Intro David Lee - Why I'm so pumped for students to discover Sonic Pi

Hi everyone, my name is David from Australia!

Having worked in the tech industry and the super lucky dad of two young boys, I’m incredibly grateful to find my passion and purpose in the intersect of tech and education. I’m focusing on sharing everything I’ve learnt in the industry and creating program experiences for primary school students, to complement and enhance the government curriculum.

I recently completed a Digital program with 11 students, where they learnt coding to solve a problem were passionate about. Afterwards, the parents and teachers were keen to know if there was a more advanced program.

I thought about going deeper into HTML, CSS and JS but I wanted to do something different and combine another subject. When I discovered Sonic Pi, after having a play I was so thrilled at how simple and powerful the app was.

I believe strongly in combining different disciplines together to create new experiences and an environment for children to be creative. Sonic Pi provides such a great context and application for coding, for example explaining why a function for a verse would be handy! It also helps break down the whole “techie” stereotype too!

I was pretty nervous before the first class, but turns out they absolutely loved it! The joy on their faces when they explored, learnt new syntaxes, made new sounds, and experimented was incredible and amazing to witness. It’s actually a pretty big step to move from drag and drop in a browser, to an IDE and typing correct lines of code.

I love how they also stretch the boundaries and try things I didn’t, like use_bpm 1000000000000 :slight_smile:

The most rewarding thing is upon their reflection, seeing candid feedback like this:

I’m so excited to see what they come up with, whether it’s a song or ambiance!

I’ve had some challenges with the school infrastructure - Windows installation and portable versions didn’t work on the Windows laptops or desktops, so I bought some Raspberry Pis. I am going to try booting with Ubuntu from a USB though! (looks promising so far)

All in all, my vision is for kids to believe they can make a difference, and help show them how they can. Sonic Pi is an amazing way to fulfil this purpose - thank you so much Sam for putting your heart and soul into it!


What a wonderful report, thanks so much for sharing this and welcome to the Sonic Pi community :slight_smile:

Out of interest, what were the issues you were having with windows? My impression was that v2.11 was very stable (prior to that we had some issues with some setups). I really want the Windows release to ‘just work’ for everyone- so would really like to fix your issues if at all possible.

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This is great. Do you have to build your lessons around any type of CS standards that you have in Australia? I teach Sonic Pi in music class and am more familiar with adhering to Music Standards, but want to get more familiar with what is out there as far as CS standards because I also believe in “combining different disciplines” and it is always helpful to have multiple content area standards when constructing a unit or lesson plan, especially from an administrative point of view.

I’m in New York, btw, so I realize there might be some differences in educational standards in general but they are only starting to role out a real concrete CS curriculum and standards, so nothing is finalized yet.


Hey Sam, you’re most welcome! Particularly when we move closer to creating their own piece, I’m excited to see how I can blend the lessons together with the physical music world. I’ll be sure to keep the community posted!

As for the windows issues - unfortunately it’s hard to pinpoint. The laptop builds are all dictated by the government with regards to security and restrictions, and then there’s also the internet restrictions. It seems to hang on the loading screen - I even tried the standalone version and connecting to my phone as a hotspot just in case, but for some reason it still hung.

Next week I’ll try booting with Ubuntu from USB - fingers crossed as I’d love for them to be able to leverage their existing hardware.

Thanks for the feedback :slight_smile:

I’d still love to help you figure out whether we can get things running on Windows. I’d at least like to know what’s going wrong. Would it be possible to send me the log files? These should be in ~/.sonic-pi/log where ~/ stands for the users’s ‘home directory’. This would help a lot.

As for linux - good luck with that - but please be aware that I currently don’t have the resources to support linux (with the exception of Raspbian). Also, the apt package we have is very old, so even if you do get it working, you’ll not benefit from the last year and a half of development.

Thanks so much!

As for CS standards, the closest thing is the new (Victorian) Digital Curriculum so that’s not CS specific per se. I think it’s deliberately vague and subjective, and not particularly user-friendly terminology.

It’s an important question that you’ve raised and I love your mindset around it all! I’ve asked other developers on what they think makes a great developer - and the common thread is the code is easy to understand and maintain, which leads into how they construct a solution to the problem.

Hence, beyond learning the syntax (which is an accomplishment in itself!!) I’m focusing a lot on helping them understand why and when to use certain components, and being able to explain this thought process and relating it to core programming principles. People often get caught up in the end product, but I love highlighting key points in their journey.

Sonic Pi and music do this so incredibly well, and I truly believe they are building core future ready skills that will be so valuable no matter what the future holds.

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Re the logs, sure thing - I’ll check it out next week when I’m back at the school. It’s strange as the laptops were i5 with 8gb ram and SSD, so they do have some good specs.

Ah thanks for letting me know re the Linux build - in any case, part of the fun is the trial and error :blush:

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Hi Sam,

Apologies for the delay on this!

I went and booted from a USB with Raspbian for desktop, and it still hung! Which made me think it was something to do with the laptop build.

I got this from the scsynth.log:

# Starting SuperCollider 2017-11-09 10:14:24
SC FFT global init: cosTable initialised.
Exception in World_New: Access is denied.

Did you need the processes.log as well?

On a bright note - the students have been loving the lessons!