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"Raspberry Pi" Computer Model-B Rev1 Image obtained from Wikipedia (by Ian Livingston)

iHub Research By Anne / October 4, 2013

What can you do with the Raspberry Pi mini computer?

8 Comments

This month I got the opportunity to tinker with the Pi and explore different things one can do with it.  The motivation behind this research is to explore the possibility of using this device in high schools in remote areas in Kenya to get students more excited about programming and computer science. In Kenya, students are taught Computer Studies from Form I-IV.  I can bet if you ask them what they learned it probably wasn’t quite memorable. The raspberry pi was designed in the United Kingdom with the intention of teaching students computer science and raising their interest in programming.

The exploration around this mini-computer consisted of extensive literature review to see what people are saying about the device, reviewing things  done with the Pi and as physically testing it to experience it myself.

What is the Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard[1]. It’s a capable little PC that can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. For its intended educational purposes, the Raspberry Pi has a major advantage over the others. It was conceived to be a complete working computer. You simply need to insert an SD card containing the OS, connect the peripherals and power, and it’s ready to go[2], as well as a display unit.

Some technicalities

From using the Pi, the device boots like a normal computer only on a different operating system (Linux) and works pretty much the same. It has a few limitations where you are required to use command line instead of a flashy Graphical User Interface at login, however once you log in, you can switch from the command line to the GUI. You can surf the Internet through the Ethernet port or through WIFI (wifi dongle). The programming language  you can use on the Pi is Python. Google Coder allows you to turn the pi into a mini web server.

Screenshot from 2013-02-28 15_42_23

Screenshot from 2013-02-28 15_42_23

For a computing device that costs between 25-35 USD, it’s quite handy.

Across the world the device has been used for many things.  In David Hayward’s article  25 things you can do with the raspberry pi’, the device has been used to make a cloud server, a keyboard using beer cans (I particularly enjoyed the ingenuity of this), a weather station, a bit torrent server among other things.

Locally we have many artists who make different kinds of gadgets from scrap materials and just imagining how much cooler these devices can be when plugged in with low cost computers like the raspberry pi, the potential of this device is limitless.

To incorporate this device in schools in Kenya will require a three tier process which I think should be explored. This involves selecting the content and purpose for using the raspberry pi, training teachers how to use it  then deploying it in the schools ( have the students tinker with it).

Matthew Bennet who works with the Raspberry Pi foundation in his article on training teachers in Texas highlights the cost benefits, practicality of the pi over iPads and issues to consider when including the pi in the curriculum. Details of his presentation can be accessed here and here

The common challenges faced when using ICTs in the Kenyan education sector is there are too many users and too few devices for a student to properly explore the functionalities of the computers.  Additionally, the instructors in the schools have limited knowledge on how to use this device.

At this point the ongoing research aims to explore how high school students would use this device and the potential benefits that can come out of exciting them to program. The Curriculum for Computer Studies for Form I-IV covers a variety of issues and it would be interesting to see how the Raspberry Pi could be used to complement this curriculum.

 

 


[1] About the Raspberry Pi, http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs

[2] How the raspberry pi workshttp://computer.howstuffworks.com/raspberry-pi2.htm

[3] 25 fun things to do with the Raspberry Pi http://reviews.cnet.co.uk/desktops/25-fun-things-to-do-with-a-raspberry-pi-50009851/

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Author : Anne

Anne Salim studies the growth of African mobile-based education with a focus on the sustainable use of technologies in schools. Anne is currently a researcher at iHub, where she leads the program on M-Governance. The study has focused on the role of mobile devices for enhancing transparency in governance of the water sector. Anne studied Business Information Technology from Strathmore University and her interests include applying Design Thinking processes to Kenya, as well as facilitating Hackathon events.


8 Comments
  • Kelvin Nyongesa Muchuma at 15:41:24PM Friday, October 4, 2013

    Hi, just read the Raspberry pi technology its awsome. Am a new member of your orgganisation and would really love to work with you guyz.keep up the good work.

    Reply
  • Graham at 16:03:13PM Monday, October 7, 2013

    Hi Anne

    Thanks for the article. With regards to the computer science educational content for curriculum, it is interesting to have a look at http://www.cambridgegcsecomputing.org/. They’ve created a course that has been designed for 14-16 year olds; but is free and open to all, and can be used either as a course or a resource to support teachers. It obviously isn’t integrated into the Kenyan curriculum or specific needs, but a good resource that can integrate the Pi.

    Best
    Graham

    Reply
  • Anne at 16:14:55PM Monday, October 7, 2013

    Thanks Graham. I will have a look at the course you recommended.

    Reply
  • Charles at 16:20:52PM Monday, October 7, 2013

    Diving into “Python for the Pi” now….

    Reply
  • Martin Muckle at 10:52:47AM Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    The Pi I have will only plug into an old TV. Can the more recent ones connect to a regular monitor?

    Reply
  • Anne at 10:57:57AM Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    depending on the monitor and the connection that it uses you can get an adapter that can connect from the Pi to the monitor

    Reply
  • Matt Gathu at 12:58:23PM Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    Hi I’m a big python enthusiast and recently got a Raspberry Pi board but I haven’t really gotten to do much with it. Your initiative sounds very encouraging and interesting. I am interested in it and was wondering if I could take part in it. I’m currently in college and my attachment period is coming up soon and I would be grateful to take part in such a project. I’m good at a programming with python and would really love to hear from you.
    My email is: mattgathu@gmail.com

    Reply
  • BOB RAPHTONE AFWATA at 09:40:52AM Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Halo why is my post taking long anyway am a ku student who has a pi and is tinkering with it am also teaching fellow students how to use it can be of some help

    Reply

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