Google funds 15,000 Raspberry Pi computers for schoolchildren

Free of charge

Google is to pay for 15,000 Raspberry Pi Model B boards to be handed out free of charge to UK schoolchildren.

The Raspberry Pi was always meant to reinvigorate UK computer education and at last the ambition of getting a decent number of them into schools looks to be coming to fruition.

Announced during a trip to Cambridge by Google's roving executive chairman Eric Schmidt, distribution of the computers will be overseen by six educational organisations, CoderDojo, Code Club, Computing at Schools, Generating Genius, Teach First and OCR.

"Britain's innovators and entrepreneurs have changed the world", he said. "The telephone, television and computers were all invented here," said Schmidt.

"We've been working to encourage the next generation of computer scientists, and we hope that this donation of Raspberry Pis to British school pupils will help drive a new wave of innovation."

Google is already funding the Teach First initiative that aims provide bursaries to 100 computer science teachers.

Schmidt also famously used a speech in 2011 to make highly critical remarks about the standard of ICT teaching in UK schools, although some see the way Google uses its money to back education as part of a marketing exercise designed to offset negative publicity about its tax affairs.

The Raspberry Pi has been a huge sales success, selling a million units as of last December, making it arguably the most successful UK-designed and made computer in twenty years.

But most of these have gone to enthusiast programmers and parents keen for their offspring to be exposed to intriguing technology. Where Pis have ended up in schools, it's been thanks mainly to individual teachers rather than as the result of a concerted effort.

"Fewer young people are applying to courses, which seems paradoxical when you think of the number and sophistication of digital devices they're using," said Raspberry Pi founder and prime mover, Eben Upton.

But generally the more sophisticated a device is, the harder it is to program. There's no lack of interest in technology, but there's a barrier between being a user and becoming a producer of content."

To try to overcome that the Raspberry Pi Foundation has appointed Clive Beale to be its Director of Educational Development, the linchpin for getting the Pis in front of as many pupils as possible.

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