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Raspberry Pi "gathering dust" in schools

  • Raspberry Pi
  • Kano

By Shona Ghosh

Posted on 3 Jan 2014 at 15:23

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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User comments

Does not surprise me.

We had lot of cool and fun 'toys' when I was at school that we never got to play with because the teachers had other things on their plate.

Meanwhile hundreds of hours was spent on art, woodwork, music and metalwork.

Hmm. I wonder if future pupils will gaze forlornly at the dusty saws, pencils, and xylophones, while they grind away at computer code? Wishing it could be the other way round...

By ANTIcarr0t on 4 Jan 2014

Veracity - AKA Made up story

"That's according to anecdotal evidence from Kano"
So a company pushing its own product needs a headline and PCPro comes to the rescue.

By milliganp on 4 Jan 2014

Me too.

I had wondered about this and thought that it might just be another sad reflection on the very sloppy journalism we have seen here recently (see Windows vs OSX: which is faster? all run on OSX machines and Windows only emulated on Apple hardware - we could see the result in the headline so no need for the story at all!) : why not ask Eben for his take on this before publishing? I have seen many articles on schools and their RPi projects so it is not all hackers: Premier Farnell, RS and others are selling bucket loads of their own starter kits to schools and colleges (my anecdote this time!). So often we see in a story here that XYZ did not respond to a request for comment and yet here we have a story that demands a response, if true, and PCPro do not bother to ask for one. Appalling really.

By jonathandk2 on 4 Jan 2014

The problem is the teachers

Teachers are not trained in this sort of thing. They can probably just about use an office suite and a web browser. When the acorn BBC came about there was a nationalised standard and a syllabus established with an emphasis on producing software rather just consuming it. Today such a standard is impossible and most IT lessons involve using office and a browser...which incidentally can be done on a raspberry pi.

By saiftynet on 5 Jan 2014

Not necessarily

I bought a Raspberry Pi to try and do some stuff with my 12 y.o. daughter. When I fired up Scratch she immediately said 'Sratch! I love Scratch.' and started to show me what she'd been taught at school.

By jgwilliams on 6 Jan 2014

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