Author Archives: Philip Colligan

Closing the digital divide with Raspberry Pi computers

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One of the harsh lessons we learned last year was that far too many young people still don’t have a computer for learning at home. There has always been a digital divide; the pandemic has just put it centre-stage. The good news is that the cost of solving this problem is now trivial compared to the cost of allowing it to persist.

A young person receives a Raspberry Pi kit to learn at home

Removing price as a barrier to anyone owning a computer was part of the founding mission of Raspberry Pi, which is why we so work hard to make sure that Raspberry Pi computers are as low-cost as possible for everyone, all of the time. We saw an incredible rise in the numbers of people — particularly young people — using Raspberry Pi computers as their main desktop PC during the lockdown, helped by the timely arrival of the fabulous Raspberry Pi 400.

Supporting the most vulnerable young people

As part of our response to the pandemic, the Raspberry Pi Foundation teamed up with UK Youth and a network of grassroots youth and community organisations to get Raspberry Pi desktop kits (with monitors, webcams, and headphones) into the hands of disadvantaged young people across the UK. These were young people who didn’t qualify for the government laptop scheme and who otherwise didn’t have a computer to learn at home.

A young person receives a Raspberry Pi kit to learn at home

This wasn’t just about shipping hardware (that’s the easy bit). We trained youth workers and teachers, and we worked closely with families to make sure that they could set up and use the computers. We did a huge amount of work to make sure that the educational platforms and apps they needed worked out of the box, and we provided a customised operating system image with free educational resources and enhanced parental controls.

A screenshot of a video call gallery with 23 participants
One of our training calls for the adults who will be supporting young people and families to use the Raspberry Pi kits

The impact has been immediate: young people engaging with learning; parents who reported positive changes in their children’s attitude and behaviour; youth and social workers who have deepened their relationship with families, enabling them to provide better support.

You can read more about the impact we’re having in the evaluation report for the first phases of the programme, which we published last week.

Thank you to our supporters

After a successful pilot programme generously funded by the Bloomfield Trust, we launched the Learn at Home fundraising campaign in December, inviting businesses and individuals to donate money to enable us to expand the programme. I am absolutely thrilled that more than 70 organisations and individuals have so far donated an incredible £900,000 and we are on track to deliver our 5000th Raspberry Pi kit in March.

Two young girls unpack a computer display
Thanks to Gillas Lane Primary Academy for collecting some wonderful photos and quotes illustrating the impact our computers are having!

While the pandemic shone a bright spotlight onto the digital divide, this isn’t just a problem while we are in lockdown. We’ve known for a long time that having a computer to learn at home can be transformational for any young person.

If you would like to get involved in helping us make sure that every young person has access to a computer to learn at home, we’d love to hear from you. Find out more details on our website, or email us at partners@raspberrypi.org.

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Creative projects for young digital makers

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With so many people all over the world still living in various levels of lockdown, we’ve been working hard to provide free, creative project resources for you to keep young digital makers occupied, learning, and most importantly having fun.

Two siblings sit on a sofa looking at a laptop

As a dad of two, I know how useful it is to have resources and project ideas for things that we can do together, or that the kids can crack on with independently. As we head into the weekend, I thought I’d share a few ideas for where to get started. 

Coding and digital making projects

We offer hundreds of self-guided projects for learning to create with code using tools like Scratch, Python, and more. The projects can be completed online on any computer, they are tailored for different levels of experience, and they include step-by-step guidance that quickly leads to confident, independent young digital makers.

animation of butterflies fluttering around a forest clearing
You can code a butterfly garden with one of our ‘Look after yourself’ projects!

We recently launched a new set of beginner Scratch projects on the theme of ‘Look after yourself’, which include activities designed to help young people take care of their own wellbeing while getting creative with code. They are brilliant.

“I am so excited by the [‘Look after yourself’] projects on offer. It couldn’t be more perfect for everything we are navigating right now.”

– teacher in Scotland

We offer lots of project ideas for the more advanced learners too, including a new set of Python machine learning projects.

With spring in the air here in Cambridge, UK, my kids and I are planning on building a new Raspberry Pi–powered nature camera this weekend. What will you make? 

Send a message to astronauts in space

If Earth is getting you down, then how about creating code that will be sent to the International Space Station?

This is where your kids’ code could run aboard the ISS!

As part of Astro Pi Mission Zero, young people up to age 14 can write a Python program to send their own personal message to the astronauts aboard the ISS. Mission Zero takes about an hour to complete online following a step-by-step guide. It’s a fantastic activity for anyone looking to write Python code for the first time!

Make a cool project 

We know that motivation matters. Young digital makers often need a goal to work towards, and that’s where Coolest Projects comes in. It’s the world-leading technology showcase where young digital makers show the world what they’ve created and inspire each other.

Coolest Projects is open to young people up to the age of 18, all over the world, with any level of experience or skills. Young people can register their project ideas now and then create their project so that they can share it with the world on our online gallery. 

It’s a brilliant way to motivate your young digital makers to come up with an idea and make it real. If you’re looking for inspiration, then check out the brilliant projects from last year.

Happy digital making!

I hope that these resources and project ideas inspire you and your kids to get creative with technology, whether you’re in lockdown or not. Stay safe and be kind to yourself and each other. We’ll get through this.

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Learning at home with the Raspberry Pi Foundation

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As the UK — like many countries around the world — kicks off the new year with another national lockdown, meaning that millions of young people are unable to attend school, I want to share an update on how the Raspberry Pi Foundation is helping young people to learn at home.

Please help us spread the word to teachers, school leaders, governors, parents, and carers. Everything we are offering here is 100% free and the more people know about it, the more young people will benefit.

A girl and mother doing a homeschooling lesson at a laptop

Supporting teachers and pupils 

Schools and teachers all over the world have been doing a heroic job over the past ten months, managing the transition to emergency remote teaching during the first round of lockdowns, supporting the most vulnerable pupils, dealing with uncertainty, changing the way that schools worked to welcome pupils back safely, helping pupils catch up with lost learning, and much, much more.

Both in my role as Chief Executive of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and as chair of governors at a state school here in Cambridge, I’ve seen first-hand the immense pressure that schools and teachers are under. I’ve also seen them display the most amazing resilience, commitment, and innovation. I want to say a huge thank you to all teachers and school staff for everything you’ve done and continue to do to help young people through this crisis. 

Here’s some of the resources and tools that we’ve created to help you continue to deliver a world-class computing education: 

  • The Teach Computing Curriculum is a comprehensive set of lesson plans for KS1–4 (learners aged 5–16) as well as homework, progression mapping, and assessment materials.
  • Working with the fabulous Oak National Academy, we’ve produced 100 hours of video for 300 video lessons based on the Teach Computing Curriculum.
  • Isaac Computer Science is our online learning platform for advanced computer science (A level, learners aged 16–18) and includes comprehensive, interactive materials and videos. It also allows you to set your learners self-marking questions. 

All of these resources are mapped to the English computing curriculum and produced as part of the National Centre for Computing Education. They are available for everyone, anywhere in the world, for free. 

Making something fun with code

Parents and carers are the other heroes of remote learning during lockdown. I know from personal experience that juggling work and supporting home learning can be really tough, and we’re all trying to find meaningful, fun alternatives to letting our kids binge YouTube or Netflix (other video platforms and streaming services are available).

That’s why we’ve been working really hard to provide parents and carers with easy, accessible ways for you to help your young digital makers to get creative with technology:

A Coolest Projects participant

Getting computers into the hands of young people who need them 

One of the harsh lessons we learned last year was that far too many young people don’t have a computer for learning at home. There has always been a digital divide; the pandemic has just put it centre-stage. The good news is that the cost of solving this problem is now trivial compared to the cost of allowing it to persist.

That’s why the Raspberry Pi Foundation has teamed up with UK Youth and a network of grassroots youth and community organisations to get computers into the hands of disadvantaged young people across the UK.

A young person receives a Raspberry Pi kit to learn at home

For under £200 we can provide a vulnerable child with everything they need to learn at home, including a Raspberry Pi desktop computer, a monitor, a webcam, free educational software, and ongoing support from a local youth worker and the Foundation team. So far, we have managed to get 2000 Raspberry Pi computers into the hands of the most vulnerable young people in the UK. A drop in the ocean compared to the size of the problem, but a huge impact for every single young person and family.

This has only been possible thanks to the generous support of individuals, foundations, and businesses that have donated to support our work. If you’d like to get involved too, you can find out more here.

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New Chair and Trustees of the Raspberry Pi Foundation

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I am delighted to share the news that we have appointed a new Chair and Trustees of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Between them, they bring an enormous range of experience and expertise to what is already a fantastic Board of Trustees, and I am really looking forward to working with them.

New Chair of the Board of Trustees: John Lazar 

John Lazar has been appointed as the new Chair of the Board of Trustees. John is a software engineer and business leader who is focused on combining technology and entrepreneurship to generate lasting positive impact.

Formerly the Chairman and CEO of Metaswitch Networks, John is now an angel investor, startup mentor, non-executive chairman and board director, including serving as the Chair of What3Words. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and played an active role in developing the programme of study for England’s school Computer Science curriculum. John has also spent many years working on tech-related non-profit initiatives in Africa and co-founded Enza Capital, which invests in early-stage African technology companies that solve pressing problems.

John takes over the Chair from David Cleevely, who has reached the end of his two three-year terms as Trustee and Chair of the Foundation. David has made a huge contribution to the Foundation over that time, and we are delighted that he will continue to be involved in our work as one of the founding members of the Supporters Club.

New Trustees: Amali de Alwis, Charles Leadbeater, Dan Labbad

Alongside John, we are welcoming three new Trustees to the Board of Trustees: 

  • Amali de Alwis is the UK Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups, and is the former CEO of Code First: Girls. She is also a Board member at Ada National College for Digital Skills, sits on the Diversity & Inclusion Board at the Institute of Coding, is an Advisory Board member at the Founders Academy, and was a founding member at Tech Talent Charter.
  • Charles Leadbeater is an independent author, a social entrepreneur, and a leading authority on innovation and creativity. He has advised companies, cities, and governments around the world on innovation strategy and has researched and written extensively on innovation in education. Charles is also a Trustee of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
  • Dan Labbad is Chief Executive and Executive Member of the Board of The Crown Estate. He was previously at Lendlease, where he was Chief Executive Officer of Europe from 2009. Dan is also a Director of The Hornery Institute and Ark Schools.

New Member: Suranga Chandratillake 

I am also delighted to announce that we have appointed Suranga Chandratillake as a Member of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Suranga is a technologist, entrepreneur, and investor.

Suranga Chandratillake

He founded the intelligent search company blinkx and is now a General Partner at Balderton Capital. Suranga is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and he serves on the UK Government’s Council for Science and Technology.

What is a Board of Trustees anyway? 

As a charity, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is governed by a Board of Trustees that is ultimately responsible for what we do and how we are run. It is the Trustees’ job to make sure that we are focused on our mission, which for us means helping more people learn about computing, computer science, and related subjects. The Trustees also have all the usual responsibilities of company directors, including making sure that we use our resources effectively. As Chief Executive, I am accountable to the Board of Trustees. 

We’ve always been fortunate to attract the most amazing people to serve as Trustees and, as volunteers, they are incredibly generous with their time, sharing their expertise and experience on a wide range of issues. They are an important part of the team. Trustees serve for up to two terms of three years so that we always have fresh views and experience to draw on.

How do you appoint Trustees? 

Appointments to the Board of Trustees follow open recruitment and selection processes that are overseen by the Foundation’s Nominations Committee, supported by independent external advisers. Our aim is to appoint Trustees who bring different backgrounds, perspectives, and lived experience, as well as a range of skills. As with all appointments, we consider diversity at every aspect of the recruitment and selection processes.

Formally, Trustees are elected by the Foundation’s Members at our Annual General Meeting. This year’s AGM took place last week on Zoom. Members are also volunteers, and they play an important role in holding the Board of Trustees to account, helping to shape our strategy, and acting as advocates for our mission.

You can see the full list of Trustees and Members on our website.

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How the Raspberry Pi Foundation is responding to the novel coronavirus (part 2)

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted a blog about how the Raspberry Pi Foundation was responding to the novel coronavirus, and I thought it would be useful to share an update. Writing this has helped me reflect on just how much has changed in such a short space of time.

Getting used to life in the lockdown

Like most of the world, we’ve been getting used to life in the lockdown. As an organisation, we’re very lucky that the vast majority of our work can be done remotely. We’ve moved all of our meetings and lots of events online. Yesterday, we held the first-ever Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium as an online event, bringing together 250 researchers and practitioners to learn from each other.

Many of us have been figuring out how to combine working at home with additional daily caring responsibilities and homeschooling. Honestly, it’s a work in progress (in my house at least). We’ve introduced new flexible working policies, we’re working doubly hard to stay connected to each other, and we’re introducing initiatives to support well-being.

I am so grateful and frankly proud of the way that the Raspberry Pi team and all of our partners have responded to the crisis: taking care of each other, supporting the community, and focusing on how we can make the biggest positive contribution and impact.

Our mission has never been more vital

Our educational mission has never been more vital. Right now, over 1.5 billion young people aren’t able to access learning through schools or clubs due to the restrictions needed to stop the spread of the virus. Teachers and parents are doing their best to provide meaningful learning experiences at home and online. We have a responsibility and the ability to help.

We are taking four immediate actions to help millions of young people to learn at home during the crisis:

  1. Delivering direct-to-student learning experiences
  2. Supporting teachers to deliver remote lessons
  3. Helping volunteers run virtual and online coding clubs
  4. Getting computers into the hands of children who don’t have one at home

Digital Making at Home

Based on feedback from the community, we’ve launched a series of direct-to-student virtual and online learning experiences called Digital Making at Home. The idea is to inspire and support young people aged 7–17 who are learning at home, independently or with their parents, carers, or siblings. Taking our amazing library of free project resources (which are translated into up to 29 languages) as the starting point, we’re producing instructional videos that support different levels of skills. Each week we’re setting a theme that will inspire and engage young people to learn how to solve problems and express themselves creatively with technology.

Please check it out and let us have your feedback. We’ve got loads of ideas, but we really want to respond to what you need, so let us know.

Supporting teachers to deliver remote lessons

We are working with partners in England (initially) to support teachers to deliver remote lessons on Computing and Computer Science. This work is part of the National Centre for Computing Education. We are adapting the teaching resources that we have developed so that they can be used by teachers who are delivering lessons and setting work remotely. We are designing a programme of online events to support learners using the Isaac Computer Science platform for post-16 students of Computer Science, including small-group mentoring support for both students and teachers.

All of our teaching and learning resources are available for free for anyone to use anywhere in the world. We are interested in working with partners outside England to find additional ways to make them as useful as possible to the widest possible audience.

Helping volunteers run virtual and online coding clubs

We support the world’s largest network of free coding clubs, with over 10,000 Code Clubs and CoderDojos reaching more than 250,000 young people on a regular basis. We are supporting the clubs that are unable to meet in person during the pandemic to move to virtual and online approaches, and we’ve been blown away by the sheer number of volunteers who want to keep their clubs meeting despite the lockdown.

We’re providing training and support to CoderDojo champions, Code Club organisers, educators, and volunteers, including providing free resources, support with handling issues such as safeguarding, and effective design and delivery of online learning experiences. We are also working with our network of 40 international partners to help them support the clubs in their regions.

Access to hardware

We know that a significant proportion of young people don’t have access to a computer for learning at home, and we’re working with incredibly generous donors and fantastic partners in the UK to get Raspberry Pi Desktop Kits distributed for free to children who need them. We’re also in discussions about extending the programme outside the UK.

Get involved

Everything we do is made possible thanks to an incredible network of partners and supporters. We have been overwhelmed (in a good way) by offers of help since the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Here are some of the ways that you can get involved right now:

  • Share what we’re doing. We need as many people as possible to know that we are offering free, meaningful learning experiences for millions of young people. Please help us spread the word. Why not start by sharing this blog with your networks or inside your company?
  • Share your expertise and time. We regularly mobilise tens of thousands of volunteers all over the world to run computing clubs and other activities for young people. We are supporting clubs to continue to run virtually and online. We also need more help with translation of our learning resources. If you have expertise and time to share, get in touch at supporters@raspberrypi.org.
  • Support us with funding. Now more than ever, we need financial support to enable us to continue to deliver meaningful educational experiences for millions of young people at home. You can donate to support our work here.

Stay safe and take care of each other

Wherever you are in the world, I hope that you and yours are safe and well. Please follow the local public health guidance. Stay safe and take care of each other.

Philip Colligan

CEO Raspberry Pi Foundation

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How the Raspberry Pi Foundation is responding to the novel coronavirus

via Raspberry Pi

In this blog post, I want to share an update on how the Raspberry Pi Foundation is responding to the novel coronavirus and what it means for our work to support people all over the planet to change their world through technology.

The situation is changing rapidly, and we’ll update this blog as our response develops.

Follow local public health advice

The main guidance to our teams, partners, and community members is that they should follow the local public health advice in the country or region where they are based.

The spread of the virus is at different stages in different parts of the world. That’s one reason why the public health advice differs so much depending on where you are. This is a new threat and there are competing theories about the best course of action. We see that in the different approaches that are being taken by different governments around the world.

To state what I am sure is obvious, we aren’t epidemiologists or public health experts. That’s why our approach is to follow the local public health advice.

Changes to our schedule of events

We’ve been working closely with venues, partners, sponsors, and community members to keep our programme of events under review. There aren’t currently any restrictions on events that affect the specific dates and places where our events are being held. The problem really is one of uncertainty.

Until now, we’ve taken a ‘wait and see’ approach for events, following the local public health guidance closely and working on the assumption that we will go ahead as planned, unless the local advice is to cancel. However, over the past couple of days, we have become increasingly concerned that we are asking people to book travel and make practical arrangements when we think that there is a high likelihood that we will have to cancel events at the last minute.

We have therefore taken a number of very difficult decisions about our events programme.

Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium, 1 April 2020

We have decided to hold the Research Symposium as an online-only event. Plans for this are well developed, and we are looking forward to bringing together an amazing community of researchers, academics, and practitioners to discuss cutting-edge research on how young people learn computing and computer science. Registration remains open and we will provide updates on the event via the symposium web page.

Coolest Projects UK, 4 April 2020 in Manchester, and Coolest Projects International, 6 June 2020 in Dublin

We have decided to cancel both upcoming Coolest Projects events. This was a really tough decision. In both cases, there is just too much uncertainty for us to continue to ask young people, parents, mentors, and volunteers to make travel and other arrangements. We are exploring options for providing an online experience that will enable the young creators to still showcase their amazing projects, so please don’t stop work on your project. We will provide further updates on the Coolest Projects website.

Clubs and community-led events

We have issued guidance to the tens of thousands of brilliant human beings that organise Code Clubs, CoderDojos, Raspberry Jams, and other community-led events all over the world. Our message is that they should follow the local public health advice in their country or region and take decisions on whether to cancel their club or event in consultation with the venues that host them. If you are a club leader or an event organiser and you have a concern, please contact us in the usual way, or email us at events@raspberrypi.org.

We are working with community members and partners to increase our support for online learning, and we’ll say more about this soon. For now, clubs (and everyone else) can access all of our free learning resources online as usual.

Raspberry Pi computers

As a organisation with a global supply chain that makes and sells products all over the world, we have been working with our partners to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the availability of our products, and on the wellbeing of those involved in our supply chain and distribution network. At this stage, I am delighted to report that Raspberry Pi products are still available in all of the usual places and we’re working very hard to make sure that this continues.

Supporting colleagues

We have implemented a range of actions to support our colleagues wherever they work. This has included restricting non-essential international travel, encouraging and supporting flexible and home working, improving the cleaning and hygiene facilities at our offices, and putting in place extra support for colleagues who have increased caring responsibilities because of government or other institutions taking actions to control the spread of the virus, like school closures.

We are following local public health guidance on self-isolation and, for anyone who is unwell, we will provide sick pay as normal. We have committed that none of our employees will be out of pocket because of actions we take to prevent the spread of the virus.

We have encouraged colleagues to consider moving face to face meetings online, including job interviews. So if you’re due to meet anyone at the Foundation, they’ll check in with you about your preferences and agree the best approach with you. No-one will be disadvantaged in our recruitment processes if they prefer to be interviewed online.

Look out for each other

One of the best things about Raspberry Pi is the amazing community that we have the privilege to work with everyday. That includes our teams, partners and funders, educators, volunteers, businesses, and millions of incredible young digital makers.

Whatever happens over the coming days, weeks, and months, it feels increasingly likely that everyone in this community will be affected in some way. Hopefully, for most people that will be nothing more than being inconvenienced.

Personally, I am finding the uncertainty one of the hardest things to deal with. I’ve really appreciated all of the messages of support and offers of help that I’ve received over the past few days. This has always been an organisation and a community where people genuinely care about and support each other. Let’s all double down on that now.

Philip Colligan

CEO Raspberry Pi Foundation

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