How the Raspberry Pi Foundation is supporting education in the UK

The UK's best-selling single-board PC is taking on the education sector – and winning

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Raspberry Pi Foundation

Established in 2012, the Raspberry Pi foundation is a charity that aims to promote computer science in schools across the UK.

In a previous interview with Computerworld, Raspberry Pi Foundation CEO Philip Colligan discussed the various ways the foundation is supporting computer science in education in the UK – from primary and secondary schools to teacher training and higher education partnerships.

“We are an educational charity which owns a computer company, which is unusual. We describe our mission as putting the power of digital making in the hands of people all over the world,” explained Colligan.

Here are six ways the Raspberry Pi foundation is supporting education in the UK.

Hello World

Launched in 2017 at the BETT Show in London – the UK's largest education and technology trade show – Hello World is a free resource designed for teachers educating children in computer science.

Hello World includes a research section called Insights, which explores the research surrounding computing education, classroom resources, new projects and lesson plans, and a review section of new products and books.

UK teachers can subscribe to this free magazine, have it delivered to their home or download a totally ad-free online PDF version.

At the time of its launch, Colligan said: “We're launching a magazine called Hello World. For a long time we had a magazine called The Magpie, which was the community magazine for Raspberry Pi enthusiasts. We have done a couple of versions for Magpie before focused on educators, and we had such a great response that we've decided to make it its own magazine."

Removing the cost barrier

As schools bring tablets into the classroom, the cost for learning resources and hardware is at an all-time high. Most schools won’t have the budget for tablets for each pupil, with some able to attain a couple per classroom.

With a price point of around £25 per single-board PC, the Raspberry Pi essentially removes this high-cost barrier.

Twinned with the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s free educational resources for teachers, schools across the UK can teach students valuable computer science skills, and add a mouse, keyboard and monitor to the system to turn it into a viable PC.

This should mean schools in the most underfunded and deprived areas of the UK can have access to technology and PCs at a fraction of the cost.

Massive investment in a national computing education centre

In a bid to get every school child in England access to computing education, a consortium including the Raspberry Pi Foundation pledged £84 million to create a ‘National Centre for Computing Education’ in 2018.

Along with the British Computing Society and STEM Learning Council, the foundation has obtained the £84 million from the UK government.

The plan for the funding was to support educators in primary and secondary schools deliver education in computer science by providing hardware, training, certifications, and a myriad of resources.

“This level of investment is unprecedented anywhere in the world for teacher training in the field of computing and computer science,” said Colligan in a statement. “It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way that computing and computer science is taught.”

Educational programmes

Improving computer science in the classroom will be crucial to improve tech skills in the UK, via the science and digital curriculum.

And the Raspberry Pi Foundation now runs one of the world's largest networks of volunteer-led coding clubs, with over 5,000 active clubs in the UK aimed at children aged nine to 11.

In fact, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s coding clubs offer much more than just education on Raspberry Pi PCs. Even though the Raspberry Pi features in the foundation’s name, it supports a myriad of interactive computing lessons on a wide range of topics.

School projects

School projects in all subject areas aim to engage with children and teachers and show the practical benefits of coding and computer science. Over the years, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has launched numerous projects highlighting the potential of the Raspberry Pi board.

“One of the things that's really important is making computing feel relevant. These terrible stereotypes that it's only for geeky kids and all that sort of stuff, is just wrong," said Colligan.

“The weather-station project which we did with Oracle was just fantastic. We put [Raspberry Pi] weather stations in over 800 schools all over the world, enabling teachers to talk about climate change, the environment, geography and use that as a way into learning about computing,” he added.

Teacher training

Teacher training is one of the major barriers to embedding computer science in schools. The main issues are the shortage of science and digital teachers, plus restrictions put on teachers and the curriculum.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation offers free and intensive teacher training to try and combat this.

Running for a few years now, Picademy is a teacher training programme offering a two-day face to face, intensive teacher training.

Picademy has gone from strength to strength, with programmes now spanning to North America. The foundation has partnered with the Open University and other universities and has a bunch of useful online training courses, downloads and resources.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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