Under the Bonnet

I came across a shop in York recently, Hawkins Bazaar (<strong>http://tinyurl.com/6eq2hmg)</strong>, with a window full of Bigtracks. What a coincidence at the same time there was an article in the Observer by John Naughton about the fact that all our kids do with computers during their education is use software – most of which feels like ‘computer says no’. The same weekend Eric Schmidt of Google was having a swipe at the British education system for allowing us to descend into a nation of computer users rather than computer scientists. John Naughton’s article was about the Raspberry Pi computer – a £15 Linux based programmable machine that can browse the web that has been produced with the idea that kids might get some insight into programming (see a video about Raspberry Pi on John’s site at <strong>http://tinyurl.com/6hk5ttt)</strong>.

I spent the early part of my HE career teaching teachers about IT in education and observing and working with primary school kids using computers so find these apparently disparate events deeply satisfying. Could it be that we are finally starting to realise that what really matters about the relationship between young people and computers is that they have some understanding of what goes on under the bonnet? That kids could feel they have some degree of control over technology and that they consequently develop the problem solving capability and understanding of logic that enables them to feel that they are in control. In the medieval days of educational computing it was logo and turtles that started the IT in education revolution, corporate software took away the magic, for £55 (one Raspeberry Pi and one Bigtrack) every primary school in the land could bring it back. I suspect it would make  Seymour Papert (http://www.papert.org/) a very happy man.

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