Learning To Program With A Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is one of the most exciting ideas to come out of computing in the last few years. About the size of a credit card, it’s a single-board computer developed solely because a need was identified for a computer good enough and yet affordable enough for children (and interested grown-ups) to experiment and learn to tinker with.

Culture Change

The creators of the Raspberry Pi were deeply concerned that the cost of computing had increased so hugely within the last generation that it was becoming impossible for children to experiment with their computers. They were losing something of the curiosity, instinct and experience the previous generation had in abundance. Looking back, it seems they have a point.

Many of us remember playing around with DOS, hacking our own computers and learning to do basic programming at home. With the prevalence of operating systems that do almost everything for you, far fewer people were learning how a computer works and what its potential can be. This change in culture was showing, too, with far fewer students going on to study computer science. The Raspberry Pi aims to change all of that, with computers available for under $40 that can be used teach children to code.

Learning To Program With A Raspberry Pi

Coding and Building

While a desktop PC can be expensive, options available for online purchase make Raspberry Pi units affordable. Online wholesalers such as RS and Farnell have multiple options on offer. For example, you can buy a Raspberry Pi model B from RS Components for a nominal amount, hook it up and go. You can use a variety of operating systems, but one of the most popular is its own Linux distribution, Raspbian. Competency in this easily translates to other distributions, and it lends itself particularly well to learning to code on a variety of machines later on. Children (and adults) can also access a huge number of free tutorials online, teaching everything from the basics of how servers work to how to create and play games. You don’t just have the option of connecting to a monitor of some sort, of course. The Raspberry Pi has proven useful in teaching children to create internet radio receivers, cameras that let them watch the lives of their pets and even pass-code readers.

A Tool for All Ages

There are efforts to make the Raspberry Pi’s appeal about much more than simply coding. Kickstarters such as the one discussed in the Telegraph suggest that even very young children can understand and enjoy the technology. This, of course, will surprise no one with a pre-schooler or school-age child in the house who has managed to find all the interesting bits of a piece of your technology five minutes after picking it up. The potential applications for the Raspberry Pi are wide-ranging.

Basic computer literacy has become commonplace now, with most children exposed to information technology from an early age. The ability to go beyond the basics, though, has somewhat stagnated, and it is hoped that initiatives such as the Raspberry Pi can go a long way to overcoming this.

Image attributed to FreeDigitalPhotos.net James Barker