Why buy pi?

The first question I’ve got to ask myself is – did I really buy the Raspberry Pi to help my children learn about computers, or was it another tech toy for myself?

It could easily be the latter. I’ll happily spend hours plugging it in, installing things and tinkering around with the innards.

But I want it to be the former. This is hopefully going to be a blog about finding things to do with the Raspberry Pi with my six-year-old son and my three-year-old daughter.

So far, in there absence of leads and an SD card, all we’ve managed to do is open the box, have a good look at the board and plug it in to watch the red LED light up.

Even with those few steps, we’ve achieved quite a lot. I’ve had a go at explaining what the various things on the board do. The chip in the middle is “kind of like the brain”. And the SD card that will go in the holder? “Well, that is kind of like the brain.”

We’ve also started to get used to the idea that a computer is not just plug-in-and-play entertainment box like our Nintendo DS. When you look at the inner workings – which are all that you have with a Raspberry Pi – it is clear that a computer is also a machine, as fascinating as any Transformer or Lego Bionicle.

Next step – get the thing working.

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2 thoughts on “Why buy pi?

  1. Andrew says:

    Hi,

    First of all, congratulations ! I’m still waiting for my Raspberry Pi and probably have a few more weeks to wait yet.

    It would be a tragedy if you guys got frustrated with with the Pi and put it in a draw and forgot about it. So I am going to recommend that you put it a draw and forget about it for six months. The software for the Pi is still at an early stage of development and lots of things are not working optimally yet. Later this year there will be a production version of the Pi which will come in a case ( you will be able to buy separately ) a nicely sorted out set of software aimed at introducing kids to the Pi and starting them programming and, I am hoping, a printed manual. You will be able to install this software on your Pi.

    In the meantime you should install the superb scratch programming environment for your son on a computer he can use at home ( PC, Mac or Linux). Some Pi distributions do come with scratch so by all means give it go on your Pi if you are feeling confident.

    http://scratch.mit.edu/

    My son really got into this from when he was six, although at twelve he has outgrown it now.
    Your daughter is a little too young to start but hopefully will stay interested if big brother ( or Dad ) shows off to her what he can do with scratch.

    To make computers do things in the real world, and learn a little electronics, an Arduino inventor kit is the way to go. ( I am guessing you are in the UK, these are available worldwide from different suppliers )

    http://oomlout.co.uk/starter-kit-for-arduino-ardx-p-183.html

    You probably want to wait two or three years before getting this, unless your son is racing ahead. This kind of kit may eventually be available for the PI. The Raspberry Pi project recommends that older children learn the Python language, I am not totally convinced and your children are way too young.

    So good luck, have fun and keep your eye on the Raspberry Pi website to see how close they are getting to the “Production” ( schools ) version.

    I have no connection to the Raspberry Pi foundation, these are my own opinions.

    Andrew

  2. aheavens says:

    Hi Andrew – thanks a lot for your great comment. I know exactly what you mean and you could be right.

    At the moment, I’m still hopeful though. I think there is a lot they’ll be able to enjoy simply by having a device that we can all mess around with. It’s all going to be glitchy and slow and difficult to get going. But it will be something we can work out together, and the achievement of getting it all going will be all the more satisfying.

    As you advised, we have already got Scratch up and running on on a PC. And my son is enjoying using it, closely watched by his sister. Here are a few things I hope we’ll get on top of that by setting up a Raspberry:

    First, I’ve seen one of the Raspberry founders talking about the fun of having a computer that you turn on – then it beeps and leaves you with just a flashing cursor, inviting you to start programming. It will be an invitation for us to learn a few phrases in the computer’s language and start talking to it.

    Second, when the children want to use Scratch, or something like that, it’s very much a process of them asking if they can use OUR computer. The Raspberry Pi is already something they see as their own. They can be much more hands on with it and, at $35 it’s not going to matter if they drop it into something.

    Third, we’re very keen on making the case ourselves. Buying a ready packaged production version won’t be nearly as enjoyable, even if it does end up working a lot better.

    No doubt they’re too young – and I’m getting too old – to completely learn a new language like Python. But this is all about getting on to the foothills of something and seeing what happens.

    If it does get a bit frustrating, I will certainly take your advice and take a break until a more fully formed version comes out. The Arduino kit also looks promising.

    So, let’s see what happens and thanks again for the comment.

    Andrew

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