Eben Upton and Eric Schmidt, pictured in Cambridge showing kids just what the Raspberry Pi can do. (Image courtesy of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.)
The Raspberry Pi Foundation, the non-profit charity behind the eponymous low-cost ARM-based microcomputer, has announced a major grant from Google that will allow it to provide 15,000 Raspberry Pis to UK schools at absolutely no cost.
With all the projects cropping up with a Pi at their heart - including miniature arcade machines
, RiscOS desktops
and our very own custom case contest
- it's easy to forget why the Raspberry Pi Foundation was set up: a desire to produce a low-cost and accessible computing device to help reverse the trend towards lacklustre computing education in the UK. While far from the only organisation with that goal, the launch of the Pi was supposed to be a renaissance for UK technology education.
Sadly, adoption in schools, colleges and universities has been slow. Part of that lies in the lack of readily available teaching materials: it's a rare teacher indeed who has the time to develop teaching resources completely from scratch for an as-yet unproven platform, and until such resources exist it's unlikely that a purchasing department will sign off on an order for a brace of Raspberry Pis. As the project matures, that particular stumbling block is being resolved: free teaching materials
are now available to download, something lacking at the device's launch.
Another issue is that the Raspberry Pi has yet to be properly proven as an educational tool. Until teachers can point to other schools who have purchased a number of Raspberry Pis and have successfully integrated them into the curriculum, it remains difficult to convince management of their necessity.
That's where Google comes in: providing a big cash injection into the charity as part of its Google Giving grands programme, Google is paying for 15,000 Raspberry Pi Model B units to be provided free of charge to UK schools. Chosen by CoderDojo, Code Club, Computing at Schools, Generating Genius, Teach First and OCR - the latter of which will also be paying for the production of 15,000 teaching and learning packs to be supplied alongside the hardware - the schools will be given the units with nothing to pay as a way of boosting the Pi's profile as an educational tool.
'We’re absolutely made up over the news,
' enthused Liz Upton, the Foundation's publicist. 'This is a brilliant way for us to find kids all over the country whose aptitude for computing can now be explored properly. We believe that access to tools is a fundamental necessity in finding out who you are and what you’re good at. We want those tools to be within everybody’s grasp, right from the start.
To launch the programme, co-designer of the Pi Eben Upton and Google's executive chair Eric Schmidt visited a Cambridge school to provide some hands-on proof as to the device's educational capabilities - a PR coup, naturally, but one that demonstrates that Schmidt is willing to put his (company's) money where his mouth is when it comes to addressing what he claims is the parlous state of UK technology education.
A portion of the grant is also being used to hire Clive Beale, a volunteer for the Foundation who now takes on the role of director of educational development at the non-profit.