Transforming IT Learning with a Slice of Pie

The Raspberry Pi is a very small but impressive piece of technology, in fact it’s only a little bit bigger than a debit card.  It does possess however all the basic functions of a personal computer at least when it is plugged into both a keyboard and monitor.    It’s goal however was not of minimization but rather to teach basic programming skills to young people in schools.

The computer was created and is indeed marketed by the non-profit making Raspberry Pi Foundation, on first look it appears little more  than a PCB board you might find in any sort of electronic equipment.  But beneath it’s simple exterior lies a fully fledged personal computer which actually can run 10 operating systems and is a fantastic introduction into computer programming.


The inspiration for the Raspberry Pi came from the developer, Eben Upton who ran the computer science department at St John’s College in Cambridge.  He was often called to interview students coming up from high school and was surprised at their lack of IT knowledge specifically in areas like programming and networks.   There was an assumption that certain skills would already exist for high school computer science students but often the children didn’t have even basic programming knowledge.

One of the reasons was the lack of hardware to help teach these subjects (although there were significant problems in teaching skills too).  Obviously schools had limited resources and it was difficult to allocate extensive funds for very specialized equipment.  The Raspberry Pi opened up the world of programming and networks at a very affordable price.   The issue it particularly address was that current computers are so simple to use that they require no specialized knowledge to operate.  Past generations who have grown up with the ZX81 and Acorn Electron were forced to learn how computers worked to even run a simple program.  Computer games magazines were once filled with computer code, that you inputted yourself.

This obviously was more difficult but it enabled  people to learn much more about computers in their everyday life.  People were forced into learning these concepts to use the computer on any level.  Programming and some basic networking skills like this, creating high speed VPNs  and IP addressing were just picked up by default were as it’s actually quite difficult now to access an environment to program on a modern day computer or laptop.

The Raspberry Pi is certainly making inroads into this area, with students, hobbyists and teachers alike all learning as they use the device.  The foundation is now trying to push the device into foreign markets were it’s hoped there will be a similar effect on young people learning computer skills at an earlier age.

The author is a blogger and technology correspondent.

James Hazzell

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