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

Posts tagged ‘computing’

Can’t Wait for a Slice of Pi!

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.

Wolfram Alpha

I used to think that Google was a little scary. Perhaps I’ve watched too many science fiction movies, but the idea that you can ask a computer anything and it gives you an answer seems a little … frightening. But I could at least take solace that a search engine does not understand what it is looking up.

Last week I discovered Wolfram Alpha, and I am convinced that it is the name of the coming metal overlord. Wolfram Alpha does not search for websites to answer your questions, it simply answers them, putting out simple, concrete facts. Search for 2+2 and it gives you 4, ask it what is the 23rd most populous nation, and it finds that too. Not a website that answers it, not a Wikipedia entry—an actual answer.

I started by searching for Franklin Roosevelt. It gave me a single photo, dates, and places of birth and death, a timeline and half a dozen of his most notable accomplishments. Not enough to write a report, but enough to put him into context at a glance.

But the real fun occurs when you type in math and science based questions, or statistical data. Type in your name and it tells you how common it is, and when it peaked in popularity. Ask it what the 23rd most populous country is, and it will tell you it is Italy. When I use this website I feel like I am amazed and terrified at the same time, like riding a roller coaster.

Some fun searches could include:

  • How old was George Washington when he died?
  • 125*2109
  • Who was the 5th king of Spain?

If your imagination limits you, try going here.

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