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

The start of the journey

And so it began. Tuesday 8th July 2014.

‘Me, myself and Pi’ sat on the train and London bound. Heading eventually to Essex to share our recent escapades and to start to explain to a group of technical folk just how exciting life with Pi can be.

To try to explain exactly what a Tour de Pi can be when the biggest annual sporting event in the world passes through your community.  To create a Community computing and learning focus?

Tour de Pi

Tour de Pi – launch to YouTube here

Sometimes it’s hard to explain, even to friends, how a mini computer can open up so many exciting opportunities. Maybe a blog will do it, so thanks to Peter for his Pi-tastic title suggestions!


Glammed up

This Pi (and a couple of Pi cameras) has been protected and transported in a tupperware container for the last few months, and that in itself has raised a few eyebrows:

“OK, so now it’s waterproof and you can set it up outside?”

“And it can see at night?”

“Somebody’s really fired one up to space and it’s taken pictures?”

“So I can hook it up to the TV and get the kids to explain how they use Scratch?”

“How much?!”

It’s been ‘Pi-jazzled’ for the Summer term so is now safely enclosed in a new case, but that’s only as this journey starts. ‘Me, myself and Pi’ have more Pi, sensors, cameras and accessories safely secured in a bag in the overhead locker 🙂

Of course it’s rarely just the two of us. Most often we’re joined by or joining teachers, education partners and children. Sometimes community and family.

But on the main we’ll use our computing commutes to share the fun and inspiration that we’re privileged to witness when the two of us join teachers, learners and other partners at up and coming events.