Pi Anyone? Raspberry Pi, that is…

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the #picademy, sponsored by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, held in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  During this two-day workshop, 40 educators from all over came together to learn more about physical computing and just a few of the ways the Raspberry Pi 3 (RPi 3) could be used to foster creativity, problem-solving ability, and the maker mindset.  In groups, teachers collaborated on a variety of projects to include selfie photo-booths, sensing projects, and more.

The Raspberry Pi is an accessible and affordable computer, not to mention one in which can fit in the palm of your hand.  At a price point of $35/unit, it provides a neat way to put a programmable computer in the hands of your students.  Similar to a Windows or Mac OS, it runs the Raspbian OS, its own operating system.


Out of the box, I was able to quickly assemble and connect the Pi’s components.  Once connected, our rock star facilitators walked us through a few projects to get started with the Pi.  What I appreciated about this workshop was that there was no “sit and get”, within the first 20 – 30 minutes of Day 1, we were drafting, testing, and exploring new ideas on the Pi.  Though I learned much more than I had already known about the Pi, that wasn’t what made the workshop awesome… it was the confidence I gained in failing and trying new things beyond my reach and learning to leverage the wealth of resources around me, by way of the RPi Community and beyond.

Another thing I appreciated about the workshop is that I was able to walk away with something I had created.  During the workshop, we were tasked with coming up with a project idea that solves a problem we have and then organize ourselves in teams centered around that mission.

While brainstorming a few project ideas, I wanted to come up with something that would give students and teachers a way to quickly reflect, document and share their learning experiences.  One easily overlooked, but so very important practice in education is that of reflection and sharing.  A selfie/video-reflection photobox thingy (smile) is what my group and I came up with.  Inspiration from the @thenerdyteacher.  Recently, Instructables posted a nice write up for a Raspberry Pi Photo Booth Case… Check out that link here.


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Of course, during the project development phase, we experienced some challenges, but that was to be expected.  Needless to say, the payoff was huge.  Not only were we able to develop an initial concept, but we now have some ideas of what to improve upon in our next iteration.  My team was fire (that means terrific, great, hot, etc.) and consisted of @ckillmer, @ra_stratton, @mkplyler , @afmcdnl and our Tweet Bot:  @RPCE_PhotoBomb.  Consider following them on twitter when you get a moment.


It did take us a while to get going, as we spent a great deal of time in the concept development and project management phases.  Our group-assigned team leader quickly assigned us roles and from there, we all just jumped in.  Two of us worked on a physical prototype of the photo booth, followed by my work in Python on the code for the Dropbox plug-in to automate the image delivery to a private Dropbox for vetting.  This is particularly important if you are concerned about the content your students may record.  Our group also had the work of drafting (borrowing) the code for the physical components and connections, i.e. the button wiring and designation in Python (wasn’t my part – LOL).  While that was going on, we also had another team member working on the Twitter API plug-in, which would provide users the opportunity to submit their image or video (after a preview), along with 140-character tweet on their subject. One of the initial thoughts here was to use this in a science class, where during labs, students could quickly record their reflections and 140-character tweets, all from their lab bench. Of course, this can and should be adopted in other disciplines and content areas.  What about a similar booth for a writing/ELA course where teachers allowed students to record their story endings, or in a language class, where teachers allow students to practice their dictation.

In short, I found this to be a low-cost and accessible way to outfit a class with portable recording stations/studios.  Many thanks to @thenerdyteacher for the inspiration and the entire RPi Team @ascollins, @mllevalsunshine, @mattrichardson, @olsonk408, and @cortlentz1 for all the knowledge and support they offered to move the idea forward…


Til next time,

The Berknologist has spoken,.. Good night.