As with all great new ideas (and the Raspberry Pi is a great idea) there are lots of misconceptions and half-truths. So before you buy a Pi, read this first!
If you threw away your PC based machines when you fell in love with the iPad (or similar device) the Pi might be a good way to get your students interested in what actually happens inside a computer. For older students doing Computer Studies, the Pi is great because they can experiment with a computer that is separate to the main school network. You’d never allow students to ‘mess’ with the OS on a curriculum machine.
With the Pi, they could set it up as a WebDAV server or a media server or link up several Pis to create a network. The Geography and Physics departments could work together to launch the Pi with a Pi Cam in a weather balloon. Or if you have people doing electronics within your school there are some great projects for the Pi; many of which would encourage students to apply their knowledge from different areas of the curriculum. And connecting a Pi to a variety of external inputs and outputs and writing a program to respond and control these external devices is great fun.
If you are a bit of geek and enjoy micro electronics or reconfiguring computers to do slightly unusual things then a Pi could be your idea of heaven. If you enjoy the mechanics of computing they are truly wonderful.
But if you want to teach programming next year to a class of 30 KS3 students and have a suite of working PCs (and possibly some control technology equipment in the cupboard) why go to the trouble and expense of buying new stuff? You’ll have enough to do getting your head around the new curriculum! Before you kit out your school with Pis think about what you need to teach and to whom;
read the Raspberry Pi Myths post, audit what hardware and software you already have, consider the skill set of your teaching staff and maybe, get along to a couple of Raspberry Pi Jams or training sessions.
Details of RPi events can be found on Eventbrite http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/raspberry-jam-2308520311
Whilst the Raspberry Pi is a great idea and will be credited with inspiring some future Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, it is not some universal panacea. It will leave as many pupils (and teachers) cold and bewildered as it enthrals. The Pi could “give children the opportunity to learn the fundamental of programming” but it isn’t the only or necessarily the best or easiest way to do this. So should you rush off a buy a load? It really comes down to what will work in your school, with your staff and your pupils! DO your research first and then if you decide to go for Pis – have fun!