leading the various activities around research. This is a new role, which means there is quite a bit to develop and lots for me to define.
Raspberry Pi is an unusual organisation. It is fundamentally an educational charity, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, with a mission to put digital making in the hands of people all over the world. Many people think of it as a computer company, and in a sense it is. Raspberry Pi Trading invents, designs and produces the low cost computers and accessories, but it is a wholly owned subsidiary of the foundation. The foundation side carry out educational and outreach programmes, teacher training, and create resources to further the mission of the charity. They’ve recently merged with Code Club, who provide volunteer led programming clubs in schools and provide resources and training for teaching programming to children.
In the few years that Raspberry Pi and Code Club have been around they have achieved a lot. I’m joining them to help develop their research, both in terms of better understanding teaching and learning of computing and digital making and in terms of understanding the impact their resources and activities have. Initially this takes the form of a few projects, some shorter term and some much longer:
The 2015 annual review
Each year the foundation publishes an annual review to sum up it’s activities over the past twelve months. My first project is producing this review. It’s working well for me as it involves spending time really exploring all the different activities of then organisation and understanding what they are and the impact they have. I’ll be co-ordinating different colleagues contributions to this, writing a good chunk of it myself, and managing the publication process.
Helping develop impact and understanding
The Raspberry Pi foundation is a relatively young charity, with a wide range of activities and a fast pace of development. As I gain a more in depth understanding of the activities of the foundation I’ll be working with colleagues to develop and embed ways of understanding the impact of their work even better.
Wider research programme
We’re working in a relatively new area, both in terms of the fast pace of technology and the fact that England and some other countries are teaching technical subjects in our areas to all young children and teenagers systematically for the first time. There is much we don’t really know about this area, and much of the research into how people learn and teach has been carried out on adults such as undergraduate students. This is useful to know about and build on, but we need to do much more work on understanding how this works with younger people, and how the new forms of resources and approach affect this.
Is ‘unplugged computing’ the best place to start? At what ages is it developmentally appropriate to introduce certain concepts? When is the right time to transition from a graphical language like Scratch to a text based one like Python? Is the assumption you start graphical then transition to text even a valid one?
Intuitive answers to these questions, and many more, are emerging. I’m going to be working on exploring how we might can interrogate them more deeply, question the assumptions and build the field of understanding in computing education and digital making.
Of course while I am doing all this I will be engaging with the wider communities involved in computing and digital making, from the thriving Raspberry Pi community of makers, to teachers and students (whatever their age), to those who don’t yet know that a low cost computer could open up opportunities to them. I’m hoping this will also include getting to know colleagues working in teacher training and research even better and seeing how we can work to together.
BETT in London next week will be my first piece of engagement work with the team. It’s the first year of a dedicated Raspberry Pi and Code Club stand over in the STEM village. There’s going to be back to back free workshops every half hour throughout the show on the stand, and a ‘Raspberry Jam’ event on the Saturday where people bring their projects to work on together. I’ll be on the stand some of the time and have other time to meet people. If the above has chimed with you then get in touch (email or twitter) and let’s meet up.
It’s an exciting brief, and one that continues the work I’ve been doing in all my previous roles while providing lots of new challenges. It’s also an amazing team I’m working with. From the team working on charitable foundation work, the Code Club team, and the Trading team working on the computers and software themselves, this is an organisation of very smart and passionate people. They’ve also been really welcoming. This project isn’t just about technology, it’s about community. It’s great to be part of and to contribute to this community.
Also published on Medium.