Teacher Lee Briggs on technology in today's classroom. Brought to you by Weekly Reader.

The tech world is abuzz over a little gadget called Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer out of the UK that fits on a single board and is designed with education in mind. The goal of the project: develop a cheap computer that can run a simple version of Linux and inspire children to learn programming. There is a lot of tech jargon in the PR release of this wonderful little device, but the facts are pretty simple.

The device costs $35, has a 700Mhz ARM processor (similar to the processors found on cell phones and tablets), a USB port for a keyboard/mouse, 256 MB of RAM, an HDMI and analog video-out and built-in wi-fi. Wait a minute… $35! I flipped burgers for a whole year to buy a computer with less horsepower than this little thing! Great stuff is truly wasted on the young.

This device has the computer industry in general in a tizzy. Fact is, most of the things that we do on computers now do not require the horsepower of a full-on desktop or laptop. Many see this device being used as a platform for smart TVs or computer labs. But I think it is just as important that schools look into buying a few and trying them out. Sure, they are limited, and it will take a while for the software to catch up, but for less than $50 a group of students can have a computer they can play around with and learn the basics of programming. Something that I already do using recycled desktops and Puppy Linux.

Raspberry Pi

Imagine the fun you could have with students working on a computer that fits inside an Altoids tin. Or imagine a $35 bare-bones computer that could be sent home to get impoverished families internet access, one that could hook up to their existing TV and allow children to access school resources. I don’t want to make a big deal about it, but this little piece of hardware reminds me a lot of the original Apple I Computer—a tiny, cheap, underpowered device that changes everything. Or maybe it’s just really cool. I suppose that is good enough.

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