Try some Pi

Continuing from my post last week, in my reading of “Invent to Learn” by Martinez and Stager, I’m intrigued by the intellectual and philosophical framework of the Maker Movement.  As we continue to discover, there are rarely truly new ideas.  Seymour Papert, considered the “Father of Modern Making”, is quoted as saying, “It is 100 years since John Dewey began arguing for the kind of change that would move schools away from authoritarian classrooms with abstract notions to environments in which learning is achieved through experimentation, practice and exposure to the real world.” (Martinez and Stager, p. 20).  The idea of learning through observation and experimentation is not new to Dewey either.  In times of change in education the best ideas from our best thinkers float to the surface again, and we are challenged again to consider how we can implement them.

Dewey’s idea has a lot in common with the current idea of Inquiry based learning.  Inquiry based learning can be challenging concept for us as educators, because we are used to ensuring that our students have demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the “Prescribed Learning Outcomes”.  If we have too much inquiry in our classrooms, are we not running the risk that our students’ explorations, however valuable, will miss the prescribed targets?

Recently on a Professional Development day at Kwantlen Park we had the pleasure of working with Joe Tong, Jess Pelat, Parm Brar and Melaina Dolcetti from Fraser Heights  They provided us with many examples of how inquiry and the provincial curriculum (particularly with the current curriculum redesign) can work together.  They encouraged us to experiment with integrating inquiry one lesson and unit at a time, rather than making wholesale change right away.  


On with my experiments!  My kids have decided that they don’t like being called “guinea pigs” and would prefer to be known as “test subjects 1 and 2”.  Hmm…

So in engaging them in conversation about the Raspberry Pi, I’m using a website called “Suntime Box” that has a set of tutorials on how to use the Pi.  They are broken down by day and week, but each is very short, so we went through the first three days in about half an hour.  The kids were intrigued to discover that the most significant part of the Pi board (the ARM processor) is the smallest, and that the bigger and more interesting looking parts are all there just to help humans interact with it.  That was about it for their attention spans at that point, so we moved on to setting up the trampoline in the back yard and clearing junk out of the garden.  At dinner several hours later, however, they were able to explain all the parts to their mom, with a good basic understanding of how these various pieces all show up in their gaming devices, my phone, and most of the other electronics we use.  



(If you have a Raspberry Pi with the Pi logo on it, you can skip the Suntime Box tutorial on how to download the operating system.  The card comes preloaded with most of the available OS’s already).

Not bad for day 1!


I am an educational leader, a photographer, a thinker, and a parent. We live in a world of abundance on the West Coast of Canada. I learn together with wonderful people in my home, community, work, and church. My goal for my students is that they leave school with confidence based on demonstrated excellence in at least one domain of learning, and with the life, employment and thinking skills to open the many doors of their future.

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2 comments on “Try some Pi
  1. mcrompton says:

    Loving your reflections, Rob. I am going down a similar path and am currently involved in action research that is looking at quality of learning in maker focused inquiry. Martinez and Stager have been foundational to that research. I have also purchased and played with a Raspberry Pi. Unfortunately, time has not allowed me to play as much as I would like at the moment. I look forward to following you on your journey!


    • Rob Killawee says:

      Thanks Marc. The kids were quite excited to try out the device, though the programming piece is a little daunting too. Our experiments are ahead of my writing, and I’ll be sharing more of our results with some of the other devices we’re trying out!



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