The Raspberry Pi has been launched primarily to improve the lack of IT Skills in the UK, if you’ve not already heard about this initiative head over to the main Raspberry Pi site to learn more about this fantastic project.
So where did things go wrong?
In my school days, we had one computer class room (and one computer lesson per week) where we had to share a PC, it was a real fight to actually get to use the keyboard. But they did at least teach the Basic programming language. Nowadays the schools seem to have computers in every classroom, yet they just seem to be teaching how to use Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc., which I agree the kids need to know, but it’s such a shame they are not being taught programming languages from an early age.
The early 8-bit computers
When the likes of the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, etc came to the market, kids up and down the country where persuading their parents to buy one. I can’t remember how old I was (probably around 12) when we got our first computer, an Oric which is where I really started to learn about programming, and taught myself the Basic programming language (with a little help from school) before later upgrading to the Amstrad CPC464 where I progressed onto the C++ language, storing all of my programs on cassette (them where the days!).
These 8-bit computers opened up a whole new world for kids to explore, not only could kids play games on them, they could learn how to program.
Today’s computers and games consoles
With the advent of today’s Gaming Consoles, PC’s, Laptops, Phones, Tablets, which don’t come preloaded with any programming languages, kids tend to just either surf the web, socialise or play games. Programming languages are still available to download and install, but unless kids are being made aware of these programming languages (either by the manufacturers or the schools) how would they know about programming? The Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi is different in many ways to the modern computers and games consoles:
• Its main purpose is for learning.
• It comes bundled with the Python programming language, but can also run other programming languages, for example Scratch.
• It has limited memory (256mb) and limited storage capacity (SD card).
• It can run from batteries.
• It can be used to build robots, well worth exploring further.
• It’s accessible to everyone, as it’s available at a very low price.
So will the Raspberry Pi help? I certainly hope so. There is definitely no cost barrier to go out any buy one (once the distribution/production problems are resolved), it provides some great programming languages that are easy for kids to learn and quick to get results and it’s a great educational tool. But our schools have got to adopt it, and they need to start teaching programming languages in schools from any early age for it to really succeed. It’s a big challenge for the Raspberry, but definitely a good and worthy one that I hope succeeds.