Three words to describe pi-tops? "They. Are. Amazing."

Sponsored: Deputy Head, Dean Johnston, teaches computing tech, runs a curriculum enrichment programme, and has started using pi-tops with his students

School size: approx. 350 (Years 5–8)
Students per class: approx. 25

About Corbridge Middle School

Corbridge had some very specific and detailed needs. They were looking for a product which would support them in developing the physical computing aspect of the curriculum at Key Stages 2 and 3. They wanted their students to get hands-on and working with physical devices. They also wanted a product which would cater to all the ages at their school (9–13), as well as to students of all abilities within that age range. The product also had to provide the opportunity for extended learning, with increasingly challenging lessons for students as they progress and become more proficient. Finally, it had to be engaging, something that students would enjoy and want to use. Here Dean answers how pi-top meets those needs.

What is it about pi-tops that meets the school’s computing technology needs?

“Because pi-tops are so hands-on, they really help with student engagement in computing technology. I’ve definitely seen an increase in engagement across the board since we started using them and I’d say my students’ favourite thing about pi-tops is that it allows them to get physical. Rather than just using a computer, they are the creators of that computer.”

Relevant curriculum content

“It’s great that the content is linked to the real world because it means there’s a purpose to what the kids are doing. For example, the sonic sensor links to how bats use sonar, or how architects use distance meters. It just makes more sense for our students – it’s not just connecting wires. It gives a sense of meaning.”

pi-tops support all abilities

“Whether a student is a beginner or advanced in computing technology, they can work with pi-tops. The materials and resources are there for students of all abilities. For example, more advanced students can create their own code, while beginners can copy and build on examples of code already there. I was really pleased with the variety of components you get – they allow you to create advanced circuits and do lots of different things.”

Catering for different learning styles

“pi-tops allow for both individual development and working in pairs or groups. I like the whole approach. My students learn, then they try, tinker, test, collaborate and finally share the knowledge they’ve developed. It really supports collaborative learning, and it also encourages creativity because kids are thinking of out-of-the-box ideas and can apply what they’ve learnt straightaway.”

“It’s a very straightforward system to use. You can open them up and get started straightaway. Everything slots together easily. Also, you don’t need a power supply for each unit, so you can use them in any room, not just a specialist computer room. That makes them so much more accessible and facilitates the lessons. Plus, they’re light and compact which makes them easy to move from classroom to classroom.”

Dean has noticed that not only have pi-tops allowed all of his students, no matter their level of ability, to make progress, but their language and vocabulary has also improved.

Parents attending a recent school open day at Corbridge were also impressed by the pi-tops and couldn’t believe the level of development in coding and understanding of electronic components, as well as the children’s confidence in using and talking about them.

Three words to describe pi-tops?

“They. Are. Amazing. Wait, no, I need three more! Inspirational. Motivational. Engaging.”

Dean Johnston is the Deputy Headteacher at Corbridge Middle School in Corbridge, Northumberland, UK. 

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