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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:04 pm

my godson is ten yrs old and totally into computers and computer programming. The level at which he interacts with his computer is beyond his parents understanding, my understanding, and his schoolteachers' understanding. We all recognise that he has a talent for anything to do with computers. I heard about raspberry pi on a radio 4 discussion program and was intrigued. I have perused but I don't understand how raspberry pi can help young people - like my godson - with computer programming. If my godson has a talent for something, I would like to be able to encourage him as much as I can to pursue that talent. Could somebody please help me to understanding how raspberry pi might help my godson. thanks :(

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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:20 pm

Hi Kerry

I work for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, but there are plenty of others here who will also be able to help you and who know a lot about the project.

Raspberry Pi is a cheap computer that you can plug into your TV, like we used to back in the 1980s, to turn it into a PC that you can program, use for stuff like word processing, play games on or use to watch video. Your 10-year-old godson would be able to load an SD card with any software he likes (it'll all be free - it's open source) and take it from there. It's hard to get into programming via the family PC, which boots straight into a desktop environment where all you have to do is to click on icons; and it's nigh on impossible to get into via games consoles, which are frequently the only piece of computer hardware kids have access to in the house. He'll be able to own a Raspberry Pi and do what he wants to it - there aren't the worries associated with allowing a kid to get under the bonnet of an expensive family PC that has banking files and so on on it, for example.

When we launch, he'll be able to use Scratch and KidsRuby on the Raspberry Pi, both of which are excellent programming environments for kids. There will be other software coming soon too, with a full educational package planned for some time in 2012, but initially he should be able to go a very long way just with those two.

It's a shame his teachers aren't very helpful. Have his parents investigated local after-school programming clubs?

Edited to add: I recognise that the forums and website are a bit intimidating for beginners at the moment! This is because we're bootstrapping the software by encouraging seasoned programmers and electronics hobbyists to take up the Raspberry Pi at first, before we push into schools and other kids' groups next year; a lot of the people you see writing here are also working on software for the device that kids (and others) will be able to use.

We'll be relaunching the website next year with education areas, kids' areas, beginners' areas and a rather different look and feel.
Director of Communications, Raspberry Pi

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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:16 pm

First is Hands On experience. Think of the R-Pi computer the same way an Auto Mechanic might have gotten started learning about cars, before cars became so complex. Or a Cook, or a Handyman, or a Carpenter; they all learned by doing. Starting small, reading directions, making things. They wanted to understand a part of the device or thing. So, "take it apart" and examine it, understand how it works, tinker with a part of it, put it back in place and see how it works better or not.

Another factor is Cost. You may have hear the term Open Source, that means the instructions a human can understand, that creates the code used by the computer, must be made available to the public to examine, tinker / modify and try on their our computer. For little or no cost. This means others will and can make changes to that code. If the code change they made is worth while, that improvement is made available to others to work with, examine and test. The worthy code survives, the poor code over time gets ignored, forgotten and destroyed.

Say you spend $75 USD on hardware (R-Pi, Keyboard, SD card, power supply, cables, USB Flash Drives, ...), without adding in the TV expense, that is dirt cheap for a tool that will expand his understanding of a concept built into every day life. New software and programming tools are available to download for the cost of an internet connection. The cost of unique books, on specialized areas will cost as much or more than the $75 of hardware.

Ownership & Community. Make it HIS machine. Not the family's or Mom's or Dad's, His machine. He can mess it up by accident and no one is hurt but him. He'll learn how to fix it, reload it, share with his friends. Except for the TV, it all can fit in a candy box or cookie tin very nicely. He can take it over to a friend house or to school in a backpack or day bag. He may play some games, he may make some games, he may someday discover that people want his help (for money) with other people's computers.

Think if his confidence & pride in understanding and creating software programs, or maybe building a special piece of hardware. He will learn to work on projects; taking the required steps, in the proper sequence, planning out the features and researching the answers to problems for his idea. These will flow over into other areas of his life, or not.

I hoped this answered some of your questions on why the R-Pi will be useful to a child.

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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:27 pm

kerrylemke, i'm currently working on a potential solution to helping children such as your grandson learn and interact with a Raspberry Pi. It's in the middle stages now with it's completion estimated just after March. (I've had some contact with Eben over it. Hoping it will be something he will approve). While the project itself will probably never be something that will be on the market, I am still interested to know what areas your grandson is most focused on, as it will help me further refine my work to more relevent needs of the potential target users.

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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:39 pm

It's funny how many people see things differently. My $0.1:
1- He can't break it. If the thing no longer boots because he messed up while programming it or tweaking it, he can re-format the SD card on another PC and make it like new.
2- When he does break it, nobody cares because it's his, nobody else uses it, and it's so cheap that if he did really, physically, break it (spilled coke anyone ? Ah, memories...), it would be no biggie either.
3- Hence, he really can take ownership of it and feel free to do what he feels like. Anything, anytime, and pretty much any place there's a composite TV or DVI/HDMI monitor to hook it into. He can bring it to friends'. Plus it feels accessible, you can even see the innards ^^
4- As Liz said, there will be shortly (next year) a bunch of materials and support specifically to help get kids into programming. In the mean time, Scratch and kidsruby already have a lot of material and a community. PyGame is a bit more advanced.

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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:24 pm

Considering how long some of us have spent coding and how difficult even just drawing images to the screen is with a lot of languages and development environments. Especially compared to the old days, I watched a few minute tutorial on Pygame from one of the users here and could display to screen with just a few lines of code. I think that ease of use will really help kids who are new to coding.

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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:41 pm

For you: Take an ACTIVE ROLE as an adult, a guide, a mentor, a club sponsor. Be someone with years of experience and knowledge of people and life.

He maybe a wonder kid on the computer. It is still important for him to learn to be well-rounded person. You have experience in doing things, he has not yet begun to think of doing. Show him how to use the library or at least where the library is and who is there to help him. How about the local Schools, Clubs, Colleges and University? Reach out and find people and programs that he should met and want to met him! Does he have other pals & gals interested in computers around him? Ask him what is it about the computer that interests him. You don't need to know the computer answers, let him discover those himself. Show him how to learn, to explore, to discover, to research answers for himself. Show him how to work with others, as well as by himself.

You have already gone most of the way, by learning more about what could help him with computers. Slide further down the slippery slope, your involvement will do wonders for him and you'll find some surprises for yourself I'll bet.

Please come back and share your experiences; good, bad and "if I had only known".
Others will be following down this path for their kids. Help us make a map for them.

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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:54 pm

or her...

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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Tue Dec 13, 2011 5:28 pm

So he gets it for his birthday ... and breaks it ... then he comes round to you hoping you can help.
Now you're both learning.

After a short while, because he's quick at learning, and because he's been living with the internet since before he was talking, you'll find he knows more than you.

So you go and buy yourself your own RasPi, just to keep up.

Then you break it ... and go round to him hoping he can help you fix it.

That's the cunning plan of Raspberry Towers for taking over the world.

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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Tue Dec 13, 2011 9:05 pm


Unfortunately as Liz has noted the forum and to some extent the site are a bit confusing at the moment as demonstrated by the need for you to ask the question. Loads of great responses above but I would like to add a few points from my own personal experience and where I see that mapping to the Raspberry Pi.

My household is pretty hi-tech, my business is hi-tech so my kids have ended up being surrounded by it. As a result my kids (boy 11 and girl 8 ) are "naturals" with technology, especially computers. I would suggest that this is more nurture than nature, they have been brought up in a household where they have good supervised access to lots of technology and parents who have no fear in taking expensive technology to bits to explain how it works.

A few years ago I found that both of my kids were becoming great "users" of technology, they had some understanding of what were in the guts but lacked some of the basics. So one Saturday morning when my son was off with his mother on a scout trip myself and my daughter opened an Arduino starter kit on the kitchen table and started to build stuff (Arduino is an open source microcontroller based prototyping and electronics development platform, if you like a very simple computer on a circuit board that you plug components into). With me doing most of the typing she could direct the changes she wanted me to make in the code and we would upload it and watch as our banks of LEDs responded to varios sensors, we made a silly device with a servo to switch the kitchen lights of when someone turned them on etc. We had load of fun. When her brother came home that evening she taught him what we had done. I helped him get familiar with how the coding worked and over the following weeks I started to get questions about things like interrupts from him and a request to learn to solder from his sister. My son is now building and programming robots with his friends and his sister (with some help) is making interactive jewelry and clothing. Along the way they have picked things up on their own. I found to my amazement the other day that they had both worked out the limitations that available memory and processor speed play when they were talking about how those big LED array based advertising screens probably work.

So what will the RPi give kids? The same ability to get close to the hardware and experiment with it. Probably mainly in software but I am also hoping that many of them will also be able to get access to a simple pack of electronics components and learn how to interface things to the real world. Wait till you see what kids can do when they realize how simple for example it is to read the data from a Wii nunchuk.

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Re: Raspberrypi and young people

Wed Dec 14, 2011 9:36 am

I am very interested in this thread as I am in a similar position to the original poster. I grew up in the era of the BBC micro and although my career did not develop as a programmer, I did learn a lot from writing my own code (had some published in 'Computer Weekly' but that's another story...) and I credit this experience for my 25 year career in the networking arena.
My son loves the family computer, but doesn't show any interest in moving beyond the ICT world of Office apps or readily playable internet games. I have been following the RaspberryPi project with interest as I have a monitor with DVI interface and USB keyboads and mice which could easily allow him to have a RaspPi system in his bedroom at minimal cost. I firmly believe that ARM processors are going to take the industry by storm in the DataCenter space and I think that getting skills with this device will put him in good stead over the next few years when he is looking to start a career.
Although I have been in IT for a very long time I do not have the experience to tutor him on this device nor help him to a great extent - I've never compiled a Linux Distro or app and to be honest I really don't have the time to learn this in order to help him (although fatherly encouragement and time is something he gets in spades I would add!).
As the boot distro for the RaspberryPi comes with a basic suite including a web browser I was wondering if there is a plan to create a RaspberryPi portal type site, where kids can go to find info on how they get the device to do something they want - such as run a differant OS or compile an app etc.? I think that this 'self help' type approach would really help to bridge the gap between getting started and gaining enough skills to know what needs to be done to achieve something.
I'm not suggesting that this should be a comprehensive resourse - after all there has to be an element of working it out for yourself, but I'm thinking of something like a 'Dummys Guide' type approach that gives you enough info on a broad range of problems to help you get started.
It would also give kids the chance to flick 'to the back page' to see what others are doing with theirs, and then once they are confident in playing with the software they'll want to play with interfacing to other electronics etc.
Maybe this is already being discussed, if so I apologise - but I see a way of presenting the beginners stuff in a way that's engaging and interesting for kids.

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