Raspberry Pi "gathering dust" in schools

3 Jan 2014

Raspberry Pi PC still to complex for pupils, says British startup

For all its success in the hacker community, the Raspberry Pi isn't seeing much uptake in schools.

That's according to anecdotal evidence from Kano, a British startup which hopes to make the Raspberry Pi easier for kids to understand with its own £69 DIY hardware kit.

Kano's kits contain a Raspberry Pi "brain", a colourful case and peripherals such as a speaker, keyboard, HDMI and USB cables, Wi-Fi dongle and a power plug. The idea is to make the Raspberry Pi more appealing and get kids learning to code using Kano's Debian-based OS.

Kano

But Alejandro Simon, Kano's head of software, said the Raspberry Pi's popularity with hackers had obscured its original purpose.

"Eben's original idea was more education than tinkering or hacking," he said. "The problem was that within two years, more than two million units [were sold], and pretty much all of them went to hackers."

"That’s great - clearly there was a gap they filled," he added. "But what’s happened is that the original intention [has been] eroded a bit. We’re trying to pick that up."

In a bid to boost uptake in UK schools, the Raspberry Pi Foundation last year partnered with Google to hand out the PCs for free. In October, Upton said more than 200,000 units "were in the hands of kids" overall.

But Simon said Kano subsequently visited some of these schools for its own outreach programme - and found pupils weren't using the devices.

"It wasn’t friendly for the teachers," he said. "They received [Raspberry Pi] kits and massive instruction books and they weren’t prepared for it - so they were gathering dust."

"I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault - you can’t force ICT teachers to learn," he added. "They aren't going to know without guidance."

Simon added that Kano was working with a major education company to get the kits into schools, though he wouldn't reveal which. He added that several schools had pre-ordered the kits in bulk, with one buying as many as 80.

Following Kano's $1.5 million Kickstarter campaign, backers will receive the first Kano kits in June. Depending on demand, Kano will open for orders from the public in July.

Update: This article was updated on 6 January to correct an assertion that Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton has formally advised Kano, and again on 8 January to correct the amount raised by Kano on Kickstarter (originally reported as $1 million).

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