Are raspberry pi(es) good for you?

I am often asked about what technologies and devices will be like in the near future. Given the innovation, the rate of change,  and the exponential power of new technologies, not to mention the cost, this question is understandable. Up unto the last two to three  years it was all about “picking the winner” in an ever increasing market of devices and operating systems. Remember the VHS versus Beta race and the cost of getting it wrong. More recently the PC versus Mac was fought out almost like a religious war each side with its own zealots eager to purchase the next big thing and thus strive for market dominance. All this at exponential cost to the market in the relentless search for the most sophisticated device.

The rise of open source and the invention of the App has certainly reshaped the technologies world. The focus has shifted from the device to the software The devices are quickly becoming agnostic as programming has become what I call  “democratised” as users develop their own Apps to make the devices do what they want them to do, not what the original programmers necessarily intended them to do. We have thus seen a shift from the device controlling the learning to the learner controlling the device,. The device is now just an idea, they invite the user to be creative, inventive, and innovative. They become a powerful personalised tool at service not in control of the user.

What we do know about the future for technology is that quantum computing with be more powerful, faster cheaper and provide more storage. Wireless will become more ubiquitous and pervasive. Devices will be smaller more embedded in and on our person and into the built environment. Skills once considered essential to living in a modern society like driving a car, organising you personal life or for employment will be replaced by new skill requirements.

I don’t know what the next must have device will be but I wish I did because the profits in getting it right are enormous. The way I like to think about this is that the future will see the emergence of a post device era. This is the age of the algorithm where the high priests will not be the privileged few who understand the sacred mysteries and mathematical intricacies but the kids who understand that programming is a core skill.

This has huge implications for schools.  What value is being placed on teaching programming?  If computer literacy was about knowing how they worked, computer programming is about doing the work.  We’re already seeing a shift especially in the UK and US to train more teachers to code software and in doing so encourage young people to develop these critical skills.  This movement has been boosted by access to cost-effective computers like Raspberry Pi, designed to encourage kids to program.

Bill Liao co-founder of CoderDojo explained coding as a language skill -“You need to be a native speaker and for that you have to start young. We start kids at seven.”  He believes coding should be a “creative experience – the best coders are like poets, able to express their thoughts thoughts powerfully.”

Is this the new literacy for schools?


5 thoughts on “Are raspberry pi(es) good for you?

  1. Another thought provoking blog. The move into programming literacy and “Hour of Code” initiatives in the UK have been interesting to follow. Having personally been in software design, development and architecture for a long time, programming skills are easily learned, with young kids able to make robots dance, write fun games, and various other tasks. It can be entertaining and educational. What is missing in this equation is what is most fundamental – a focus on how to build well designed, safer apps and technology for the future. There are millions of people that can “code”, fewer that can code well, and even fewer that understand the implications of what they’re coding. We are living in a connected society built by engineers with first thought “can we do it?” rather than “should we”. Only now are we starting to explore the dangerous sides of what we’ve built, teaching children about the technology that they’re using daily, and even now, applications continue to be built without social conscience, exploiting people’s privacy and safety for profit based motives. Not all applications are such, and many are joining the fight for a safer connected future, but this must be instilled in the next generation of software designers, developers and architects. Don’t just teach programming – teach socially responsible software development. Always ask the fundamental question – how will this keep children safe?

  2. Interesting article – thanks Greg. I couldn’t agree more that schools need to get in now, and start thinking about how to teach today’s kids the necessary technical expertise. I came across an interesting article last week, showing that kids in Vietnam were already well ahead of our kids in being taught these skills:

    In terms of picking a winner in technology, some interesting predictions by Deliotte at a recent Sydney event:

  3. Is the shift in teacher training which you mention Greg also occurring in Australia? Are our students already moving in this direction? If so, I’d be interested in knowing what they’re learning.

    1. John, not so much here. There would be schools moving in this direction already but it isn’t across the board and certainly not part of the national curriculum….yet

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