Google has just announced that it is to donate over 15,000 microcomputers to schools across the United Kingdom and Ireland (check this) . They have set up an organisation called the Raspberry Pi Foundation which is donating the innovative Raspberry Pi mini computer. They hope to inspire the younger generation into careers as programmers, developers and other technology areas.
The Raspberry Pi is a wonderful little invention which has already been extremely successful.
It’s basically just a pared down computer sold on a card no bigger than your credit card for a cut down price. It has a tiny CPU, 256 MB Ram and even a Video GPU. It’s probably similar to a Pentium 3 in todays processing power, but obviously needs external disk drives, monitors and other peripherals.
The idea is that the device is cheap and affordable and helps people learn more about the technology underlying modern day computers. The problems today’s younger generations have is that although they are adept at using the latest technology, they rarely understand it. When I grew up computers were much harder to use, you had to have some programming knowledge to get them to work. The hours spent typing in computer programs was tedious at times but at least you learnt something.
The Raspberry Pi isn’t meant to be a powerhouse of a computer, raw processing power is to some extent irrelevant. It’s a technological building block which can be used at the centre of any number of IT projects. In some senses it reminds me of the Arduino kits which are relatively sophisticated electronic kits, a step up from the old meccano and lego kits from earlier times.
So what are the sort of projects people are using the Raspberry Pi’s for ? Well of course the most obvious is to build it into a large full sized computer. Other projects ideas include using it at the core of a home automation system, smart TVs for the BBC and many people use them to create retro gaming machines. Others are linking them to devices on the web to create various Bots and even proxies too. There’s literally no end to the possibilities that this little device can be used from to learn and create at the same time.
Of course this generous donation won’t be much use without specialist teachers who can use these devices in their classrooms. Fortunately Google is also sponsoring some ICT Teacher training also as part of this release. The standard of ICT teaching in the UK has been very limited, mainly restricted to using applications rather than any programming or network skills. My own son informed me his own teacher had little knowledge outside spreadsheets and word processors. He would have to look up information is anything like programming, macros, or this site to check on proxies – http://thenewproxies.com/ or other networking information.