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Getting programming into schools

Sun, 22nd Sep 2013

Dominic Ford

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TRaspberry Pi alpha boardhe internet search giant Google has teamed up with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to encourage more children to start programming computers from an earlier age.

Last year, the Raspberry Pi Foundation launched their Raspberry Pi computer, with a price tag as low as 35, with the aim that it should be cheap enough to make a suitable present for children, and that users could be adventurous with without fear of breaking a very expensive piece of equipment.

Many technology companies have identified a problem that while computer literacy is a high priority for school curriculums, the skills taught are for office tasks such as word processing, rather than the programming skills that are needed to develop new software and technology. They are keen to ensure that as many children as possible have the chance to consider computer programming as a possible professional career.

This week, Google has thrown its support behind the Raspberry Pi Foundation's initiative by releasing a free tool called Coder, which allows Raspberry Pi users to develop simple web-based programs using a development environment similar to that used by professional development. Already, Google have sent out 15,000 free Raspberry Pi computers to schools around the UK, to give as many as possible the chance to set up computer clubs which can make use of them.

The idea is to give children a flavour of how large professional websites work, but also to see the kinds of tools that real developers use to get them up and running. Timed to coincide with the start of the new school year, it's hoped that the new software will soon be in use across the country, helping children to understand how the web works.

And, even if you're too old to be in a school computer club, if you want to give it a try, the software is available to all for free download from Google's website.


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Of course you have to define what is a child but I think a ten year old who was a competent reader could be introduced to Basic. syhprum, Mon, 23rd Sep 2013

Did you miss a couple of generations?
The Commodore 64 is quite obsolete by now.

But, perhaps that is also a sign of what is missing in modern society.  When the Commodore computers came out, they really wouldn't do much unless one learned how to program in Basic, and getting printers to do things like italics or underlining often involved learning the printer codes. 

Young kids can often be quite competent computer users (if only they paid a little attention to DOS scripts too).  However, there is a difference between the high level using of applications and the low level functions available in the Raspberry Pi.  We will need future children who are willing to get down to the BASICs. CliffordK, Mon, 23rd Sep 2013

I've never quite understood the point of teaching people that computers are a problem, not a solution. Programming in binary is fun if you have a good reason to do it, but simply writing code of any type without a meaningful physical task or equation to evaluate seems as pointless as Sudoku.

Any programming language or operating system you learn today will be superseded in a few years, but the equations of motion won't, and nor will their analytic solutions.

I was concerned to meet a class of primary school kids who had successfully managed to get a robot to turn through 360 degrees. After a whole term's work they seriously believed that a circle was defined as 360 straight lines that join up.  alancalverd, Mon, 23rd Sep 2013

There are emulators ... RD, Mon, 23rd Sep 2013

I don't need an emulator I have a perfectly serviceable CPM computer, a few years back when my brain was running a 10% instead of the present 1% I used to write BASIC programs to solve the NEW SCIENTIST Enigma problems.

PS my neighbours 4 year old loves using my computer to print out pages of garbage but I have keyboard problems because infants schools insist on giving letters etc phonetic names instead of their conventional ones. syhprum, Tue, 24th Sep 2013

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