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 …

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Re: @blcollier

Taking things a little bit too literally, perhaps? Or did you somehow think that I intended to slight those whose occupation is web technologies or web programming?

No, I am not suggesting that we teach our 10-year olds how to write an operating system. Nor am I say that we should ignore web technologies. What I am saying is that the skills being taught need to be more funadmental: memory management, algorithms, object-oriented approaches, etc. Of course I am also not suggesting that we hand the virtual "shotgun pointed at your feet" that is C++ or assembly language to a class of schoolchildren. Web programming is indeed an easy place to start, and it can be easily translated into what people see every day: Facebook, Google, etc. What I am saying however is that they need to understand the basic fundamentals of hardware and software. Once you learn fundamental programming skills, you can apply that to almost any programming language you choose. Hardware is a bit more tricky, but pretty much any "computer" these days still has the basic building blocks (CPU, GPU, memory controller, buses, I/O, etc).

I am saying that we should be teaching broad fundamental skills, and not specifically focussing on narrow areas - such as web programming or using MS Office. Sure they can be a good starting point start - much the same way that Scratch is a very good starting point - but that shouldn't be the end of the story.

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Re: @blcollier

Nice idea (everyone's got a JavaScript interpreter in their browser) but not good in practice, JavaScript is loosely typed, is interpreted too differently between browsers, and the OO can be usable if you know what you're doing otherwise it's just a mess, even the scope of functions and variables is messy. It's got the same problem as PHP, the language is hacked together and you need to already know what you're doing in order to do it.

Perhaps I'm showing my age, but you'd want something like BASIC, Pascal, or Logo for the older ones and Scratch or KPL for the younger ones.

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Re: @Tom Parsons

>Are you really suggesting we should be teaching school children how to program an OS?

Actually yes - http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/1913

What's more important is teaching them that an OS is just a bit of software written by normal people. And that a computer isn't a magic box. Then the next time a home secretary announces a new computer security system that will decide who is guilty automatically - there might be some public skepticism.

It's the same for other subjects. Do most students need to know the difference between 'S' and 'P' orbitals? No, but they should know that Daily Mail headlines of "OMG chemicals in our food" can just mean water. Some idea about statistics and the range and effects of microwaves might also be useful.

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Re: @blcollier

"Are you really suggesting we should be teaching school children how to program an OS?"

If he's not, I certainly am. The point about the Pi is that a few hundred lines of bare-metal code can make it flash an LED, beep a speaker, detect a finger, detect a light source etc etc. And that is where it all starts for kids. On that simple beginning everything else can stand. Over a number of school years, a complete school OS could be built, and the relevant hardcore Computer Science introduced as appropriate. That's how to teach computing.

We have forgotten that an "OS" can be simple and elegant. Of course, any single board computer could have fulfilled this role equally at any time over the last 20 years.The noise and b'llsh't of the likes of corporate MS have perverted what happens in schools. (And for balance, Linux is far too large and complex to play any part of early school learning. These are tools.)

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"but programming languages for the web"

Why? I taught myself BASIC on a Beeb, got a semi-formal introduction to Pascal at college, which contained principles (modularity, scope, etc) that I took over to C when I taught myself that. I learned VisualBasic because it was a simple way to get results. I wanted to write my own flat-file blog software (didn't have SQL access) so I learned PHP and wrote it.

Or, to look at it from a different direction, when I first started out with Internet stuff, writing server extensions was a script or C program called from cgi or cgi-bin. Then along came PHP. Now sites are using Ruby due to the various inadequacies of PHP. I bet if you took any random eight year old and brought them up to speed on Ruby or such, it'll be three languages out of date by the time that child leaves school.

Would it not be better to teach children to program generically? You could start them with something like Scratch to demonstrate the possibilities of what programming can offer. You then progress them on BBC BASIC and introduce the concept of functions and procedures, and the idea of having code libraries (this is why I specify BBC BASIC, not an inferior one that is a tangle of GOSUB calls). Once they get better, you to introduce them to C which is like BASIC with oomph (certainly writing a direct port of something complex will highlight the difference between interpreted and compiled). C allows a lot more creativity but contains many more pitfalls - however it is a solid real-world language. Your operating system's kernel is probably written in C, as would be a large chunk of the software in your machine.

With this basis in how to think like a programmer and how to break a problem down into chunks, and how to do stuff like sanitising inputs and code re-use/sharing, the child (probably a teenager by then) will be ready to think about how to program for the Web.

Because I sure as hell wouldn't want somebody without the groundwork to be let loose on the Internet. There's already enough shitty code and 0-day flaws that we really really don't need any more.

"instead of the Americans bringing out all these multi-billion dollar properties."

I would be inclined to say this is possibly more psychological than technological. Sure, it is a rough generalisation that Americans get all freaked out over SATs and Brits get freaked out over celebrity gossip; but perhaps it runs deeper in that a person with a good idea has a much higher barrier to acceptance/funding than in America? Then again, watch Dragon's Den some time, maybe over this side of the ocean we just don't appreciate suckers? I mean, there's an online thingy I read that was always going on about (quote) The Kids Of Instagram (unquote) so I eventually looked up Instagram. I'm afraid my first thought was "that's it?". Maybe it could have been me making millions and getting bought out for silly money? I'd first have have to have realised that this was in fact a viable proposition in the first place! Nothing to do with coding skills, a lot to do with psychology. So perhaps teaching children to program "because Americans make all the money" is really the wrong way to approach this?

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It's not the coding or even the RasPi

It's the everything. It's removing the fear of tinerking, investigating and trying new things. It's encouraging thought, analysis, design, and engineering. This used to be the province of Meccano, Lego etc (both now dumbed down to hell).

To do this you don't actually need a RasPi, but you need something free, open and cheap enough that if you do happen to break it; it's not the end of the world. You simply cannot do that on a desktop PC with restricted boot and a restricted operating system.

All that does is produce push-button clones who thing "Google" is the Internet and that Excel is a good database.

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Re: It's not the coding or even the RasPi

Of course you can do it on a desktop machine. Install VirtualBox (or equivalent of your choice), install OS to it, do your worst.

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Re: It's not the coding or even the RasPi

Of course you can't d it on a desktop machine. You going to let kids plug whatever bollocks they've just soldered together to an expensive desktop PC. Yeah...right...

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Re: It's not the coding or even the RasPi

I thought we were talking about programming lessons, not practical electronics. How much school IT teaching involves physical construction of peripherals? Anyway, there are plenty of interface boards available for PCs.

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Happy

Re: It's not the coding or even the RasPi

Understanding the inter-relationship between software and hardware is even more important than just the software (or hardware), and the people I know who can bridge that gap are relatively few. Hopefully fiddling with a RasPi will help redress the balance.

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Vic
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Re: It's not the coding or even the RasPi

> How much school IT teaching involves physical construction of peripherals?

Not enough.

Vic.

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Well

Not everyone needs to be a coder but everyone should have an understanding of what they do. It's really important. And enough people need to program things, that everyone should have the chance to learn.

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Remember the physical sciences too

Only a curmudgeon would fail to be excited by the educational potential that Pi could provide. But besides ironing out the bugs and making it reliable, more could be done. It's not just the computer that's needed in education it's the peripherals. In particular it's peripherals that measure.

What I have in mind is things like temperature, pH, force, illumination, blood pressure and oxygenation, water level, conductivity ... and perhaps a microscope, a thermal imager and a telescope.

The Pi's innovators have managed not only to bring this hardware to market, it is affordable and made in the UK. Hopefully other boffins and their employers will bring their expertise to bear and produce a range of add-ons to turn the Pi, or other computers into scientific instruments to help generate the expertise our future will demand,

There's an opportunity here to provide a similar boost in schools to the physical and biological sciences.

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FAIL

Re: Remember the physical sciences too

This sort of thing has been available in schools for decades. Just go to the TTS website and look up "log Box" and Pulse Recorder. The older version plugged in via the serial port, but newer one use USB. Most come with temperature and sound monitoring sensor built in now (you had to buy those separately in the old days), and come with simple windows-friendly software to download and manipulate the data.

The problem is, that schools buy this kit by the bucket-load (I have personally seen at least 5 schools in my county with 20+kits in the storecupboard gathering dust), then do nothing with it. Sure, there are the odd teacher who understands how to do a stop-motion of decaying fruit usding a webcam, or can use pivot stick to teach simple computer animation, but most teachers just can't be arsed to learn how to use it (or, worse still in my eyes, don't have the natural curiosity to learn).

My solution, teach the teachers and then make ICT teaching part of an OFSTED inspection - only once it affects a schools OFSTED ranking will they care about it!!!!!

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Re: Remember the physical sciences too

While I wouldn't for a moment deny that the most important thing is to have well-motivated teachers, the log-box with temperature, sound and light sensors costs over £100; and presumably comes with proprietary software. As with the market for educational books, it's hard to see this as other than something of a stitch-up.

On Amazon it's possible to buy an ultrasonic distance sensor for £6.48; or complete with an Arduino for under £20. Coupled with open source software, this represents an order of magnitude change.

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Some good points, but not that many...

One of the main aims of the foundation was to change the way that "IT" is taught in schools, so that it is more focussed on computer science fundamentals than how to do spreadsheets in Excel or godawful WordArt in PowerPoint. You could argue that the changed stance on IT education by the government has already gone some way to achieving this. That's great, especially if schools can already meet this without having to shell out for new kit. The Pi itself addresses the problem of not having almost disposably-cheap computer hardware with which children can knock around with and experiment - as opposed to an in-excess-of-£300 desktop PC which their parents don't want them screwing up - so it doesn't have to be solely restricted to being used in schools.

And I completely disagree with the article's point that it would involve faffing about with plugging/unplugging cables at the start/end of each lesson, or that using them in schools would be impractical. These things don't have to be removable; just mount them under the desk or to the back of the monitor using VESA mounts. Problems with SD cards can be easily solved with network booting; once you've got the basic stuff booted (GPU blob, etc), the rest of the OS can in theory be booted from a clean network image on that can't be modified. Out of all the crappy old SD/MicroSD cards I've got knocking around, I have so far failed to find one which cannot boot the basic stuff (my day-to-day tinkering distro is on a USB drive, only the boot partition remains on the SD card). Give each child/user an allocated amount of space for their /home/$user share, stored on the network and not locally, and everything else is read-only. Of course this is a little more involved than plugging in a few Windows boxes, but any IT tech worth their salt should be able to do enough research to set this up; they shouldn't be in the job if they can't.

Plus I fail to see how it would be more expensive to kit out a room full of Pis compared to the cost of a full-blown desktop computer, as many commenters (not just those here) like to claim. You cannot tell me that a desktop computer - even a low-powered one - can be bought for less than the cost of a Pi (£25) + case (~£12) + small SD card (~£5-£10), even with educational discounts. Mice and keyboards are dirt cheap, even moreso for those that buy in bulk. Granted that the HDMI-only monitor connection will be a little tricky for the spare old monitors you've got knocking about, but you can't get a $35 computer without compromising somewhere.

And, by the way, using the term "geek children" or "geek dads" (or even "geek mums") doesn't exactly do anything to help anyone's cause here. As if kids needed another label which can be used to single them out as a target for bullying... Is there really anything wrong with wanting to know more about the technology which is so fundamental to our society? Just because someone might be interested in technology or programming doesn't make them a geek; it just makes them a person that's interested in technology or programming.

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Re: Some good points, but not that many...

The idea of leaving the Pis set up all the time is fine as long as either (a) you can afford an additional DVI/HDMI monitor + keyboard + mouse for every Pi or (b) you are planning to decommision and existing computer for every Pi.

Neither of these is much of a solution. (a) costs you a fortune and (b) gives you precisely the same inflexibility by now but with extremely low powered machines (good luck running Labview, Matlab or an decent office suite on a Pi).

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Re: Some good points, but not that many...

The monitor is the expensive bit - use an HDMI switch (<£10)? Or monitors with TWO hdmi inputs (or HDMI/DVI) you can switch between. Needs a bit more up front investment of course. Or use the Raspi's composite out.

Keyboards and mice are two a penny, but again, a KV switch would work. Or, two sets, and run the Pi headless over X. Complicated, but worth teaching...

There are always solutions if you look a little past the obvious.

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@Ian Johnston

*sigh*...

Like many others, I think you're missing my point. Granted the point about HDMI monitors stands - a point I believe I made - but it doesn't mean that you need a 27" Apple Cinema Display monster on every desk either. Most monitors available in the last 5 years or so all support DVI inputs, and digital DVI is pin-compatible with HDMI; it just needs a £2 converter, and it's exactly how I use my Pi.

The Pi isn't necessarily going to be useful for those schools who can already afford, or already have, "ICT" labs full of reasonably-spec'ed kit. It is however going to be an option for schools that can't afford to spend a fortune on updating their old shoddy equipment in order to be able to actually teach this wonderful new IT curriculum. Let's just do some maths, based on current retail prices, just for the hell of it...

Cheapest DVI monitor I can find on Novatech: £75 ea., or £2250 for 30 of them

Cheap USB keyboard/mouse combo (also Novatech): £9.98 ea., £299.40 for 30x

30x cheap (~£5) SD Cards: £150

30x cases (~£12): £360

30x Pis (~£25): £750

30x HDMI to DVI adaptors: £60

OR

Cheapest desktop I can find on Novatech: £239.99 ea., £7199.70 for 30x

So that's £3659.40 for the Pi-based solution, or £9449.70 for the traditional desktop (which won't need separate cases, SD cards or KB + mouse). Of course these are retail prices and schools can get serious educational discounts, but my point stands.

It isn't for everyone and it was never going to be for everyone. But it could be a seriously big help for those - individuals, schools, businesses, etc - who can't afford to shell out for a full desktop machine. I think people - especially those reading a tech news site - need to remember that not everyone is as privileged as they are/were when it comes to technology. Not necessarily everyone had a good school with great IT education or had parents who could afford to buy gadgets/computers for them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some good points, but not that many...

Amazon are selling a monitor with DVI input for just over £80, HDMI to DVI cable is £3, mouse and keyboard can be had for £15 so you could build a complete PI based system for under £150.

I don't mind being called a geek, just don't call me a nerd.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some good points, but not that many...

HDMI -> DVI

And I have an old Apple DVI -> VGA adaptor from a G4 mini.

Any monitor from the last 15 years is then usable, even landfill CRTs.

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Re: Some good points, but not that many...

DVI-VGA adaters only work for DVI-A where there are VGA signals are on the spare DVI pins. The RPi doesn't have any VGA signal hardware on board.

VGA is an analogue signal and needs real power electronics, DACs and amplifiers unlike purely digital DVI/HDMI

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Megaphone

Re: Some good points, but not that many...

Many newer monitors have more than 1 input, and often HDMI. All you then have to do is switch inputs.

Yes, I know it means older monitors don't cut it, but the point of the PI is to have something that you can play with, you can take a risk with home made add ons because it is not worth several hundred pounds.....

I have purchased a case, but plan to try to modify my Lego X-Wing to take the PI. If it will not fit in that it damn well will fit in the Falcon I have or the SSD kit (that I want for Christmas)

(SSD in this case Super Star Destroyer)

It's all about fun. I have a ZX81, and recently showed it to the daughter of a friend who is interested in techie stuff. she was surprised at how unlike what she knows computers as it was. Yet she wanted to play with it and learn!

We need to get kid away from Halo & Facebook and back to learning, and the Pi is one way to do that. It's not perfect and not the only way to do the job, but if it get's some kids interested in the nuts and bolts of hardware and software then it has succeeded in my book....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some good points, but not that many...

"I'm not a geek, I'm a technology enthusiast."

"I'm not a trainspotter, I'm a railway enthusiast."

Tomato, tomato (that doesn't work written down).

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JDX
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It's a cool little device and for use in science projects (like balloons etc) is wonderful.

But as a way to teach the basics of programming, well schools are CRAMMED with computers. And it's trivial to put on something like LOGO or BASIC, you can even find web-sites which will let you do it with no need to install anything.

So for pure programming the Pi serves only as a publicity tool to get people interested. I guess that's a good enough result - if all it serves is to get people coding on Windows it's still great. But it's real strength comes when it's used to interact with something in a way a PC can't.

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Terminator

Stuff adults don't think of

There are a lot of things adults don't even consider when talking about the pi, which kids would notice straight away, such as the aesthetics

A PC is "normal" now, it's nothing too special. Their parents have one and it's probably always been a familiar fixture of the house with no curiosity about it. back in primary school our single bbc micro was a thing of awe cos it was unusual and high-tech. Similarly a pi is a circuit board with wires sticking out of it everywhere. Young kids love that shit, it's all futurey and makes them feel like they're doing mad scientist stuff. (10 print hello 20 go to 10 wouldn't impress an adult but remember how smart and inspired you felt when you were a kid running that).

It doesnt have to teach a kid to be an awesome coder, just to inspire them to roleplay as an evil genius for a few hours, I didn't get beyond the repeating text on my spectrum but it definitely planted the seeds for my dev career now.

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Re: Stuff adults don't think of

"Similarly a pi is a circuit board with wires sticking out of it everywhere. Young kids love that shit"

Couldn't agree more - although I now have to take apart all manner of gadgets - although that's no bad thing.

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Re: Stuff adults don't think of

And it's actually quite telling that the first thing many people want to do (including many of the fellow commentators here) is put the thing in a case...

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Re: Stuff adults don't think of

Don't get a case as such, get SK Pang's "Cover with Breadboard Area".

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What's the point?

What advantages is a classroom full of Pis supposed to have over a classroom full of PCs running virtual machines? I can see the point of a small, lightweight, mobile computer for robotics and the like (I've built around 850 programmable robots from components with school children) but the Pi isn't much good for that as it has no useful sensor/motor IO.

The joy of programming the Spectrum, PET, Oric Atmos (BANG!) or BBC was that it couldn't do anything, really, unless you asked it do. That "duck" wobbling unsteadily across the top the screen was your creation, as were the "bullets" which occasionally hit it. But on a Pi .... we'll how inspiring is it to children who don't already find programming fun to create simple, slow text-mode stuff in the middle of a rich graphical UI? All it's likely to to do is confirm the impression that computers are hopelessly complicated. It's like hoping to make automotive engineering accessible by building soap-box go-carts with kids.

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Re: What's the point?

Well, a few that come to mind are:

Easy transferral of student efforts from school to home using the SD card.

Cheaper cost for low income students so they can indeed have one at home.

Access to simple GPIO (yes, you do have it)

Easier maintenance, though that might be debatable.

More fun factor - It's a PCB, with wires and stuff! Some children love that sort of thing.

Big support base.

As to your comment on slow text mode stuff...it runs Scratch fairly well (will get better as optimisations are completed), which is a great intro to logical sequencing and gets children interested. Even my 7 year old finds it fun.

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Re: What's the point?

I have no doubt that something like the Pi could have great potential for schools, though I'd see it more in the CDT/Mechatronics side than in computing if GPIO depended less on homebrewed electronics or vapourware addon boards. Scratch, after all (I like Scratch) runs on OS/X, Windows and Ubuntu on "real" PCs.

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Re: What's the point?

Vapourware? Please expand.

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Re: What's the point?

Agreed. I see nothing "vapourware" in the Gertboard or any other commercially-available GPIO expander/interface kits. "Difficult to get hold of" or "in short supply" does not equal "vapourware". Many, including myself, said that the Pi itself was vapourware, yet here we are with over half a million sold and one of the first batch of 10,000 units on my desk.

Besides, using the term "homebrewed" as a perjorative term really completely misses the point of having the GPIO in the first place: being able to wire it up to something you built yourself and control it with code that you wrote yourself - doesn't that neatly cover the term "homebrewed"?

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Anonymous Coward

What are we teaching?

Where are the skill sets to introduce a kid to computers? Our IT classes were a joke and I learned more by helping out the technician diagnosing and fixing the systems. This was the technician allowing me to help instead of the school allowing real skills to be taught. Kids can download and install a wide range of software and viruses but have no clue to look after a system.

How do you plug the computer in? Protect a computer? What do the insides even look like? What can it do? How can you go about doing anything?

A lot of the adults have no idea and that is fine, the children are the ones in education. You teach them and they teach the adults.

Computers rule our lives. Most jobs require a computer and most benefit from the computer. But the magic box in the corner needs people with knowledge even if they dont want IT as a career.

I think kids dont get a broad enough exposure to IT. Until college I thought programming was all maths (and I didnt want to do that every day). How can children decide what they want to do when they have a very limited and utterly clueless introduction to anything other than basic english, math and science. This isnt about programming, its about innovating and learning new skills.

Or you can leave the kids with an outdated version of windows with a clueless teacher and no real technical knowledge beyond their smartphone.

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I agree that the RPi was always dubious as an education tool, I think the only real reason for aligning it that way was that if you hang a product or idea on the education hook then no one will dare to say you are wrong for fear they end up being perceived as stifling learning, etc.

I too have had grief from various places for saying that very old computers could be put to the same tasks with better results and that programming skills do not replace user acceptance.

The real thing the Raspberry Pi has done is to provide an object lesson to the computing industry that a small team can produce a very cheaper computing device which is good enough to meet the requirements of the vast majority of the PC owning public and that just as the days of spending thousands on a new computer fell to spending only hundreds, the days when that figure drops to tens of pounds/dollars/euro/shekels/dong are nearly upon us. Which of course has got all the big manufacturers stuffing their fingers in their ears instead of rushing to get a properly sorted product to market first.

The only other thing I can think of for pushing the RPi is that once it, or devices like it, become the equivalent of today's desktop market, it puts the UK in a strong position not only as a source of expertise in ARM environments but also as the base of the only company that could seriously put Intel's nose out of joint.

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It shouldn't be labelled an education tool - it should be an inspiration tool...

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Go

No RPi please

I completely agree with this article. To engage children we should be teaching them to program the applications they see every day. App Inventor is a great example of this, but possibly has a learning curve which is too steep for pre-GCSE classes.

If I was in charge, I think I’d start with HTML and JavaScript – it runs everywhere, any child with any home computer could work on the project at home and it would engage both “geeks” and creative types. It also takes very little code to see a result.

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Re: No RPi please

Or Access or Powerpoint, or Word ? I think this is how we got to ICT in the first place.

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Facepalm

Re: No RPi please

Noooooo!!!

No no no no no no!!!

Fundamentals of computer science! How much longer must I bang this drum!

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Mushroom

Phorward

You, sir, have just won the coveted Bong! award.

Rory Clellan-Jones trip to coding school was possibly the nadir of an already ignominious career.

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IT Angle

Re: No RPi please

Let me assist you in banging that drum-this is what we should be feeding our kids brains in lessons:

http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/freshers/raspberrypi/tutorials/os/

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Re: No RPi please

There's no limit?

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Pint

I always thought the point of the Rpi

was not as a general purpose computer for schools (There are loads of them, and linux could be chucked on most of them and run the same as the Rpi faster),

but as an easily intefaceable computer that does not cost shedloads to replace when something gets shorted and blows one of the things up.

The GPIO and the camera I/F makes it superb for that kind of tinkering-about-learning for kids and adults alike. Also as it's cheap you can get several and dedicate them for different projects.

The one thing it cannot provide is enthusiastic teaching staff though...

Pint of beer for the guys (and gals) that thought of the Pi and pushed it though to reality

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Pint

Re: I always thought the point of the Rpi

Have a pint right back, for being one of the few people here who finally gets it.

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Re: I always thought the point of the Rpi

The point of the RPi is exactly the same reason we got Apple IIs and then PCs 30years ago.

You have PCs in your school but you certainly can't let kids install apps or have admin access, in fact you can't let teachers have admin access because the PCs are under a service plan from whatever "Research Machines Ltd" is called today and any changes involve renegotiating their agreement and them charging you 500quid to come out and install virtualbox.

You couldn't let children learn by fiddling around with the council mainframe we got dialup access to in the 70s so we bought home computers and PCS. Now you can't let them fiddle around with PCs we have under service agreements, so you need single board embedded machines.

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It doesn't matter what device the kids use or are exposed to. Kids love tech, it's a plain fact. And if you can use tech in a creative way then the kids will learn. In a class of 40 you are not going to get 40 coders, but I almost guarantee that you will get 40 users.

My son (4yo) doesn't always trust me with tech, he thinks i am some sort of dinosaur. Although he does understand that I mend things. (seemingly the impossible, such as jelly or welding metal just by looking at it) but when he saw me connecting the Pi to the TV he was awe struck. The comprehension that such a tiny thing could firstly connect to the TV and then "do things" (his words) - I set the Pi up with a doorbell attachment, and whenever he presses it it plays a random silly noise. Now I realise that this isn't going to change the world, and the bit of programming is lame, but to a 4yo this is super hero territory. Especially as he watched, and asked quite advanced questions about the programming process. It's also great that he wants to press the button to annoy his mum, he is a human debugger. If it goes wrong he reports it to tech support and we fix together. He has already taken the Pi to school to show his class, and has managed to explain what was done, and how it works. (and he never once said it works on witchcraft or magic pixie dust)

I guess what I am saying is we are giving the kids a chance to be exposed into something that potentially could be great. It may be basic to us adults, and all a bit frivolous but to a 4yo this sort of things could make you a super hero. Lets keep the dreams alive

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I picked up an arduino kit for pretty much the same rationale - i admit that was more an excuse for me to play with one originally - to model things so I could show my four year old models of traffic lights she could poke at in response to the entertaining barrage of how do things work questions. I now have a similar barrage of questions and demands on building in buttons and pots that have her at least introduced to decisions about basic design/control logic by simple interaction such as 'what would you like the button to do and how many do we need'

Will change to a RPi and Pi-face when its out so can use scratch for control as she gets older.

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Childcatcher

Why does programming have to be in 'IT' lessons?

As someone who has recently graduated with a degree in computer science from a top uk university for the subject, and having had these 'IT' (or Microsoft Office) lessons, where I literally spent 8 years of high school and sixth form doing nothing but be taught how to use microsoft office. (oh and we had to use dreamweaver for the web-design module in AS ICT *cringes with pain*) I entered uni with no real experience of programming other than what I had been teaching myself for a couple of years.

I think we are still looking at this all wrong, I think programming, should be a part not only of IT lessons, but of maths lessons too, and in primary schools, along with addition, multiplication and fractions, children should learn about if then else statements, and a simple programming language like python to do simple tasks.

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Silver badge

Re: Why does programming have to be in 'IT' lessons?

Programming should be the start of maths teaching - definitely

It gets even worse in a physics degree, you spend 3years learning all the tricks to solve the tiny subset of differential equations that can be solved on a blackboard. You start a Phd and are told - pick Matlab or Mathemtica

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