Classroom Setup

Drop in for a chat and a cup of tea

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by clivef » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:31 pm
Typically in the UK you get normal room jury-rigged to make a grandly named "ICT suite" - basically trunking with power and network ports, but still all suboptimal stuff. My own ICT rooms have cables all over the place, half-heartedly covered in rubber cable covers and duct-taped to the carpet; running up the walls; PC front panel connected to audio socket in wall that gets pulled out when you move your chair etc etc :)
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by liz » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:34 pm
What! You mean you're opening yourself up to liability by not using £40/m trunking? The *daring* of it all!
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by langlo94 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:22 pm
What can go wrong with laying out some cables?
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by subminiature » Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:33 pm
Jobsworth health and safety - so we were told as far back as 1989. And I seriously would not want a room with cables all over the place, half-heartedly covered in rubber cables covers and duct-taped to the floor. I have seen the results of that too often and they still didn't fit safety glass.
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by langlo94 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:46 pm
Why not just have the cables IN the floor, that's what we do at my school.
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by solanum » Thu Nov 03, 2011 10:31 pm
For computer lab or workstation purposes, most people (in the states) have to deal with the bureaucracy and existing infrastructures and educational applications. Without a myriad of already being used applications. One of the best bets is to set it up to netboot, and launch into linux or windows via kvm/spice as a thin client. Consistency is important for teaching, and they don't want to troubleshoot problems for half the class period. Coupled with a keyboard/mouse, tv, and licenses, it is still -cheap- per seat.

Actually -libraries- could use this also, most in the states at least are underfunded, and a lot of material is online so you can use it as a web client. If you can netboot, between uses and have it set back to a default configuration, librarians just have to plug it in and go.

If you couple this with Samba4 and its AD server or use pgina for a login, you can lower the costs even more.

There is also the trend to goto the cloud, googleapps etc. which will probably be okay with a netboot into linux, and eliminates some of these concerns, but education is usually 5-10 years behind the bleeding edge curve. It takes that long to get teaching materials and resources out to the teachers, and they still have to secure the funding.
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by liz » Thu Nov 03, 2011 10:40 pm
This sort of bureaucratic stuff is why we've been suggesting that interested teachers and parents might like to look at after-school clubs as a way to reach the kids who may be interested in this sort of thing. We agree; it's a massive hurdle, and we hope that the Free Schools movement in the UK represents a step away from this sort of managerial muddling of things.
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by Skygod » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:34 am
Apologies in advance for this ending up as such a long article

Quote from Bacan on November 3, 2011, 17:29
SkyGod: Please share your thoughts on what you will be needing in the way of software applications.


Not a lot initially. A simple LAMP / WAMP setup on a server and HTML authoring software; Image manipulation; simple video editing / authoring; a basic 'Office' suite; Remote Desktop Client; Web Browser and mail client on the workstations.

The initial setup is likely to be 3 or 4 Model B systems connected to a central server which will probably be a Windows VM hosted on my own x86 system so that the kids can also experience software that they'll encounter in schools, universities and workplaces at present. (This system will remain inside the house)

Assume I know very little about Thailand and your location.


The location of our plot of land is in Loei province (North East Thailand) (Latitude : 17.207992 / Longitude : 101.857646).

There are two villages (one to the South and one to the West). The majority of the inhabitants are involved in the production of rice or sugar cane.

These little Pi devices will have to survive some diverse environments as temperatures can get as high as 40C (April / May) and it's the only region in Thailand that can have lows below 0C (December / January ). Add to this that between the months of May - September monthly rainfall levels are between 6 and 8 inches.


* Are classes taught in multiple languages? (Thai, English and/or ??? )
* Will students need to understand English, before learning "Computer" ?
* Should "Computer" be translated into Thai ?
* Will cultural preservation classes, using the computer, be useful?
Or has modern civilization not yet destroyed the village's culture?

So many areas for asking questions about what your going to do.


School classes are taught in Thai, but the Thai parents are aware that the childrens English skills are basic at best and they still end up speaking English with a Siam intonation, so on my trips 'up country', I've often been asked if I would assist with their English skills and 'Uncle' has also asked me if I could spend some time at the local schools helping to 'teach the teachers', so I'll be using English primarily.

As far as computing goes, there are a few PCs in the schools and I know of three villagers that have PCs in their homes, however just about everyone has a mobile phone, so some children do have access to email and a little bit of Web Browsing on these devices.

Two trips ago, the PC at 'Uncles' house stopped working as the power supply had died, so I made a trip to the 'local' Tesco (30 km away) and got and fitted a new PSU. I was then told "You very good cyber. You can help me technology?". This was where the initial idea of a small after school teaching / training club first came about.

The systems had to be based on cheap devices and that's when I first started making enquiries about obtaining cheap / free x86 devices from local businesses, but then I realised that powering them all was going to be an major issue, so started looking into the possibility of ATOM based systems. This was still far too expensive to be a reality. Further research on Google for embedded boards with panel connections via an LVDS interface, brought up an Abisthur thread and I then started reading just about everything on the forum about the foundation.

It soon became obvious that this was the way to go as just about every family has a TV (not much else to do) and the unit costs are manageable to most families.

'Uncle' has told me that he wants a register of all the villagers on his PC as he currently only has information stored on many sheets of paper. ( Instant MySQL project ), but he'll need to be able to update the data and make queries ( Instant HTTP / PhP project ).

My own pet project is to develop a community website showing the skills of the locals to a wider audience.

There's an old lady that produces silk, but the process of growing the worms and then eventually extracting the silk is a story that has to be told in pictures / video, because it really needs to be seen to be believed.

The lifecycle of the rice harvest would also make an interesting story, as would the basket weaving and Japanese mushroom harvesting.

And of course there's the cooking!

Food is such an important part of daily life and everything centres around 'sticky rice', but the flavours are wonderful.

I also want to start growing some Western vegetables, but many are not keen on the soil here and do not survive, so some innovation will be required.

My first project will be to try and grow tomatos grafted on to eggplant rootstocks and document my progress.

Getting all of these village life activities documented may help preserve the skills a little longer and actually interest some of the kids.

Article production can be done 'offline' using their devices hooked up to a TV and transferring images from their mobiles to the Pi. Articles can then be published to the central server.

The kids will have to learn to use software in English, but they will still be able to compose content in Thai, so everyone in the village will be able to see the results of what they have done.

So, my overall aim is to introduce the concepts of data management, data retrieval, file management, project planning, content production and a little on image manipulation along with aspects of network and hardware management / deployment.

I have no idea what they'll go on to do with any of these skills, as the usual progression for kids is school then either into the fields or off to University and then on to working in one of the big Japanese / US outsource factories.

I've been told that broadband should be coming along the Provincial Road some time in the middle of next year (50m from our land plot), so I hope to have the network / intranet in place in readiness for this.


Personally, I would want the R-Pi to enhance the best of the existing lifestyle, not replace, what exists with the Rot and Desease of what some call Modern Civilization. In many cases, it is hard to know, What is Best, until 20/20 hindsight is applied. Most of the time after it is too late to save what was Best in the first place.

You will do wonderful work!
Let us know how to help.


This is a part of the world with very little state intervention on daily life. If you want to do something, you just get on with it (even if you don't really know how to do it). You'll be amazed at some of the innovative and unique improvised solutions. It's a real world Scrapheap Challenge (Junkyard Wars for US readers) and you get used to just shaking your head in disbelief and muttering to yourself "TiT" (This is Thailand).

Any suggestion of spending $40 per metre ( 6 days pay for the average farm worker ) on trunking would be considered as completely insane when you can just tie the cable to a stick of bamboo or tree and have a drop cable to the workstation. Power will no doubt be several 4 way extension leads coming from the house and just tied up to a tree. (It won't be pretty, but it'll be functional)

I'm not looking to try and change the way that things are done, but simply share some knowledge and let them think of alternatives for themselves.

I'll be producing some of these things myself irrespective of the 'classroom' project, because life in this part of the world is fascinating. I do feel that a community collaboration would be more fulfilling for both myself and the villagers.

I'm currently following the DSI to LVDS interface that Abisthur is looking into as if that becomes a reality, I'm going to approach Acer (AU Optronics) to get some panels for the Rasperries. I'll easily be able to get cases and frames for all the hardware fabricated in wood within the village at little or no cost.

I have the server hardware already, I'll buy the initial Rasperries and Ethernet switch. I'll also have to buy an Ethernet crimping tool and will be scouring all the scrap ends of Cat 5 that I can get my hands on.

It'll be challenging, but I hope worth it.
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by jamesh » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:34 am
Quote from subminiature on November 3, 2011, 21:33
Jobsworth health and safety - so we were told as far back as 1989. And I seriously would not want a room with cables all over the place, half-heartedly covered in rubber cables covers and duct-taped to the floor. I have seen the results of that too often and they still didn't fit safety glass.


And yet rooms with cables all over the place have been around for years with no problems.

I not sure why you are being so unrelentingly negative about this. There are obviously hurdles, and they need to be jumped, but with your attitude you won't have even bothered to turn up for the race. Just because you have seen it all before (which since this is the first project of its kind seems unlikely), doesn't mean it'll happen to this project.

If you are paying £40/m for trunking you need to try a different supplier. I wired up my garage with a 20m ring main conduit and 12 hardened sockets for about £50 and I still have loads of conduit left over. Yes, that doesn't include labour of about 5 hours, lets say £30/hr. Still comes in at £10/m. Do you live in Rip off Britain?
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by subminiature » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:10 am
Quote from jamesh on November 4, 2011, 09:34
And yet rooms with cables all over the place have been around for years with no problems.


I disagree that there are no problems with cables all over the place and I have worked in offices where this was a serious risk and not all that expensive to fix - given the agreement to do it - and that even after the first accident.

In wanting to give computers (200 from BT) to schools the offer was rejected because of the cost to certify the safety of the equipment - make sure casings were secured and wiring save. Even then the donor could be liable should anything then go wrong.

I not sure why you are being so unrelentingly negative about this. There are obviously hurdles, and they need to be jumped, but with your attitude you won't have even bothered to turn up for the race.


No I would have planed it and worked out each hurdle before I came to it. And even if I couldn't see an obvious solution at least I would not be knocked back by encountering a problem. And if there are no hurdles then the exercise may help in over coming the ones no one thought of. I certainly would avoid entering a race where I didn't know the stage points are.

Just because you have seen it all before (which since this is the first project of its kind seems unlikely), doesn't mean it'll happen to this project.

Is it the 1st project of it's kind? The BBC Model B was to have programming and computer science for all children in the class room. The one per child computer project and others have been tried in the past. It is a technological product launch and has aspect in common with any other technological launch in the past and there have been a lot from Cambridge. Sure it doesn't mean it has to go the same way but if you were to make the same mistakes then perhaps it would.

If you are paying £40/m for trunking you need to try a different supplier. I wired up my garage with a 20m ring main conduit and 12 hardened sockets for about £50 and I still have loads of conduit left over. Yes, that doesn't include labour of about 5 hours, lets say £30/hr. Still comes in at £10/m. Do you live in Rip off Britain?


I wanted 4 metres for a house with inline matching sockets and needed to be of office quality and appearance and all the local suppliers where quoting over £100 just for the black conduct. I couldn't find any cheaper on the internet either. Not conduct to take just a 4mm mains cable from B&Q and a botched untidy mix.

And rip of Cambridge heads rip off Britain.
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by crundy » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:52 am
Quote from langlo94 on November 3, 2011, 21:46
Why not just have the cables IN the floor, that's what we do at my school.


And the files IN the computer.

It's so simple.
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by subminiature » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:58 am
And the computer left at home. Simples.
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by crundy » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:58 am
Quote from Skygod on November 4, 2011, 03:34
And of course there's the cooking!

Food is such an important part of daily life and everything centres around 'sticky rice', but the flavours are wonderful.


I love good thai food. A family member bought me this book, which is awesome but most of the ingredients are unavailble in the UK.
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by jamesh » Fri Nov 04, 2011 11:31 am
Ref conduit prices.

http://www.toolstation.com/sho.....743/p36119

£30 for 90m of 20mm (yes, Ninety metres). subminiatures quote seems excessive. I used with standard 2.5mm T&E, although you can get two cables down the conduit without problem.

ref: This projects. This project is new and unique because its the first time that the cost of the computer is so low that it can provided in lieu of, for example, a textbook, or so low that every child in the classroom can have one to take home. It now lower than the monitor for the first time.

ref: BT example. Second hand equipment is a different kettle of fish which does need safety checking, so not relevant here as the Raspi is new equipment so does not need the individual checks.

ref: cables all over the place. It's not necessary to trunk everything to make it safe. There are much cheaper alternatives, which are already used all over the place.

ref: Planning. If you want to plan to the nth degree, work for NASA. If you actually want to fly rockets, join SpaceX. You can spend so much time planning you never get anything done.
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by subminiature » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:33 pm
Quote from jamesh on November 4, 2011, 11:31
Ref conduit prices.

http://www.toolstation.com/sho.....743/p36119

£30 for 90m of 20mm (yes, Ninety metres). subminiatures quote seems excessive. I used with standard 2.5mm T&E, although you can get two cables down the conduit without problem.


http://www.cmwltd.co.uk/index......cts_id=876

as the nearest I could find a picture off. The idea is that the trunking has the sockets included and if you want to add more or move them you can. As I said not the cheap 25mm stuff from B&Q. It is type of trunking that the physic lab (along benches) and computer suite (around the wall) are kitted out with.

ref: This projects. This project is new and unique because its the first time that the cost of the computer is so low that it can provided in lieu of, for example, a textbook, or so low that every child in the classroom can have one to take home. It now lower than the monitor for the first time.


But there have been projects of a laptop/netbook per pupil that are on par with Raspi + new monitor and there are schools already with every pupil being given a computer to take home. As to lower cost of CPU than monitors - no I think Tradcom might have achieved that in 83.

ref: BT example. Second hand equipment is a different kettle of fish which does need safety checking, so not relevant here as the Raspi is new equipment so does not need the individual checks.

ref: cables all over the place. It's not necessary to trunk everything to make it safe. There are much cheaper alternatives, which are already used all over the place.


I am not familiar with all over the place only a few schools in England.

ref: Planning. If you want to plan to the nth degree, work for NASA. If you actually want to fly rockets, join SpaceX. You can spend so much time planning you never get anything done.


Alas NASA didn't do enough thinking either. Those who do no planning at all mostly end up doing more work than they need to. Work smarter not harder.

It will be very interesting to see how it is "sold" to the schools, the configuration and how it fits in.

Individually and a 101 other uses including giving one to the child who is interested in getting behind the computer screen great - no problem I'd give them away as Christmas presents (when finally released boxed packaged etc and a suitable case with appropriate inputs and outputs) by the dozen.
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by liz » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:46 pm
Subminiature - a lot of your objections seem to be straw men. People in this thread who have experience in schools have already demonstrated that you're wrong on trunking, on monitor cost, on health and safety and so on; but every time one of your objections is dealt with, you raise a new one. I'm not really interested in arguing these points with you - but I'm very interested in *why* you seem so keen for this project to come a cropper. And what's with the Cambridge thing?
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by subminiature » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:46 pm
For information:-
http://farm7.static.flickr.com.....54_b_d.jpg

USAID and Paiwastoon, Afghanistan
Rugged Web Caching and Proxy Server for One Laptop Per Child Installations

Deployment Size: 15 x Fanless T1 PCs with USB-LAN Adapter Date: January, 2010
Kabul-based IT services company, Paiwastoon was deploying thousands of OLPC XO laptops for US Aid. Internet connectivity is limited to expensive VSAT connections so Paiwastoon wanted a proxy server to cache websites. It had to be fanless because the operating environment is so dusty and rugged because the temperature range is so great. Each T1 supports up to 300 XO laptops and Paiwastoon has customized Squid Proxy to limit high-bandwidth Flash and multimedia content so that no one user halts the network. The first student who goes to a wikipedia page takes it off the satellite. The next 300 students can take it from the T1 server – making the most of a poor internet connnection. Aleutia will now supply the X1 Fanless server with dual Lan ports onboard.
http://www.paiwastoon.af
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by subminiature » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:48 pm
I am sure there are more and other companies but this is interesting because of the solar power as well as seeing how they did it.
Musoma Secondary School, Tanzania
Solar-Powered Physics and Computer Lab

Deployment Size: 17 x Fanless E2 PCs Date: May 2008
A secondary school without access to electricity in rural Tanzania used solar power and rugged Aleutia Eco PCs to train students in word processing and programming. Open source software enabled the school to simulate expensive oscilloscopes and thus offer an interactive physics lab. Note: since this initial test bed, we’ve supplied a further 15 E2s (along with 15 low power monitors), all equipped with Ubuntu 9.04 and running off solar power.
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by subminiature » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:05 pm
Quote from liz on November 4, 2011, 13:46
but I'm very interested in *why* you seem so keen for this project to come a cropper. And what's with the Cambridge thing?


Clearly I have not explained myself. I think the project is 1st rate and has huge potential. But I also feel that it will be blinkered, not achieve it's potential and not the aims so far given.

The Cambridge thing - Acorn - BBC Model B, Sinclair, Archimedes and ARM, classrooms of computers in UK, Holland, Africa with micros from Cambridge, Cambridge University, St John's College a long and disappointing history and then all the other cool electronic projects/products with bags of promise.
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by Skygod » Sat Nov 05, 2011 4:13 pm
Quote from subminiature on November 4, 2011, 14:05
Clearly I have not explained myself. I think the project is 1st rate and has huge potential. But I also feel that it will be blinkered, not achieve it's potential and not the aims so far given.


Dear subminiature,

What is it that you think is wrong with the initiative? It's simply a way of making affordable computing to everyone and thereby stimulating the kids to become producers instead of passive (couch potato) recipients of technology.

Education in the UK and the US is no longer about stretching and stimulating the mind, but simply learning how to pass an exam to get a job. (The current system is a flawed model and the developments of the last 30 years will not progress in the next 30, because nobody is being taught or encouraged to 'think' any more.) Get this qualification. you'll earn xxx per annum, get this and you'll earn more.

It appears to me that your attitude is exactly why this initiative started in the first place.

You may have been lucky to have earnt a living using / implementing / benefitting from technological change, but what is being taught nowadays is being taught in the main by teachers with little technical knowledge and they just need to get the students passed in the exam that they can use Microsoft applications to produce a basic spreadsheet; send an email and maybe make a presentation with Powerpoint.

This approach has to change. IT Education should be about the technology and not about the software provider and a specific platform. By all means have a subset that determines skillsets in general 'Office Applications' such as ECDL, but that's all about usage and not about understanding.
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by subminiature » Sat Nov 05, 2011 6:51 pm
Quote from Skygod on November 5, 2011, 16:13
What is it that you think is wrong with the initiative?


I am not disagreeing with anything you suggest, other that possibly what you think my attitude may be.

It is the where next and the whys and hows, the setting up and using it that is not there and could take even longer than the life of the hardware to work out, explain, sell (not in cash cost sell but get agreement to) and establish the materials used in the classroom that I am questioning about.

Giving one to each pupil - for programming - but CRT TVs are terrible to program on even if that is what kids did in the 80s. Composite video monitors where better put it took quality 17" CRT screens to may it good. Old VGA monitors are okay - but no interface on the R-pi. Old CRT TVs are not good.

Great for a media player - but some frame rate issues on the demos - and then encourage getting behind it the user interface. But no cases and a third party may make that and package it up but remove other functions.

No audio input other than by USB. It would make a great digital recorder for the music room with mics they already have but USB mics for music recording would be then more cost.

Suggesting that Model A will be taken up for education - does this mean as in one per pupil? Setting up a lab to teach programming without networking means no easy back up, and no easy downloading of assignments. Wireless in classroom is not an immediate solution for schools - yet some schools are rolling out a netbook/laptop for each pupil and they are wireless. No network also means that at home they can't download material, new applications, different distributions, guides and help. I can see the model A being used for other than being given to a pupil or for teaching a class programing.

Linux already provides many different languages and they may be ported to the Raspberry Pi but if every school does their own thing there isn't shared resources and if pupils are to be examined then something sets what is used.

Individuals, networked community doesn't need any of this but if the aim is to get programming in schools then the 'institutes' have to also get on board. This looks to be the harder work.

The cost of text book - college text book, well less, but a lot more than a school text book. But it is not the device to store/read material replacing the text books that might be used in a day - you need at least access to a screen. The tablet/netbook route does that. And by the time you add a case, SD card, monitors, keyboards and mice you soon match the cost of the cheaper tablets and netbooks. Not the same but the school looking at these couldn't support two devices. For just the GCSE computer science classes but then not getting kids interested in programming at an age that many programmers today got started.

Giving one to each pupil to take home - many pupils forget to bring in a calculator even on examination day. Low cost for the R-pi - but today you need network to get another programming language, application, manual, help etc. In the 80s there were loads of magazines with programs, ticks, code, guides etc. Perhaps an out of school club establishes this and provide the hook ups to the internet but schools don't allow computers not under their full control being connected to their networks.

I would like the ammunition to sell it to a teenager who hasn't got into programming on a PC and to the teachers in the school, particularly the head who has just kitted out several classroom with expensive PCs and LCD displays to be used for post 16 studies. Pointing out that for the same money he could have given a R-Pi to every pupil in the school I don't see going down well. Of course the materials and applications being used in the lessons on these computers is written for Windows and Microsoft Office.

I still don't think I have explained myself clearly enough, and for that I might need to question a lot of teachers, heads, examination boards and local authorities and also to find out really what worked and what didn't with previous one per pupil computing and programming in the classroom initiates that has resulted in very few students being able to program or understand computer science beyond the limited ICT they have been dished out.
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by obarthelemy » Sat Nov 05, 2011 7:14 pm
@skygod: looking at your projects, wouldn't the actual people over there be interested in actually profiting from the Pis ? I mean, a documentary about the lady making silk is fine, but wouldn't she prefer a web site selling her stuff direct, for 10x what she's getting now ? The two projects may actually feed on each other.
@subminiature: Pi is not a turnkey solutions provider. They just make a cheap PC and count on others' ingenuity to take advantage of it. Actually owning something that is cheap enough to be considered throwaway in the rich world, and not a lifetime investment in the poor world, helps a lot.
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by subminiature » Sat Nov 05, 2011 7:41 pm
Quote from obarthelemy on November 5, 2011, 19:14
@subminiature: Pi is not a turnkey solutions provider. They just make a cheap PC and count on others' ingenuity to take advantage of it.


Thank-you for clearing up my mistake. Someone else is going to provide the solution to using it to get programming into the classroom. Who are they?
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by liz » Sat Nov 05, 2011 7:44 pm
Primarily, teachers and government - we're talking to teachers' groups and to government in the UK, as well as to universities, broadcasters and a number of not-for-profit organisations in education and in computing. (ETA - we're also in talks with some profit-making businesses about sponsorship, funding, partnership and so on.)

I have to say, though, that just replying to your post with "elves" was extremely tempting.
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by clivef » Sat Nov 05, 2011 9:47 pm
Quote from subminiature on November 5, 2011, 18:51
... the setting up and using it that is not there and could take even longer than the life of the hardware to work out...CRT TVs are terrible to program on...No audio input other than by USB... Setting up a lab to teach programming without networking means no easy back up...if every school does their own thing there isn't shared resources...the 'institutes' have to also get on board...The cost of text book...by the time you add a case, SD card, monitors, keyboards and mice...not getting kids interested in programming... many pupils forget to bring in a calculator even on examination day...In the 80s there were loads of magazines...schools don't allow computers not under their full control ...the head who has just kitted out several classroom with expensive PCs and LCD displays...
8O
I thought that I was a glass-half-empty kind of guy, but you make me look like a maniacal Rumpelstiltskin dancing gleefully around a strawfield full of virgin princesses.

Straw man; slippery slope; begging the question; Nirvana fallacy; post hoc reasoning etc etc: all too easy. Raspberry Pi is a beautiful and exciting project. Get involved and change things.

You could start by looking at what Computing at School and partners are doing. [Disclaimer: I'm a working member].
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