Don’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.