Information Technology is shaping the world and Africa now has the chance to use developments in low power devices and free, open software to catch up. The Raspberry pi has already been used successfully in the UK’s ICT education sector. Educational and learning kits based around Raspberry Pi computers could help schools ensure that Namibia’s computing curriculum captures the imaginations of young technologists.
Computing traverses the curriculum. It has deep links with mathematics, science and design and technology, and provides insights into both natural and artificial systems. The core of computing, however, is computer science: the principles of information and computation, how digital systems work, and how to put this knowledge to use through programming. Digital literacy is also key; it allows expression via information and communications tech.
The Raspberry Pi computer is positioned to be at the heart of these new initiatives. With a million units sold within the first year of its availability the Pi has a very active user community. The Pi is an inexpensive and versatile computer. Users can run free software on it, browse the internet and so on just like a regular PC. It can be connected to control systems via a series of GPIO (general purpose input and output) pins or usb. It can also be used right down at command level, making it ideal for both younger users to see how a computer can make something move and work, and older pupils to learn to program at command level.
The Pi lowers barriers to adoption for schools based on cost and size. These devices are portable, do not have fan cooling requirements and very low power consumption (not much more than a phone). Wireless networking is easily added through a cheap usb device. Such factors are important in schools without access to extensive funds and infrastructure. Various modes of use in schools are feasible such as pupils owning devices themselves and carrying them to and fro. Such a mobile or distributed computer lab might be much easier and cheaper to maintain. The main costs are likely to be the monitor and storage in this scenario.
As Pi Factory Namibia we offer educational or teaching kits designed to help teachers to deliver this new offering. Our kits vary in composition and content, but are designed to provide a focus for project-led approaches to Raspberry Pi-based work.
It is not just the physical equipment that is important. One of the key inhibitors to this initiative is that many teachers might have limited experience when it comes to computational skills.
The challenge is therefore to provide relevant training, workshops, lesson plans and other ideas as to how to deliver the curriculum. Some sites also have forums to discuss ideas and issues with both experts and other users. Teachers may have little or no skill set when it comes to programming and computer science, so to bridge that gap we will arrange free workshops for schools that we partner with. The workshops will give us feedback on how to make our kits more user-friendly – something we consider to be important since we are right at the start of this process.
Pi Factory would like to make life as easy as possible for teachers, and the desire must surely be to become the provider of choice – for teachers, head teachers, and local authorities alike. If you would like to collaborate with Pi Factory Namibia in order that we supply you with learning kits and free support please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Valentine is the Managing Director of Pi Factory Namibia, an initiative that has brought the Raspberry Pi into Namibia.