"but I am wondering what use there may be for the 'pi in early years education. Although they are introduced to computers (PCs) as learning resources fairly early on, and get regular exposure (we have a 10-PC computer room, plus 1 or 2 PCs in each of 6 classes of 30 pupils.) How might the benefits of cheap devices like the 'Pi for infant school teaching and learning best be achieved?"
Can I just say I think the Pi has huge potential at primary school and am a little surprised its being aimed at an older audience. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a zx81 by a uni student who taught me to program some very simple hello world programs which also printed on the grey thermal paper and that was me hooked. Although they only came out in 81 which would have made me 8 we also had the pleasure of getting a BBC Basic at primary school and later on a Commodore 64 for home. We were learning to program the Basic at primary school so I think there is huge potential to use the Pi as a maths/language/programming tool at Primary school. Lets not forget computer magazines existed back then that had lots of program code in it which we could copy and save onto tape and where the program didnt work we could hack it to get it working. I was writing address book databases on the C64 within a year of getting it all self taught with the help of numerous mags and books on programming so it is possible for kids at primary school to learn these things.
Now I believe the Pi has an important role in being able to help kids with maths and some language skills albeit written computer languages but I think the educational establishment hugely under estimates the ability of the human brain at this young age to absorb things and the Pi is just the tool to make education fun again.
Has Science actually determined the maximum rate of learning of the human brain?
I'd say no but what I would say is when a kid or adult for that matter says something is hard, its not hard its just something we dont understand and thus put up a psychological barrier to justify the comment of it being hard.
In mosts cases when a kid says something is hard its becuase it hasnt been explained the best way for that kid to understand.
Now I say this becuase firstly we all have different personality types and a failure in education imo is to tailor the education thats best suited to the personality type. I'm an INTJ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/INTJ
so the teaching for an INJ will need to be different for those kids (ie point them in the right direction but let them figure it out) compared to say an ESP personality type who would perhaps benefit from a rote style of teaching.
Having established what personality type they are, then the appropriate teaching method can be applied to them.
As others have touched on, the ability to hold a Pi in ones hand knowing it is so capable of many things is just whats needed to get the kids imagination fired up and for them to cherish them to some extent, much like a pet or tamagochi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamagotchi
is whilst giving them some responsibility like some kids have with mobile phones.
From the point of view of teaching them and what to teach, I would suggest a number of small projects with easy targets like writing your own calculator program or address book database for example, maybe even create your own cyber pet like a tamagotchi.
I wrote an addressbook database on the C64 within a year of getting it when they first came out and was rewriting some of the computer games we had as well. I think the key is how its sold to kids to keep them interested in it but also importantly its a great way to get parents involved with homework which we all know pays dividends as well.
What I would like to see becuase I believe it would be beneficial is things like YouTube being used inconjunction with a website where different lessons can be downloaded and taught which targets different aspects of the Pi whilst also using distance collaboration.
This way parents can get involved in homework (and parents can help each other out as well then) whilst also being able to keep an eye on their kids progress online by being able to measure for themselves how much the child has achieved however I dont know if the curriculum for the different age groups are available online, but I think it would benefit from having a much wider input than from a few select individuals who decide whats best!
Likewise I dont see any reason why older kids couldnt be grouping together competing against different classes and schools building new programs and addons to the Pi in nationwide or even countrywide competitions. Competition is a good driver and the Pi and some vivid imaginatiom could create some surprising results. I'm sure some of the big IT companies would love to get involved in helping to sponsor these comps becuase its good PR for them but they are also investing in a better calibre of employee for the future. With the internet, youtube and many opensource platforms to aid collaboration there is so much to be gained and with the main hurdle of cost pretty much overcome certainly for 1st world countries but still doing better than the 1laptop for a child scheme, there is everything to gain.
What I dont know is, is there room or flexibility in the curriculum to introduce the Pi into primary school so the basics can be taught and the imagination fired up?
If there is what would it take to organise a curriculum for primary schools nationwide who want/can participate, where the Pi can be used as a tool to aid learning maths and language skills ie the ability to learn the different languages which can be used on it as well as ICT & electronics in general.
I dont think Exam boards are useful here simply becuase different schools can pick and choose their exam boards and effectively cheat their pupils into thinking they are better at a subject becuase they chose an easy exam board like many of us have seen in the news recently where exam boards were selling exam guidance and give teachers a dam good idea of what the exact questions would be about.
Its got to be nationwide ideally a global standard but that will come in time. This way businesses can be sure that the grades a child achieves in a subject is a more accurate representation of the childs abilities no matter what part of the country (or world) they come from.
I think if we look to how some of the teaching is being conducted at higher education levels like http://www.udacity.com/
and how Stamford have been doing free courses online like https://www.ai-class.com/
this could be applied to secondary schools and even primary schools. Learn from their experiences, find out what hurdles they had to overcome, I know from being signed up to the AI course, one of the issues was getting the course material translated became a big thing which volunteers helped out with and the teaching style and accent of Sebastian (google car fame http://www.ted.com/talks/sebas.....s_car.html
) was an issue for some others whilst only being a minor thing but overall enjoyed by all.
So can anyone answer the below questions?
Can a primary school curriculum incorporate some time on the Pi?
What restrictions are in place to prevent its use in the classroom apart from cost?
Is cost really a hurdle?
Could parents be expected to stump up for one?
What about kids with low/no income parents?
What areas should be focused on so that the Pi can be used as tool to aid learning in other subjects like maths?
Should the Pi be used to aid learning in other subjects?
What would be the best age group to introduce the Pi to kids?
Can it be linked in and joined up so the primary school curriculum can follow naturally into secondary school so there is no break?
What other hurdles exist which would prevent the Pi from becoming part of the curriculum?
Any other comments?