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Cymons Games

sticker,375x360Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier to hear that Google is putting 15,000 Raspberry Pis in the hands of the people they were intended for; students. However, I was a teacher for a while and I’ve seen the effect that this sort of thing has. As I’ve already explored, the Raspberry Pi is hardly ready to use out of the box. At best Google is getting the schools halfway to having a useful curriculum. But in a school, particularly in poor districts where this sort of gesture would be most beneficial, half way means that somewhere in the school there will be boxes and boxes of these things sitting unused because no one is going to get the project the rest of the way. Until then the schools will continue to use books which never need an additional screen and pen and paper which are cheap consumables and ignore these because schools will choose what works and what’s sustainable over what might actually teach relevant 21st century skills.

I would have been much more impressed if Google were donating 4000 Pis complete with SD card, case, keyboard and mouse, and enough monitors for a classroom. You have the kids use their own personal pi for a semester, teach them to set it up for programming, tech projects, and maybe a few games, then at the end let them take the pi home. Forget wood shop. Those schools would have Pi shops. Now that’s an idea I could get excited about.

I think the gesture by Google is well meaning. I’ve personally seen the effect that technology can have in the classroom when I rescued well meaning from a back room and fixed it up at my own expense and time. However well meaning but ultimately half cocked gestures like this aren’t helping as much as they think they are.

(Image by Paul Francis)

3 Responses to “Google fills UK school storerooms with 15,000 useless doodads”

  1. ido

    As much as I love it as a geek-y tinkering toy, the whole uk educational background of the rpi is something that never quite made lots of sense to me.

    I can imagine these being really useful in poor countries like India, but how many schools in the developed world don’t already have computer classes in 2013?

    When I started attending a (very middle class) primary school in 1990 there were already-aged apple2s classes (shortly thereafter replaced by PC clones). 23 years later I’m pretty sure even the poorest of schools have computer classes. And this was in Israel, which is a less wealthy country than the UK.

    if anything the real shortage is in competent tech-savvy computer-class teachers that actually know how to program.

  2. Anthony

    Finally, an article that matches my feelings about this. The Raspberry Pi is a cheap, embedded PC. Nothing more!

    As someone who studied Computer Science Technology in college, I know firsthand that Raspberry Pis are not enough to secure a future in IT.

    Employers are aggressive in their search for the right person and the technology is changing far too quickly for schools to adapt to and stay relevant. It’s a crowded field and the demand is not what it was back then and this is true for other career paths. Nobody is being given “real” full-time jobs; there are only contracts and probations.

    Diplomas are no longer a guarantee for a good job. The Raspberry Pi is not a good option for pursuing a serious career in technology.

  3. Jonny D

    Ah, time to be contrary…

    I personally expect that these Raspberry Pis will not be left laying around. While I agree that teachers need a whole lot of motivation and training from the district/school to try innovative (or even modern) methods, I also read the largest paragraph of the 4-paragraph article that was linked. These rPis are not going in bulk to schools or students that aren’t ready for them. Clearly, they are targeting promising students who display an aptitude and curiosity for this field that is normally closed off until college. This isn’t about forcing a class of 30 to tinker blindly. This is more about going extracurricular with a tool that I believe can lead some students to surprising growth.

    No single device is enough to guarantee a job, of course. It’s kinda silly to even type that. It’s the same as a Robotics Club (of which I have incidentally advised). The robots they use are certainly not going to be used in a job. I wouldn’t even assume that the skills learned are going to help, though they could. With a range of abilities among the students (with that not affecting their chances of success in career life), the biggest thing is that these kids are excited, learning, and thinking about their future. That’s what we’re missing today, that is enough, and that is our job.

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