Any conversation that starts off with food always grabs my attention (it’s the fat kid in me…) so when the guys in the office start talking about raspberry pies, I’m listening intently, already gearing up for someone to come with a desert. It never occurred to me that they were actually talking about the latest ‘geek gadget’, a tiny computer called a Raspberry Pi. I was more or less lost after that point in the conversation but I persevered and learnt more. Turns out it’s actually quite an amazing achievement which will hopefully give school kids the opportunity to learn programming.

It would be generous for me to say that I didn’t excel in ICT at school. It’s unsurprising that I wasn’t interested in creating an Excel spreadsheet for a fabricated bookshop. Try as hard as he could, my ICT teacher couldn’t inspire me (or the rest of the class) with the resources and curriculum bestowed to him. The problem is technology is moving too fast for the government’s education plan to keep up. If all children have to do is input data from out-dated software packages that will never be used again then of course they’re not going to be inspired to do coursework, get good grades or prepare themselves for the modern workplace.

The beauty of the Raspberry Pi for me is the potential to make ICT interesting for kids. It’s so flexible and user-friendly; it’s a great project straight away without boring students into comas. Would I have been interested in programming as teen? Maybe, or maybe not. Would I have been tempted if offered a soldering iron?¬†Absolutely!

Call me crazy but giving a pupil a toy with endless possibilities must be better than asking them to do a PowerPoint presentation on the migration of the Chaffinch. Food for thought…



6 Responses

  1. Nicholas Kingsley on 12 Mar 2012

    I’m getting one mainly to convert my games (hopefully) to it, and for general use when I don’t want/need to use my desktop machine.

    The release I feel could have been handled much better – Element 14 seemed to have wanted to implement a complete web design change at the same time as releasing the Pi which didn’t help with ordering or keeping the site up.

    And then there is the network port problem – would this have happened if the Pi was made in England, I wonder ?!

  2. AR Stephens on 15 Mar 2012

    The only thing that the mythical R-Pi brings new to the table is alleged low cost, and that’s not so true when one still has to deck-out a lab with 30 DVI monitors, keyboards and power supplies.

    It’s just an ARM SoC, like the innards of most domestic wireless routers.

    It’s unfortunately the age-old technology “solution” to an educational problem. Kids can learn to program right now, today, if only their teachers were given the latitude and time to make it happen.

    Throwing cheap hardware at the problem will make a buzz for a few months but soon peter-out.

    • AndyB on 21 Mar 2012

      nonsense. You need 30 HDMI monitors, otherwise known as flat-panel TVs. It also has RCA output too, so you can hook it up to a big old CRT monitor/TV too. Just like I did when i was a nipper with my ancient computer.

      Keyboards and mice, they’re so cheap they’re almost throwaway-when-dirty now. A keyboard will cost you ¬£5 brand new, and that’s not the cheapest.

      So what’s the buzz about the Pi? It is because its cheap, sure it doesn’t come with a monitor but most kids have a flat TV in their bedrooms, or at least in the living room, and freecycle or your local dump is full of old monitors – go and ask for one, they are usually happy to let you take one away.

      The buzz around the Pi should help encourage development of Pi-based curriculums, which is the primary point IMHO. We’re already seeing hobbyist projects springing up, and places like the Khan academy are starting programming courses. It takes something like the Pi to kick these things into life. Be glad of it.

  3. Andrew Ferguson on 20 Mar 2012

    Looking at the R-Pi as just another apps programming device is the wrong way to look at it.

    Yes it needs a monitor and keyboard, but it has scope to operate much more as an embedded device, e.g. interesting robotic type stuff.

    The Sky Gadget Geeks has good examples of engaging stuff, that is more likely to inspire than traditional programming exercises.

    It may be a buzz topic, but look at the buzz the BBC Micro caused and long term payoff, that and the Sinclair devices kick started the UK games industry.

  4. Web Dude on 22 Mar 2012

    I only hope that LEAs (which still control much IT spending and choices) have IT people with the vision to include the R-Pi along with existing kit.

    I am years away from links with schools as a pupil, and don’t know what’s on the current curriculum, but the general straightjacket approach of only covering what will come up in exams is surely bad for creative thought (for both pupils and staff) so if anything can step in to allow young people to venture into programming with even half he enthusiasm of Atari, Commodore, Dragon, and other systems did back in the 80s, we should get back into design, rather than just playing games or using apps… more will develop their own databases etc etc.

    Having a linux base means some will delve into systems programming, networking, etc, at a level one is far removed from even if one did buy some ‘Visual’ developer software for Apple or Windows.

    As for the network card problem, could have been an oversight (or on cost grounds, the factory ordered what was a known and cheap device), and at least that one fairly minor glitch has been spotted fairly early in the (hopeful!) life of these machines.

    I’ll be buying upwards of 10, when there’s ample supply, and future staff will likely have them to use with a cheap flatscreen as a fully functioning workstation with VPN access into a cloud-based application for customer service uses (and without access to other websites – they can use their own home broadband or mobiles for what they want to do on their own time/cost).

  5. Web Dude on 22 Mar 2012

    s/and other systems did/and other systems OWNERS did

    s/(hopeful!) life/(hopefully!) LONG life

    sorry, bit tired, please mentally correct any typos yourself :-)

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