I remember when I was young and my mom would put out a fresh raspberry pie. I would sneak downstairs and peel off the crust, just enough to get a little filling, and then would run away to her screams of anger that I had ruined her pie. Sadly, the purpose of this article is not to discuss that kind of raspberry pie.
Instead we are here to talk about about Raspberry Pi, the pint-sized "real computer" good for everything from teaching technology to boosting the dreams of hobbyists. It's well known that this kind of pi can help students learn about the technology and methodology of computers. Oh, and as we'll discuss Raspberry PI not just for messing around by beginners.
So what, exactly, is a Raspberry Pi? It is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python.
Raspberry Pi is capable of doing everything you'd expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video. You can use it to make spreadsheets, create and refine documents, and play games.
This may seem like no big deal — but it allows computer professionals and educators to teach the fundamentals of computing at such a low cost, and so transparently, that young students can break into STEM areas quicker.
Raspberry Pi and the Raspberry Pi Foundation
The Raspberry Pi Foundation, creators of the device, hired a number of its community members, including ex-teachers and software developers, to launch a set of free learning resources for its website. This will make it possible for the broader public to take advantage of the technology.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation works to put the power of computing and digital technology into the hands of people all over the world. It does this by providing low-cost, high-performance computers that people use to learn, solve problems, and have fun. These computers and their kits range in price from $35 tot $100. They are very affordable.
The foundation also provides outreach and education to help more people access computers. It literally develops free resources to help people learn about computing and making things with computers and also trains educators who can guide other people to learn. This is the cornerstone of the movement.
Code Club and CoderDojo are part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, although these programs are platform-agnostic (i.e., not tied to Raspberry Pi hardware). They help students and educators learn the basics of programming. Raspberry Pi promotes and publishes content to these clubs and helps grow the network around the world to ensure every child has access to learning about computing.
Similarly, Raspberry Jams are Raspberry Pi-focused events for people of all ages to come together to learn about Raspberry Pi and share ideas and projects. It is an amazing, grass roots movement that is really moving computing and understanding of computing to another level.
The Raspberry Pi operates in the open source ecosystem: It runs Linux (a variety of distributions), and its main supported operating system, Raspbian, is open source and runs a suite of open source software, meaning that it is available to everyone for free.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation contributes to the Linux kernel and various other open source projects as well as releasing much of its own software as open source. The Raspberry Pi's schematics are released, but the board itself is not open hardware. The Raspberry Pi Foundation relies on income from the sale of Raspberry Pi units to do its charitable work.
A versatile learning tool
For students who want to learn the technology of wiring up hardware, using a Raspberry Pi makes it easy. The Raspberry Pi website has a lot of online training. A student can start learning and building up his or her computing skill set more or less immediately.
The foundation, which is based in the United Kingdom (in Cambridge) has a wide range of courses aimed at different levels of ability. The program could be helpful for teachers who want to expand their current skill set, volunteers who want to get inspiration to take back to their coding clubs, and parents who want to learn how to teach computing at home.
It really doesn't matter what you use the technology for, or what skillset you have currently, you can find an online training class that matches up. You can learn at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home.
Companies like Google and Micron are sponsoring content like Micron's support of the "Getting Started with Your Raspberry Pi" course. Raspberry Pi has reached across the globe and everyone is getting involved. If you are a trainee or qualified teacher in England, you can also use the courses as credits towards the National Centre for Computing Education's GCSE Computer Science Accelerator and Primary certificates.
Some people buy a Raspberry Pi to learn to code, and people who can already code use the Pi to learn to code electronics for physical projects. The Raspberry Pi can open opportunities for you to create your own home automation projects, which is popular among people in the open source community because it puts you in control, rather than using a proprietary closed system.
What kind of Pi do you want?
When the first Raspberry Pi microcomputer was released in 2012, no one had any idea how popular it would become. Who would have thought that a tiny motherboard and chip would go on to be the go-to hardware for newbies and techies alike?
Over the years, Raspberry Pi enthusiasts have invented dozens of uses for the Little Computer That Could. You can do anything with these devices, everything from digital jukeboxes to home security systems. The Raspberry Pi is fast enough to function as a competent desktop computer, extensible enough to work with dozens of custom accessories, and still small enough to fit in your pocket.
Most Raspberry Pi computers are sold as part of a kit that includes the basics you'll need to get started, but every bundle is a little bit different. It is therefore important to know what you're looking for and what you want to create with the device.
Want to build a media center? A media center is a computer that houses all of your pictures and videos and allows you to access them through a streamlined, Roku-style interface. If you've ever wanted a jukebox in your home, or if you just want a simple way to make your personal media available to other devices on your network, a Raspberry Pi media center delivers a high-end experience for a low-end price tag.
Suppose you want to play old-school video games ... like Gauntlet (my favorite)? If you miss the days of your Atari 2600 or just need a quick fix of Frogger, Q-Bert, or Asteroids, it's easy to set up a Raspberry Pi to be your own personal retro arcade! Whether you're young or old, a newbie or a veteran, you can benefit from learning the Raspberry PI. Try one out for yourself today!