Sophia Atherton is a Year 6 teacher and ICT Coordinator at Bonner Primary School in Bethnal Green, London. The school started using pi-top in February 2017 as part of their unique Enrichment programme.
Our school serves a diverse community and is operating on two sites: Bethnal Green and Mile End. Bonner Bethnal Green is a two-form entry school in Bethnal Green, taking children from Reception (age 4) to Year 6 (age 11).
At Bonner, we are proud of our varied, enriched curriculum and the confidence and achievements of our pupils. We work collaboratively with other schools, universities and other agencies. We value every child, parent and member of staff and their contribution each has to make to enhance our children’s learning experience and empower them as learners to always do their best. Our aims are for the children to be equipped with the skills and positive thinking needed to achieve their ambitions and to lead happy, successful lives. Most children come to school with a prior knowledge through their immediate family environment. Our job as practitioners is to embrace this knowledge and to guide them to explore new learning experiences. By being approachable, understanding and considerate we can embark on a joint learning journey, where teachers, children and their families are actively involved in the child’s education. Through enquiry, experiential, exploratory and problem solving experiences, as well as, a range of teaching strategies, I envisage providing young learners a creative learning computing experience that will lead them to become happy, independent learners; a skill necessary for life. All of which was achieved with pi-top. pi-top opened a window of creative and exploratory opportunities for us - as teachers - and the children in our care to progress and develop further.
We started using pi-top s in February 2017. We begun working with them, as part of our unique Enrichment programme, which Bonner started twelve years ago. As a teacher, I believe that Enrichment for all should be present, covering critical evaluation and promoting higher-order thinking and enquiry questions and things that children clearly value. The programme is designed to make sure children take part in a broad and exciting range of learning experiences, taught by teachers who are truly passionate about their subjects.
Teachers offer six-week courses in an area of their choice. Courses are taught on Tuesday afternoons in paired year groups and children sign up for the course of their choice. We started the pi-top Enrichment and a varied group of children from Years 5 and 6 signed up for the course. Prior to the beginning of the course, the school’s digital leaders where encouraged to build the pi-top and set them up. The enthusiasm and excitement was transferrable. Soon the whole school was buzzing in excitement about the bright green laptops. The experience was a learning curve for the children and the teachers.
Overall, the children became capable, competent learners and created their world with more knowledgeable others through pi-top.
Immediately pi-top provided an engaging platform where the children and the adults were allowed to be creative and explore, providing all with the opportunity to exercise their problem solving skills and develop their critical thinking. The children were able to work in pairs and developed their questioning skills. They were encouraged to try different methods through the process and communicate with one another. Some of the questions asked were:
‘What are the challenges that we face? How can we overcome them? What do I need to know and what might I want to change in order to achieve that? How can I create this? What do I need to change in my coding? What steps might I need to take? How will it work? If it doesn’t work, what can I change? Can it last longer? Do I need to adjust the code? What are the results? What went well and what do I need to do to improve? Can I apply my skills in another subject or project?’
Learners were able to learn from one another and most importantly to ask questions whose answer required the expertise of their partner. Following Vygotsky’s school of thought on socio cultural theories, I believe that understanding a child means to recognise that children have strengths, knowledge, skills and understandings. The children could talk about the features of their own immediate environment and make observations of their projects and coding; explain why some things occur, and talk about it. They listened accurately and were able to respond to careful questioning through ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’. Overall, the children became capable, competent learners and created their world with more knowledgeable others through pi-top. The teachers celebrated the children’s enthusiasm and achievements and were able to build upon it. Their preparation was minimal as all the lessons were already written on the platform. The fun in the project was the immersion of the students into the completion of the task and how they were absorbed into the variety of the activities.
‘Assessment of Learning’ is a valuable tool for planning and teaching. With pi-top, the assessment was immediate. It informed us about the child’s development and progression straight away through observations and completion of the projects. The children were involved in ‘a cycle of self-directed learning’ where they were relying on their prior knowledge and constructing their future knowledge through exploratory projects.
pi-top offered an inclusive experience for all abilities and gender and matched our high expectations. SEN children were able to work independently and collaboratively with others to complete the projects.
The Year 4 children really enjoyed working with the pi-tops. Sessions were fun and engaging, while also challenging for the children. The pi-tops gave the children more of a ‘real-life’ coding experience compared to other software they had used previously.
Neil Pittaway, Year 4 Teacher
Our students responded positively and enthusiastically to pi-top. It led to a discovery which was multi-sensory and creative. pi-top offered a hands on problem solving which was infectious, creative and inspirational for young children and teachers. If you think back to your childhood, who didn’t want to be able to open and create a project from scratch?
Once the 6-week cycle was over, we ended up with enthused, confident children whose critical thinking and problem solving skills were enhanced. The activities were fun and provided immediate results and instant feedback to the children. The result was to have fun and learn at the same time in a STEM learning environment, improve their problem-solving skills and arouse their interest towards sciences.
It was fun because you become a creator and you can physically manipulate the parts. I have always enjoyed computing and coding, but now… I love it!!
Ibrahim, Digital Leader, Year 6
It was a fun and engaging way to learn coding. There are loads of activities that you can do on it.
Lucinda, Digital Leader, Year 6
It was fun and I loved the coding and building aspect of it. There were no wrong aspects of it! It opened up my mind to coding.
Yaseen, Year 5
Fun, enjoyable and would recommend to other children. I loved the different projects. I learned how to code and moved up.
Abdullah, Year 5
The feedback from teachers was equally as powerful. However, as teachers are still less confident in embracing STEM technology, only a selected few were able to confidently embrace pi-top.
The pi-tops were a fantastic resource because it was the children's first experience of seeing what is inside a computer and having a hands-on exploration of the various components. It was really inspiring and the experience sparked the children's curiosity. I believe that they are a vital tool to move young people from being passive consumers of computer software to active future developers of both hardware and software.
Stuart Scrase, Assistant Head teacher and Science Coordinator
We are still learning with pi-top and we are very excited to be continuing our journey along side this amazing company.
Our next steps will be to:
- Disseminate the knowledge to the wider community and the rest of the teachers
- Host a Computing and STEM Day together with the Science Coordinator
- Encourage teachers to become pi-top certified
- Continue exploring the resource
Overall, our experience with pi-tops has been very positive and inspirational. We are very excited to be part of the pi-top family and proud to be able to give the children in our care the tools needed to succeed in the future.