A Slice of Pi

Have you ever sat in a ICT class fumbling about with the formulas of Microsoft Excel or the forms of Access?  It brings back memories of the days when computing was about who could make the dizziest Powerpoint presentation.  However, all this is about to change, gone are the ICT lessons where Microsoft Office was all you needed, kids are about to become much savvier.

Raspberry Pi is the new initiative being rolled out in schools across the country to teach kids how to program.  It’s the way of improving computer education in the country, as children nowadays are able to type before they can walk; so why do we need to teach them how to use commonly utilized software, when they’re learning it from themselves?  Take it from me, typing lessons at school were a complete waste of my time, I learnt how to touch type by talking to my friends on MSN.  What we should be concerned with however, is educating a new generation on how to make the software we use, and this is exactly what Raspberry Pi does.

Fundamentally, it’s a small, cheap computer, about the size of a credit card, with a processor, memory chip and an Ethernet port to connect to the internet.  In addition to this, it also has a couple of USB ports to plug in a keyboard and mouse for the programming.  The whole thing, not including the keyboard and mouse, comes to a very affordable £22 (excluding VAT), just a couple of weeks pocket money for any child. This also solves the problem, of parents being reluctant to allow their children to do anything ‘adventurous’ on the the home computer.  Pi’s are relatively cheap, so you don’t have to worry about breaking it.

Raspberry Pi is an excellent initiative for kids to get started in programming.  It is highly embarrassing that computer science is not taught in our schools, in a country where the roots of computing lie in Charles Babbage’s analytical engine, and Alan Turing’s work on the Enigma machine.  Furthermore, it would also remove the misconceptions surrounding computer science, as a computer scientist myself, I have lost count of the times my friends have asked me to ‘fix’ their computer or tell them how to find a function in Word.  My response being, ‘no I can’t fix it, but I can write a program that will check your filesystem for inconsistencies’.

Technology is our future, and we should be teaching our kids how to create and shape the future.  I know that learning programming at school would have tremendously helped  me when I came to university, yet I struggled in first year, learning the basics, whereas people from other countries had programming as a core part of their computing curriculum, and were well equipped to take on the degree.  Now as a third year, things have become better, but these days when nearly every job or science related degree requires some knowledge of coding, why is our schooling unnecessarily preventing us from gaining these useful skills?

Raspberry Pi, should hopefully solve these problems, and it would be interesting to see it’s impact in a few years time.

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