Tracy Howk is the Media Manager at Juniper Elementary. We are pleased to welcome her here with a guest post.
Raspberry Pi is a high quality, low cost computer. Developed by a non profit foundation in the UK, the handheld sized Raspberry Pi is capable of essentially everything a standard computer can do, except at a fraction of the price.
As a technology magnet, students at Juniper Elementary School learn using a variety of tools, including apps, a coding curriculum, robots, and of course, Raspberry Pi. Students currently have access to two of these computers in the Media Center’s Makerspace, but are awaiting two more through a recent grant.
Logistically, the Raspberry Pi computers best serve elementary students while running the Kano Operating System. This free, child-friendly, OS is easily installed and offers a variety of apps, the most popular being Hack Minecraft. This is not a gaming site, it is an app. Because students consistently default to this familiar app, I post a weekly featured app, encouraging students to try something new. Students gain proficiency in keyboard and mouse usage, while also using their programming and creativity skills. It should be noted that these Pi computers are not ever connected to the internet. They do not have access to anything online which means there are no filters needed because they can’t get online at all. Raspberry Pi operates perfectly well on its own OS, Raspbian. Although it doesn’t feature the age-targeted apps, it could be a good choice for those who intend on using the Pi as a standard computer. That said, plenty of middle school students enjoy Kano’s many choices and levels.
If you’re interested in getting started with Raspberry Pi computers, you can reach out to Katie Huff to help with purchasing. The CanaKit is a simple way to acquire all necessary components, including power supply and connection cables. The most recent model is Raspberry Pi 4, but beware that Kano OS is not yet available for this newest model. The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ is an excellent choice. Extra costs associated include monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers, if desired. Juniper students also use a sand timer to help the (sometimes lengthy) line moving smoothly. Other accessories sold separately, like breadboards, lend well to specified computer science lessons, such as circuitry.
Raspberry Pi, frequently used by large scale operations, such as NASA and Sony, can be a great tool to inspire and prepare our 21st century learners.