Computing can be a terribly dry subject, especially for younger children who might not know or care about what registries and memory are, and might not have the mathematical fundamentals in place to grapple with traditional coding. Platforms like Arduino and Raspberry Pi have made computing accessible even to primary-school children.
They’re inexpensive and portable, and thus can be bought in large numbers by schools, colleges and families. The cheapest version of the Raspberry Pi comes in at just £5. Consequently, everyone who wants a Raspberry Pi can afford to have one. In the age of coronavirus, this is especially advantageous – it provides housebound children with a means to create ambitious projects, and to explore what’s made possible by the board.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation
While the device itself might draw most of the attention, it actually comes from a foundation that’s explicitly designed to “promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing.”
When news emerged in 2011 that a charity was making this attempt, few could have envisioned the subsequent spread of the device and the culture that surrounds it. Thanks to the efforts of the foundation, millions of children around the world now have access to computing. This affordability is a major advantage in parts of the world where dozens of computers might be prohibitively expensive for schools.
Starting from Scratch
Coding is among the most powerful (and ultimately, profitable) skills a child can learn. And thanks to the ‘Scratch’ software from MIT, it’s easier than ever for young children to learn the basic principles and get creating on a Raspberry Pi.
Getting Teachers on Board
For teachers, making the switch from more familiar Microsoft and Apple-based devices to a Linux or UNIX-based one might represent something of a challenge. Fortunately, the foundation have made available a pretty comprehensive guide for teachers.
What about girls?
A longstanding criticism of computer science is that it’s male-dominated. But access to a device like the Raspberry Pi tends to level the playing field a little. Girls who want to get into computing no longer have to contend with obscure and mysterious devices, designed mostly by men in Silicon Valley. They can tweak the Pi to match the purposes that interest them. What’s more, there are plenty of women providing computing education on platforms like YouTube, which can only bolster adoption among female students.