New technology easy as Pi

Jeffrey Cashwell | Contributing Writer


The Raspberry Pi, created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation charity, is gaining recognition as the world’s most effective technology to teach kids and young people programming. Released last year, this small computer boasts an array of programs that utilize teaching on a non-threatening platform.

With technology tightening its holds on everyday life, it is becoming evident that technology and programming should be understood from an early age. Parents who would otherwise be reluctant to allow their child to tinker with their own expensive computers may see the Raspberry Pi as an alternative.

The Raspberry Pi is a small, credit card sized computer that hooks up to a keyboard and display device. The focus of this new technology is to provide affordable and easily understood software to kids around the world.

What makes the innovation particularly striking is its price- a mere $35. The device clocks in at around 700MHz, which is comparable to that of a modern smartphone. Although it is not optimal to use the device for process-intensive programs, the Raspberry Pi is perfect for everyday documents such as spreadsheets, presentations and word-processing files.

“Almost everything you can do with a Raspberry Pi, you can do with a conventional PC,” said Raspberry Pi’s creator, Eben Upton in a CNN interview. “But you’d be doing it at 10 times the cost.”

With more interest in computer software, technologies developed to teach children programming may have an impact on UNCW and surrounding areas as well by broadening the computer science department and including computers into schools’ routines.

Raspberry Pi has a similar objective to Squeak Etoys software, a program UNCW faculty has been introducing to local skills the past five years, according to Sridhar Narayan, department chair of computer sciences.  The software is also a friendly platform for children to use to familiarize themselves with computers. 

As some parents may point out, technology in school isn’t always utilized in the most effective way.

Kristie Richardson, who graduated from UNCW in 1994 with a child in elementary school thinks that, although technology like the Raspberry Pi is useful in teaching kids about technology, school systems are far from perfecting the art.

“I think before kids get accustomed to using computers, schools should teach the basics first,” Richardson said. “Schools assume that every child has access to a computer, where that’s not always the case.”

Richardson also points out that before kids can work with a computer, they first need to learn keyboarding skills. Such necessities are often overlooked today, as the world quickly forgets that typing, as a skill, is not something one is simply born with.

Raspberry Pi is not just for teaching young people about computers. The small devices also make great entertainment centers and other media outlets.

 “I think that Raspberry Pi is an interesting device and could be effectively used by the computer science and even photography/film majors on campus because of its wide range of use and capabilities,” Matthew Case, a UNCW TAC employee said.   

The computer’s size makes it perfect for mobility, whereas a laptop might not be the appropriate choice. However, Case said that the Raspberry Pi lacks the functionality of other operating systems.

It is difficult to say whether or not the Raspberry Pi will find its way into UNCW’s campus. With over 1 million units already sold, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is proving its credibility on the grounds of affordable education and availability to all people, no matter their socioeconomic status.