Picademy, Failure, and Lifelong Learning

Picademy, Failure, and Lifelong Learning

I failed so very hard this summer and I enjoyed almost every moment of it.

I was lucky to attend the Picademy at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI this past June. Picademy was two days of workshops to introduce educators to the Raspberry Pi computer. While I was familiar with Raspberry Pis, until the Picademy, I hadn’t really spent much time with this $37 device. After two days and a half dozen workshops, I was amazed by what this little computer can do.

Our first day we participated in workshops that introduced us to the versatility of the Raspberry Pi. While the Pi can function as desktop computer, that is only the beginning. We spent the day exploring different ways to expand the capabilities of the Pi. I felt the energy in room spike as we got our first LEDs to light up. Within the hour we were adding motors, speakers, buttons, and cameras to Pi. There were a dizzying array of parts and accessories available to transform the Pi.

The second day of Picademy asked the participants to create a project based using the Raspberry Pi. I failed consistently during this day. My group was trying to create a wind-powered soccer game using the Pi, motors, some buttons, and ping pong balls. While the electronics and motors worked, they failed to push the ball with any authority. The best I could get was a light breeze that caused the ping pong ball to wobble.

While we failed in the execution of our project, the entire day we were engaged in what Seymour Papert called hard fun. Trying to create something that didn’t exist before, engaged my brain and pushed my abilities. Instead of being a passive consumer with a set of likes and dislikes, I was responsible for creating the thing that I wanted. The desire pushed me into areas that I wasn’t comfortable, but were necessary to complete the project.

At Picademy failure is expected. They even present a slide that highlighted, “FAIL” or “first attempt in learning.” You are expected to try new things; to try and find solutions and paths that take you closer to where you want to go. The only failure is to give up. These experiences are in too short supply in school and daily life. In an attempt to make things smooth and predictable, we removed the opportunity to grow.

While my Picademy experience was amazing, it wasn’t an end. On my way home I stopped by my local electronics store to pick a Pi Zero, SenseHat, and Pi Camera. I’ve started tinkering on some individual projects including turning my Raspberry Pi 3 intro a gaming machine using the RetroPi.

I hope once the school year starts I will be able to share some these experiences with my students as they create their own Raspberry Pi projects. I also hope to continue my own learning (and failing).

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