The Raspberry Pi 3 has arrived and comes complete with everything needed to bring economical, 1:1 computing to the students of the poorest and wealthiest school districts alike.
After selling 8 million units over the last four years, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has shipped it’s most powerful and versatile computer yet. Luckily, it’s still only $35 which puts it within reach of almost everyone. Not only is the Raspberry Pi used in schools all over the world, it’s even been used on the International Space Station. Pretty cool!
The Pi 3 comes with a 64-bit, quad-core ARM processor running at 1.2GHz with 1 GB of RAM. For network connectivity, it comes with built-in Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Four USB ports allow you to connect keyboards, mice and other peripherals while the HDMI port displays the screen on a computer monitor or TV. A micro SD card is used for storage and the Pi 3 only needs 5 volts and 2.5 amps of power to run. Since a school full of Raspberry Pi computers only uses a tiny fraction of the power currently consumed by desktop and laptop computers, the monthly electricity bill will be noticeably smaller.
The Raspberry Pi 3 boots into a graphical desktop operating system with a task bar, launch menu and icons that look instantly familiar to users of Windows or the Mac. It comes pre-loaded with office apps (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawing, email, database) a web browser, programming tools (Java, Python, Node.js, Scratch) and games like Minecraft. Hundreds more science, business, creative and educational apps are available for download to help round-out a student’s learning experience.
Students who use Office 365, iCloud or Google Docs will have no problem accessing those apps and storage via the Webkit-based browser. This browser can also work with the programming tools on Code.org (Hour of Code). You’re also good-to-go for online Common Core testing.
Like so many things in life, big decisions come down to money. A small school district with 3,000 students can enact a complete 1:1 program with Raspberry Pi computers for a little over $100,000. All the old, existing monitors, mice and keyboards still hanging around from the Windows XP days can be repurposed. An extra $10,000 will cover a 10% backup supply of Raspberry Pi computers to keep students up and running when devices are lost, stolen or broken. When compared to the millions of dollars it costs to roll out a 1:1 education program with iPads, Chromebooks or other laptops, this is down-right reasonable.
Some of you may remember the United Nation’s One Laptop per Child initiative to help level the playing field for students living in abject poverty in emerging economies around the world. Unfortunately, the XO laptop could never be produced cheaply enough. Combined with a lack of training and curriculum for teachers, this admirable effort failed.
I believe this vision can now be realized with the low-cost Raspberry Pi 3.
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