Posts Tagged ‘Raspberry Pi’
Last week was an exceptional week for computer science education in the UK: Google donating 15,000 Raspberry Pis to UK schoolchildren, Microsoft calling for computer science to be taught from primary school, the Department for Education including computer science in the EBacc as the “fourth science” and UCAS 2013 entry statistics showing the highest increase in total applications for Computer Sciences (up 12.3%). This follows on from the launch of the CAS Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence in September, the publication in November of the draft ICT Programme of Study for England and the announcement in January of a review of the ICT curriculum in Wales, reporting back in June.
So it appears we’ve sold the rigorous academic discipline of computer science; but not to simply increase the supply of programmers for the IT industry or to get more people to study computer science at university — the rationale has always been based upon computer science being of wider educational value to everyone, in the same way as we value physics and mathematics. But after a discussion with Pete Yeomans (@ethinking) at the CAS fringe event at Bett 2013 last week, it appears that we are now facing a more subtle and refined challenge:
We need to do more than ‘sell’ computer science as a discipline…we need to sell what it feels like to be/think like a computer scientist.
— Dr Tom Crick (@DrTomCrick) January 31, 2013
This is the real marketing challenge: to truly change the wider perception of the discipline, we now have to sell what it really means to be a computer scientist, how to think like a computer scientist and the universal potential of this mindset.
And everyone needs to understand and value this.
Programming is the start not the end: let’s develop computational thinking and problem solving skills
(N.B. This is the original unedited version of an article published online today in The Telegraph)
I wholeheartedly support the high-profile initiatives to get more children programming, especially as part of the rethinking of the ICT curriculum in UK schools. The publication of the Royal Society’s report Shut down or restart? in January highlighted the unsatisfactory state of ICT education in the UK, recommending that every child should have the opportunity to study the rigorous academic discipline of computer science. With the disapplication of the existing ICT Programmes of Study and the development of a new programme of study as part of the National Curriculum Review in England, we are at an exciting crossroads, with a real opportunity to make computing and technology a key focus of our education system. But if there’s one lesson we should take away from the problems of the past 15 years it is that we must not focus on transient and superficial technology skills. Computer science is not programming (and vice versa) and we should be wary of teaching programming just for the sake of teaching programming, without thinking about why we want to get kids to program.
When Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, tweeted in January that he was going to learn how to program, there were strong opinions expressed implying that programming is not for everyone. This is untrue. One of the reasons that programming is increasingly perceived to be a 21st century literacy in our technology-dependent society is because it is ultimately empowering, developing the ability to manipulate and control your digital world. But the key message is that learning how to program is not the endpoint, but part of the journey of equipping children with the necessary digital skills to solve problems. Our high-level aim should be to develop technology-independent skills and techniques, such as data literacy and computational thinking.
Computational thinking is a way of solving problems, designing systems and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science. Computational thinking includes a range of mental tools that reflect the breadth of the field of computer science. Computational thinking means creating and making use of different levels of abstraction, to understand and solve problems more effectively; it means thinking algorithmically and with the ability to apply mathematical concepts to develop more efficient, fair, and secure solutions; it means understanding the consequences of scale, not only for reasons of efficiency but also for economic and social reasons. And this is why it is important to teach computer science in schools: we need to embed principles and theory to develop a deeper conceptual understanding of how technology works and how it can be leveraged to solve problems. There is a quote commonly misattributed to Edsger Dijkstra: “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.” — this is where computational thinking fits in, abstracting away the technology.
Hence, there is an important balance to strike between focusing on developing practical programming skills (i.e. being able to write code for a specific task) and embedding a deeper understanding of languages and constructs: principles of programming. We know technology changes quickly, so we need to make sure that when “Technology X” appears, we have transferable knowledge and a deeper conceptual understanding of how it works and how it can be used.
But there are significant challenges ahead in changing the status quo and enthusing and engaging children in schools. Programming is a creative endeavour and offers a tangible way for children to express themselves by hacking, making and sharing. We now have the hooks to use in schools e.g. Raspberry Pi, Arduino, .NET Gadgeteer, LEGO Mindstorms, etc, offering opportunities for embedding computing across the curriculum. But we also have to recognise the importance of developing this deeper conceptual understanding, the problem solving and analytical skills, as well as knowledge of the underpinning theoretical foundations of computing.
So let’s change the focus from just writing code to developing the crucial thinking skills and the ability to solve problems. To quote Jeannette M. Wing, Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University: “Computational thinking is a fundamental skill for everyone, not just for computer scientists. To reading, writing and arithmetic, we should add computational thinking to every child’s analytical ability.“
The Raspberry Pi Foundation had always planned to manufacture in the UK, but last year had to make the decision to manufacture in China due to cost:
Last year, when nobody had heard of the Raspberry Pi, we had been unable to find a British manufacturer whose prices per unit (especially at a point where we were thinking of sales in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands you’re seeing now) would work for us, and who believed that the project would be enough of a success for them to risk line space for us. There was just no way to make the Raspberry Pi in the UK and keep the price at $25 for the Model A (which will be released before the end of the year at the promised price) and $35 for the Model B.
Happily, things change. After six months of negotiation, both Premier Farnell and Element14 will now move the bulk of their Raspberry Pi manufacturing to South Wales, with the initial contract seeing the Pencoed plant producing 30,000 Pis a month, creating around 30 new jobs.
The highlights of Revision 2.0 include the ability to power a Pi with a powered USB hub, a fix for an issue that caused problems when connected to TVs by HDMI, a new reset circuit, two mounting holes and “Made in the UK” etched into the PCB near the power jack (click on image below). Revision 2.0 has been coming off the Pencoed production line for the past few weeks, so they will have already started arriving in orders (I have two of the Revision 1.0 + ECN0001).
This is great news for the Raspberry Pi Foundation and great news for Wales.
July 2012 marks the return of Cardiff Science Festival (a.k.a. Gŵyl Gwyddoniaeth Caerdydd), after a break of nearly seven years. Science festivals are popping up all over the country, especially with the popularity of Cheltenham Science Festival and the long-running British Science Festival (this year taking place in Aberdeen), so it’s about time Cardiff put itself back on the science map.
So, starting Monday 9th July, Cardiff will play host to a spectacular line-up of scientists and science communicators from across the UK in a range of science-themed events, lectures, exhibitions, music and comedy shows across the city. There are more than forty family and adult events over the week, including a few in which I am taking part:
- Engineer’s Question Time, with Professor John Harries (the Welsh Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor) and Eluned Parrott AM (Assembly Member for South Wales Central) on Thursday evening;
- A Raspberry Jam (organised by Lucy Bunce with CAS Wales and Technocamps) on Sunday morning, if you want to show off or learn more about the Raspberry Pi;
- The first Welsh Science Showoff on Sunday evening, where I will attempt to justify to a room of scientists why everyone should study a bit of computer science.
It’s shaping up to be an excellent week! While the majority of the events are free, many require registration, so please check the CSF website, as well as @CdfScienceFest on Twitter, for the latest news, information and updates.