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back to article Google donates 15,000 Raspberry Pis to UK schools

Google has donated of 15,000 Raspberry Pi Model Bs to the Raspberry Pi Foundation. At list price of £25.92, that’s a £ 388,800 gift and one that the Foundation says, in a blog post, represents a “… really good sign … that industry has a visible commitment now to trying to solve the problem of CS education in the UK.” “Grants …

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Google Doing Good Things

Google often lives up to it's unofficial motto of "Don't Be Evil".

Apart from grooming a new bunch of Google supporters, it generates good will.

Could be good for a tax write-off, if they paid tax.

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Re: Google Doing Good Things

Maybe, but they may have written into the contract that the kids must load a Google OS with Ads in. The way Google have been acting in recent times this seems far more likely.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google Doing Good Things

"Schools are increasingly being used as marketing venues by companies promoting their own brands in return for teaching resources, books, sports equipment or computers," said a National Union of Teachers representative.

Says it all really. Good charity is anonymous, another form of charity is all about feeling good or used for publicity.

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JDX
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Re: Google Doing Good Things

It's no different to MS gifting or giving crazy discounts on their software. MS do it to cynically hook people on MS, but Google are helping to spur education?

It is simply a different take on the same idea - 'hearts & minds' might be the right term.

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Re: Google Doing Good Things

Am alternative would be to pay their taxes - then the schools could decide whether to spend the money on Raspberry Pis or not.

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Re: Google Doing Good Things

"Kids taught Windows and Office in schools is corporate sponsored CHILD ABUSE."

Wow, that's some leap, installing Windows on PCs in schools is no different to priests anally raping children and nuns beating them with sticks.

I think a dose of perspective wouldn't go amiss...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google Doing Good Things

@Eadon: Your anti MS hyperbole is getting to really ridiculous levels. You need to chill out a bit, seriously. Equating use of software you don't like with child abuse totally belittles genuine suffering of children who are actually being abused.

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Headmaster

AC @0750 - Re: Google Doing Good Things

Wrote :- "Good charity is anonymous, another form of charity is all about feeling good or used for publicity."

Being anonymous might work with pure cash, but it is difficult to donate hardware or software without revealing who made it and therefore being accused of self-promotion.

Yes, there is publicity in it, but at least a Raspberry Pi is educational about computers. A copy of MS Office is only educational about MS Office.

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@Code Monkey - Re: Google Doing Good Things

Google pay the tax that is due (if you have evidence of evasion, I suggest you submit it).

If you don't like Google's tax structure, write to your MP and urge them to change it.

The scandalously low taxes being paid is the fault of MPs, no on else.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google Doing Good Things

"Schools are increasingly being used as marketing venues by companies promoting their own brands in return for teaching resources, books, sports equipment or computers," said a National Union of Teachers representative.

Trust the NUT to be politically motivated against what's good for kids.

As long as they also teach the kids to know that the gift can also have benefits for the sender and other products are available then I don't see the problem... it's win/win for the kids and the company.

The only thing lost is the feeling of importance that the teachers get from spending a big budget (of someone else's money) and giving it to their preferred suppliers (who probably donate to the unions... corporatism at it's worst)

They didn't complain it was RM supplying the poor PCs at great cost when I was at school, but they whinge when Google gives them some for free?!

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Holmes

Re: Google Doing Good Things

Child abuse is not always sexual or violent in nature.

Deliberate miseducation -- teaching falsehoods as though they were truth -- can also be a form of child abuse.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google Doing Good Things

Any big organisation is entitled to negotiate what is generally called an "organisation" licence or "site" licence.

Almost all software companies offer a blanket licence of this kind.

The NHS had such an agreement in place.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google Doing Good Things

Which of these two options is valid:

1. Teach kids how to use software that is on 90+% of business desktop machines.

2. Teach kids how to use software that is on <5% of business desktop machines.

Schools can move to Linux and FOSS when businesses do.

Teaching kids about server technology (although maybe webservers would be fine) at primary and secondary school is a bit early for most.

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Re: Google Doing Good Things

The point is not to teach them about how specific applications on computers work such that they can become effective office drones in 10 years time. The idea is to inspire a new generation to tinker with the nuts and bolts and teach themselves about computers from the ground up, in the way that many of us did with 8 bit computers back in the 80s.

Whatever your thoughts on FOSS vs. Microsoft or whatever is, there is no doubt that Linux provides more (i.e. complete) access to it's internals than commercial software.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google Doing Good Things

Rubbish, Google, Microsoft and any other big software company should stop interfering with education full stop.

An education isn't necessarily about having skills for work, it is about a basic understanding of the world.

Computer studies at school should focus on an understanding of the technology and studies about its use. So it should be about the components of a computer and their role in how a computer works.

There should be an introduction to programming, but this can be any language. We used BASIC and LOGO at school and later we used Pascal.

Computer studies should be vendor agnostic, so having Google and Microsoft fighting for the brainwashing controls for children is wrong.

Eadon, you really don't live in the real world. This isn't a world where community supported software is used, Linux's biggest contributers are big companies like IBM, Oracle, Intel and even Microsoft.

People running Linux commercially are often using commercially support distributions. People need help when things go wrong and that means professional Linux engineers who can fix problems. Writing an email to a mailing list and waiting for reply is no good if your large popular site is down.

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Headmaster

AC @11:55 - Re: Google Doing Good Things

Wrote : - "Which of these two options is valid:

1. Teach kids how to use software that is on 90+% of business desktop machines.

2. Teach kids how to use software that is on <5% of business desktop machines."

Are they mutually exclusive? The Pi initiative is nothing to do with teaching kids to be typists, or accountants, or marketing drones, or administrators.

It is about teaching some technology. You know, the skills that politicians (technophobes themselves) have tended to think is best done over the other side of the world because they hate the thought of rolling up their sleeves to do anything practical.

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Re: Google Doing Good Things

I remember how my secondary school had a strict policy that coats we wore should not have any logos on them - but the corridors were lined with paintings that had been "donated" by Sainsbury, with clearly visible logos on them...

(Not that I think this is relevant here, and to be honest if we were worried about companies getting unfair advantages, I'd be far more concerned about the money being spent on vast numbers of ipads. Google here are instead giving the money away to a 3rd party low cost product; as opposed to student or tax money going to Apple *and* giving them a free advert.)

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FAIL

Re: Google Doing Good Things

Which of these options is valid:

1. Teach kids how to use software that is on 90+% of business desktop machines at the time, but will almost certainly not be there by the time those kids leave school wether replaced by something else or just by a new and significantly different version from the same vendor.

2. Teach kids the general concepts of software applications, and how there are a variety of different applications from different sources which accomplish the same general functions.

Method one results in kids who are tied to specific applications, which are likely to be long obsolete by the time these kids leave school.

Method two if done correctly results in kids who are able to easily adapt to any vaguely similar application with little or no problem.

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Re: Google Doing Good Things

Why not do both?

I think it's good to teach about the basics of computing, and the Raspberry Pi seems a great tool for that. OTOH, it's still reasonable to teach about office applications, and MS Office is not an unreasonable choice, as the most popular office application.

Yes, there's an argument for doing it all with Open Source, but I don't think being able to fiddle with internals is relevant for this purpose - if you're doing a class where you're teaching how to use a spreadsheet, you're not about to ask the kids to start editing the code to recompile it. That would be left to a lesson on programming (and editing Open Office would probably be rather advanced for most school lessons).

(I learnt with Grasshopper on Acorn Archimedes, I don't think that was open source either, so your argument about how things were in the 80s doesn't work.)

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"timeo Danaos et dona ferentes"

Will Microsoft ever donate π's like Google just did running Debian Linux or some other free operating system?

Well they will never donate devices running an alien OS, BTW no current version of Windows can run the Pi hardware.

Microsoft's educational gifts can be equated with that legendary horse, the Greeks had donated to the Trojans. It was the only way to properly educate the people of Troy, according to both Homer and Virgil.

φοβοῦ τοὺς Μικροσοφτοὺς καὶ δῶρα φέροντας

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google Doing Good Things

Sometimes being vendor agnostic means you have to teach boring technology. Take Java which is very complicated and the apps produced are not visually appealing. Children would be more interested in making Android phone apps which is a lot easier to master. The skills learnt are easily transferable to other languages and Visual Programming environments.

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Re: Google Doing Good Things

It is not about teaching children how to use software. It's about teaching children how software, computers and much of the technology around them works and how to apply that knowledge in way that can engage them. If you teach a child to use Word they can write a letter or make a poster and print it out, etc (something they would probably be able to pick up in about half an hour without any assistance). If a child writes a basic text editing program that can save and load a file or do search and replace they begin to understand how software like word processors actually work. If a child writes a game using scratch or pygame they begin to understand a little of what is going on inside their xboxes and playstations. Without this sort of education then as far as children (and most adults) are concened computers, mobile phones and games consoles might as well be boxes full of witchcraft.

Teaching children how to use the software that is on 90+% of buisiness machines and how to use the internet might produce the next generation of office drones (or would do if this software wasn't already self explanatory and certain to be superceeded by the time the children are working in offices anyway). However education should create the children who will in turn create future software and hardware or at the very create children for whom things are not a complete mystery.

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Vic
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Re: Google Doing Good Things

> having Google and Microsoft fighting for the brainwashing controls for children is wrong.

It would be if it were happening.

What Google has done is to give schools some free hardware which will typically be used with software that doesn't[1] come from Google.

They're not (in this case at least) trying to gain any control in the classroom. They're just giving those schools some neat toys that might become useful at some point. This is a Good Thing (tm).

It's a tiny investment for Google, it's good for schools. I wonder that people can get so militant about the whole thing...

Vic.

[1] Although Android does run on the Pi, apparently, it's not the project's focus, and so it's not what most people will be running.

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Headmaster

Are these the original prototype Raspberry Pis or the proper education version, with case, which were promised by last autumn?

More to the point, how many Pis is each school involved getting, and what are they supposed to do with them (or it) which they could not do with their existing computers (or one of them) running Ubuntu, or even just Scratch under Windows.

Most schools these days have computers for the children all over the place. It's not a lack of small, low-power computers which is stopping them teaching programming.

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Anonymous Coward

I think the problem is the computers in schools are locked down and the IT staff are to afraid to allow someone to connect up electronics they have made.

If they break a Pi it's not much to replace and if the OS gets buggered an SD card image can be written to a new card in minutes.

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Happy

"how many Pis is each school involved getting"

Well at around 5000 schools in the country, I make that about 3 each. Your last point is of course the real problem. The story itself raises awareness though so many more schools may look into this further than would have otherwise.

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I think the advantage over existing computers is

a) kids can be left with them more or less unattended without the hard drive filling up with virii and porn

b) The Pi's can be bricked at little cost to the school

c) Can double as embedded devices, media players, small PC's - generally as a learning tool they offer the flexibility that desktops don't.

d) the pi's can be taken home by students, taken from class to class, don't require large amounts of labour to get them to school classrooms, don't require large amounts of power, don't require an entire classroom to be dedicated to them, don't require setup on the same level as desktops, are less of a target for thieves...

So there's quite a few advantages.

It may be a bit of a token efffort by Google standards, but any donation to a school in the name of education can hardly be frowned upon - and it's more than most other big tech companies are doing.

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Re: "how many Pis is each school involved getting"

There are 3,941 secondary schools (excluding the private sector) in the UK as of 2010, so 3.8 computers each

http://www.cilt.org.uk/home/research_and_statistics/statistics/secondary_statistics/secondary_schools_in_uk.aspx

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Headmaster

Virii?

Plural of virius?

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Headmaster

Re: "how many Pis is each school involved getting"

According to the DfE, there are around 25,000 schools in England alone, of which google tells me about 3,000 are secondaries.

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Headmaster

These advantages only really kick in if every child has one. Take 'em from class to class? You need a monitor, keyboard and mouse available everywhere they are going to be used. Using it as an embedded device? In that case, no one else is using it as a desktop PC or media player.

I'm afraid that, as with the OLPC project, this is what happens when well meaning technical types try to guess what's needed for education.

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If they're being shared between classrooms already occupied with "old, low-powered PC's" then the monitors, keyboards and mice are already there.

True, embedded device excludes usage as PC or media player - but I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard for the school to get their hands on more to replace them - if indeed the students are finding useful applications for them and making use of them as embedded devices then obviously it was a good idea to put them in schools in the first place, and the small additional investment from the school to increase the numbers of Pi's would be a very intelligent one.

Purely from the perspective of letting schools know that there are alternatives to constantly updating PC's in classrooms, having a "sample" of Pi's saves schools money in the long run - if a school decides, as you already have, that they're not suitable, then the school hasn't lost anything. If they decide there's a good use for them, they've got potential savings - since populating the entire school with them would be cheaper than the purchase of a few desktops.

Regarding how many are going to each school, that depends on the implementation - it's entirely possible that they could be going to a small portion of schools in less well off areas, or on a first come first served basis, or distributed evenly - trying to convince yourself that it's pointless and fruitless doesn't necessarily make it so.

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Security?

"I think the problem is the computers in schools are locked down"

You don't have kids in school, right? My son knows four administrator passwords for his school network (he assures me that he never uses them); almost every pupil in the school knows how to avoid the web proxy; kids routinely overcome 'security' to install preferred software - Chrome instead of IE, Python and Eclipse instead of VB, games instead of no games - and overwriting the official Windows image with Ubuntu is an almost daily practical joke to be carried out whenever the teacher leaves the room.

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Joke

@ Esskay

Wrote :- "the pi's can be taken home by students"

Sounds like that could be a serious disadvantage, if they don't come back again.

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@Ian Johnston, 9:14

>> this is what happens when well meaning technical types try to guess what's needed for education. <<

As opposed to technically illiterate and totally out of date teachers trying to guess what technology is needed for education?

Maybe, both groups need to work together. Sniping about it won't help. Pis are a cheap affordable way to learn to code, if teacher's have better ideas about getting kids coding they need to express them, not dis this attempt to help.

And I hate Google! But they didn't have to do this, so fair play to them.

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But the low cost means it is far more feasible to give one to every child. For every one laptop (or worse, an ipad) you could buy 15 of these things.

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Meh

OK, so put 'em in a classroom that already has PCs and either you unplug and replug everything each time to change machines (how much of a lesson will that take?) or you stick the PCs in a cupboard for good. And all you've done now is reduce the speed and capabilities of the machines.

Given a choice between a room full of PCs (which can, of course, boot Linux if you want the Pi expereince) and a room full of Pis (running a slow, crippled version of Linux) which school in their right minds would choose the latter. Cost? Irrelevant. Compared to the cost of staff, accommodation, services and support, the cost of the PCs in a computer suite is lost in the noise.

My solution? If you want something cheap, portable and interesting to program, use cheap Android tablets.

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Re: @Ian Johnston, 9:14

An existing PC running Scratch under Windows or Linux is an even cheaper way to learn to code.

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State secondary education costs around £30,000 per child over six years - and that's just the money spent in schools. A Nexus 7 at £250 is trivial.

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Anonymous Coward

Actually, I think the bare bones board is a better approach as it teaches kids what a computer really is, rather than a shiny box with magic happening inside. It's like all these people who don't know that meat comes from animals on legs in fields; they just see packs of orange breadcrumby things in the freezer which they put in the oven and dip in ketchup.

It only needs a couple of kids in each class to be inspired by having a play with a Pi to go on to do great things.

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Nexus 7

What would be the point of a Nexus 7 in schools?

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Facepalm

Re: An existing PC running Scratch under Windows or Linux is an even cheaper way to learn to code.

Yes, if you remove the cost of the hardware then it's incredibly cheap to use an existing pc.

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Anonymous Coward

A child would find it very difficult to write a media player for Raspberry PI. They may be able to put building blocks together but what would the learn by doing that.

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Stop

Well I kinda agree about the Ubuntu thing, but how many schools would allow Ubuntu or Linux in general near their desktop PCs?

The Pis also have GPIO connections on them so the kids can attach things to them. My daughter who is nearly 13 was facinated by the Raspberry Pi Ladder Game, it was reasonably simple, at least simple enough for her to put together herself and she can play around with it to her hearts content at home (not sure about school, I know the IT teacher has mentioned the Raspberry Pi, Linux and Ubuntu in her IT lessons and she was the only one to raise her hand about knowing about all three) and she could also possibly learn to integrate the Pi into the simple things she's learning in her Technology lessons (or whatever they call them these days).

I dare say the same thing could be done with an Arduino and a PC too, but at home the Pi is plug in and play pretty much (no having to install IDEs etc on a PC, not something I'd be too worried about doing, but some folks might not want to attempt it).

Rob

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Meh

I'm not so sure every child would want one. But it might spur some kids into playing with them, who knows, maybe one or two kids might get their hands on them at school and want to know more.

I'm starting to get the impression from your posts that you're maybe a little closed minded to it all? That's okay, there's plenty of us who aren't :-)

Rob

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Happy

Re: "how many Pis is each school involved getting"

I would think Pi's were at price point were rather than the school getting a few to share each child could be given one of their own. After all they do cost about the same as an average text book.

The things that still need to be worked on for this are more teaching materials, volume of production and a decent curriculum to make use of them.

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Paris Hilton

Should have also given away some LEDs too so that the nippers can make some clichéd electronics projects - Google coloured red, green, blue and yellow ones!

Paris 'cus she's well into flashing things with her good old 555 timers!

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Have a rec for mention of the venerable 555. I'll see you, and raise with a 741 op-amp :-)

Ah, happy days in 'design and tech' soldering stuff together in the hope it would actually do something other than use up vast amounts of solder :-D

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Happy

What about those 3 pin ICs packaged the same as transistors that play jingle bells? I have never actually seen one but my old electronics GCSE textbook claimed such a thing existed! I'm guessing cheap novelty musical teadybears are full of then!

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