Developing perspectives of knowledgeability through a pedagogy of expressibility with the Raspberry Pi

UoM administered thesis: Phd


The curriculum for ICT in UK schools was discontinued in September 2012 and replaced by a ‘rebranded’ subject of Computing, divided into three sub domains: Computer Science; Information Technology; and digital literacy. The latter was positioned as basic technical skills. There were concerns in the education community that the new curriculum promoted programming and computer science topics to the detriment of digital literacy and applied uses of technology. Much of the Computing education literature perpetuates the hegemony of the logical and abstract, and implies computational thinking and rationality are synonymous with criticality. During the same period, a maker culture was growing rapidly in the UK, and discourses around these activities promoted an entirely different notion of digital literacy, aligned with the wide body of literacy literature that focuses on notions of empowerment and criticality rather than basic functional skills. A digital maker tool called the Raspberry Pi was released with the intention of supporting the development of computer science and digital making competence, and thus sat at the boundary of the academic and maker communities. This thesis argues that developing ‘criticality’ is a vital component of Computing education and explores how learning activities with the Raspberry Pi might support development of ‘criticality’. In setting the scene for the investigation, I will first explore the notions underpinning discourse around both computational and critical thinking and digital literacy, suggesting that the frictions would be best overcome by abandoning abstract constructs of knowledge and assumptions that it is possible to separate theory and practice. I show how the term ‘critical’ is itself problematic in the literature and I look to Wenger’s social theory of learning to avoid the individualistic limits of Papert’s constructionism, a popular learning theory in Computing education. Wenger’s constructs of knowledgeability and competence help tell a different story of what it means to be a learner of the practice of Computing, both in learning for academic purposes and with intentions towards becoming a practitioner. In concert with learning citizenship, these constructs offer a more ethical framing of ‘criticality’. Informed by this theoretical position, I suggest an original, exploratory implementation of Q methodology to explore learning with technology in school settings. I qualitatively compare ‘before’ and ‘after’ Q studies that represent perspectives at the individual and collective level, with reference to observations of classroom learning. The methodology facilitates a nuanced and complex investigation and the findings of the project suggest that where pupils are already predisposed to the subject, working with the Raspberry Pi develops a broader knowledgeability, but where there is no such predisposition, a pedagogy of expressibility influences how participation in Raspberry Pi learning activities may impact knowledgeability.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2018