Professional Development

Illinois Teachers Learn To Use Raspberry Pi in the Classroom

The small computers that cost less than $50 a piece are the product of a United Kingdom-based nonprofit devoted to helping students understand and use computer science.By the end of the summer, hundreds of Illinois teachers should be prepared to use the Raspberry Pi in their classrooms.

A new program sponsored by the Illinois IT Learning Exchange has already led a workshop for 80 teachers from 39 schools this spring to introduce them to the inexpensive, credit card-sized computer created by a United Kingdom-based nonprofit to help students understand and use computer science.

The Illinois IT Learning Exchange is offering the workshops in conjunction with the Creating IT Futures Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CompTIA.

The Raspberry Pi, which costs less than $50, can plug into a computer monitor or TV and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. With it, users can do everything they could with a desktop computer, including browsing the Internet, playing video, word processing, playing games and making spreadsheets.

The full-day workshops are intended to help high school teachers become more familiar with the Raspberry Pi technology in order to use it in their own classrooms. During the free workshops — for which teachers can earn continuing education credits — they can learn how to create a Web server or site, use peripheral devices like cameras and sensors, develop a python coding program and brainstorm classroom activities. They also receive a free Raspberry Pi starter kit.

Besides the workshops already conducted, two more are scheduled for June in Bloomington and Galesburg, IL, for teachers in the southern and western parts of the state.

"We want teachers to feel comfortable with the Raspberry Pi so they will use the devices in their classrooms," said Joan Matz, senior grants manager for the Creating IT Futures Foundation, "thereby increasing students' interest in the technology and creative problem-solving."

The Illinois IT Learning Exchange is also planning a challenge this fall for high school students in the Chicago area to develop application ideas using the Raspberry Pi. As an example, during the White House annual science fair this past spring, a student turned an old piano into a jukebox using a Raspberry Pi.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.