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Topic Title: E&T magazine - Debate - The Raspberry Pi computer
Topic Summary: Will the Raspberry Pi single-board computer revolutionise computer science teaching?
Created On: 28 March 2012 10:40 AM
Status: Read Only
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 28 March 2012 10:40 AM
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Yes, the Raspberry Pi single-board computer will revolutionise computer science teaching.

No, the Raspberry Pi single-board computer will not revolutionise computer science teaching.
 29 March 2012 03:00 AM
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The Pi will certainly revolutinise computer science teaching for both programming AND especially embedded / control systems.
Many software innovations are held back by the availability of low cost hardware which is not solved by the PI.

We for one will be porting our state of the art IMPS(TM) License Plate Recognition System to the PI for a very low cost LPR system.
Hence its now possible to have an LPR everywhere even one per car park lot!
 29 March 2012 04:21 PM
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While I think the the RPI will contribute much to the teaching of computer science it will take more than a low cost computer to change our education systems. What I think will happen is that it will spawn lots of creative applicatons and add-ons that will make this small machine lots of fun and interesting. I agree that it will not transform the third world but it will certainly make it cheaper for schools that want to provide one computer to each child to be able to achieve. The RPI is important, it is a brilliant idea and I hope it will stimulate greater interest in computer technology.
 11 April 2012 02:17 PM
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The RPi will make little difference and the huge over hyping of it may well have negative effects. It's a modest machine running Linux but hampered (as far as learning is concerned) by large chunks of secret code and hardware which are very unlikely to ever be made public. The compexity of Linux makes it as hard to understand from a programming point of view as a Windows PC.
The IO on the board is not very suitable for control tasks (limited number of pins, dificult to access from software.)
To learn about hardware and low level programming you would be much better off with an Arduino, to learn about high level stuff you are better off with a PC.
 11 April 2012 02:33 PM
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I have to agree with Mike completely. The Pi will not help in any direction. IT could be counter productive.

There are many many other inexpensive boards out there that come with simple SW that are easy to get running. Other than the hype the PI is no differernt to these.

One thing it does NOT do is teach embedded programming. You need a bare metal system for that and there are a lot of those about with simple SW to get the MCU running.
(ST Micros were GIVING AWAY boards like that recently!)

Programming on Linux is no better than programming on Windows (MS do a great set of free tools for that) I will bet that 90% who program on a PC know bugger all about the x86 CPU.

Embedded programming is not about programming on a huge OS (not even an RTOS) with a full set of IO stacks.

To teach embedded (or any) programming start with a pencil , some paper and something called a specification.... eg flash an LED and work up from there.

The Pi like putting kids in a Rally car and sending them out before teaching them to drive.....

 11 April 2012 05:36 PM
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There are a lot of pieces that need to fall into place. I see some doubt that the majority of schools have teachers that understand software development enough to teach it effectively. How will the teachers get trained?

Also, as was noted in the debate, the computer may be £30, but you need to add on other components (the most expensive being a monitor, perhaps £80+) to make a complete computer. One per desk is therefore unattainable, at least for UK state schools, but perhaps there are lab/team scenarios that can make sense? In effect, he cost advantage may not be so great: it is possible to Linux-based netbooks for around £200.

We should note also that the RPI is effectively just another Linux computer, and this platform is not known for its friendliness and ease-of-use. Once again I worry about the teachers that must know their way around it, and technicians that must know enough to recover/reflash them ready for fresh students.

The crucial thing will be a rapid convergence on a specific set of developer tools, so that teachers can create and share lesson planning materials across a wide user base. If some schools program in Python, then some in PHP and others in Scratch, there will just be a big confused mish-mash of software, advice and materials. In other words, the same situation that already exists for Linux users in general in the PC world.

I don't dismiss the RPI, and in fact I have ordered one. If if schools will use them, I want to make sure that I know my way around it, if only for the benefit of my own children. However, I think for it to succeed as an education tool will need a focused effort, and this means that simply building and launching the thing is only the start of the hard work.
 15 April 2012 11:30 PM
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Here's an answer from my son.

The Raspberry Pi is potentially capable of revolutionising computer science teaching in situations where it is used.

The Raspberry Pi is incapable of revolutionising computer science teaching in situations where it is not used.

The most crucial factor determining whether the Raspberry Pi is used or not is whether it can be incorporated into the curriculum. The A Level computing course is heavily biased towards business data processing and does not cover embedded systems so unless there are major changes to the curriculum then the Raspberry Pi is virtually unusable in the same way that weather satellite receivers are. The GCSE and A Level electronics courses are more accommodating of microcontroller boards than the computing / ICT courses are although a simple system like Arduino or Dwengo programmed in assembly language or C is more than sufficient - and probably more intuitive, when it comes to flashing LEDs or reading push buttons than anything with a sophisticated operating system is.

More than enough universities are still teaching embedded systems using technology barely changed from that used in the mid 1980s such as Z80 and 8051 boards packed with glue logic and software on EPROMS. Unless the Raspberry Pi manages to blow the minds of directors of studies more than the hundreds of much more advanced and user friendly (not to mention cheaper) microcontroller boards that have appeared over the years then they will probably be happy to remain with the status quo.

Another alternative embedded system that hasn't been mentioned is an Android mobile phone. What's wrong with using this as a software development platform for something more powerful than a simple microcontroller that isn't a PC?
 21 April 2012 01:10 AM
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In what way will the raspberry pi get young people interested in computer science and programming? Unless of course their parents cannot currently afford a PC, the raspberry pi is just another computer to youngsters, and they will understand its inner hardware or software workings no better than any other computer - their PC, a PS3, an Xbox, their smartphone, whatever.

There seems to be some assumption that by distributing a very cheap and small PC, young people will suddenly become interested in programming like the designers' generation evidently did when they were young themselves. While I agree that it may be beneficial to get young people in the UK more interested in understanding and designing electronic and computer technology, I fail to see how the raspberry pi will help with this. The designers probably got interested as youngsters because the machines available at the time were something new! The raspberry pi is nothing new to young people - it is just another computer. They are swamped in computers. Electronic hardware and computer software figure so massively in their everyday life that the addition of another computer is not likely to even register on their radars.

Those youngsters that ARE interested in this sort of thing and whos family is able to afford a computer will already be programming or tinkering. Those who aren't, wont be. Little is likely to change with the advent of this small, cheap computer.

Let me know if you think my view is wrong. I'd be very happy for the r-pi to promote programming/electronics to young people. I have ordered of course - but that's because I'm 26 and an electrical engineer. Not very young...

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