Halloween Health Week – 2 teachers, 2 learners, 3 dancers, 1 dog, a bike and the IOT

Can health data impact on educational performance and are we at a stage where affordable wearable tech can support a school-based project?

We’ve had many conversations over the last couple of months about the potential of wearables to impact on students’ health and also to underpin creative projects which include collecting and analysing personal data.  And to additionally support CPD for teachers.

What if students could make decisions based on their own data about what their optimum level of sleep was each night?  If school performance dipped could students be empowered to change health and well-being lifestyle choices through analysis of their routine and data?  Could data analysis of sleep patterns and exercise impact on future decision-making?  How would diet and fitness affect performance?


Data & The Internet of Things? Or something else? What else?

How about supporting a project with a headteacher using school data to identify a particular group of students in a particular year group in a particular subject and supporting progress through a project utilising wearable tech?  Girls in Y10 Science being just one example muted.

Over on the Hull schools’ blog I’ve summarised thoughts to support creatively visualising data collected by students, but the cost of personal and loan project devices has been a barrier to looking at a study on a larger scale to collect personal health data.

Until now.  Maybe.   The launch of the Xiaomi Mi Band has the potential to raise excitement in exactly this scenario.   Another espresso fuelled catch up with Rob Martin and another project plan comes to fruition; this time based around a $24 band and it’s potential with accompanying data.

And so an initial small scale project over half-term to inform and support conversations and planning in other schools is launched.  One to consider the impact of health and data.  One to support digital literacy and to consider digital storytelling.  One to build on previous data and visualisation projects using creative methods such as sonification.

A project to focus on how context is crucial to visualisation literacy and with that how a lack of context and dicey storytelling can skew the truth. Playing around with numbers in the name of creative visualisation is great for checking out new resources to showcase data such as Google Fusion Tables or Tableau, but it can also expand the remit.  What started as a project to consider wearables and health data soon evolved to encompass the Internet of Things.

So what kind of story emerges when 2 teachers and 2 learners capture their movements over one week in half term?

Here’s the raw data, but what’s the story?


Does an infographic help?

Health Infographic

Health Infographic

Lessons learnt:

The project threw up a host of issues and questions around the Internet of Things, privacy, sharing data and of course larger scale interoperability.  The Xiaomi band is great as a personal device although perhaps tricky if you find yourself without an Android Kit Kat device to install the accompanying app.  With a school level project it would be difficult to collate the collected data, particularly when other providers have considered the cloud to host grouped data.

Timing was impeccable with Mozfest and certainly reading Terms of Service by Michael Keller and Josh Neufeld.  Their ‘Unraveling Theory’ is a fundamental discussion point expanding from a project like this and one that has fuelled many a debate.

Wearable tech devices themselves are an interesting topic when considering to support student data projects.  Would students feel comfortable wearing what looks like a health tracker? Some thought the Xiaomi example disguised itself as a bracelet which was seen as a positive.   Research suggests that young people don’t wear watches so much so do they differentiate a wearable like the next stage iWatch as wearable or watch?


Even with such a small sample size it was important for those contributing to consider and decide on their own outcomes.  In the same way that we offer students in schools a range of tools to complete projects and support individualisation and personal creativity.

And this cohort of teachers and learners is obviously unique if we’ve flagged up a dog and a group of dancers.  You may also have spotted the Wainwright half-term walker!

To end on a positive, empowering students to act upon and share their own data through visualisations and well-being decisions has impacted as initially thought.

But only on a small scale.  Hopefully that’ll inform the bigger picture and bigger projects, though.

Health Popplet

Project ideas

Resources used:

Terms of Service by Michael Keller and Josh Neufeld

Xiaomi Shop for Mi Band


Google Fusion Tables

Tableau software for visualisations

Beyond Minecraft to Strictly Sonification

Sometimes it’s a chance remark in a conversation that becomes significant later on. In the last couple of weeks we’ve been building on the school and community project launched when the Tour de France departed from Leeds earlier this Summer.

Specifically those ripples of excitement generated with a few Raspberry Pi computers strategically stuck in windows and  in trees along the Moortown dual carriageway. And nearly from the top of roundabout telegraph poles – that was the risky night-cam project which was thankfully delayed.   You might remember the Tour de Pi timelaspe project, but how did it impact on the community and where would we take it next?


More than anything the TDF gave us that real world scenario to plan a project using Pi and to explore and plan through computational thinking. This was with a group of young but very imaginative children who quickly realised that the final output may not be the most important element of the project.

It didn’t work – it failed. OK, only in parts did it not deliver and the final video was a bit of a fudge as a homework piece. But a very creative output, nonetheless.

How did it fail? Only one camera captured the planned section of the publicity caravan. Timings had been calculated, literally, to the nearest millisecond but with a wi-fi failure and a camera ribbon coming loose in transit, not everything recorded as planned.  Sadly the peloton rode past the Pi unrecognised.

With an ambitious community project comes risk and thankfully there’d been contingency planned for possible technical hiccups. Photographs and video taken by the families involved to capture the day.  And the debugging alongside the ‘what happened there?’ investigations afterwards were all important parts of that evaluation process.

It didn’t matter in the slightest. We had the Tour and we had a taste of using Raspberry Pi within the community. Witnessing an excitement of computing through Pi from families curious to know exactly what it was. A timelapsed community moment captured forever but more so a legacy to build on.

Fast forward through holidays and now’s a perfect time for those families to look at the wider use of Pi. And for some to reminisce about their own days with ZX81, Spectrum and the like, and to watch how this next generation are interacting in a similar way.

Over the last couple of weeks some of the children have been exploring some of the different ways that a Raspberry Pi can be used and what kind of activities they can do with it.  They’re in Year 4 now, 8 about to be 9, and web browsing and Scratch are familiar territory to this group. The ability to hack into Minecraft has been a particular focus for some – ‘I can’t do that on an iPad’.

But what about that move beyond Minecraft to explore sonification as a digital story telling tool?

   large-comic-arrow-pointing-right-166.6-10773   midi

Next steps exploring through computational thinking with more real world examples.  Strictly Come Dancing and an awesome Paso Doble from Kevin and Frankie:

k and f

Click to launch the video

The chance comment mentioned earlier was from a dad saying that one of the girls has been collecting data from the series by inputting the scores into a spreadsheet. And that’s where the visualisation piece through dance and sonification started.

  • How would a perfect 10 sound?
  • Would it be different from a range of scores from another contestant still finding their dancing feet?
  • How could a range of scores from one couple over the first 3 weeks sound as a composition?
  • How could that data be visualised in a different format to that of the spreadsheet?
  • How creative and tuneful can a list of numbers between 1 – 10 be?

There was a bit of a ‘wow’ moment, but then intrigue into how Sonic Pi could help and exactly what was possible.   Here’s what’s achievable from start to finish in an hour.  That’s jotting down the scores, converting to midi notes, watching the Geek Gurl Diaries and even watching a section of Sam Aaron’s presentation when live coding possibilities creates even more excitement.


Developing visualisation literacy and getting creative through sonification.  At the age of 8.  It’s not finished yet; nowhere near where she wants to take it.  But it does make me think what I could do next with this health data being generated……..

The Jam Packed Computing Tour

We’re going on tour!  The #JamPacked tour.  An exciting tour.   An inspiring tour.  A tour of 82 Computing events over 18 months and starting in Hull next month.

Jam Packed is supported by the DfE, The Raspberry Pi Foundation and RM Education and is a planned series of 18 two-day events and online CPD to support, inspire and engage with teachers, students, families and communities through Computing activities.




Check out the first Hack to the Future event here:


And the first Raspberry Jam of the tour here:

Raspberry Jam

So you think you can dance a Traditional Waltz?

Video overview – Watch the Waltz routine here:


How does Mark move through the Waltz?  Through Google Glass:


How does Ashleigh move through the Waltz?  Through Raspberry Pi Cam.

It’s a slow motion video (90fps) so it’ll run for a longer duration than the actual dance routine and that’ll stop any complaints of motion sickness from viewers and learners!

Performance data from the Piborg motion & direction sensor on the Pi to follow.   They’re advanced dance steps 🙂

So you think you can dance the Tango?

Video overview – Watch the Tango routine here:


How does Ashleigh move through the Tango?  Through Raspberry Pi Cam.

It’s a slow motion video (90fps) so it’ll run for a longer duration than the actual dance routine and that’ll stop any complaints of motion sickness from viewers and learners!


Performance data from the Piborg motion & direction sensor on the Pi to follow.   They’re advanced dance steps 🙂

So you think you can dance the Viennese Waltz?

Video overview – Watch the Viennese Waltz routine here:


How does Mark move through the Viennese Waltz?  Through Google Glass:



Strictly More Pi

I love dance.  And I love everything about North Leeds Dance Academy.  Nicola’s driving vision through enthusiasm and the warmth of support from the whole team.  That’s from Ashleigh, Poli, Steve and Mark.  And that sense of belonging and sharing achievements and successes throughout the year.

So why so many months spent on the wrong side of the dance studio door?

So you think you can dance?  Me, myself and Pi?

So you think you can dance? Me, myself and Pi?

First things first, and that’s to recognise the taxi and chaperoning duties that parenthood brings to a week’s already chaotic schedule.  That’s my OH and I scrambling around to this, that and that other, but predominantly dance classes and then listening to the progress in learning from the other side of the door as Ashleigh says….one more time:

“Cha Cha Cha, two, three”

“Forward, back, side, close, side”.

And then there’s the excuse of erratic working hours.   But more than anything it’s a personal recognition of strength, absolute weaknesses and preferred learning style. Actually when it comes to dance it’s been borderline fear, too.

Is this heading towards a rare light bulb moment, then?

Of course I recognise the steps above from Cha Cha.  I can count them in the music.  I can count them in my sleep. I spend the week daydreaming about dance and often with Ashleigh’s commentary in my head.  I can spot a great dancer’s ‘top line’ and look out for heel turns and toes.  I know when a straight arm is excellence and a weak arm is bad.  Really bad 🙂


Of course I can because I’ve spent close to two years soaking up the knowledge and watching others learn.  But I’ve done it at the same time as planning to support teachers with the new Computing curriculum and through my personal development focus of learning and pedagogy.

I’ve sat and listened and worked at the same time, so let’s be honest, I’ve been absolutely clueless about my own dance journey.  Younger members of the family have described it as embarrassing.

two one

four three

But with every cloud there’s that silver lining

For me that’s been the insight of how computational thinking and its cognitive and educational implications equate to problem solving for all and helps teachers understand these processes as algorithmic.  And the meta learning approach from Tim Ferriss, which made me stop in my tracks about deconstructing learning and concentrating on ‘material not method’.  Maybe I can do this after all?

Tim Ferriss - The Four Hour Chef

Tim Ferriss – The Four Hour Chef

Will I ever know what it feels like to dance like Ashleigh? 

Sounds like a real life problem to me, and the answer was staring at me from the bag on the floor.

Me, myself and Pi.  That’s the way!

asheligh pi

Use the tech and follow the algorithm……manageable chunks. Deconstruct the learning.

Ashleigh and Mark - Watch and learn!

Ashleigh and Mark – Watch and learn!

Lights, music, Pi-cams, sensors and sequins at the ready.  Want to know EXACTLY how it feels when you dance a Waltz or a Tango properly?

tango 1 tango 2

Through an augmented reality view to help sense the queasiness when you nail the movements as they should be?  And I really shouldn’t move my head for a Viennese Waltz?

How does that feel, then?  How fast should I be moving for the quick step?  Can that be measured?   What about the force through the turns of a Tango routine?

And to really dance you should recognise the moves and viewpoint of your partner.  So what better way than to introduce Glass into the mix for yet more perspective.  But not for a Tango.  That’d simply be nuts.

to use 1

For every project you need to ‘put a band together’ and for Strictly More Pi I am immensely grateful to Rob Martin for questioning my every motive, idea, hair brained scheme and rationale that I threw his way. And for bringing so many more ideas to the Strictly table.   For helping to share the excitement through Computing.  For encouraging me to get far too animated about collecting data to improve performance. And talking algorithms.  Repeatedly.

And most importantly?   To do it through dance 🙂


‘Team North Leeds Dance Academy’.  It just got bigger!

How did we do it?

Take a look at the step-by-step guide from Rob’s blog.   To launch, click on the image below – it’s not as scary as first looks…..

'How to guide'

‘How to guide’

Manchester Mini Maker Faire. Pi-fun + 4!

“Brilliant! When’s the next one? Can we come again?”

Mini Maker Faire at MOSI has left a lasting impression on us all.  For these next generation digital creators it was an opportunity to explore a whole new range of challenges and build on what they knew already.  And to get excited.  And to be inspired.  And for one, a first visit to Manchester.


The Choc yielding Pi bunny

Armed with questions to ask like “Can we have a go? What’s happening?  How’s it doing that?  What’s making it do that?  How can we do that?” they set off to test as many challenges as possible!


Mesmerised by water effects from Leeds Hack Space


A little bit naughty-o-meter?


Operation concentration – the only silent part of the day!

A lasting impression on us all?

I got the biggest insight into young creative minds and how computational thinking can shape planning and engagement on the journey home.  Take three 8 year olds to a Maker Faire and then challenge them with a real life situation.  Sit back, listen and learn.

This time a fairly open question about data and how to visualise it in a meaningful and creative way.

Adding a Pi-spective to Salford Coding Week

Salford Code Week is now officially in the diary and starts on Monday 3rd November 2014.

Last week’s meeting focused on a range of partners planning appropriately inspiring challenges and events.

Teachers and students from the city’s primary and secondary schools will be invited to join events at various locations in Salford, including Media City.


More details after the Summer break, but there’s sure to be a Pi element included and hopefully with a peer to peer learning model after the week itself is over.

Significance of the Tardis?

As ‘Me, myself and Pi’ were making the computing commute we heard and later saw the ‘Model B+’ announcement and online excitement.  Always mindful that a certain police box looks to the future through regeneration, I’m sure this current Pi and Model B+ Pi will be working together on new projects for a good while yet.


Animation14 @ Manchester University

Honoured to be part of the judging panel for Animation14 back in April, ‘Me, myself and Pi’ were excited to be attending the Awards Day last Friday at Manchester University with their Department of Computer Science.

photo 1

The focus of the day was about ‘Inspiring future Computer Scientists’ and showcasing the award winning animations created through a range of software.

The winning animations have been uploaded here and they’ll be worth checking out to showcase to even more students as to what can be achieved from KS2 to KS5. Some of the animations really were felt to be of a professional standard.

Also insightful was listening to students talking about their own inspirations and role models, how they manage their time and projects alongside other daily demands (like school and homework) and other creative projects that they’re also working on.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we also got the opportunity to try our hand at new challenges and experiences through hands-on experiences during the afternoon. A couple of examples below:

Life in The Matrix surrounded by 48 Pi and Pi-Face

Life in The Matrix surrounded by 48 Pi and Pi-Face

Controlling by thought – Mindwave and Raspberry Pi

Controlling by thought – Mindwave and Raspberry Pi

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