After the previous Digital Inventors program at Cheltenham Primary School, I worked on creating a new program experience that focused more on coding, but combined a different discipline to provide a unique context and purpose.  This led to the creation of the Jam Pi program which is based on the awesome Sonic Pi, which engages students in computing through music.

Before I go into the key learnings from the program, here’s the video about the student’s journey and impact in case you missed it:

Upon reflection, here’s 3 highlights from the 8 week program experience:

Music fusion – go STEAM!!!

Students on the keyboard

When it came to creating their own song, it was so important to have musical input.  If you start with too blank of a canvas, the students can get stuck or blocked on what to do.

Having guidance from a music teacher makes a world of difference – to working out what chords and notes might work, on how to line up the beats, bass and melody, or what synth types might work well.

This was really key to build and maintain momentum when creating their own songs, and shows the cross-department collaboration and synergy between the tech and music worlds.

Collaboration for the win!

During the first 5 weeks, they learnt the coding fundamentals like loops, conditional statements, and concurrency.  Then, it was time to team up and make their own song.

The students were working on standalone Raspberry Pis with no internet connectivity given the infrastructure constraints.  With this in mind, I gave two options of working together on one Raspberry Pi, or working independently on different parts of the song and merging it at the end via a USB key.

I was excited to see one group (on their own accord!) grab an audio splitter and plug two keyboards and mice into the same Raspberry Pi!

Students working together on Raspberry Pis

It was a wonderful example of teamwork – they could both code and listen to the same piece at the same time!

Another highlight was seeing some of the students help others troubleshoot their code – it demonstrated a deep understanding and sharing of knowledge, which are all wonderful and important qualities in life.

Understanding the “why”

code on screen

I’m not big on the idea of the students just memorising how to type out the lines of code perfectly and everything works.  To me, that’s like learning how to do maths equations without understanding how to apply it to a problem.

When we’d go through content like loops, variables, functions, and comments, I constantly re-enforced how they made the code easier to read and maintain.  I wasn’t sure if these principles would be seen as boring, but I was super happy to see these points hit home.

Hearing them retain those principles and be able to articulate how having less lines of code could make it easier to change things, or only needing to change something once compared to many times was “music to my ears”  (pun fully intended!) 🙂

In addition, commenting is also a great application of English/literacy to make it clear on what the code is intending to achieve, and again it was awesome to see them understand and embrace it.

Thanks a million!!!

I had such a terrific time seeing the students learn, grow and express their creativity together in teams.  Very thankful to Sam Aaron (creator of Sonic Pi) and Ellen Hollowood (Digital Technologies leader at Cheltenham Primary School) for making this possible!