Education secretary, Michael Gove, publically announced in January that the current ICT curriculum in schools is “demotivating and dull”. He was right. Throughout my secondary school years teachers had a limited understanding of technology as shown through their ‘how to use Microsoft Office’ lessons. Children today, even by the age of eight, are competently computer literate due to the technological society we now live in. This makes the current ICT curriculum require radical reform which will teach children how to code and how computers actually work. This reform is now in place.
The UK is investing in a digital economy. In the past the majority of goods were wrought out of plastic and metal – we produced physical items. Today much of our produce is digital and the government needs to put the correct education in place to sustain society for the future.
Part of the problem behind children learning to program is due to changes in the hardware and software market. When I was five years old (1995) my Dad used an internet connected Windows 3.1 machine. I was able to learn some basic commands through MSDOS in order to control functions on the computer. This was closely followed with learning the basics behind HTML. When I was eight I was rewarded with my own Windows 95 computer which I was free to take apart, rebuild and mess with programming wise.
Today computers have changed dramatically. It is much harder for children to learn how to program because the software is closed. It is possible to download free tools online to learn various programming languages but this takes effort compared to my generation where having a basic knowledge of coding was required to even use a computer.
So was born Raspberry Pi, a credit card sized computer which was developed by Cambridge graduate EBen Upton and colleagues that provides children with the opportunity to start programming. It exists today as a small circuit board (no case yet) that can run various Linux operating systems and comes preloaded with Python libraries.
It is the perfect system for adventurous children who wish to explore computers with greater depth. It also turns out it is the perfect system for geeky adults too. Since the Raspberry Pi project was posted on BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones’ blog interest for the device as sparked a huge pre-order list. Not only capturing the imagination of children and geeky adults but for alternative uses such as in robotics courses.
The best bit about Raspberry Pi? It’s price of $25. Although it is a UK project all costs are in dollars due to component pricing and economic stability. If you want to pre-order one from the UK then expect a price of £30. However there are units being sold on eBay for over £100! Madness.
I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these devices. For the moment I’ll wait patiently on the pre-order list for my Raspberry Pi unit. Unless the Raspberry Pi project fancy giving me a unit to review? Wishful thinking!