raspberry pi

MAET Makers: Round 4: The Final Chapter (…for now)

I just couldn’t let the Raspberry Pi beat me, so I brought it out for one more round to take it down. We have yet to be able to get the Raspberry Pi working despite our best efforts using our “network” to assist.

Unfortunately, I think I discovered my problem was greater than I could fix given the resources I had due to a possibly incompatible SD card, although I was able to assist another MAET student in the online cohort in discovering her problem, and getting her Raspberry Pi working, so all was not lost. As we knew that the problem was with the SD card set up I discovered a wiki that addressed this issue.

SD Card Setup Wiki – http://elinux.org/RPi_Easy_SD_Card_Setup

This led me to discover that perhaps the SD card we were using may be incompatible.

SD Card Investigation – http://elinux.org/RPi_SD_cards

After locating this information I feel slightly better in my networked learning journey. At this point I have been able to find information to confirm that challenges that we were experiencing, and it would seem like this is a common problem that occurs. Without the internet, I would not have been able to access this wiki and discover this information and I may have been left feeling defeated and broken; however, now I feel like the problem is resolvable with the proper SD card.

With this information I was also able to assist another MAET student to get her Raspberry Pi working. As this seemed to provide a solution to her problem, it made me feel positively about networked learning, as I was able to continue to pass along the knowledge that I had gained to assist someone else who was experiencing the same challenge. This is the beauty of having a network where you can reach out to other people and ask for assistance, or get new ideas that you may have not thought of. Although I don’t think I will be using Raspberry Pi in my own classroom in the near future,  my Personal Learning Network on Twitter has been a huge factor in my professional growth, as at times teaching in an independent school can be an isolating experience when you are the only teacher in a specific grade level. I have learned about great books to read with my class, gotten ideas for assignments, found classrooms to Skype with, and so much more. It is great to know that you can also find networks online for learning other new skills like Raspberry Pi.

As part of my “maker” journey, I decided to learn how to utilize a new piece of video creation and editing software that we were fortunate enough to be given access to this week – Snag It and Camtasia. I personally find that learning a new piece of software is much easier when you have a meaningful purpose to utilize it for, and I thought that it would be a great introduction. The tutorials that are available on the TechSmith website are very helpful and there is a healthy online community accessible from their webpage. Personally, I know that sometimes I forget what an asset the internet is and how much is available for assist you out there if you are willing to take risks and be open minded to learning new skills.

Please take 4 minutes to watch my MAET Maker Journey that I have documented for all to see. I hope that it will inspire you to want to utilize the “net”work in order to learn something new or share your knowledge to assist someone else.

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MAET Makers: Learning Through Frustration

If I was being evaluated on how successful I was using the Raspberry Pi, I would fail miserably because it has yet to work; however, just because we haven’t gotten the Raspberry Pi to be operational does not mean I have not learned anything. I might not have learned what I expected to when I began this project, but there has still been learning that has occurred.

Credit: Rob Breedlove

Credit: Rob Breedlove

Throughout the process of getting the Rapsberry Pi to work, I was glad to have a partner so I knew it wasn’t just me who was unable to follow directions that seemed fairly well explained. After many attempts to get the Raspberry Pi working including crawling under desks, hooking up HDMI cables up directly to projectors, borrowing wired mice and keyboards from the local university, and multiple USB cards, we only have a red light showing on the Raspberry Pi, and I am okay with that. Now typically, I am not the type of person that is happy when things are not completed properly, but I know that the reason the Raspberry Pi isn’t working is not for lack of trying. I think that having a partner working through the same frustrations helped us to both stick with the project longer than if we were working at it alone, because there was also some investment at the social level.

So what have I learned:

– There are lots of resources out on the internet to learn how to do new things – some resources are good, some not so good, but in general if you want to learn how to do something, you can generally find it on the internet. One of the frustrations of using resources on the internet is that even though they are fairly recent, they can still be out of date in comparison to the version of the software or tool you are trying to utilize.

– People are generally out there to help you. There are lots of message boards where you can ask for assistance and help if you are trying to do something. In general, people want to help you.

– Having the availability of an expert who you can interact with at a face-to-face level when you run into challenges cannot be completely replaced by technology.

When I think about how I can apply this experience to teaching, it is a wonderful reminder of a number of important lessons:

1. Technology can get in the way if you don’t know how to use the tool – As we did not know how to get the Raspberry Pi going, we were not able to use it for anything constructive. In the classroom, if enough time is not spent learning the basic skills to utilize the technology tool, the tool will serve as a barrier to learning, instead of complementing or enhancing the learning.

2. Learning from someone where you can ask questions and receive immediate feedback cannot be replicated identically online – There are many wonderful places to get assistance for using the Raspberry Pi, but in this case I feel like having access to someone where I could talk to them and show them the problem and the trouble shooting we had tried, might have been useful in getting us to the next step. We were obviously missing a step or doing something incorrectly that we were not able to get the SD card formatted properly, and someone with expert knowledge might have been able to recognize our error and assist us in correcting it.

3. Frustration in the learning process is good, to a point – When you struggle through something, you develop perseverance and grit, and when you accomplish something that you have worked very hard at it is a wonderful feeling, but if you never get past the frustration stage, you are still left frustrated and I am not sure that the next time I had a Raspberry Pi with no access to an expert I would be as willing to work as hard to figure it out.

MAET Makers: Background Research Time

After watching a few videos on the Raspberry Pi and the advanced things people have been able to program it to do, and reading a variety of discussion forums, I decided that before I could actually do much (exciting!) with the Raspberry Pi I would need to know the basics of “Python” programming in order to operate the operating system.

Some of the resources I found were:

Python for Beginners: http://www.python.org/about/gettingstarted/

Adafruit Learning Systems: http://learn.adafruit.com/category/learn-raspberry-pi

Khan Academy – Python Programminghttps://www.khanacademy.org/science/computer-science

Raspberry Shake – Raspberry Pi Tutorials –  http://www.raspberryshake.com/

*I did check Atomic Learning but they did not have any resources for Python

I personally like the Raspberry Shake Tutorials because a lot of it was reading based so I found it easier to go back and re-read to make sure I was understanding, instead of watching a video and starting and stopping. The pictures were very helpful because it was a static image, instead of it changing too quickly before I understood. Also because I didn’t have a Raspberry Pi to tinker with, most of the videos were examples of people working with the actual program, and I was more trying to find background research.

I learned quickly that computer programming contains its own “language” or terminology, much of with I was not familiar with even though I have some basic skills from coaching lego robotics. When thinking about this in the context of teaching, when we start a new unit there is often a lot of new vocabulary so it must be overwhelming for students as they work to build an understanding. As teachers, sometimes I think we forget what our students don’t know yet, and how challenging it can seem before you have learned it. It was good to be reminded of how challenging a new concept can be – especially when it is something like programming the Raspberry Pi that is completely unrelated to most other knowledge that I already have in my long term memory.

I also sent a Tweet out to my PLN on Twitter to ask for additional resources, although I didn’t receive any suggestions.