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Use of the Raspberry Pi to Promote Community Computing Literacy

  • Added: 21/10/15
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The project fits it well with the idea of MK:Smart by creating smart citizens.


Central to the idea of "smartness" is computing technology. Most of society's engagement with this technology is commercially driven but the actual nature of the technology remains somewhat of a mystery to most people. The key to overcoming this technological alienation is to raise the general level of computing literacy at a community level.

The credit-card sized single-board Raspberry Pi computer was designed with the intention of promoting the teaching of computer science in schools and the developing world and, as such offers an ideal opportunity for promoting computing literacy at a community level. It has been noted in the literature that private schools in the UK are investing in the Raspberry Pi up to five times more than state schools. This proposal aims to use the Raspberry Pi as a tool for promoting computing literacy among parents in MK so that they can in turn support their own children instead of depending on schools which may not be adequately resourced.

Please note that the content is currently provisional and will need to be refined following attendance at a workshop on 3rd November 2015.

It is proposed to carry out a survey of all the schools in Milton Keynes to establish the extent to which they are adopting or not adopting the Raspberry Pi and identify any potential barriers as well as the level of prior awareness about the computer. This fact-finding exercise will also seek to identify an pervious efforts in the city to enage schools with the Raspberry Pi and document any relevant findings.

The survey will also seek to build a profile of the communities in Milton Keynes including the provision of communal facilities such as community centres, sports clubs and other social institutions that could provide a base for promoting awareness of the project in general.

This phase of the project will seek to actively engage students from the humanities such as Business Studies and Health and Social Care at UCMK (University Campus Milton Keynes) in carrying out the surveys giving them an opportunity to apply skills they gain on the course in real-life situations.

Funding will be sought for procurement of Raspberry Pi units along with other embedded systems units such as the Arduino for schools and community centre hubs where training of project participants will be carried out. The Embedded Systems Laboratory at UCMK will be used as the central support base for all the training hubs. The technical content of the project delivery will be delivered by students from engineering disciplines - notably from the Department of Computer Science and Technology. It is proposed to developed a generic handbook for guidance of project participants and the students. An accompanying website will also be developed to provide ready access to project resources and information about activitities. The general design of the content will include model applications of the Raspberry Pi such as alarm systems, automated irrigation schmes, wireless sensor networks, and so forth which groups of project participants can work on in small groups and have an opportunity to showcase and demonstrate.

At a more basic level, all project participants will be systematically introduced to the Raspberry Pi computer system along with other embedded systems including the levels of interaction with the systems starting with the hardware architecture and how it interacts with programming tools. This level of literacy will allow the project participants to broaden their web literacy skills enabling them to make sense to technical content they would not otherwise access.

Project Team

Key project members are Nhamburo Ziyenge and Andrew Johnshon.

Nhamburo Ziyenge will be the project manager and will coordinate most of the project activities. Previous professional experience includes work in medical physics, electrical power engineering, telecommunication and computing as well as management of community projects. Will work of developing a student enagement strategy and organise seminars within UCMK as well as at the various training hubs. Will coordinate development of project content and preparation of the community computing handbook.

Mr. Andrew Johnson is a senior technician in the Embedded Systems Laboratory at UCMK and has expertise in robotics and supporting students during practical work. Will work on technical specification of the required materials and organise ordering as well as provide training for student facilitators who will support project participants.

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Maldwyn Palmer

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I had quite a discussion with Rory Cellan-Jones of BBC fame about this. Having worked in IT most of my life, I think this is a red herring. What we are great at doing in the UK is design and new ideas. We should be promoting the look, feel and use of products ( e.g. Jonathan Ive is Apple's Chief Design Officer) and leave programming to other countries who train their people to be more "geeky" and less free thinking.