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back to article Bash Street bytes: Do UK schools really need the Raspberry Pi?

There’s been a right fracas in education this year, with the government proclaiming that ICT (Information and Communication Technology) teaching is dull and demotivating, and that kids need to be be taught more programming, and less use of applications. Into the fray like a white knight comes the Raspberry Pi, a tool designed to …

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Anonymous Coward

Software Project Failures!!!

Eighty percent of Software projects fail. Management just covers them up to save embarrassment. Whilst at university I noticed that out of a intake of 500 only 30 could program. Most people just copied off others. I thought this might improve when I joined a Software production company but this was not the case. I was amazed that my colleges were only aware of conditional IF statements and While loops. Using Functions was frowned upon. I didn't even consider making use of object orientated programming or writing polymorphic code since it would have certainly confused them.

I have now come to the conclusion that since Software production houses are not willing to recruit competent staff some genius must devise of a programming system that even idiots are able to use. Some might argue that MS Access is simple enough for non programmers to use but something even simpler than this is required. The people I used to work with are only able to master something as easy as MS Excel. They often used MS Excel for storing information since Access was too complicated for them to use. If there is a genius out there your help is required!!!

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So what's really that different to now from then?

So, this will 'only interest a small percentage of the schoolchildren' and 'therefore isn't really viable' is only a challenge in these modern times?

Back in the early 80s home computers were treated by most of those who chose to take any interest as a way of playing games, but everything else the computer could do was readily accessible; nothing was hidden from you if you chose to look any deeper, and some of those who did play games went exploring, usually to try and 'write their own games'. Out of a school of 300, I'd say only 30 or so kids took much interest at computers at school, and maybe 10 for anything other than playing games.

Now, most computers are treated as devices by to play games or "do something on the net", but everything about the machine is so abstracted that if you do want to look any deeper, you're likely to be out of luck. That same school of 300 would likely have 290 who use computers, but almost zero who have any way of delving beyond that tightly-controlled veneer.

Sure, the Pi and its ilk would probably not manage to get more than 10 or 20 kids interested in the guts of computers and computing, but even getting it back to the percentage from the early 80s would be a success; Those skills I learned had uses FAR beyond simply programming, so not even providing the tools to offer the chance to find out is a tragedy in itself.

Microsoft said “Where do you want to go today?”

In my opinion, that little flashing "K" in the corner of the screen offered far more potential.

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Forget the past

One thing I see a lot of, particularly on here, is talk of life growing up in the 80s and programming on various computers, which "made" us the people we are today.

But things have changed spectacularly since that time, there is no evidence that a 21st century equivalent of what we had and did will work today, either with today's youth, or today's teaching practices and skills.

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Childcatcher

Teach Computer Science, not Computer Applications

Computing isn't for everyone, in the same way that maths A level isn't for everyone. That doesn't mean you shouldn't know something about it.

Kids tend to pick up things on their own - let them learn word & excel and how to use a tablet in their own time.

The Pi is more about getting rid of the distractions and capabilities so that the people controlling them can concentrate on doing things themselves. The aim is to teach, not necessarily to achieve. I'm sick of seeing my own kids produce wonderful videos and brochures - its the fancy software that's doing the work. They aren't doing anything more "computery" than playing on a games console.

I work in IT, but I'd rather they read a book than do that. The Pi helps strip away other people's cleverness and lets the user do things themselves. You could easily do the same with an x86 box, but the temptation to "produce" something and get distracted from the task of exploring and developing thought patterns is usually overwhelming.

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Anonymous Coward

Did control technology O-level at school.

What a great course that was where the main themes where electronics, pneumatics and engineering structures. Rasberry Pi would be great for a course like that. I did a computer controlled burglar alarm using a ZX-81 !

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Anonymous Coward

meh!

Raspberry PI will fail in Schools for the following reasons.

1. IT is corporate Council driven these days, so Schools have less choice. Its all about saving money and buying something with only 1 use is no use. They want desktop PC's/Laptops/Netbooks because multiple schooling disciplines can use them.

2. Until its boxed up as a proper final product it won't get into Schools, it fails PAT testing, no protective insulation. The first thing a kid will do is drag a metal ruler across the main board and fry it and possibly themselves in the process.

3. You need to know how to code and the old saying still stands. Those who can, do! Those who can't, teach! Those who can't teach, teach PE.

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Re: meh!

1. Dunno.

2. Impossible to fry yourself with 5v, but tbh, you can get a case for <£5....

3. Well done for alienating the entire teaching profession. Muppet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: meh!

@James, agreed and quality of teaching seems to have improved considerably comparing my experiences in the 60s to my teenage sons school now. All except for the PE teachers, as hopeless now as 40+ years ago.

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@ "meh"

1. I've worked in various schools over the past decade and none of them have been "corporate Council driven". Academies are even further removed from council control.

2. PAT testing isn't always required, especially for new equipment.

3. No argument there! But I think the current curriculum is partly to blame. The IT teachers I've known have all been well skilled (mainly in software though)

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Raspberry PI really needed?

I have recently joined the Pi owners club and am in the process of setting it up for use as a media centre. I don't really see what advantage it gives you in terms of learning programming if you already have access to a PC, it is simply a lower cost way of getting started. All schools must have an IT room by now so why is an RPi needed?

Also, I think it is dangerous to completely abandon the current curriculum. We do need more coders, but we also need everybody to be able to drive Office, understand how OS's work etc. RPis aren't the way to achieve this. The biggest RPi market so far seems to be fully grown techie geeks like me!

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Re: Raspberry PI really needed?

I think it's the output pins that are the real benefit. That and being an NXT block on steroids.

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Horses for Courses

I'm working with some other schools in Cornwall on developing proper Computer Science / Programming teaching to replace the godawful Office-based GCSE ICT. We're taking a twin-track approach:

1) Scratch (probably up to year 8) and GreenFoot (year 9 and above) to teach proper programming on existing ICT suites - both can be installed by the ICT tech in a few minutes, and completely free.

2) Raspberry Pi to enable all kinds of 'physical computing' projects in DT, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Sports... Probably using only one or two devices for each project, not a classroom full.

So I agree with the article, I can't see the need for a suite of RPi's lined up in rows, it has far more value as a component for tinkering in the real world. What it has done, though, is lit up the entire debate and pulled things like Scratch and GreenFoot (which have existed quietly for years) into the limelight - all good.

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capped at around 20 per cent of children

The number of children who have a sustainable interest in being in school is capped at around 20%

The whole point of school, of teachers, of classrooms, of curriculums, exams and the barbed wire fences is to keep the other 80% occupied for a day while their parents go to work.

To say that RPi is unsustainable because only 20% of kids have a lifelong interest says what about all the other subjects? What proportion of children interested in ox-bow lakes do you need to scrap the geography teacher?

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10 echo This is boring

20 echo Let’s go play football / smoke fags

25 input answer$

30 if answer$ = "y" then Go to “The Park” else mode = "sulk"

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P_0

The way I see it, education in the UK is geared to heavily towards the Arts in general. This is a general problem that won't be solved by these types of schemes. Decades of children (including myself - to an extent) thinking that reading and analysing novels, using "intellectual" words, is a substitute to a good technical education. Yeah I'm snob if you like.

But throughout my relatively young adult life, the amount of people I've met who think it means something that they've read Belzac novels or understand Dostievesky's (yeah I can't even spell it) modern meaning etc, means anything in the modern workplace, makes me feel a little disheartened. So you can write wonderful prose? Great. Can you set up a simple email client on your work place PC? No? Shall I do it for you, while you write a poem? Yes, I'm being a little flippant, but I've seen far too many UK graduates think they're "all that" when their so-called skills don't mean anything in a modern company.

And my point is, it isn't their own fault, to an extent. Our system teaches them disproportionately that quoting Shakespeare etc, is more important than understanding basic trigonometry, circuits, solving equations etc. I remember at my school one day we learned how to wire a plug. That was education, rudimentary, but far more of an education than Media Studies, General Studies etc. I doubt they even do that anymore. Again, yes I'm being an education snob, because that's what we need. Less Arts, more science.

Now the problem with any scheme such as the one described in the article is that there are very few teachers who know about programming. At least that's my experience. I remember my IT teacher used to read off a sheet about how to use Excel, and some DB program that I have forgotten (no, not Access). And she was actually a graphic design teacher IIRC. Maybe that's changed now, but I doubt it.

We need a top to bottom cultural reform to get people interested in computers and science. Unfortunately, history shows that British people are particularly averse to learning science. Yes, we have many great scientists past and present. But just look at Babbage for example. He was surrounded by people who though his ideas were implausible. We call them boffins, brainiacs, geeks. We learn to think of them as outsiders. If you're good at science and maths then well done, have fun living on the other side of the geek fence.

As an addendum, why are there no major UK IT companies? Where's our Google? Microsoft? Apple? Where's our Baidu even? We seem incapable of developing these huge, successful companies. Yeah we have some major corporations, but almost all of them are long established. Why are we incapable of making these companies? We don't really have an entrepreneurial spirit, like the Americans. And we don't have any eagerness and hunger for success like the Chinese. I'm not saying these things to put down the UK. But we really should answer these questions. And it al starts with our poor education system. I think its time we took education advice form the Koreans, Chinese, (some extent Japanese), and East Asian models. There's no shame in changing tack when you find yourself going off course.

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round it goes

Could be that all those art grads can only get one job - teaching?

How many good engineers / scientists / mathmaticians are teachers?

So the question is how to get more engineers in schools? Maybe not as full time teachers?

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Headmaster

I agree with everything you've said, but you shouldn't discount the value of an arts-centric education *too* much.

English was always my favourite subject at school. And, yes, I got very into literary analysis and similar pointlessness. It wasn't until later that I got a technical education. That happened because I was interested in technology, but also because I discovered literary analysis didn't always get you very far in the job market.

When I (finally) got into it though, I discovered something else interesting about the job market. Out there in the workforce, you need people who can communicate ideas clearly. Often, not always, the people with arts backgrounds are the ones who seem to be good at this.

We now return you to your regular RPi programming...

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Holmes

Patience

The RPi has not been released for educational use. Yet. What we have now is a development (ie Beta) release that has gone viral. The educational release will come with a case. And full educational back-up, like lesson plans and stuff.

As I understand it, the teachers posting on here who can use existing PCs for programming are lucky; many ICT suites are locked down by IT Administrators who may even be external to the school. If there are PCs that can be used, then by all means use them; the Raspberry Pi is not aimed at you.

Similarly there are many parents out there who would love to teach their children to program with the family PC. Go right ahead; the Raspberry Pi is not aimed at you. However there are many more who don't understand the first thing about the home PC, and letting their kids "program" it and possibly break it, and possibly lose their photographs, is a terrifying proposition.

And of course the Raspberry Pi is a pocket-money item. Kids can buy their own or get them for Christmas.

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Boffin

An engineers view

Keep in mind the following is written by someone who recently got a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Automation and Mechatronics.

I don't think the Pi is really the way to go if we want to interest more youngsters in computers, science and engineering in general. From what I can tell it's still mostly "dry" coding. Sure they can get a basic program working, but it's probably not going to keep the interest of most that are not interested in the finesse of the real IT coding bizz.

I'd suggest something like the arduino or industrial Programmable Logic Controller. Something that can be connected to a DC motor and battery pack, relays, lights, buttons, switches, servos, etc, and interact with them. It can then be used for more than just the IT classes. It can be involved in the physics levels or with teaching basic electronics.

I've done several experiments for my physics classes that would have benefitted from using a micro controller. Learning to code a program is great. Learning to code a program that takes into account what it does to things and what a user does is even better, and more rewarding. Now you get a tool that can interest those kids into coding (with the actual coding, moving to actual programming languages once they find out they like it) the kids into engineering/mechatronics (With all the stuff they can now move and bring to live) and those into the electrical bits and wires.

I suggest industrial PLCs because,while they are expensive, they are usually pretty fool proof, can directly drive/sink more current (thus less hassle with transistors/mosfets/relays to connect small dc motors) and have many options for programming methods. Things can start of easy with standard ladder diagrams. Simply "wait for this, then do this, then wait for that, then do that, etc". Next can come Function Block Diagrams and the likes, for more varied programming and parallel processes. Then lastly move into the "dry" text based programming and show how much more flexible things become, how to build functions, etc.

My engineering courses included a PLC programming course where the objective, using only boolean outputs at that point, was controlling a small "sorting" rig. Make it sort specific blocks to specific locations, while being protected against "idiot users" doing anything to crash the program. This was fun, but most importantly, when one of my nephews (11 at the time) showed an interest in the course material at one point he could easily think with me while I was working in FBD schemes and pikked up on it pretty fast. Kids like this sort of thing is my experience

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Re: An engineers view

PLC's are not going to teach programming, just not suitable. Also, WAY too expensive and require another PC to program then (like an Arduino does). A PLC is not something a student has at home. Although for industrial automation classes at colleges they are obviously a useful addition.

Although I'm not sure what you mean by 'dry' coding, but 99% of programming is text based...is it all 'dry'?

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Re: An engineers view

I mean by "dry" coding that, coming from a background in engineering myself, the text based programming (be it PLCs structured text, Java or Processing) it's rather boring looking. It's just text with no visual reference to what it is you actually just typed. Ofcourse 99% of programming works that way, but when first starting in programming I don't think it's the best way. I never really "got" programming in my first encounter with it, which was an Introduction to Object Oriented Programming in Java. Sure it was nice being able to make the computer show "hello world" or calculate some numbers and move a circle around based on input and that sort of stuff. I still found it boring spending so much time looking at nothing but text because it just didn't make much sense to me.

Then later I had that first course in PLC programming, working up from ladder to FBD and SFC programming and THEN finally to ST. Starting in a graphical representation of the process made the whole thing much easier to understand. Being able to then translate that rather tedious process of programming function blocks into typing a few lines of text showed clearly WHY it was so good to do it that way and made it much easier to understand what each text command would be doing. The device then gives me a clear and mechanical representation of the actions I just programmed and tells me with loud noised or weird actions I messed things up. This makes for a (to me atleast) much more satisfying experience imho.

(I realise PLCs are expensive devices, hence me suggesting Arduinos or similar dev boards)

I can understand the way most people here see the RPi and programming. I've got a brother actually in the IT business and I understand how someone in the industry would like to see it taught. As an engineer I just think this approach of focusing on software programming for computers is not necessarily the only way to go. By combining it with other fields kids can be taught a lot more than just programming while still staying "on the same subject". But this approach could keep things fun for all kids, not just those into IT, computers and programming.

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Re: An engineers view

PLCs probably aren't suitable. Their programming systems are to abstract and the tools to work with them are generally horribly bad.

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Re: An engineers view

This Is the idea I just posted (ish)..

PLC Ladder Logic (well, a lot of it doesn't use that now) can really get the mind working and is a simple form for programming. The fact that you only need to teach a child 3 or 4 main componets for them to have a working "program" is great too. I think this is where we should focus (on the younger children) to teach them the basic understanding that goes behind something that runs through sequences. A lot of programmers or backyard coders would say no, but the truth is that simple and robust is the way foward. I dont think the Pi is in the Sky, but I dont think it is a great first step for the masses at a young age.

If users cant see how PLC programs are similar to coding in popular languages then it is probably because they have never actually worked with complicated PLC programs. That said, Highly complicated programs on a PLC can often be done much easier in a modern language, but I would rather my children learn to ride the Bycycle before getting a Kawasaki Superbike to practice on....

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Re: An engineers view

Thanks for making a much clearer and succinct post than I was capable off. That was basically the point I wanted to make.

@Christian Berger

If your experience with PLC's is mostly or only with Siemens' Step7 program then I agree. Way too much crap needs to be taken into account for that system. Luckily there are now programs like CoDeSys, which work MUCH better, can program for "generic" PLCs and have the capability to simulate things in software and to build GUI's. And it's programming works to the IEC 61131-3 standard. Meaning it should be compatible with most if not all newer PLC hardware (See: http://www.codesys.com/) This is the program we used for all later Automation courses and it just works. And even better, an educational "no download to PLC" version is free!

I'm really not advocating schools should start teaching PLC programming though. It's a very specific field with very specific standards and practices. However, my point is that it might be better to start from a graphics based programming language, like ladder logic or SFC. Text based programming can then be introduced once student understand what the blocks do. This helps them to understand the structure behind programming. Something I feel is lacking in a lot of programming courses. Sure a "this is how to do it" is nice. But understanding WHY is what is most important in education. Especially if we want to get the youths interested in computers and science.

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Bah!

Way to miss the point, Mr Hill.

First, coding is not programming. Drag and drop app design for Android is just fancy scripting and you can't make a living doing that.

Second, why in Cray;'s name is anyone running around unplugging anything?

Third, so kids are not a "one interest fits all" proposition? Blimey! Whoda thunkit?

Here's a thought: Instead of looking at the Pi as just the ZX81 all over again, look at it as a chance to provide some kids - at a knock-down price so low you can expect some populations of kids to self-fund it much as I bought paper and crayons and God-alone knows what else over the years for my kid's schools - the chance to build and configure their own network using the Pi and some cables. Not a toy computer for hobbyists but but a very inexpensive component that could be used to teach people USEFUL skills for the future.

Class project: build and use a network MUD using the Pi. All you need is a big table, the cable, the Pis, a power supply and some monitors (old TVs will do in a pinch). The kids will do the rest.

No need to unplug all those MS Office boxes at all (not sure why this is being done in the first place).

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Paris Hilton

Flawed, yes

As someone who's been following the Pi from the start, and who has one here...

Yes, it's flawed. All products are, and when something is developed to a budget as tight as the Pi, by enthusiasts, you can expect a few "rough edges". The ones that can be smoothed, /are/ being smoothed. It is, however, revolutionary, in two ways.

The first is in the way it has pushed the issue of computer science to the fore. Even if the RPi Foundation had never managed to get a single board out of the door, the questions it has raised, the awareness is has garnered, have made the entire project a success.

The second (and incidental to the original aims of the Pi) is the massive kick up the arse it's given the "developer board" producers. Instead of being stuck with crummy 8-bit "hacker" boards, we have an avalanche of ever-more-powerful ARM--based SBCs at affordable prices, as companies have realised that if they produce something at reasonable prices, they'll sell by the barrowload.

There's been quite a lot of fail in the Pi's timeline, and it may never be a success in the classroom. But if it succeeds only in getting scratch more widely adopted, even on the previously Word/Excel/Powerpoint boxes, it's won.

Paris, because I''d kick her up the arse, too. Or something like that.

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h3
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Or they could just use non sucky monitors with a hdmi and a dvi.

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The Pi doesn't offer anything over a standard computer with USB. What they need is imaginative programming software/language that is easy to learn but uses the same principals as proper programming. Bottom line is it needs to be quick and easy to see some result and keep them interested.

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Flame

You what?

>The Pi doesn't offer anything over a standard computer with USB.<

GPIO pins

>What they need is imaginative programming software/language that is easy to learn but uses the same principals as proper programming<

It's called Scratch and it's already there.

Bless your heart, anyonbe would think you were blabbering on without knowing anything about the Pi.

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Windows

Re: Raspberry Pi does two things brilliantly

> why is Microsoft crap in schools

Salesmen pushing entry drugs via huge discounts and trinkets/kickbacks to the person signing the contract, whaddya think?

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Linux

Dads and the Raspberry Pi

An extraordinarily negative article from three ICT professionals. Is it just Dads who want to get the Raspberry Pi into schools. I get the sense that some people see it as encroaching on their own fiefdom ...

--

ps: "arrivale" == "arrival"

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Anonymous Coward

Re. Pi power problems

I recently bought a dozen of those Li-Ion mobile phone recharger packs, these come complete with interface plugs and a flying lead, even including a nice power indicator and switch.

Guess what, they power the Pi for days, and simply recharge over a USB connection.

One less problem, however the HDMI port is annoying,

Fix for this is to simply use the composite, which is more than enough if you connect it to any old cheap TV, even got it working with RISC OS today.

The big annoyance with the Pi is the lack of protection of the delicate components on the board, and the lack of heatsinking of the SoC which is easily rectified.

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Pint

Some missing of the point going on here...

Too many here are obsessing over the equivalent of blackboard or whiteboard in the classroom.

We need to make sure we are education kids not training them. Just stuffing an RPi in schools, without learning the fundamentals of logic and control will just be training them not educating them.

It is a tool just like a plane or a lathe or a pencil. If we don't teach the fundamentals then we will never have the success that is wanted. Pick the right tool to teach at the level the kids are at. Lego Mindstorms is a better way of teaching fundamentals of logic, control etc. During those lessons it will become clear that there are some kids that will want to take things much further than others, this is where the RPi and its like come in.

There is no one size fits all solution for a problem that cannot easily be defined. What is the basic level of technical skills we want 16-18 year olds to leave school with? The ability to think through a problem, to recognise when they should try and automate a solution and when not to bother and the ability to pick the right (to an order of magnitude) tool for the job be it BASH, Python, C++ or ....

Change technical to medical and I think the answer becomes easier to explain somehow - first aid skills, CPR and confidence that if they were witness to an accident they could help keep someone alive.

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Gold badge

Kids learn science but aren't necessarily going to be scientists, they learn maths but most likely aren't going to be mathematicians or statisticians. They learn history but aren't going to be historians or archaeologists. They learn RE but aren't necessarily going to be priests or bishops and so on.

So what's wrong with them doing some coding when they probably won't all become programmers?

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Anonymous Coward

Because there are thirty bazillion other skills just as important to the modern world that you could say that about.

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Meh

Yes, Yes, Yes... but maybe without the Pi

Sure Python is better than BASIC and easier for teaching than C for Ardunio, but then so is Java. Back in the 80s you could strap a marker pen to a robot to draw turtle graphics from Logo, or navigate a maze.

The functional equivalent of that 80s rig is not a cut-down PC without a case, but a cut-up Android phone with additional sensors/controls.. you can get ARM chip, camera, GPS, motion sensors, Wifi, screen & battery pretty cheap.. so why lock the kids to a screen when they can build robots.

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Coat

Pi

Hi,

I just got my PI this week after months of waiting, have tested it to make sure it's working.

What a cool piece of kit.

I've not had any time to try anything out.

Now to choose what to program in. am thinking riscos as I did my degree programming in BBC Basic. never did get to grips with C.

Mine's the one with the Pi in the Pocket (I'll bet there are a few more out there as well ;-) )

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Bronze badge

The RPi is not what makes today different

OK, there have always been games consoles, but Windows no longer dominates the market. People can easily experience different types of personal computer. Apple has the iPhone and iPad. There are Android phones, tablets, and even cheap netbook-class machines. The idea of the office being Windows-only is deader than a very dead doornail.

Maybe the Raspberry Pi hype was needed to wake the teachers up to that more general change. In my time, I've seen enough teachers who would have been best woken up by high explosive. I hope times have changed.

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one place to watch

I'm a big fan of the Pi, but then I belong to a certain group of people who taught themselves to program on the first wave of home computers (ZX81, then C64). It's hard for me not to be enthusiastic for what the Pi foundation is attempting to achieve here.

Whatever all the naysayers may think and however loudly they decry the foundation's offering, I think it's very premature to pronounce judgement on it. It might not achieve the far-reaching goals that it's set itself (changing the character of UK education and bringing back, after a fashion, the halcyon days of the first home computing wave), I think that its true value is only going to be discovered by kids themselves.

While this measure of success is very hard to gauge, I think there's one place where we will see the Pi cropping up more and more, namely the Young Scientist competition and similar technology-based competitions. I think what sets the Pi apart is that it's not just confined to computer science. Thanks to the GPIO and the ease with which peripherals can be added via USB, I'm sure that the Pi will appeal to students with a preference for other fields.

It'll still probably take a while, but I'm pretty sure that over the next few years we'll be seeing plenty of innovative secondary school projects that include the Pi. Maybe that's not a great measure of success, but even if that's all that it enables, I think the Pi foundation's work will have been vindicated.

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Logic

I think we need to go back to "Basic" coding, and perhaps even coding before that.

Flow Charts, Ladder Logic, and simple "Basic" programming is all that the children need. The lack of logical understanding is what hurts the most. There is a joy when you write your first program and the class watches as your whatever does whatever it was designed to do (In my day we had to type it all out and it took time).. When it was all said and done, the class of 30'odd that I was in had about 2 people who were highly computer litterate, and a 3rd who went to university to become a programmer "He's yet to write any successful work, but that's another story of my dissapointment of the tech sector"...

Teach children Logic, Perhaps even use electronic logic boards. Children may not see the fancy screen, but their understanding of the relationship between all variables is a lot better, plus it is much easier for them to use!.

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Teachers do their usual thing - find fault

I remember when schools got the BBC Micro, some were never unboxed or access was so controlled that kids never got much out of it.

The lesson we should take is not from schools but from that generation when at home, inspired and prepared to spend hours - yes sometimes those hours were spent working out how to break copy protection - and in the process getting heavily into machine code.

In a 40 minute classroom session nothing much can be achieved - unless it's an inspiring and innovative teacher, then the kids will want to do more in their own time. Yes you can whine about the additional cost of a monitor, keyboard, mouse, memory card but who's not got left over keyboard and mouse from an old PC - or can get them cheap - charity shop or even new they don't cost much. Lots of domestic TVs have an HDMI socket (or converters are available). Next someone will point out that there are households where the additional cost of even a memory card is out of the question - that may be true but ask first how many of those have the latest 50 inch TV and Sky+, then look at the plus side of how many homes there are where the kids CAN make good use of a RasPi.

Don't waste time with kids that don't give a monkey's, we don't need the entire nation to be IT wizards, just a handful more Berners-Lees. No we don't need a nation of coders, we need a reasonable number of people with a level of understanding of what's possible to maybe design a software system, build a prototype and outsource the coding donkey-work to donkeys.

I welcome the fact that RasPi is doing better for home sales. The vast majority of schools are just clueless when it comes to IT that's the historic problem and it's not going to go away. Very few teachers can claim any credit for the success of the BBC and Sinclair generation, it always was and still is the case that keen kids know a lot more about IT than their teachers. My lad had to help out with using Excel. His "design a web site" project was rejected, he'd used CSS/Javascript for interactive navigation buttons teacher didn't understand and made him redo them in Flash. The school used and hence recommended Dreamweaver, so he wanted a copy at home - have you seen the price? So he suggested we get a pirate copy... Don't get that problem with RasPi.

The knee jerk response of teachers to such an anecdote is to dismiss it as "an isolated instance" - the problem is that there are thousands of such isolated instances. I'd turn it around to asy there are isolated instances of IT teachers who do make a decent job of teaching IT an many more who make it about as exciting as learning about the legislature of ancient mesopotamia.

RasPi gives kids access to an almost "disposable" tool, programming is only part of the story, add-on circuitry is part of the attraction. Think of it as meccano. A good xmas gift for a kid with the aptitude to make good use of it, wasted on uninterested kids. And as with Meccano dad may need to help - a second benefit of getting kids and parents working together.

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Re: Teachers do their usual thing - find fault

I think it's the usual case of "those who can't, teach". Why would any rational person with a modicum of programming knowledge waste time and money being a teacher?

I too welcome the RPi as a home device, not necessarily because it's cheap (although that helps) but because it's simple, accessible (from a programming point of view), and not running Windows. It has its flaws such as USB/SD compatibility issues, underpowered CPU and overly proprietary GPU but these can be overlooked.

Dreamweaver makes me laugh. Isn't it just a glorified text editor for people too lazy to learn HTML?

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Treat it like a musical instrument...

Coding & programming at their best have all the same characteristics of arts & crafts - there are multiple ways to get someonwhere and it usually helps if you've got some passion & skill for what you're building/drawing/painting/whatever.

When I learned to play violin, it started in generic music lessons with my class, and when I decided I wanted to focus on playing it, I started having after-school lessons with one of the music teachers.

I reckon something similar would be appropriate for the Pi - use Scratch & other apps on a PC to get identify the kids who'll be interested, then offer them the chance to get a bit more serious about it in after school actvivity where they won't be distracted by endless natter about the X-Factor & One Direction.

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Facepalm

Do we need a nation of coders?

Of course not!!! But we do need a nation WITH coders, every child should have the opportunity to produce s/w and the ones who are interested and good can go on to make their living at it. The idea of lunch clubs and free kit for anyone who shows enough interest & application sounds great.

At the moment we don't seem to want enable any child to go on to write code, just make sure they can use power point (presumably to go into management and do PPT's explaining why this country can't actually make anything any more).

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Brilliant article

Just like not everyone can learn piano, not everyone can learn to "code".

It would be great if every child get access to using a RPi at least once in school, the same way that every child should study at least one Shakespeare play.

Probably the most important thing is to get kids reading Animal Farm.

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Nominative Determinism

Taygan Forth loves coding

Alex Blunt “You can have someone at your control.”

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Anonymous Coward

Why the Raspberry PI is correct for IT education

1. Standard and advanced eduction in the UK is aimed at training up the future workforce of this county, given that UNIX/linux is now the standard OS across all IT except PCs it is high time to stop training our workforce in Microsoft products. If you go the M$ route then as a business you are going to be paying through the nose forever whereas the opensource alternative is cheaper and lacks only trained staff.

2. Raspbeerry PI has joined the majority of IT systems and runs UNIX on an ARM so learning to code even down to assembler will provide an education in in the OS and environment that system for system is the most common and growing base in the world. RPi comes with everything you would expect from a linux system including all the free developement tools and as well as non-IT business tools, it isnt only scratch.

3. The RPi is around a fraction of the price of an x86 system and could even be provided free to families on benefits as the cost could be offset against the general move of Government services to the web.

4. System maintenance and the related removal of unnecessary ICT technicians would more than pay for schools the implement an all RPi. If the RPi gets corrupted then reflash the SD card, if the hardware fails then buy another. At £30 retail per unit that is a lot of broken RPi against even one ICT technician, given that the ICT tech currently spend most of their time fixing problems inherent in M$ products rather than hardware faults

5. RPi are assembled in the UK so a larger percentage of the system cost stays in the this country and the ARM is one of the few British IT successes we should be growing our own support for the CPU rather than sending all the money abroad.

An RPi education is what the present and future holds for both IT and business and fingers crossed will mean the return to bespoke business software systems rather than the current one size fits noone that falls over if you breathe on it. About time too

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Anonymous Coward

Multiple options...

The way I see it, the Raspberry Pi would be just one of the options available in a class.

Perhaps it would run a web server, that would then deliver content to a mobile application, teaching the kids about basic networking.

More exciting still, basic robotics - and push it a step further, a phone app that controls the robotics.

And the robotics is lego based !

I'm getting excited just thinking about the possibilities :)

Anyway, I hope the teachers are pre-installing these Pi's before unleashing the kids on them, otherwise it's going to be a *very* long and boring lesson. I installed the basic base packages along with a apache, sql etc. to create a basic home dev box - took 3 hours!

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Anonymous Coward

The Pi makes sense if....

a) you are going to use the GPIO pins;

b) you are going to use it for an purpose which cuts existing power use (eg - mediacentre box taped to the back of a monitor; works very well in that instance, plenty more too)

Its really not logical to use it for a general purpose coding device and I don't think that it should be viewed as such.

It is basically an embedded computer capable of running moderately complex tasks - its an ideal platform for control engineering tasks but its certainly not the ideal platform to create "apps", for want of a better word.

tl;dr needs peripherals on GPIO to make sense - that implies some electronics as well as coding; alternatively makes a great mediacentre with MPEG/VC-1 licences and uses about 8W doing it.

PS - I have one.

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