Fancy some Raspberry Pi?

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.

Rory Cellan-Jones with Raspberry Pi

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!

New Website allows UK Students to sell and buy used books

My name is Joanne Brady and I am the founder of TheBookPond.com. I am a graduate of The University of Hull, and of Durham University, and I am a mother of four very lively girls.

TheBookPond.com is a site which allows UK university students to list their used textbooks for free in order to sell them locally to other students, cutting out un-necessary P&P costs and reducing ‘textbook miles’. The site is totally free to use, and always will be. I set it up as I am a big fan of saving money and hate to see wasted resources.

Whilst at Hull University, I bought and sold a lot of my textbooks using the department noticeboards, but I found it wasn’t as convenient as it could be. I did a joint degree and I was posting to multiple noticeboards. I also found a lot of my notices went missing for one reason or another. Selling my books as a graduate is even harder work as being away from campus makes it necessary to use online book sale sites, which means paying for P&P and a sales commission, which can be quite a chunk.

The idea to have a site which anyone can access, either on or off campus, and encourage people to sell books directly to buyers is one I spent a little bit of time developing. Having no web programming skills and no budget, I found someone with the skills that was prepared to work on the site as a project and take a punt. I found Graeme, a computer studies student at The University of Strathclyde, and the site was launched in the autumn term of 2009.

Since 2009, in between me having children, us both completing our studies, and Graeme taking a work placement abroad, we have been making adjustments to the site, and have started a blog. We have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed too, and are big fans of social media. In the summer of 2011, we were featured on BBC News 24’s technology programme Click!, which was a massive boost to us. We attracted some worldwide interest, but we are focussing on the UK for the time being. Currently we have over 500 members and growing, and we have over 400 books listed on the site.

I completed my masters degree studying users of electric cars last year, and am now on the lookout for a PhD studentship which fits in with my family commitments. TheBookPond.com is a long-term project which I’m sure will continue to grow and to provide students with a way of contacting each other to save money and stop those once loved textbooks from gathering dust.

 

The main site – www.TheBookPond.com

The blog – http://bookpond-thebookpond.blogspot.co.uk/

The Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Book-Pond/132542209559

The twitter feed – http://twitter.com/#!/theBookPond

My email – [email protected]

The Dissertation is Finished!

During the research stages of my dissertation I imagined myself writing frequent blog post concerning the writing process. In practice writing a dissertation required my full attention, which unfortunately saw this blog become rather quiet. I have some good news though, it is done!

The dissertation is entitled, “Maintaining Reputation through Online Analytics” with the cheeky subtitle, “Why the Public Relations Industry must Adapt or Die”. The contents covers why online is important, measurement methods and research into Semantic Analytics.

All dissertations are different, whilst they all contain research they may be theoretical, research based, case study focused, etc. The focus for my dissertation is the research into Semantic Analytics and why this measurement technique could prove fundamental to the PR industry in the near future. This required me to understand the basics behind the process of Latent Semantic Analysis which included using Term Count Models and Singular Value Decomposition. I believe this dissertation has joined an exclusive club of examining semantic methods PR measurement methods.

You’re right. It is quite mathematical, unusually so as my understanding of maths is rather limited. The research also required me to understand the basics behind the Python scripting language (which I must add made the research 10x easier).

Once the dissertation has been graded I’ll have a copy published online. I have no idea what sort of grade it will achieve but I believe the exploration into online measurement techniques is highly relevant for the PR industry today.