Representing a low cost way for schools to introduce programming to students, the Raspberry Pi Projects is a microcomputer that can be used to test out various projects. Similar to the BBC Apple computers of the 1980s, the Raspberry Pi is a hobbyist’s dream, in the sense of being powerful enough to run fairly complex programming commands, while still being portable and cheap enough to be bought in bulk by schools for their ICT and Computer Science lessons.
The Raspberry Pi is a computer board that is about the same size as a credit card – it can be connected to a monitor and a keyboard, and used with an ARM processor to run basic tasks – these can range from word processing to games and video devices; extra boards can be added to the device, which relies on an SD card to transfer data. The boards cost about £25 for a single computer, which comes with 512MB of RAM. The Raspberry Pi also runs off Linux software, but can run a range of different programming languages, with Python being among the most common.
Raspberry Pi as a device for writing basic code, and for learning about programming as a whole – the small size of the device, and its connectivity to other computers, means that students can create flashing LED lights, or can write basic games and other commands. More advanced uses of the microcomputer include building a program for a mini jukebox that runs through the board, as well as creating sensors and controllers that can be used for motion detection and light programming. Other uses can include everything from acting as a mini server, through to enabling HD video chat through a modem; the Raspberry Pi can also be programmed to act as an alarm clock, as well as a client or downloading.
The Raspberry Pi is being introduced as part of a broader drive to get more students in the UK involved in, and enthusiastic about programming; by having multiple versions of the device in the classroom, schools can teach students how to write code, and how to gain more confidence in programming devices. The particular impact of the Raspberry Pi can be felt, then, at a time when the Government are instituting widespread changes in how students learn about ICT at A-level.
The old ICT curriculum, which had become increasingly dated in terms of the technological advances that have been made in recent years, is being replaced with a more rigorous Computer Science approach; this gets students involved at a much earlier age in programming and having a strong technical knowledge of the IT industry.The Raspberry Pi ties into these changes as a device that make programming more accessible, and cheaper to deliver, across schools.
Students that learn how to use Raspberry Pis in primary school can go on to both develop their own home projects, while also having an advantage in terms of building up their programming skills. As well as the Raspberry Pi, however, schools can take advantage of devices such as the Omnima Mini-EMBW-WiFI, as well as the Beagleboard; like the Raspberry Pi, these microcomputers can be used to cheaply work on and program computer boards for various tasks.