Raspberry Pi in Education Newsletter - Issue 11 - October 2015
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Raspberry Pi in Education


Latest news from the Raspberry Pi Foundation Education Team

You may have heard the exciting news that our favourite Raspberry Pi operating system has been upgraded and now comes jam-packed with extra features, modules and applications. You can find out how this benefits education below. We've also got news about the Weather Station project and some fun Halloween-themed projects from our community. 

Jessie is here: new software update for Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Software Engineer Simon Long explains what the excitement is all about:

Jessie is here? Who’s Jessie? Wasn’t she the cowgirl doll in “Toy Story 2” – you know, the one who got abandoned in a park to that Sarah McLachlan song, resulting in at least one software engineer finding he had something in his eye at that point…?

Yes, it is that Jessie, but not in that context. The Raspbian operating system used with Raspberry Pis is based on Debian Linux, and the different versions of Debian are named after characters from the “Toy Story” films. Recent versions of Raspbian have been based on Debian Wheezy (the penguin who’s lost his squeaker in “Toy Story 2”), but Raspbian has now been updated to the new stable version of Debian, which is called Jessie. Read the full article here.

What version am I using?

You can check the version of Raspbian you currently have installed on your SD card by typing the following into a Terminal window and pressing Enter:

lsb_release -c
If the codename displayed reads 'Wheezy' then you will need to re-image your SD card to upgrade to Jessie. The easiest way to do this is to use NOOBS which you can download for free here. Alternatively you can follow this helpful guide written by our very own Marc Scott.

So what’s new?

As with any operating system update there are modifications to the underlying system to improve performance and flexibility, and as with any update, there are numerous bug fixes and tweaks. And at the same time as the upgrade to Jessie, we’ve added a bunch of changes and improvements to the desktop user interface.

New version of Scratch: now with added GPIO - In the Programming menu on the desktop you’ll find a new version of Scratch, our favourite programming language for beginners.

Java tools - There are also two new applications in the Programming category – these are two new environments for writing Java applications, called BlueJ and Greenfoot (from the University of Kent and Oracle). If you’re interested in learning Java have a look at them. There are some sample projects for both in the /home/pi/Documents directory.

Office applications - One of our main aims with regard to Raspberry Pi is not just to make it a great cheap computer for education, but also to make it a great cheap computer in its own right. To this end, we want to make it possible to use a Pi to do the sort of things you’d do on a Mac or a PC, so we’re including some more applications that we think people will find useful. In this release, we have added the LibreOffice suite and Claws Mail.

Just a few reasons why upgrading to Jessie is worth your while.

The UK Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge introduces computer science to students. It is designed to get students excited about computing and computational thinking. Sign-ups for schools are open! The closing date to register is 30th OctoberStudents need to be uploaded ready for the International Bebras Week beginning Monday 9th November. Students can compete throughout the week in their normal ICT / Computing lessons. Find out how you can take part here.

Weather Station for schools: an update

Back in February Dave Honess blogged about our Weather Station project for schools, which we've undertaken with generous support from Oracle. Since then Clive Beale has been busy with the team getting the final kit together and selecting the 1000 schools worldwide who will be receiving it, and the hardware side is done, dusted and ready to go. Here is what lucky schools will be getting. Inside is everything that you need to build a Pi-controlled weather station:

Image courtesy of @ItsAll_Geek2Me

On the software side, Oracle are putting the final touches to the database that will allow schools to share their data and to access data from other Raspberry Pi weather stations around the world. There’s huge scope here for learning how to collect, analyse and visualise large data sets, increasingly useful skills in this age of data. As well as educational resources for this we’ll have lesson plans and worksheets for using the weather station locally, and for exploring and learning computing in this context.

So when will the kits ship? Soon. Probably November. In retrospect the hardware side of it was just the start—this is a large scale and ongoing project for us and we have plans to get the stations into many more schools once the initial 1000 are shipped. We also hope that the kits will go on sale at some point and we’ll let you know as and when this happens. Keep an eye out for updates here, Twitter and other social media.

Read more from Clive here.

Since our first ever high altitude ballooning training event for educators and volunteers called Skycademy, we've seen graduates successfully launch their own balloons across the UK. You can read Skycademy course leader James Robinson's report on what's been happening since the August training event. 

Happy Halloween

If you are looking for some fun cross-curricular project ideas to create some spooky physical computing creations, then look no further! We have some great suggestions thanks to our wonderful community.

First up is Richard Hayler, who has been working on a scary spider that will descend on its victims with evil red eyes flashing! Code Club volunteer Robert Wiltshire has made a spooky disco with his students. David Pride has made Pumpkin Pi: a proximity-sensing, cackling pumpkin!  

For more frightening ideas, Issue 38 of the MagPi includes the Great Raspberry Pi Spook-Off feature and is completely free to download here. Keep an eye on the Raspberry Pi blog this week for more spooky shenanigans.

MozFest is a hands-on festival dedicated to forging the future of this open, global web. The Raspberry Pi Foundation will be in attendance along with our Creative Technologists, Certified Educators and community members running hands-on workshops. Get your ticket to one of the most exciting events of the year here.


We still have lots of Picademy events happening in Birmingham at the Google Digital Garage. You can apply for a two day hands-on computing course here: Picademy Bytes

Educators can also access free Raspberry Pi CPD through two-hour twilight workshop sessions at the Digital Garage. We call them Picademy Bytes and you can claim your free ticket for the following dates:

Until next time, keep on computing!

Carrie Anne
Education Pioneer
Raspberry Pi Foundation
See some amazing magic tricks and sneak behind the scenes to explore the maths and computing behind them at Queen Mary College University of London's Children's Lecture. All part of 'The Magic of Computer Science' online resource.
Our resources are now available on TES Resources as PDF downloads. Check out the Raspberry Pi Foundation resource page here. Don't forget to rate and comment after you download. 
Register between now and 20th December 2015 to take part in a computational thinking course for educators. The course is free to take, results in Google certification, and looks to be a fun way to learn about algorithms and patterns that can cross a multitude of subjects. 
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