Hack the Light Fantastic

Pi mote 2Since meeting Adam from Energenie at the Stourbridge Jam Packed event, back in January, I’ve been mulling over far too many opportunities and projects to support using these Pi-mote control devices. Hence the delay with anything concrete to show, other than a hacked dance glitter ball. Of which I was immensely proud of, though 🙂

Pi Mote

I love that spectrum of choice that they offer, from simplicity through to complex possibilities, which extends to supporting teachers with a range of projects from Key Stage 2 upwards. With code already tested and shared, it’s been a brilliant chance to get younger children scanning the source code and looking for particular variables to change, whether that’s been timings or hashtags within the Twython functionality.

For those teachers focusing on using Raspberry Pi for a simple cause and effect activity through to those looking to develop text based programming language skills with Python.

And of course those teachers working with through the Research and Play project and maybe not teaching discrete Computing in school but looking to explore, creatively and across the curriculum, through computational thinking. That’s where the origins of project proposals with a Tardis or a robot materialised from.

So fast forward to the Raspberry Jamboree and a chance to take along a B+ and to ask, learn and develop with a little help from the community.

Lamp start

To really stretch those inclusive and creative opportunities I wanted to move towards the Twitter streamer and that’s where I’d previously run into difficulties.

Code reminder Code reminder 2

But with input and collaboration came success and a couple of lessons learnt to share.  Number one which is to be overly cautious when using a school’s wi-fi with social media sites and consider any set up restrictions.  I know that; just needed reminding!

Lamp on

And what I learnt at the Jamboree?  In a way, nothing new.  More than anything that I continue to ask the ‘how and what’ questions to everyone I talk to, and continue to be amazed by the ideas shared beyond my own imagination.

Lamp testing

Regardless of age or perceived experiences with Raspberry Pi, there’s always something I can glean to build and improve on my own projects.  Or that flash of inspiration that often comes from an off the cuff comment.  Hacking a Furby toy to use to control the lights remotely. Really? Ooooo, how about if………..

How did I do it?

Installed Twython Streamer with: 

Then ran this modified script, which needs to be tweaked to include personalised Twitter settings and a hashtag trigger:


Does Spring really spring earlier in Lancashire?

A tad facetious, but a personal question that I’ve been vocalising for the last couple of years and one which I’m sure I’ve got the answer to, but want to explore.

I’m intrigued, as a Lancastrian now residing in Yorkshire, as to the considerations to explain how bulbs from the same bag can develop at different rates and bloom weeks apart.  Not wishing to start a ‘War of the Daffodils’ but year on year the Yorkshire bulbs do flower later!


8th March 2015

So that’s my Research and Play project for this term.  A comparison across the Pennines.

As a Smart Citizen how and can data help me to explain?  And indeed can it explain anything or nothing at all?

So that’s the context of the context.  Same bag.  That’s my question.


Same bag, different what…..

Introducing Smart Schools to the wider Research and Play schools’ projects sees an exciting partnership form with FutureEverything and Smart Citizen (via FabLab Barcelona).

Smart Citizen 2

In the first instance students in Salford will be offered extended opportunities as digital creators, through innovative and creative experimentation. That fits with the intention to support activities exploring computational thinking across the curriculum.

‘Digital Citizens’ as ‘Smart Citizens’ 

  • How creative can our students get when they collect their own environmental data and compared that to a worldwide network?
  • What would their question be if they developed a project based around computational thinking again? How will they make use of and visualise that big data as decision makers?


After Easter the programme will introduce young people and their teachers to physical computing, the Internet of Things (IOT) and continue the theme of creativity across the curriculum through Computing.

At the heart of this new project is pupil voice through Smart Citizen.

iaac-smart-citizen-3 (1)

Watch this space 🙂

Tinkering to respond to a Tom Gates book

The opportunity to bring in sounds from the outdoors and rock compositions through a doodled book review.  That’s one idea in response to the traits and characteristics from a favourite fictional character during the week of World Book Day.

Opportunities to trigger by tinkering with electric paint don’t happen very often as a homework activity, but occasionally when your teacher uses a Touchboard from the Bare Conductive team already.

How can the IOT supercharge a superhero?

For a while now I’ve been exploring the work around the Internet of Things (IOT) and how creative school projects can link to the ideas and considerations from the world of data. In particular, collected data and analysis from the children themselves.

As ever, it’s been a two-fold exercise to incorporate teacher CPD alongside projects in the formal curriculum, through enrichment activities and student event days.

Recently though, I’ve been looking at ways to engage younger children through ideas connected with the IOT and to glean some of their thoughts and opinions. To hear those responses from this age group and to listen to their abstraction methods moving the IOT on from their conceptual level has added to my own learning, most definitely!

The IOT fits perfectly into the project arenas for ‘technology in an ever-changing world’ and ‘safe and responsible use of tech’, but for this age range of children aged 8-11 years who have perhaps never known what it’s like to get lost in a car, miss a TV show broadcast once or NOT get Google to answer a question in sub 2 seconds, what does it mean to them?  And what exactly is it?

“Oh Crumbs!” was possibly the first thought but last opinion on my mind at the announcement last year that Dangermouse and Penfold were coming back to our screens in 2015.  And it’s given me the basis of an investigative project looking at the impact of the IOT on one of our favourite superheroes.


With the all-new series launching this year, will Dangermouse have changed in any way?

How can tech, wearable or not, and the IOT make him a more effective hero?

Introducing and defining the Internet of Things and getting children to think of ways to improve his explorative and crime-fighting credentials brought out some insightful soundbites that I’ll share in more detail at a later date.

Dangermouse 2015

The Oxford Dictionary defines the IOT as:

“The interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data”

And thoughts from Y4:

“It’s the centre of technology.”

“Where all the important stuff and data goes about people’s lifestyle. Like what they do in the day (and night), where they go, how they get there and who they’re with.”

“It should make life easier but you need to be careful about sharing your personal information.”

And more investigations from Y4:

Once they started to consider the supercharging of a superhero approach with the IOT, then other questions started to arise.

  • Can pirates ever escape when all the information about what they’re doing is in one place?
  • What could we find out about the Loch Ness Monster if Nessie was connected to the IOT?
  • What does the Beast of Bodmin really get up to? We could find out!
  • How can my football team get even better and win the title?
  • Will my dad never have to do the supermarket shoppping on the computer, then?

Interesting thoughts and realisations maybe to consider at some point 🙂

What’s next?

We’re moving to the next phase of projects looking at the impact of health data on educational attainment and also extending decision making opportunities using environmental data as a citizenship project.

Schools, teachers and learners have piloted technologies and data collection on a fairly small scale but now we’re at the point of embracing portal tech to support big data.  And if I talk about disregarding geography, I mean in a barrier to collection sense.   I’m keen to think about comparative studies either side of the Pennines.

All through those amazing opportunities that come from working and learning with large numbers of teachers and children from primary, secondary and SEN schools in a couple of cities with a focus on inclusive Computing.  If there was ever an opening for a big data project…….there is and there are.

On reflection

Sometimes there’s a difference in reaction from adults and children to the ideas and capabilities of the IOT.  No sharp intake of breath from the children about privacy concerns or transfer of information but they communicate a strong message reinforced from e-safety lessons.  Perhaps when tech has always been at the core of a digital native’s life that brings with it the sense of ever an evolving world?  And with differing priorities due to experiences, knowledge and the outlook of adults? That’s a huge piece of research and not one that we’ll ever formalise…….great to get snippets to share, though.