Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | June 4, 2011

Digital Illiteracy and Raspberry Pi

From BBC:

“[Children] learn about Word and Powerpoint and Excel. They learn how to use the applications but don’t have the skills to make them,” says Ian Livingstone, life president of Eidos and government skills champion.

“It’s the difference between reading and writing. We’re teaching them how to read, we’re not teaching them how to write.

Meanwhile, the BBC article mentions Raspberry Pi:

A tiny device called the Raspberry Pi is a whole computer squeezed onto a single circuit board, about the same size as a USB disc.

It costs around £15 and can be plugged into a TV with the aim of making a computer cheap and simple enough to allow anyone to write programmes

“Hopefully it will bring a solution to a generation of kids who can have the advantages that I had as a kid so they can learn to program and do great things,” says David Braben of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It costs around £15 and can be plugged into a TV with the aim of making a computer cheap and simple enough to allow anyone to write programmes.

I would like to know more about Raspberry Pi; the idea appears to be compatible with my philosophy of mathematical education.

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Responses

  1. Sasha I heard it is a tiny linux PC. I think it is an important challenge to get programming back on the school curriculum.

  2. I asking at school in the late 90s why we were no longer allowed to use school computers to program in our spare time. I was told “Someone else will be writing the software that you’ll be using”…

  3. Why not focus on using free development platforms or IDEs that are available for various computers, tablets, game consoles, and an increasingly a percentage of smartphones (Android for example) without any additional hardware to purchase?

    Raspberry Pi is a pretty complex albeit small, system with a modern 32-bit processor, and operating system (Linux) consisting of millions of lines of available source code. These are non-trivial complexity, raising the bar of how much material the students needs to comprehend if the goal is to prevent the device from simply being yet another “black box” that the student “consumes”.

    Certainly for a percentage of university aged students, they are not as likely to have a stand alone television among their dorm room size limited possessions, as they are to have a laptop which with TV tuner cards, or DVD or Blu-ray discs and streaming Internet video as size conscience affordable alternative.

    For their first exposure I don’t care if it is educational languages such as Microsoft’s Small Basic (free), or Squeak Smalltalk, Alice, or MIT’s Scratch, or “industrial” languages such as Python, Perl, or Java. Though I strongly recommend simplicity as a key metric as the age of the pupils decreases. Heck, with secondary school aged students the teacher could use an implementation of Knuth’s MIX or MMIX as a target virtual machine if the educator has the ability to express the limitlessness of the abstract creative freedom of such a blank slate platform.

    I suppose the ability for students to write programs to do whatever their juvenile heart;s desires, is distressing for typically still poorly equipped (in both skills and resources) teachers and schools.

    I should say I don’t know how the situation has changed in many intervening years, but limitation when I was still a student was with the resources of knowledgeable instructors and time, not the tangible limitations of hardware cost.

  4. @mctylr: “For their first exposure I don’t care if it is educational languages such as Microsoft’s Small Basic (free), or Squeak Smalltalk, Alice, or MIT’s Scratch, or “industrial” languages such as Python, Perl, or Java”

    Squeak, Python and Perl will all run on the Raspberry Pi, as it will run Linux. In fact, Python will probably be used for the educational platform, as it’s the nearest thing to BBC Basic we have these days in terms of instant results and ease of understanding.


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