A small computer used for a variety of projects, the Raspberry Pi has long been a favourite of techies, engineers and those that like to tinker, due to its low cost, flexibility and simplicity. However, more recently, this incredibly cool little computer (which is no bigger than a credit card) has been heralded as a great boon to education; with digital leaders using it to foster learning and collaboration in the classroom.
“72% of teachers would consider a technology-based solution when tackling a teaching issue.” The State of Technology in Education: 2016
The value of using Raspberry Pi in the classroom
The Raspberry Pi can be used to aid computer-based learning, but its value extends beyond STEM classes, with the potential to enhance education across disciplines.
Introduce technology, computing and programming to students
The simplicity of the Raspberry Pi makes it easy to get started, helping pupils to use basic digital, analogue and electromechanical components, and instilling an awareness of simple programming concepts. When combined with visual programming tool Scratch, students can even create animations and games on the Raspberry Pi without having to learn code. Once these straightforward skills have been grasped, teachers can then use it to set more complex tasks.
Encourage collaborative learning
Tomorrow’s innovators are unlikely to be inspired by activities that involve a solitary individual on a computer screen. Instead, students need the freedom to experiment, hack, and collaborate. The Raspberry Pi is a fantastic way to use technology to deliver more multi-sensory classrooms based on communication, innovation, and collaboration skills.
When it comes to the Raspberry Pi, students learn the most if they are hands-on with the kit. So, it makes sense for teachers to create collaborative teams that are well matched in skill level so that no student is left out. Rotating roles could also be given to pupils on a project by project basis (e.g. coder, builder, project manager, quality assurance, etc.). Classroom layout is also important, and groups should be encouraged to work in spaces designed to promote collaborative learning and the sharing of ideas.
Boost computational thinking
When it comes to the educational benefits of the Raspberry Pi, it’s not always about the code. By its very construction, the device will also help to instil computational thinking and skills such as decomposition, pattern recognition, logical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving.
Helping to inspire learning and creativity through firing young imaginations, there are a number of Raspberry Pi competitions which schools can take part in. For example, under the theme helping people to live healthier lives, the PA Consulting Raspberry Pi Competition turned imagination into reality. Pupils created innovative solutions to everyday challenges such as a robotic dog that helps motivate children to exercise, an eye tracking mouse to help people with physical disabilities interact with their computer, a device to monitor sleeping conditions, an automatic prescription dispenser, and a posture sensor.
How teachers are already using Raspberry Pi in the classroom
“32% of educators are using technology to bring experts or experiences into the classroom virtually.” The State of Technology in Education: 2016
Here are just some examples of how you can use the Raspberry Pi in your lessons:
- Make a habitat for birds and beasts. By making a bird box or insect habitat and connecting an inbuilt camera via a Pi, pupils can observe creatures in their natural habitats
- Write a symphony. Sonic Pi is a sound synthesiser designed to support both computing and music lessons within schools. Pupils can compose and perform their own songs in an incredible range of styles
- Create a Raspberry Pi-powered sorting hat. Most children love Harry Potter, so build a lesson plan that will educate and engage by creating your very own classroom sorting hat using the Pibrella add-on board
- Build a robot. With a Pi, a couple of motors and a motor board, students can learn how to create their very own robot
- Create virtual pets. With Pixel Pet, pupils can use a Pi to code and create a range of furry friends. Students can design the pet, take it for a walk, and create science experiments, games and more.
- Create a supercomputer. With some Lego and multiple Pis your class could even build its own supercomputer. Although you would need a lot of Pis!
Facilitating deeper levels of engagement in the classroom, the Raspberry Pi can also be used to help pupils think about how they can solve real-world problems. For example, by using the Pi edition of popular game Minecraft, teachers can challenge pupils to tackle issues such as sustainability.
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While Raspberry Pi tech was once the province of more adventurous computing teachers and afterschool clubs, it’s now becoming an essential classroom tool. However, to feel comfortable with this tech, and make the most of it as a resource, many educators will need guidance on how to best use the kit.
Based on the teaching philosophy that we learn best by doing, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is developing high-quality learning resources to support a growing community of educators and a dedicated digital curriculum to help teachers engage and inspire themselves and their learners.