Brand New Computer Science Laboratory under construction

06 November 2017

When computing was brought under the umbrella of the Humanities department, we spent some time looking at what was working and perhaps more importantly, what we could do to enhance the young people’s experiences of computing at Windermere School. We found there was a huge pool of untapped talent, looking for a way to enhance their own abilities but they were lacking the motivation and facilities to really push themselves. The process began in the summer of 2016 with the re-design of the existing ICT facility in Browhead. We redesigned the classroom to make it a much more user-friendly environment which could facilitate better teaching and learning, but we still felt there was something missing that could capture the imaginations of our learners. Mr Blanch then suggested getting a Raspberry Pi, and that was the game changer.


What is a Raspberry Pi?


The Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer that not only provides a platform for young people to learn how to code (as we did back in the day on an old BBC Micro) but also has the ability to connect to input and output devices like buttons, LEDs, buzzers and robots. We bought one for the department as a little experiment to see if we might be able to squeeze it into the curriculum somewhere, but within half an hour we were hooked. It was like being back in 1988 in Mr Wheatley’s classroom, staring at a green screen trying to get the computer to print the line “My sister smells” over and over.

We could see the potential to create the next generation of computer scientists but we had to see if the students would like it, so we bought another 10 and converted the Economics classroom into a makeshift computer lab and spent a term with the Year 9s to see what they thought. It was a success. They loved the physical aspect and the ability to use the Pi to interact with the real world in a tangible way, so we made the decision to change the approach to computing for all pupils and get Pi’s for everyone. The problem was the Economics classroom wasn’t the best place for it; we needed a better solution.

Computer Science Lab - or 'The Pi Shop'
Over half term, Mr Allan, Mr Mowbray, Mr Bellingham and I have transformed what was a PE changing room into the Pi Shop. The design brief was a little unusual. When people asked us what we wanted the phrase we kept going back to was ‘imagine Dr Who’s shed…’. What we have been able to create is more than another ICT classroom. We wanted to create an area of the school which could combine the technology with creativity. Locating it next to art, I think we have the perfect blend of both.

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The pictures here show the building process so far but it is far from finished. We will be continually adding resources (sensors, motors, robots) over the coming months to allow us to go beyond the curriculum and create the next generation of active producers of technology. This is a really exciting time for the teaching and learning of Computing and the students are finding the change of direction really challenging and rewarding. We are really excited about the future and are looking ahead to projects like Submarine Pi (building a Pi into a submarine to explore the lake), HoverPi (building hovercraft out of recycled laptop parts), StratoPi (launching a Pi with a camera on a weather balloon and then trying to retrieve it) and AstroPi (writing a program to be run on the Raspberry Pi on the international space station). The only limiting factor is the young people’s imaginations, and our students will achieve things in the future that, at the moment, are beyond our wildest dreams.
Mr Bromley - Head of Humanities

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