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Founder: no Raspberry Pi for every student

Raspberry Pi

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 12 Jun 2012 at 14:11

The Raspberry Pi shouldn't be handed out to every student in the UK, one of the co-founders of the charity that developed the cheap computer has said.

The low-cost computer board was developed in part to spur children into learning about programming at a time when computing classes are heavily criticised and the number of students taking the subject continues to fall.

Speaking at a Westminster eForum event on the ICT curriculum, Ian Livingstone, president of Eidos and co-author of a recent report into ICT education, called for a Raspberry Pi to be handed to every student in the UK - if not two, so they could have one at home and one at school.

Perhaps surprisingly, Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton would rather not see that. "I'm actually really conflicted about that," he said at the event in London today. "On some levels that seems like a really great idea... on the other hand, I think we're really much more about providing people with the opportunity to have one, rather than shoving it down their throats... I think we'd almost lose something if we did that."

Educators and the tech industry are looking for solutions to declining student numbers, but Upton said the hardware wasn't a panacea. "This is just a computer, it doesn't come with some approach to teaching... we're just trying to provide options," he said. "There's nothing specifically educational about this device. The only reason it's applicable is it's cheap."

Upton said the device was created to help get programmable computers into children's hands, disputing the idea that computers are ubiquitous, noting that many computing devices aren't programmable and families that do own a computer aren't necessarily keen on children "mucking" with it. "If you break the household PC, it's like breaking the family car," he said.

"We're trying to provide a platform that children can own." He suggested computing should be taught the way music is, with a few hours of teaching followed by self-guided practise in students' own time. "Kids don't have cheap programmable hardware in their bedrooms the same way as they did in the 80s," he said.

Upton added that 50,000 Raspberry Pis were already "in the wild", with 200,000 shipping within the next month and half a million in users' hands by September. He said the goal was for people to be able to buy one without going on the waiting list.

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User comments

Interesting admission

"There's nothing specifically educational about this device. The only reason it's applicable is it's cheap."

If this is the case, when will there be a review of the Raspberry Pi Foundation's charity status? It wasn't granted tax breaks so they could create a cheap computer but to educate...

"THE OBJECT OF THE CHARITY IS TO FURTHER THE ADVANCEMENT OF EDUCATION OF ADULTS AND CHILDREN, PARTICULARLY IN THE FIELD OF COMPUTERS, COMPUTER SCIENCE AND RELATED SUBJECTS"

http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/Showcharity/Re
gisterOfCharities/CharityWithoutPartB.aspx?Registe
redCharityNumber=1129409&SubsidiaryNumber=0

All I see on their Twitter feed is Linux experts who have got hold of a cheap computer and have modded it to watch the football, etc. Education? It's not happening.

David.

By artiss on 12 Jun 2012

Listen to Eben on recent video, seems to me that Education is exactly what they're talking about doing with more of their time now that they no longer have the hassles of manufacture.

By robgreen3 on 12 Jun 2012

Re: Interesting admission

"All I see on their Twitter feed is Linux experts who have got hold of a cheap computer and have modded it to watch the football, etc. Education? It's not happening."

I would expect to see this at the beginning as much of the initial demand is those seeking a cheap computer for personal projects. But keep in mind, when a lot of these projects are being undertaken, there is some learning by some to get these projects working.

But the initial demand will be geeks buying a geeky product to build a geeky project. As time goes on when the supply keeps up with demand, then more people will be buying these as a learning tool more than a tool for a personal project.

But I have seen people using this more than personal projects as well.

By mtux96 on 12 Jun 2012

@artiss if this was my first computer and I saw people hacking it to watch football I think that would inspire me to try and hack around with it myself. If all I saw were some crusty tutorials about how to write "hello world" apps I don't think I'd be that interested.

Speaking from my own experience I got into programming because I was fascinated by the things other people were doing and creating. I started teaching myself and then got more of a technical boost at university (though I wouldn't say this was enough for a career). I agree with the article. Programming isn't going to be for everyone so there's no point forcing everyone to program. The main issue is providing inspiring teaching and resources. With something like the raspberry pi this would give people a common "safe" platform to focus their attention on.

By magicmonkey3 on 13 Jun 2012

@ artiss

"
If this is the case, when will there be a review of the Raspberry Pi Foundation's charity status? It wasn't granted tax breaks so they could create a cheap computer but to educate..."

And how is making a ridiculously affordable computer *not* helping to achieve that aim?

By making the Pi cost barely more than a new-release Blu-Ray, they've managed to make buying a computer just for hacking around with and seeing what you can do with it eminently affordable to almost every spectrum of society.

I can't think of anything else which will enable more adults and children to start messing around with programming and hardware mods than that, particularly as it has the potential to become very popular in a short space of time; leading to a large community of programmers, hackers and modders all sharing what they've managed to do.

One of the main barriers to computing education has been cost - if you restrict the hardware to only those able to afford items costing hundreds if not thousands of pounds, then you limit the number of people who can participate. The other main barrier is getting people interested who otherwise would not be and as mentioned above, people hacking it to watch the football is an excellent way of inspiring those who usually couldn't give a monkey.

By bioreit on 13 Jun 2012

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