Founder: no Raspberry Pi for every student

12 Jun 2012
Raspberry Pi

Eben Upton doesn't think the cheap and cheerful computer should be handed to every student in the UK

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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