Tag Archive: planning




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After-school MinecraftPi sitrep

So I’ve have a few weeks of running the RaspberryPi after-school programming club and I have to say it’s been an interesting ride. In a way I’m a little disappointed with the lack of programming we’ve managed to achieve. But, on the other hand, the amount of Linux experience they’ve gained (to say nothing of the un-spoken appreciation – there’s been little to no grumbling – they’ve developed for the smoothness of systems like Windows and OSX) has been incredible.

So far, then, we’ve managed to set up and boot a RasPi. We then added configuration to try and work through the school proxy (more on that, later) and then managed to grab MinecraftPi (the “hook” I’m using to get them thinking about coding). This last week we finally managed to get a sample program working (this sample, actually, which draws an analogue clock in the sky) against a couple of the pupil’s MCPi instances.

From here, then, I hope to draw out the programming aspects of the club (using Geany to code Python against their own Minecraft instance, initially, although I hope to work up to running mini-competitions, eg building races, in one world) starting from more simple coding challenges like building a cube of a given material, working up to pyramids (well, ziggurats I s’pose, which I’m thinking must be possible with recursive calls).

So, what have I learned?

Well, it’s mostly been about what I’d do differently next time

Like, having a proxy-configured system image and working from there, instead of having to think on the hoof and get them to change configurations as we go. I could still get them to startup, update and install packages, run X and then shutdown… but I could do it from a position of strength, knowing that the proxy side of things will simply work!

Or, about double-checking the amount of background knowledge required, in order to be able to follow instructions I carefully set out, on how to set up the environment to use the proxy.

Finally, there’s a lesson in terms of not testing, testing and then re-testing (just to test that the testing was working) ideas, configuration and systems before blithely assuming that they would “all work okay” when put in front of pupils; no matter how keen and self-motivated they are, they’re only KS3 and don’t have my 13+ years of programming experience to fall back on when it doesn’t quite work first time because they mis-spelt “Aquire” or didn’t match case in a function definition.

So, one final thing about the proxy. We’re in one of the ex-EMBC counties that stuck with the Capita solution, which means we’re now using the WebShield proxy solution (albeit with custom certificates so I can now actually access Twitter across the school network) – this has been a right royal pain to work around, but for those interested, the answer seems to have been to actually put the proxy login in the configuration, as well as the proxy address.

So, for example, environment variables need to be set like http_proxy=http://user:password@webshield.embc.uk.com:80/ or, for apt-get to function, settings like Acquire::http::proxy "http://user:password@webshield.embc.uk.com:80/"; in the apt.conf file.

Anyone needing fuller details on any of this, don’t hesitate to comment/tweet me – I’m happy to answer questions.

And I thought I was busy before?

Wow-ee! What a week! I feel confident in saying that even tho’ it is only Thursday.

For starters, my class teachers has a little boy (who incidentally, as it turns out, managed to poke himself in the eye with his drinks beaker on Thursday with sufficient force to draw blood and to warrant a three hour stop in ED) who had been very poorly all weekend, so when their GP said to take him back to hospital, in case of further complications following his bang in the eye, she understandably went with him.

Which, of course, left me high and dry!

Thankfully, cover was found for the morning as we had an off-site activity (planting at a local park with the “Streetwise” council group), but it meant I had to lead the afternoon again (thankfully ICT and a story time) on my tod. Ah well – all good experience.

Turns out the little fella has gastro-enteritis (and a fairly bad bout, by the sounds of it) so my class teacher duly turned up again on Tuesday morning, back to a normal routine, so I got to observe an RE lesson and a literacy session on riddles (at Y2 they aren’t very difficult, don’t worry) then lead the afternoon for mathematics and another story time (yup, plenty of them, which is nice).

Wednesday was interesting again, however, as my class teacher’s husband duly caught a dose of said g-e from their “little darling” which meant that my mentor (the head) had to take the morning session, then observe me teaching literacy after the break! Joy, oh joy! After feedback (best summarised with her quote “don’t get me wrong, it was good – but we can make it very good”) I then led science – an investigation into forces and movement – and my first ever “show and tell” (which was scary, but I escaped with only minimal maulings, thankfully).

This morning, still no class teacher – so the head once again stepped in and led the class in PE, then thankfully arranged for another teacher to come and assist for the rest of the morning (numeracy then break, followed by literacy).


I was due to be “non-contact”this afternoon, which I had hoped to use for writing some of the assignment which is due in just under a fortnight, but after a quick meeting with my mentor I was “persuaded” to stay on the premises and catch up with the heaps of paperwork (lesson reflections, planning for tomorrow, etc) in which I had fallen behind.

The meeting wasn’t bad – my mentor was concerned that I was lagging with the paperwork, feeling unsupported and generally having a miserable second placement. Thankfully I was able to then state my position and between us I think we both left the meeting content that the situation wasn’t as bad as she might have feared.

I was able to mollify her further by pointing out that I knew I must have done better today as two of the children in my class came and gave me a hug at lunch time.






Currently thinking…

“So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.” — Willy Wonka

So, where to start? Well, to kick things off, tomorrow I take my first full lesson – the whole class, the whole lesson. That’s the bad news – I’m terrified – the good news is that it’s in ICT (computing to those of you not involved in education at the moment) so I do at least consider myself somewhat of an expert in terms of subject knowledge.

Today marked my first planning session with my class teacher. Very productive, personally, although I don’t know how much use I was to them 😉 Also, I had my lesson plan for the afore-mentioned ICT lesson “vetted” – postive feedback, no amendments suggested – so that’s all set for tomorrow.

Then, this afternoon, my mentor returns from a training session at the university (on how to mentor) informing me that the course co-ordinator (whom, I think, still forgets that they are no teaching a class of primary children when they deliver any kind of talk) is apparently very impressed with me… something about “intuitive” questions (and “insightful”, I think, or was it “relevant” – as usual, when faced with any sort of compliment, I turn bashful and my brain shuts off all cognitive faculties so as not to let my ego cotton on to what’s going on). I’m not sure how I get away with these things, but there y’go… intuitive questions, huh? I wonder what that actually means?

And now to go away an obsess about how much I do or don’t know ready for tomorow.


Post Collegial Blues

A couple of days of lectures ended the week nicely. A bit more on planning (which, actually, did help – and provided some useful outlines on what to put in a lesson plan), followed by what was possibly the most tedious ICT lecture I’ve ever had the misfortune to attend (and stuggle to remain awake for). At the risk of appearing in any way to be suffering from “professional snobishness” the lecturer was a classic case of the self-taught “expert”, ie they’d dabble with computers from when they first hit mainstream, then his initial interests and requirements had been met by various bits of software… which they still use. For starters, having a presentation prepared on Microsoft Word (as opposed to, say, Microsoft PowerPoint) and not even neatly paginated, to boot! I mean, I ask you!

Friday’s lectures more than made up for the drab end to Thursday, however, with an introduction to a series on numeracy by a truly inspiring lecturer – honestly, we all had fun doing some fairly elementary mathematical games. Well, I was inspired and that’s what counts most for me. Then our final behaviour management lecture (a series I’ve enjoyed and which I find especially relevant given the “challenging” nature of some of the pupils in my clas) and a rather fun (more of a workshop than a lecture) session on voice management rounded us off nicely.

Ready for next week? Not ‘alf!


Oh… where to start… where to start?

Well, I guess the very beginning is a popular place to start 🙂

Following a couple of INSET days (in which, amongst other things, we constructed a “snow den”, for two small children to use, out of some bin bags, a bag of old newspaper and a roll of sellotape), we had some initial training in college. This included a cracking session on “Design and Technology” which culminated in a practical session using cardboard to build various mechanisms along with several introductory sessions on planning, behaviour management and what to expect from the primary experience as a whole.

Then, after a weekend to recuperate (hah!) it was time for some actual classroom experience. Monday was… let’s call it entertaining. I’m training in a class that’s… well… let me quote my head (and GTP mentor) when I call them “squirmy”. But I’m getting my head around things, slowly. I think I’ve managed to learn all of the children’s names, now (first name, at least) and I’m starting to get a firm grasp of the challenges ahead – now all I need is a little more of a grasp on the strategies I can use to meet those challenges 🙂

Three days in school and we’re back in college for a break… *ahem*… for further training. More news from there over the weekend (hopefully).