IN DEPTH: The Raspberry Pi Foundation has strengthened its ties with education sector as it continues its coding mission
The Raspberry Pi Foundation, best known for its tiny credit card sized low-cost computers, has been a big presence at education technology expo Bett 2017 this week, promoting its work in the UK’s school system.
CEO Philip Colligan took to the stage on Wednesday to talk about the company’s various educational programmes and announce a brand new initiative.
“The Raspberry Pi foundation exists to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world”, Colligan said. “We’re growing up in a world that’s mediated through digital technologies and we should understand how they work.
“Whether you’re trying to solve a commercial or a social problem, understanding how to use digital technologies is going to give you an advantage”.
Small price, big sales
He spoke about the enourmous success that the Foundation has experienced, recently passing the 12 million mark for devices sold after only expecting to sell around 10,000, as illustrated by the $5 (£4) Raspberry Pi Zero which sold out just 24 hours after going on sale.
More recently we’ve seen the launch of the $35 (£28) Raspberry Pi 3 – a premium price for Raspberry’s standards – with increased processing power and the addition of integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity in a bid to become a “hub” for the Internet of Things (IoT).
“We know that loads of those 12 million are being used in classrooms, in clubs, in homes and bedrooms around the world for kids to learn how to program. But it’s also the case that they’re used by makers, they’re used by inventors, they’re used by scientists in industrial settings and that’s one of the awesome things about Raspberry Pi.
“When you give it to a kid, because it’s a proper computer, they’re using the same device that world leading engineers in big corporates and leading scientists in laboratories are using as well”.
Now that its goal of “eliminating price as a barrier to computing” has been achieved, the Foundation is turning its attention more towards accessibility through the range of educational programmes it offers across the country.
One of these is Code Club, a network of after-school coding clubs which currently boasts approximately 75,000 children attendees at over 5,000 clubs running in the UK.
Impressive numbers, but Colligan is aiming high: “We really think there should be a code club in every community in the world. It should be as normal as any other after school activity”.
Another is Astro Pi, a competition where school children in the UK wrote experiments to run on Raspberry Pi computers on the International Space Station (ISS). Colligan showed a picture of astronaut Tim Peake “holding a $35 computer, in a $3,000 case, in a $150 billion spaceship that’s flying around the world”.
Twelve teams of children had their code and experiments run in space last year and a further 250 teams across Europe are now competing to have their experiments run by French astronaut Thomas Pesquet who is currently on the ISS.
“We do this because space is cool, but we also do it because it gives a context to engage kids in computing and digital making. It makes it real for them”, Colligan said.
As well as the children, Raspberry is also keen to promote the professional development of teachers. It already runs a project based learning programme called iCademy, provides a range of resources for educators and is preparing to launch its first online teacher training course in partnership with the Open University.
Now, the Foundation has further extended its reach into teacher training with the launch of a free magazine for teachers called ‘Hello World’.
The magazine is “written by educators, for educators” and is filled with news, features, teaching resources, reviews and research around “computing and digital making.” The goal is to provide a resources that will help educators connect, share great practice and learn from each other, with examples of how educators are using Raspberry Pi computers in education.
“We try to support the community of teachers and makers, volunteers who are helping kids learn about computing,” Colligan explained. “Last year we were thinking about what more could we do and we spent a lot of time talking to the community and that’s why we’ve ended up with this new thing”.
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