A teacher writes…

Liz: This post is written by Clive, a Computing teacher from the UK who wishes to remain at least moderately anonymous. Clive will be contributing posts to the Raspberry Pi blog for as long as I can keep twisting his arm, as he introduces the hardware to his students and gets to grips with it himself. Thanks very much for writing this, Clive; we’re really glad to have you here!

Somewhat slightly dazed

See the happy moron, he doesn’t give a damn.
I wish I were a moron, my god! Perhaps I am!

Hello. I’m Clive and I’m a teacher. Reading these forums leaves me rather bewildered, as if a cow had appeared by my bedside one morning and started shouting at me. In Tagalog.

Happy cow

Wake up, son of a grasshopper!

I don’t understand 99% of the technical stuff that goes on here. My knowledge of Linux is rudimentary and what I know about electronics wouldn’t fill the back of a Raspberry Pi board even if it was written in special TeacherFont™ (size 18, underlined Comic Sans if you want to add it to your styles). I don’t dream in machine code and I never got annoyed about the Pi losing I²S because I don’t even know what that means.

None of this matters though because what I want to use the Raspberry Pi for is teaching and learning. This is, after all, why it was made. This September I plan to use the RasPi to teach Computing to 11 to 18 year-olds and to brush up my own CS skills on the way.

My posts here will chronicle my use of the RasPi as a teaching and learning tool. I’ll be looking at resources and training ideas as well as courses such as the new GCSEs in Computing. That’s right–I’ll be making it all up as I go along, in a way that would make a hardnosed Ofsted inspector sob until their clipboard went soggy. All I can promise is that there will be no talk of binary blobs. Or blobs of any kind. We educators will erect our own blobless corner of the forums, where we can lounge about in frayed, corduroy jackets with beige leatherette elbow patches, drinking tea from stained mugs and shaking our virtual fists at unruly urchins.

Computing and ICT education in the UK is big news at the moment (more on the Royal Society Report, Nesta reports, Curriculum review etc. in future blogs) and I’ll be thinking about how the recent brouhaha will affect teaching, training and the job in general. I’ll be thinking hard about this because these are my subjects.

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah!

Most recently the Education Secretary Michael Gove (below) has decided that Computing is the Medicinal Compound (most efficacious in every way) of education and is consulting to disapply the ICT curriculum. This despite the fact that Gove wouldn’t know what Computing was if you stuck a whiteboard marker up his bum and programmed him in LOGO to draw a picture of Hello Kitty on Dave’s new Kahrs walnut kitchen floor. (Left a bit! Right a bit! Up a bit! Fire!).

Michael Gove

Computings is well good. Brap!

When I were a nipper, if you weren’t quick enough out of the orchard the farmer would pepper the backs of your legs with dried corn and rock salt (that’s not a euphemism, he really did load his shotgun shells with that stuff). It was scary and yet it was hilarious at the same time and that’s how I feel about Gove’s Computing ePiphany. (Yes, it’s a capital P. I’ve got to point this out else it may be edited and it took me ages to think of.)

Now, I personally love the fact that the Government has finally acknowledged that Computing–and computational thinking–are essential to a well-rounded education. Because they are. Yet I worry about the fact that very few ICT departments in the country have staff with CS qualifications. Who is going to teach Computing? Who is going to train these teachers? These are big questions with no simple answers. Still, it’s a start.

Shhh, don’t mention the “I” word

I also worry that even the likes of the BBC and the Guardian run headlines shouting, “ICT to be scrapped!” It isn’t being scrapped: it’s compulsory across all Key Stages. ICT is useful and relevant, even though I personally loathe the name. But it has a bad rep, often deserved but not always. Apparently it’s pointless too, because all young people are Digital Natives dontcha know? Feral, digital children are meant to be running rings around me daily, making me look foolish with their mad iSkillz and occasional battle rap. Which is odd, because despite talking to hundreds of young people every week I have yet to witness this.

The fact that people–young and old– do not have these skills is the reason that I get mass emails with everyone’s address visible; why people ring me up crying because they have just lost a week’s work; why, statistically, every PowerPoint I’ve have ever seen looks like it was made by a five month-old chimp by flinging its own faeces at the monitor. Digital Natives indeed.

I’m also a member of CAS, the grass roots pressure group whose mission it is to get Computing back into schools. They are part of the reason (I’d say a large part) that the UK Government has suddenly “decided” that Computing is important. A team of CAS members is writing the User Guide for the RasPi education release this summer, so I’ll be talking about that too.

So for those of you who joined the forum hoping to use the RasPi in education and are currently wondering what the hell you have wandered into, fear not! There’s lot to write about and lots to do. The next few months should be very interesting and very Raspberry flavoured indeed.


BlueClogger avatar

Great stuff, Clive. Look forward to your blog, and getting a Pi.

BlueClogger avatar

Another thought – I see the happy moron in the mirror every morning since I retired…

Kevin Wiltshire avatar

Clive you sound like an awesome teacher! I just hope my eldest get’s an ICT teacher like you in September. Really looking forward to your blog.

alex avatar

Excellent post. Thanks Clive. I teach Y5 ICT and am looking to experiment with a RasPi. I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

p.s. I laughed out loud at the PowerPoint monkey faeces comment. So true, but so funny :)

Steve Morgan avatar

I can see that I’m going to enjoy Clive’s contribution. I have a soft spot for ‘proper’ computing in education, despite now being in my mid-40’s. When I was 14, I had to teach myself O-Level Computer Studies, because there were no qualified staff. By the time I did my A-Level, the school had remembered that one of the Maths teachers had previously worked as an operator at Littlewoods. So we learned about computing together. It’s been downhill ever since.

Andre Powell avatar

Hi Clive,
Welcome :).
I shall look forward to reading your posts, they sound like the ‘opinion’ sections on BBC R4 at 8.45 pm Fridays and PLEASE be opinionated, rather that ‘correct’ :).

I’d like to propose a scenario for you and see how you would respond.

Jonny and Sally have written a program that trundles a motorised USB Nerf (foam rubber pointy thing) missile launcher. They fire it and narrowly misses hitting a light bulb.
Do you
1. Berate them for aiming at the lightbulb.
2. Enquire if they wrote their own USB stack.
3. Provide them with a maths book with a section on ballistics and ask them why it didn’t hit the lightbulb.

I’d be interested in your response/s, depending upon thus choose where to send my partners daughter to school if you are in Cambridge :).

All the very very best


meltwater avatar

I’d ask why they selected foam rubber pointy things…come see this automated targeting crossbow launcher over here…

tek-monkey avatar

Having known Clive in a previous life I am looking forward to more opinionated postings, definately not PC ones! Excellent introduction mate, I look forward to the next one :D

Wooloomooloo avatar

No need to ask why they missed, the Nerf launcher was obviously programmed to seek moving targets (and the bulb didn’t move…)
Either that, or it’s advanced enough to fire a warning shot first, thus it’s a feature not a bug… :)

Oli avatar

I’d be tempted to lend them a nerf sharpener and tell them where SLT hang out :)

AllyR avatar

I’d berate them for using *Integer* instead of *Long* and *Float* instead of *Double* – obviously their targetting calcualtions are being skewed by lack of precision.
Failing that, we need to have a tutorial on reducing backlash in servo/stepper gearing and have a chat about worn bearings in the targetting system.

fiddler avatar

I think the answer must depend upon whether the light bulb was an old incandescent one or a nice shiny new compact fluorescent or led one!

Jon Steidel avatar

Good point. If the bulb was fluorescent and broke, the class would have to leave the room for a while because of the mercury vapor.

Jongoleur avatar


Of course the reason why there are few CS types in the classroom is because they heard about ICT and decided that it was too painful…. Anyhow good luck with getting to grips with Raspberry Pi, and I look forward to reading your adventures in the months to come.

jean de France avatar

I don’t understand every words in this aticle, but I agree with this teacher !!
-Yeah you’re right man :D

Concerned_Student avatar

Interesting article. I had to translate some of it to American, but I think I’ve got it.

I have a problem with this statement:
“None of this matters though because what I want to use the Raspberry Pi for is teaching and learning. This is, after all, why it was made.”

This inexpensive hardware, Raspberry PI, is very exciting to students for it’s potential use for physical computing. Physical computing with embedded electronics makes EVERYTHING you mentioned that you don’t understand, matter.

This requires not only programming, but a general understanding of embedded electronics.

This “computer” can and will be used, by students, for:

Software Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Computer Engineering

I suggest learning the true potential that a board like this possesses. Perhaps one of your students will build and program a robot instead of an application. However, to support them as a teacher, you may want to learn the difference between I²S and I²C.

liz avatar

Hello Concerned. I am glad you are interested in learning. Being opinionated is a student’s right and privilege, but the expressing of those opinions in a way that isn’t going to offend the person you’re addressing and isn’t going to make you look like a patronising little toad is a learned skill. (See? I can’t do it either.)

Shane Hudson avatar

Liz, you should be a police woman :P I could just imagine you going up to a shoplifter with “Put that down you scallywag!” :P

JamesH avatar

Just before she beats him/her to death with a handbag.

Patronising Little Toad avatar

Who needs ‘trendy acronyms’ like; USB, HDMI, or GPIO. Rubbish. All we need is good ‘ol COBOL and a serial cable.

I am, also, admittedly an uncouth toad.

I believe the point here is that let’s not lose focus that this is truly NOT just another cheap Linux pc. (Thanks Rurwin)

If necessary, send kids to the tech teacher, but it’s pretty easy to throw in a “Flash LED (Light Emitting Diode for those of us that don’t like trendy acronyms) ” program in addition to that “Hello World” program. -Gert has already supplied some basic code that makes this an easier task.

Fraggle avatar

Am I the only one who didn’t see anything at all wrong with what Concerned_Student wrote?

Kevin Wiltshire avatar

Nope, me neither. I think good healthy ‘disagreeing’ is what makes forums interesting and balanced.

liz avatar

So do we – you’ll note that nobody’s bothered about you or Fraggle ‘disagreeing’. We don’t tolerate incivility here, though, and I’m afraid that the post we’re talking about wasn’t particularly civil.

Kevin Wiltshire avatar

Don’t get me wrong I loved Clive’s post, but just because someone disagrees with one point doesn’t make them incivil. Does it? I really don’t think someone like Clive would have taken any offence from the post.

liz avatar

Tone, not content. It was unnecessarily patronising.

ipi avatar

I find someone telling me what is patronising extremely patronising.

It is clear the new generation of young people will use their own initiative and be inspired by platforms such as rPi, exactly how I was when I was in my youth when the teachers knew far less than us back then too.
What Teachers need (and the original poster is filled with) is the enthusiasm to inspire the kids to create and discover for themselves.
These are people we call inspirational teachers later in life and are behind the reasons we choose the directions that we choose for ourselves.

Mike mills avatar

When I was learning software engineering I was more happy learning concepts and applying them than understanding the underlying electronics etc.

I believe what’s missing in alot of the replies about this board across the forum are what it could be used for as apposed what it was designed for.

Kick starting or more readily re -focusing what we teach our young minds is key to delivering a brighter britain filled wis amazing talent thatbhas not been touched or nutured by ICT.

Im not out to offend in what i just said but I see the RasPi as a brilliant piece of hardware that is afforadable and scalable long term for schools. I wish i was teaching .

Mike avatar

A teacher’s one and only job is to get students interested in learning, and it sounds like Clive will be able to do that to me. Point them in the right direction and stoke their enthusiasm, they’ll teach themselves.

More power to you Clive, I’ll be reading the blog with interest. Top tip from my school days, if you look like my IT teacher did then wear a short skirt and have great legs. If not, well, the USB gun sounds like fun.

Oli avatar

The definition of Clive’s students and those held by others quite probably vary. It’s fairy obvious that concerned_student thinks of a student as someone doing A-level or degree-level work (“Software Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering”) whereas Clive is thinking of students starting at 11 years old. My 11 year olds don’t know what those terms mean. They think “oooh look at this cool little box its a computer but its tiny that’s sick what can I do can with it i can make it do wicked stuff and take it home and show my mum and dad” (Clive, as a teacher, may appreciate the accurate vs Ofsted approved literacy there). I teach A-level ICT and Computing, and am starting GCSE Computing next year. What we’re interested in is getting kids in the classroom learning. They’re learning from scratch. We don’t care about funky things that have or haven’t been left off the RPi that some geeks or geekets miss because that’s not our concern, it’s not on the specs, it doesn’t help us improve our league table standings (we may not like it but we HAVE to think about it). Want to get specialist and technical? That’s what a degree is for. Or college for the americans. At 16-17 years old we get 6 hours a week to give a broad understanding of Computing.

clive. avatar

Hi Oli – spot on!

Vince avatar

So an 11 year old can handle programming but not basic electronics?
That 11 year old will be in high school and then university/college soon enough.
Young kids are currently programming Arduinos and Android phones. Why draw such a solid line between physical computing? Let them know what the GPIO(General Purpose Input Output) can do!
-There is plenty of information already being circulated in the forum. I recommend looking at what Gert has released: http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/411
Very simple to turn on simple components like LEDs and motors, and for the record, it is fundamentally programming.

clive. avatar

Vince – this sounds great! Can you send me the Scheme of Work, lesson plans and resourses please. I have one 80 minute lesson every two weeks and the statutory stuff that you have to cover first plus the attainment target levels are here: http://bit.ly/x4DwUC . Cheers! :D

Tim Blane avatar

My son has just started in Grade 1 this year, when I went to drop him off I saw the state of their PC’s in the computer lab. Most are just orphaned monitors with the computer’s themselves gathering dust in the corner – when I enquired I was told that they are “broken” and by the looks of it had been for some time.

I was thinking about the Pi and how it could solve this problem right away – Low cost computers mean schools can stock plenty. Hell. Parents could buy them for their kids to bring to school along with the books (it sure beats being forced to pay out for an $800 for an iPAD! – as many of my friends now are required to do)

The school mainly use these computers for accessing flash based internet eLearning sites and doing very simple things with a word processor, something that isn’t be a problem for the Pi, and I’m sure there will be plenty of additional software developed and/or ported if enough schools get behind it.

Please don’t be so dismissive of people who wish to use the Pi for non engineering purposes. This device can scale from General Purpose computing to XBMC Media Centres right though to controlling a robot and that’s great.

But for me I just want to see every one of the screens at my sons school working – and if for $25 dollars every child at the school can afford to have their own personal computer than it’s job done.

andru90s avatar

Liz – My Hero! :)

dom avatar

I’ve been a programmer for a living for 22 years in a variety of languages starting with good old COBOL and if there is one thing I’ve learned its never pay the slightest attention to trendy acronyms or people who spout them.

Rupert Cutler avatar

Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code anyone?

And while we’re at it GOTO is your friend – hehe.

To me its great to have a ‘tool’ that can do ‘real’ computing, if it does what you want as a black box that’s fine, if you want to understand machine code and how every bit (sic) works, its there too.

stuporhero avatar

COBOL is an acronym?

PKM avatar

Assuming this isn’t an ironic troll, COBOL is a loose acronym for COmmon Business-Oriented Language, so called because it was intended for financial and business-y domains.

thecoda avatar

That’s funny… I was *so* sure that it stood for “Capitalisation Of Boilerplate Oriented Language”

dom avatar

The key word was “trendy”, COBOL was last trendy in 1961. I stand by what I say, people who really understand a subject talk about it without jargon or acronyms, there’s just no need.

bazza14 avatar

These are not trendy acronyms they are the terms used by experienced people to refer to specific devices. I am not going to refer to a uart as a universal asynchronous receiver transmitter it’s a uart and knowledgeable people will know what I mean by the term. Similarly SCSI, PIO, distro, HDMI, USB, KVM (a couple of meanings there) etc etc convey meaning to anyone with sufficient knowledge of the subject, they are not trendy they are functional.

zabomber avatar

Clive is the IT Teacher i wish i had in school. I was given an ex-math teacher that liked to do complex math algorithms in qbasic instead of teaching us how to mod gorrilaz in qbasic :(

I get that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and therefore able to voice them, but…. when you use terms like “Translate to American” (last i checked, they speak English in America, not American) and “I suggest you learn”, you just itching for a troll’ing. Concerned_Student. You are a [[Liz: I’ve edited this word out, because it was…rather strong.]] dear sir. Concern yourself with matters of an American nature as apposed to publicly flaming an honest, interesting and insightful article on the education system in the UK.

Engineering, Robotics, Software… who cares.

– ““If you give people tools, [and they use] their natural ability and their curiosity, they will develop things in ways that will surprise you very much beyond what you might have expected.” : Bill Gates

JHM avatar

Perhaps the perceived incivility of “Concerned Student” originates from his mono-lingual state – he appears to know only American, yet tries to write English.

Jon Steidel avatar

Soon, at the release, (more of) the community will have the chance to implement ideas on the hardware itself and start to build a collection of implementation examples one could draw on for inspiration at a variety of skill levels. Perhaps the students themselves will want to look at the ideas.

Pottsey avatar

As a school governor on the curriculum committee, I look forward to conveying the developments and comments from Clive to the board. Exciting times ahead!

rurwin avatar

“This despite the fact that Gove wouldn’t know what Computing was if you stuck a whiteboard marker up his bum and programmed him in LOGO to draw a picture of Hello Kitty on Dave’s new Kahrs walnut kitchen floor.”

That’s one of those hilarious jokes that you need to share, but don’t know anyone who would understand it.

Good luck with the teaching Clive, and if any of us mad geeks can help, you have but to ask.
Concerned_student does have a point, if also an uncouth manner; the RPi is not just a cheap Linux PC. Once you’ve got that bit under your belt it would be worth investigating the Gertboard, maybe in partnership with the physics or craft departments.

mccp avatar

Most of the people who would understand the logo joke must have been at school in the 80s, taught at schools in the 80s or wrote educational software in the 80s.

It made me laugh – still chuckling now. Sad old git.

(must remember – don’t post blog replies with Chrome).

S0litaire avatar

we were banned from using the turtle with LOGO in our school…

Due to an unfortunate calculation, the letters “B” “A” “L” “L” ended up forming a rude image rather than a circle, just when the head teacher walked by… >_< opps

mole125 avatar

Last time I checked Logo is still used in primary schools – I love the fact that most children (or teachers) realise they are being taught to programme!

clive avatar

“I suggest learning the true potential that a board like this possesses. Perhaps one of your students will build and program a robot instead of an application. However, to support them as a teacher, you may want to learn the difference between I²S and I²C.”

Will do – I’ll squeeze it in between tonight’s parents’ evening, three hours of marking scripts tomorrow and the reports I have to do for 90 pupils by Friday. And then I’ll go back into my cupboard until Monday.

Seriously – I hope that some of my students *will* build a robot – in which case THEY will teach ME about stuff. Or I’ll ask their Tech teacher to show me, like they showed me how to use the laser cutter the other day. This is the great thing about teaching: you can’t and don’t know everything, especially in IT and computing, but you do learn something every day (you mean you really thought that we knew EVERYTHING?! ) And don’t worry about my students – they are very well supported – a man from the Government once told me so.

Oh yes – some of the blog (OK, most) is rather tongue in cheek, you might not want to take it too seriously :p

clive. avatar

sorry – C&P ate all the smilies! there were lots of them, i’m not that grumpy …. :D

mccp avatar

I know what I2C is, but I don’t know what I2S is and I write embedded software. I suppose I’ll look it up if I ever need to :).

Happy marking!

Gert avatar

Hi, I see a steep path a head of you but the view of the summit is one I certainly like. Amount this path you will have to cross the valley of the languages, where you will hear voices telling you to “start with python”, “start with BASIC”, “start with C”, past the chasm of ‘My editor is better then Your editor’ and find your way out of the dark forest of Syntax Error. As to how to start? I could give you my opinion but my experience past the rock of echos has taught me that anything I say, will bounce back a different (and of course superior) opinion. Good luck.

liz avatar

Gert, as you may be able to gather from this comment, is in Holland this week. :D

Gert avatar

Oohh carefull! It should be The Netherlands. You just insulted the 3/4 of the country which do not live in the high-and-mighty, excuse-me, snooty-snotty, goody-goody, laudy-daudy, namby-pamby, hoity-toity-woity, know-it-all, west part. We don’t want to insult anybody do we?

liz avatar

Mental note made. I will never do that again. Apologies to the non-hoity-toity-woity 75%.

JamesH avatar

Blimey, he really is in the Nudylands.

Mitchel avatar

Heh, Holland is still a better name then how the italian’s call us (Paesi Bassi meaning Small Country)
Greetz from Holland!
keep up the good work!

gidoca avatar

@Mitchel: Not really. Basso can mean small (as in, the opposite of tall), but here it means low, so Paesi Bassi really means “Low Countries”, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlands.

mobeyduck avatar

Are you going to do some public presentation about the R-Pi? if so, where? :D
or are you just pre-pairing for the Elfstedentocht?

@JamesH its a bit cold to go in the nudes -6.2C/20,9F

ukscone avatar

i do hope you weren’t in hamsterdam or rottendam or if you were you had the decency to go through decontamination before reentering the UK.

I hate those two places snuggle fuggle rotten blooming grrrrrrrr dutch travel agents grrrr who can’t use a bloody fruggle fracking calculator to do smegging currency convertions snaggle fuggle #$#$$#$@!@@!@$!#@%$ places.

although if you avoid those two places the rest of the country is pretty nice and plenty of beer available.

although did you pop into the paradiso if you were in hamsterdam?

Tozzi avatar

I’ve been in amsterdam, I didn’t get bad impression. (Just a bit chocked that you could buy “magick mushroom” from something I thought was a soda freezer/cooler.) But if you wanna se Holland more from the “outside”, maybe ijmuiden can be the place, especially the beach on the summer.. :) You just gotta love the people, they are so kind!

Wooloomooloo avatar

Hmmm, interesting, I learned something today. Unfortunately, that implies you guys get insulted by entire nations whether we mean it or not – in Hungarian, The Netherlands is simply called… “Hollandia”. Ooops, I guess… :)

YungBlood avatar

@mobeyduck It’s not too cold, I have an ex-gf that lives in Norway, that is a year-round nudist. And she does go outside nude even in the winter… (although not for much more than grabbing more firewood)

Jos van Egmond avatar

How did we get from teaching children ICT to nude Norwegian girlfriends?

liz avatar

I’m not sure, but I think it’s a much better trajectory than this thread was on a few days ago!

Philius avatar

I remember that old joke about one guy asking another for directions and being told “I wouldn’t start from here”.
I don’t know if teaching is a kind of performance or not.
If it is, then you get a good or bad education based on how well your teachers perform (ok, your students might also be a factor, plus facilities, environment, etc).
I guess my point is, that when it comes to learning about computers and software development, maybe a blog is good for communication but not for reference – would a wiki be a better resource for this?
That way, the teacher becomes a facilitator for learning and the learning resource (with the RasPi at its core) is equally accessible to all students.

liz avatar

Happily, we have both here. There’s a link to the Wiki at the top of the page. And communication is vital, and not done well by a wiki; we’re very grateful to Clive, ‘cos he’s dead good at communicating.

clive. avatar

“I don’t know if teaching is a kind of performance or not”.

It’s a good question. Yes, teaching is performing a lot of the time. But it is communication 100% of the time. Dialogues; feedback; Q & A; chalk and talk(!); group discussions; reporting; assessment; parents’ evenings; did I mention feedback? :)

This was brought home to me in the last few days as I’ve lost my voice and was unable to teach. I was in the classroom, could give (quiet) advice, but I couldn’t actually *teach* because I couldn’t communicate properly (no, I don’t mean shouting :D).

If this wasn’t the case there would be little need for schools, universities, training courses etc. You’d give everyone resources (books, Wikis, videos etc) and let them get on with it. And no matter what Sugata Mitra may say (more later :)), this is not a robust framework for general learning.

We’ll have pointers to, and advice on, lots of resources. My main aim is to blog my experience with using the RasPi to teach.

Philius avatar

So is it too soon to start formulating a corruculum around the Ras-Pi and its software?
I’ve read of self paced online training courses where the teacher can track students progress.
Now that would need more than a wiki.
I would have recommended http://www.khanacademy.org , but I since I discovered that they deleted my posts (a shame – one of them recommended http://www.dimensions-math.org/ as an example of animation explaining maths concepts), I guess I mean “something like this”.

clive. avatar

Khan’s good, shame about the deletions. A new type of online learning seems to be about to snowball – see e.g. Udacity.com, but there are more and more superb online training course everyday, e.g. codecademy; codingbat.com (great for tracking students!); CS101, joy of Code etc etc. I’ll be doing a blog on the subject.

Matt Smith avatar

But if the RasPi isn’t going to run any Microsoft software, how is this going to be relevant to the British GCSE curriculum?

Only kidding. But I got started with computing because the Spectrum started off in basic. Somettimes, instead of pressing j for Load, I accidentally pressed l for Let, and it flowed from there. I’m curious to see whether the RasPi is going to allow the same serendipity of discovery, or is just going to become a very cheap media player.

quitequick avatar

I think you hit the nail on the head. I got into into programming on a PET my school bought in the late 70s when there wasn’t much software to load. When you switched on the PET all you got was a screen which immediately declared itself READY to program. If you wanted the thing to do something, you told it yourself by writing a program (I started with POKE 32768,42). Today, school children have PCs which declare themselves ready to play advertising infested free flash games and ready to surf for lolcat pictures.

Back at schol, I wanted to rig up the PET’s user port to some electronics bits I planned to put together on a breadboard that controlled and measured the time it took a ball bearing to fall a given distance after being released by a solenoid (O level physics to measure g). My teacher wouldn’t let me for fear of killing the expensive and singular PET. If it had been a £15 RPi instead… my teacher may have been less likely to refuse!

But I can’t see by just replacing or augmenting ICT suites with RPi h/w *alone* will change programming education schools – a lack of h/w to program is not the problem. I introduced ‘Scratch’ to my 10 year old son on a MS PC, taught him the basics of programming and encouraged him to tinker. He now makes and plays his own games. No new h/w required.

I want the RPi and all it stands for to succeed. I think it will be a fantastic and game changing device. But without a seismic shift in teaching attitude it risks being a curiosity lying un-powered in a dusty school cupboard.

Peter Braidwood avatar

Brings back memories, we had a 300baud modem dial up connection to the local college and a Teletype machine complete with paper tape punch and reader to use in the 6th form for ‘O’ level Computer Studies, this was in 1979/80.

There were about 3 of us who really got into it hacking the Maximop operating system and for me it was definitely when I really knew I was going to work programming computers.

In the 2nd year of the 6th form so 1980/81 the school got a Commodore PET complete with the original square keyboard and built in cassette player.

Like ‘quitequick’ we wanted to connect the PET to some electronics that we had. However we obviously were not quite so conscientiousness as he was and we did not ask permission but tried it, problem was we were in a pretty remote part of Norfolk and shops selling electronics were unheard of. So our solution for making the connection onto the double sided userport was to use crocodile clips and paper as insulator for the side that we didn’t want to use.

It worked and I seem to remember we could generate a square wave and other stuff, however the inevitable happened and the paper failed causing the display to disapear to a dot with a nasty phuut noise. Cue much panic but fortunately power cycling the machine brought it back to life.

We also worked out the memory address to poke to turn the tape recorder solenoid on and off and then taught ourself some machine code so that we could make the solenoid clatter even faster.

I really hope we can get these into kids hands and get them excited about computers. Not all of them will be I grant you but we need to get the next generation of computer engineers really excited about how the machines really work right down at the lowest level.

Can’t wait to get mine!!!

tawalker avatar

I sometimes think the “kids in the 80s were all programming their Spectrums and C64s” angle is a bit idealised – yes, I did some BASIC routines on my 48K Speccy back then, but nothing massively complex, and most of my classmates who had such machines, mainly played games on them. The limit of my friends’ Spectrum BASIC expertise, in most cases, was LOAD “”… :-)

The beauty of the RasPi as I see it, is that it doesn’t have to be an electronics project OR a cheap XBMC client – it can be either, or both, or a wide range of other things besides… and it costs the price of a few coffees at Starbucks. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Wooloomooloo avatar

Well, perhaps they weren’t; there is a related anecdote I’d like to share though.

Me and a mate of mine liked to play games on it too, but we had no Spectrum of our own at the time. Obviously, we were thrilled when we were let into a local school’s “computer lab” once – except when there, we were told there is no tape recorder available (=bye bye games). To which I answered “no problem at all” – one could redefine a user-defined character with a mere 8 POKEs on the Speccy, and if that happened to be a simple brick-tile pattern, drawing elaborate castles became a simple matter “writing” them with “space” and “user char” directly to the screen. A few basic sentences would even get you a drawbridge / hole-in-the-wall you could raise and lower with a key-press! This immediately also taught you binary, by the way – the pattern in question was a simple 0x80, 0x80, 0x80, 0xFF, 0x08, 0x08, 0x08, 0xFF…

So yeah, those micros kinda invited exploring, in a way that today’s OOP-wielding power-monsters do not…

tawalker avatar

Totally agree with your last point – the average PC or games console doesn’t exactly fling wide the gates, when it comes to inviting kids to explore (as you put it so well) Hopefully the RasPi will be part of a movement which reopens this particular pathway…

Alien/ST-CNX avatar

I think 5-10% of the kids who had computers took to it. Some of us started learning Z80 at the age of 10 (ZX81 BASIC was slow…) and had reverse-engineered how to make high rez graphics soon after. Others didn’t, and didn’t see why we’d even want to.

One thing that is lacking today are books like “The Complete ZX81 ROM Disassembly”, the BBC ROM disassembly, etc which made understanding the relatively simple machines and small OS-equivalents of the day tractable to young minds. Yes, there’s the linux kernel source… but it’s really very big.

Usually my teachers didn’t recognize the technological terms I used, and only had the faintest ideas about computers. But I think encouragement to discover and interest in what was discovered would go a long way since it is unreasonable to expect a teacher to know everything. If you can teach a kid how to find something out, or how to formulate a problem, and how to test whether he/she understands it correctly, you’ve given him/her a key life skill.

YungBlood avatar

I wonder if virtualbox or wine could be ported to arm based linux…

David Hardingham avatar

Like it! This is the sort of enthusiam that will make computing fun again.

Zeuf avatar

Dear All,
As a little bit of you (and maybe it is because I am French and were bad at school) I don’t get all the article. But I guess I get that there is a problem with teaching Computing in UK.
If the problem was only in UK, it will be almost all right (it is a joke, of course). Seriously : the fact is that in France, we have the same problem too.
Just hope the R.Pi could be the beginning of a solution not only for UK and France, but also for Africa, South America and more. Good luck all of you.

Mark avatar

@Zeuf: I’m English and I don’t have a clue what he’s banging-on about either, so don’t worry about it mate.

I’m just surprised that it’s made the front-page of the website, rather than being in the forums somewhere.

matthias avatar

entertaining post.. bring it on! :)

Don Alex avatar

Great blog post..and don’t worry scary as Linux might seem to the uninitiated I think once you get involved and dip your toes in Basic256, Python and Perl it will become a lot easier to get enthused. Welcome and keep is posted.

PS. Just had a amusing alternative universe thought. How cool would it be if Clive was good ol’ Uncle Clive moonlighting and bringing computing to a whole new generation of kids like the Speccy did for me :D

Ahhh.. weird worlds..

liz avatar

Claim to fame: I know somebody whose *actual* uncle is Clive Sinclair.

Peter Jones avatar

That earns many kudos points with the 80s geeks :)

JHM avatar

I knew some-one who was once John Lennon’s bro-in-law, but it never got me a free lunch in the last 47 years since we met.

More On/T, I built my Sinclair ZX81 from a kit, in the process learning how to solder something a bit more delicate than copper water pipes. I customised it to the point where it lost all it’s original identity, then foolishly sent it to the tip when moving house in 2001. Damn!

What would it be worth now, I wonder. Could’ve traded it for a RasPi in kit form, no doubt, and then start over.

joorava avatar

A major problem in current curricula is that they teach using specific tools, instead of teaching how to solve problems using those tools.
Presentations are an excellent example of this. No matter how complete and detailed your knowledge of Powerpoint (or LibreOffice Impress) is, it only enables you to trick out your ejecta with fancy effects. It does not make the presentations any better. Most word processing courses are even worse, because they completely avoid the point — which is, simply put, that you describe the structure of your text to the program; instead of defining how the text looks like, you define what each structural part should look like, and just tell the program what structural part each bit of text belongs to. It is universal, works the same in all word processing programs; only the menus and option names vary.

What on earth does this have to do with Raspberry Pi? Well, letting the kids control the hardware, starting on a level they can enjoy and easily grasp, is the hook. Most difficult thing to teach nowadays is not the technical aspects, but getting the basic terms, ideas, and paradigm across. Once people understand they can control the tools they use, they will no longer be passive consumers. I’m not talking about politics here, I mean it will be empowering.

I hope Raspberry Pi will have a similar role to urban gardening projects, getting people closer and in control of the stuff they eat/need/use every day.

The binary blobs and other free/open source related discussions on the forum are very similar to discussion on which kind of soil and fertilizers should be used. If I may extend the analogy, the closed-source bits provided by Broadcom are like commercial fertilizer. Although many of us would like to be completely “organic”, right now the soil is too barren for that — there is no hardware that would give similar capabilities without closed source bits. My own question about proprietary closed-source bits was a kind of probe to find out if there are .. hmm.. pesticides? included with the fertilizer. (No, as far as I can tell, the closed-source bits are pretty much as safe as they can be.)

I apologize for the overly long post!

Zerjillo avatar

Joorava, you have synthesized some of the ideas that I have tried to explain several times to many people without much success. I’m an assistant professor in my university (University of Granada, Spain) and people often do not grasp that computing is much more interesting and difficult than knowing particular programs or programming languages. What should be taught is how to solve problems, not just some tools that may (or not) allow you to solve them.

I have used the examples that you pointed out: learning Powerpoint instead of learning how to make a good presentation or even learning Word instead of learning how to write and / or typeset a text a million times but, in the end, people still “want” to learn particular tools / languages. And what is worse, the ones that plan the courses fall in the same mistake over and over again.

The approach is 100% wrong, but it is what we have. Is up to us to try to teach in a different fashion and that is what I try to do with my students.

However, it has been great to know that more people have a similar opinion to mine (I was beginning to think that I was all alone in the complete universe).

joorava avatar

In 1998-1999 I was part of a three/four person team that developed new basic IT skills course package (word processing, scanning images, basic layouts) for a department in a Finnish university. This was the approach we took — explaining the principles, then real life examples, and finally (tried to) show how to use those tools to solve the most typical problems. All as basically self-study materials.

A major problem is integration. There is very little point in trying to teach the use of a tool, unless there is something to apply the tool to. When you first start composing structured text, a word processor not only makes it easier, it also helps you work out a better structure for the text. Slides are a small part of any presentation: voice use, audience specific emphasis, a bit of psychology and skill in self expression is much more important. Using LibreOffice Impress just makes it all easier, if you use it as a tool, and not as a conduit for your expression (you’ve already developed on paper or in your head). The properties of digital images are directly linked to arts and physics and math — additive colorspaces, perspective, descriptive geometry, and so on. When printing say photographs for an assignment, you can explain the difference between additive colorspaces and substractive ones, about precision (lines per inch) versus data size (pixel count), and so on.

But back to Raspberry Pi. I hope there will be a number of directions (even in educational use) for ‘Pi software development. I hope there will not be a single unified environment everyone is encouraged to use, because that would be an artificial constraint. Having a simple starter interface is paramount, but restricting the inquisitive ones to that would be counterproductive in my opinion. Perhaps having different environments or distributions for the ‘Pi would help at least some of the users to realize how similar their phones and desktop systems are, and that they can control those just as well. (At least the Linux ones.)

Peter Guhl avatar

Slowly… first trying if I can post now (doesn’t work with MSIE and SRWare Iron)

Peter Guhl avatar

I got Error 1 with the named Webbrowsers the first time. And even here I have to navigate back and forth several times until I get a new password generated. Probably this is just for the moderators – you can kick those comments out of the board after you have read them.

Peter Guhl avatar

OK, works with TenFour Fox on MacOS X 10.4. Sorry for beeing off topic!

Now what I wanted to say:
I don’t remember the las time I laughed as hard as I did when reading this article! You just packed my father’s experience as a teacher for Latin *and* the teacher the students asked about computers (they didn’t ask the maths teacher…) and my own experience in PC support and web development into a few incredibly funny and equally incredibly perfect pictures. Thank you for that!

Jonathan avatar

You sir are very good at writing, indeed you should be a columnist too

Peter wysoczanski avatar

I am excited to read more, I do hope you post your lessons I’d love to leads along… Getting my rasp_pi to support the cause but I’d love to Learn :)

[…] more here: A teacher writes… | Raspberry Pi Recommend on Facebook Buzz it up share via Reddit Tumblr it Tweet about it Subscribe to the […]

max1zzz avatar

Clive, please come teach me ICT, this cracked me up :)
pure brilliance….

Alin avatar

I guess you can teach yourself, usually we ask someone else to teach us some things but we don’t try to learn by ourselves.

Phil_12d3 avatar

I’m glad that there is more focus on computing in education, although the media seems to be pushing the “get the kids creating ‘apps'” thing too much. I personally learnt how to program through my dad, who bought a Commodore 64 when I was 10 (some 20 years ago now). I am now a senior developer for a large retail company. It had nothing to do with my school education. Although the skills are important, I see the attitude towards computing to be more important – the interest and personal need to learn this stuff and find out how it all works. Skills can be learnt later, but the attitude is harder to foster. So, it’s all great news, but i’m wondering if the focus is in the wrong place.

Saying all that, I’ve been envious ever since I heard about the R-Pi project because I would have LOVED to have had a chance to play with anything remotely like this while I was in school :)

WalterWalcarpit avatar

(@P Guhl works in Safari on an iPad…)

Clive, a lovely piece & a welcome read for two reasons:
First, I never could believe Gove had come up with that huge ICT in schools shift but I am glad it was shouted from the rooftops.
My son did an ICT GCSE last year. Having read the syllabus and realised to my astonishment that it was not a computing course at all, rather a GCSE in Microsoft Office, I only held back from discouraging him altogether because as a Mac household he might do well to learn how the other half lives. He achieved an A*, so your scatological reference to PowerPoint did make me laugh.
Frankly the new ‘computing’ curriculum cannot come soon enough – I am not even sure how long it has been misplaced. By perhaps half a generation I myself missed out on learning to program and have regretted that ever since. Seeing absolutely no point in typing ‘ /win’ I was more than happy when I found a 128K Macintosh at my university. Liberation indeed, I thought.

Which brings me to my second point: I doubt that I and my son, either in this forum or the queue for a Raspberry Pi, are alone in our enthusiasm for the project, excitement of the Pi’s potential, and encouraged by the return of a proper programming pedagogy in school curriculum yet have not the first inkling how to do what with the device that might allow it to rise above being an ultra compact media centre.
I can’t be sure that I understand computing any more than the education secretary; LOGO was not the only word in that particular sentence that I had to process through Wikipedia to be sure I had not missed a pun.

But I do know an opportunity for teaching and learning when I see one.

In short, where can those that need to start from the very beginning learn the very first steps? Who might set up a virtual classroom for Rasberry Pi tasters who ‘want to learn the difference between I²S and I²C’? How might one learn how in order to approach the aparantly infinite what that this might enable?

Liz, I have no doubt that Clive’s blog will prove to be erudite and entertaining even to those who do not understand all its technological nuances but I’d really prefer to read it from the perspective of a student of the subject of programming the object that is Rasberry Pi.

Is there anything suchlike in the pipeline?

Robert Jameson avatar

Well said! The modern reality of ICT lessons is children sitting in front of their computers and using pocket calculators to help them fill in tables on a spreadsheet. I’ve seen GCSE students doing this in all the schools I’ve taught in. They don’t have the first clue what the computer or the spreadsheet are supposed to be there for – even after five years of using them! Computer literate? Don’t make me laugh!

Paul Davison avatar

What a superb, inspiring post. Thank you Clive! Now there’s a man who manages to keep his sense of humour in spite of extreme adversity. I’m really looking forward to reading more as you progress.

Angus9LN avatar

Can I offer the teacher an apple?
Read the comments from beginning to end. Great.

Dmytro Yurchenko avatar

What a pleasant morning reading. Thanks Clive, keep the pressure!

veronicathecow avatar

Thanks Clive, best laugh I’ve had in ages and what’s more so true. Wish you had taken my son for ICT.
If you want to get to know Linux a bit better might I suggest you try Puppy linux (which is going to be made available for Pi) or Pclinuxos (which probably won’t be) but is the most reliable desktop distro I have found in 10 years of tinkering.
Look forward to your own ePiphanies 8-)

James Arnold avatar

Hahaha, very amusing and very nice to read. Also looking forward to following, Pi in hand…

Sam avatar

I think the raspberryPi is a great ideas and an excellent piece of hardware. I would like to thank the whole community for their efforts. The only concern I have is that schools do not have the expertise to teach CS, I am a CS graduate and I have taught as KS3/4 and FE/HE. Computer Science is an important and elegant subject which requires a comprehensive depth of knowledge to teach. I think it would be unsatisfactory to have teachers teach CS who have previous degree’s in Business and Economics and IT as a lot of the ICT teachers have currently, after all CS is a science these degrees don’t teach the scientific techniques required. I see this analogously to have an English department teach classic text and have every classic text ever authored but having it taught by a physicist. It is likely that the physicist would be able to give an overview of the important forms but the expertise aren’t there to deliver the more advanced content and to facilitate the discussion which would be required for the students to gain from it.

I do not intend to “knock” the skills of IT teachers but without dedicating a large portion of their higher education to CS they do know have the essential skills and knowledge to be able to fully convey CS.

Lana avatar

I teach robotics in a middle school in Florida. Essentially I am teaching programming, and you are right, as a former mineralogist with only a few programming courses under my belt, I am probably not the best person to teach this. I have, however, been programming in a small way for >35 years. (Someone mentioned the Sinclair? I still have the ZX-81 somewhere.) My husband, an IT professional, makes twice as much as I do. Why would he or anyone like him move to a job where you earn peanuts and no-one respects you? I do it because I hope to make a difference, and I am able to because my husband supports me, but it is the most exhausting job I have ever had, with the longest hours. If I had to support my two daughters alone, with an M.Sc and an MBA, I would have another job.

Luny avatar

I know feel your frustration. I find computers very easy and natural and easily forget how a 65 year old mother in-law just doesn’t understand a word I say when I try to explain. Everyone wants / needs to use a PC, but are driving blind and ignorant with only a few facts on how to use.

what every ICT (I use to like Computer Teacher) Teacher requires is a techy like me, who can sit down and go through a subject, probably several times, until the teacher is happy. Then the teacher can turn those facts into something a class would understand and absorb.

Where can I sign up?

I_see_the_light avatar

a superb idea

Dave Shortman avatar

Of course ‘Gove’ doesn’t know anything about ICT, he’s a Government Minister for goodness sake, all of the Mandarin Civil Servants drive policies (for all departments not just ICT), is this some kind of revelation?

When I was a nipper at school, we did learn BASIC on BBC Micro’s and if you were well in with the teech (I wasn’t) you were allowed to TOUCH the Commodore PET.

I for one welcome the Government ‘interference’ in this area, one of my children is about to make his GCSE selections and looking at the curriculum as was, I would have told him to stay away from ICT, as all it is teaching is how to use office apps and make videos for YouTube. If as appears, coding is back on the agenda, I would encourage him to take it up.

I actually work in IT as a coder and suspect without exposure to the ZX Spectrum and coding in schools that would not be the case and I would be doing something god awful instead.

meltwater avatar

Careful Liz, it sounds like you know someone linked to most aspects of the 80s micro-computer revolution…you could be a prime target by the resistance when RPi-Net takes over.

Since “Clive” is surname-less, my brain can’t help but link the names, I think this may stick as a nickname.

meltwater avatar

comment jumped out of nesting…reply to Don Alex thread…
Re: Clive Sinclair

MadMax avatar

“Clive”, great post, very amusing and well written. Which leads me to believe you may be an English teacher rather than a technical bod :)
I will be following your posts with interest especially as – by your own admission – you don’t fully understand how these nifty little computers work. I’m sure it will be a great experience for both you and your pupils. I’d lay a wager that by December, they’ll be teaching you a thing or 2 :)
[Happy memories of us telling the Physics teacher what to type into the school’s RM 380Z to get it to work…]

johnofon avatar

…very amusing and well written. Which leads me to believe you may be an English teacher rather than a technical bod.

There is an assumption that scientists can’t do the Humanities, but it’s put about by the Humanities graduates who fill the media, government and so on.

If you do a little research – try watching University Challenge – you’ll notice that the science specialists are answering esoteric and obscure questions about the Humanities – History, Geography, Literature, Music – while the Humanities specialists can’t do the science or maths.

The second assumption is that English teachers are good at writing.good at writing. Not necessarily the case, in my experience.

JohnoFon avatar

I need to try harder at my profreading.

liz avatar

When I was a copy-editor, I received a CV from someone looking for an editorial assistant position. It said the applicant was “an excellent poof reader”.

He didn’t get the job.

MadMax avatar

I wish someone would invent a “tongue-in-cheek” HTML tag *sigh*

Ashley avatar

By far my favourite post so far. Although I am no child and no novice as a daily user of computers, I basically suck at programming and development. I’m looking forward to seeing your input on the forums.

James Cooke avatar

I wish you all the best with your endeavour. You remind me very much of my CS teacher (we hadn’t quite invented ICT at that point though this was only about 12 years ago). He was a fantastic guy, head of the department, who had come to teaching late in his career and was clever (a chemistry PhD) and a very good teacher. He managed to get people who got no other Scottish highers a B in his class (I think that was his worst result in my class). He pushed us into doing additional courses beyond the norm which was great and really sparked an interest.

For various reasons though I never went into IT straight away until a couple of years ago when I decided to do an MSc. In school we learned how to write code to do things but with proper teaching you were taught how to program. The difference was that at school we learned how to make the computer do something in one language but later I learned how to build a structure and the theory that could be applied to many languages.

I hope that the Pi is a good tool for the later.

Mike Plowman avatar

Firstly, fantastic post, funny and informative and I can’t wait to read more from Clive.

The thing that concerns me about The Pi is there seems to be this almost fantastical belief that someone is going to buy one, give it to their child, who will then learn how to program. The reality of the matter is that the child will look at it and go, ‘Uh?’and want to go back to Youtube and their Xbox.

Where are the teaching materials going to come from? To my mind, as much effort needs to be going into putting together a simple, easy steps, course as there has been in getting the boards made. We are talking about kids, and in many cases, parents, who have never seen a command prompt in their life. The vast majority of parents of schoolkids out there will never even have heard of Linux even.

Back in the days when I had both hair and a waist, we had hobbyist magazines that introduced us to programming in Basic, Sinclair User, My Sinclair et al, and minimalist though those programs were, they taught you very simply and you quickly reached a point where you suddenly found yourself going, ‘Well what if I changed that variable there?’ and it led you on to experimentation. Six months later, the company I worked for was using a program I wrote for the Spectrum to calculate people’s pay.
It’s been many years since I’ve done any programming in anger, years of writing print spool interpreter programs for COM systems killed my enthusiasm, but I might just start again with the Pi.

Are there any plans to produce some form of learning materials? Put together a website perhaps with a weekly lesson etc? There has to be something that will take a user from knowing nothing, take them by the hand, and teach them step by step.

To me, this is something that’s every bit as important as the Pi itself.

JamesH avatar

There is lots of stuff in the forums and comments about this – an educational release with documentation is being planned for later this year.

boarsblood avatar


I understand that videoing the lessons you teach would be impractical (Unless you can get permission from the school and blur out all the pupils faces lest they be snatched by the child catcher.), but a videocast of you going through the lessons again (in the evening, I know teachers have so much free time ;) ) would provide a valuable resource for other teachers, for the students themselves to review the lessons, and equally importantly for other students who aren’t blessed with a teacher so keen to both teach and learn as yourself.

On an aside, when are the BBC going to bring back MicroLive http://bbcmicrolive.blogspot.com/

Phil C avatar

Ah words of wisdom are you sure your a teacher, most of the ones I generally encounter read it out off the sheet and spent most of teacher training college down at the “dog and duck”… Great to have someone who is passionate about the subject.

I run a bit of an IT shop and we have the kids queuing to do work experience but alas we can only take so many but most of them don’t actually think about IT they just in jest IT. Get the kids thinking about this stuff, cover Computers, Phones, the xbox designed by IBM with graphics by SiS (weep). And its a bigger world for them.

Hey Clive, you did not make a small 3 wheeled electric car a few years ago did you ?

Curinga avatar

Clive, You said You do not understand technical stuff. I say I do not understand Your language (to much words that only english natives could understand… or very ambitious english learner ;)), but I have suspicious feeling that there is a sense in that madness which I read ;). I hope to read more in near future!

I_see_the_light avatar

“I don’t understand 99% of the technical stuff that goes on here. My knowledge of Linux is rudimentary and what I know about electronics wouldn’t fill the back of a Raspberry Pi ”

sorry, i need to run with this one, so Clive, why are you teaching ICT exactly……it sounds to me like geography might be more “your thing”.

Computing, and more generally electronics is “technical”, it is, there’s no getting away from it, using a computer is different from understanding how it works and how to program it.

I’d want my kids ICT teacher to have a firm understanding of the absolute basics in computing, right down to assembly and basic computer architecture (yes logic gates, and K maps if necessary). I mean, bloody hell shouldn’t you have a degree in computer science or electronics?

JamesH avatar

The problem is that people with a degree in computer science or electronics can get jobs at two or three times the salary of a teacher. Are you seeing the problem yet?

ICT as it stands does not teach those things you want to be taught. To do so the teachers will need to be taught those things. Clive is going to be going through that process, and documenting it as he goes.

And please, less of the insults, or the ban hammer will descend like the sword of Damocles after a trip the barbers. Oooh, a Mythology reference. From a techy. Who though we could learn more than one subject eh!

aus avatar

This is exactly the problem. I’ve been in IT for 17 years and I’ve been thinking about a move to teaching. However, I can’t afford the drop in salary. Unfortunately, my experience counts for nothing…

JollyRoger avatar

“I’d want my kids ICT teacher to have a firm understanding of the absolute basics in computing, right down to assembly and basic computer architecture (yes logic gates, and K maps if necessary). I mean, bloody hell shouldn’t you have a degree in computer science or electronics?”

So should ICT teachers also have a good understanding of quantum mechanics? I hardly think a sound knowledge of “the absolute basics” is as important as Clive’s obvious brilliance at putting ideas across. He’s a breath of fresh air!

Keep up the brilliant work, Clive!

clive. avatar

You don’t quite seem to have got a hang of these blog things do you? Nor the foggiest of how teaching works or what it involves. I mean, bloody hell shouldn’t you have an idea of how these things work before posting unfounded nonsense? ;)

(Though if it does make you feel better about your limited world view, I have degrees, diplomas and certificates in Computing, ICT, Biology and Physics. I got gold stars on some of them! (Not electronics though, and my Linux *is* rudimentary. I know, the shame of it :D )

mobeyduck avatar

“I’d want my kids ICT teacher to have a firm understanding of the absolute basics in computing, right down to assembly and basic computer architecture ”

Most people i know that know this are the worst teachers ever they know all the stuff them selves but cant teach it.

ICT is way more then just the hardware. What your kids will most likely use is software the chance that they’ll ever program any thing in computer code is slim to non. So why would someone try to teach this to them?

“using a computer is different from understanding how it works and how to program it.”

True but, programming isn’t the core bussiniss of an enterprice it department.
ICT is made as a supporting department its made to be solving problems and increasing efficiency.
Most of the time this will be done by using programs that already exist, like the browser your looking at i bet you didn’t made all of it your self.

What you expect is a completely other side of computing, for that style your kids must be autodidacts and go to a university then there will be teachers who can help and understand MOST of it.

There is no one who knows it all, if there was there would be no Google.

I_see_the_light avatar

“And please, less of the insults, or the ban hammer will descend like the sword of Damocles after a trip the barbers.”

this is all rather playful banter, no insults intended, apologies if any were implied (or inferred).

“using a computer is different from understanding how it works and how to program it.”
Maybe I have the wrong end of the stick, maybe, but I thought the idea of the pi was to get kids into programming and understanding what they are doing (like the good old BBC basic days).

“Nor the foggiest of how teaching works or what it involves.”
My limited experience of a grammar school education let me to the summary that by far-and-away the best teachers I had the luck to be taught by had at least a degree (and normally a doctorate) in the relevant subject and a good few years in industry, my chemistry, physics, biology, and maths teachers all spring instantly to mind. They were the best because they had a massive in-depth understanding of the fundamentals of the subject they taught, they could answer all of the “yer but why……” type questions.

I’m sure Clive is an inspirational teacher, my hat off to anyone who teaches other people in any way.


Paul Johnson avatar

I know all sorts about logic gates, Karnaugh maps, assembler, even how to make a chip.

Due to my foul language I’d be a shite teacher though.

I_see_the_light avatar


clive. avatar

Thanks for the kinds words everyone, they are much appreciated! No time to answer specific points at the moment sorry but I will pick up on some of the issues for the blog.

Audrius Sadauskas avatar

Great idea Clive. I myself am planning to get RaspberryPi for learning linux programming (or ARM or [insert here]). I expect a great fun arriving at the end of this month (-. Good luck!

David avatar

Awesome article.

Have spent some time teaching ICT in high school (I’m an academic), I couldn’t agree more.

Looking forward to reading more!


James Craven avatar

+1 for every Ofstead Inspector you make cry :-)

Trevor Johnson avatar

Great start, “Clive”! Maybe you could get some (slightly) less opinionated stuff in TES too. From my brief experience of teaching (I followed a Primary PGCE a few years ago) those kids with an early interest are rarely encouraged to build on this in ICT lessons. Gender stereotyping can also unfortunately (but hopefully unwittingly) be reinforced by teachers… despite being at odds with standards required of them.
Hopefully your blog will encourage teachers, after-school clubs and parents to give such kids free rein to experiment and share their enthusiasm. Like others here, I look forward with anticipation to reading your future posts :-)

e avatar

Well, that was weird. I am concerned for Clive’s students.

JamesH avatar

Don’t be concerned – it’s just what we in the UK call a sense of humour.

Gert avatar

I always found that people who use self-deprecating humor are the best to work with.

clive. avatar

Don’t be concerened – like all teachers, I’ve been vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau. It’s a rigourous police process based on phrenology and the fact that I look like “a standup kinda guy”

mark avatar

keep up the good work wish i had a teacher like you when i was back school

imazed avatar

Wonderful to see signs that the teaching profession is really a profession and someone is trying to improve the way our children are educated. Please keep us informed of progress and also of any difficulties you encounter as I am sure that there are many experts who will assist.
For my part I am at the far end of the age spectrum (nearing 70) and have been in “computing” since the early 1970s. If I had been introduced to formal logical thinking back in my school days, instead of having to pick it up in my early twenties I would have found progress a lot easier.
We need the general populace to understand that the method and structure of programming is invaluable as a part of thinking about problems and solutions in fields way beyond simple computing.
In my view children should be taught Reading, wRriting, ‘Rithmetic and Logic as a fundamental part of education

psuedonymous avatar

When the inevitable spoof-adverts for the RasPi arrive, can I propose Lily the Pink as the soundtrack?

YungBlood avatar

I can just see it….
Now get your Pi in many flavors!
RaspberryPi $35
BlackberryPi $55
BlueberryPi $85
BoysenberryPi $255

YungBlood avatar

One important step in my introduction to programming was my math teacher. He mainly used programming as an example for higher math. He showed me program written in pascal that did very basic wire frame 3D animation. I LOVED it!! He was my favorite teacher, because he really made me love math. When he left, I was better at math than the remaining teachers. So when I had problems after that, I didn’t have much help… but at least the seed was planted in me. :) And I still love programming!! I’m also programming apps for Roku.

Jon Macey avatar

Great stuff, as a University Lecturer teaching programming to undergraduates I think this will be brilliant and I hope more people will do the same. We were one of the Universities praised in the NESTA report and I’m going to try and integrate the Raspberry Pi into my teaching for first year programming, with my first task to port our Main Graphics Library ( http://nccastaff.bournemouth.ac.uk/jmacey/GraphicsLib/index.html ) to the Pi (it works on Mac, Linux and Windows as well as iOS) if you need any help / advice my mail is on the website, best of luck Jon

paddywooff avatar

Ah. Lilly the Pink. Somehow my brain has dragged that up from the 60s ‘when I were a nipper’. Great stuff, keep writing the blog Clive.

Tony Collins avatar

Clive: Drinking a drink to Lilly the Pink :-)

And the yoof might not be able to make a power point that doesn’t look like monkey poo, but they’ll run rings round you on Facebook, and don’t even try a texting race.

I’ll be most interested in your blog, since I hope to get involved with assisting local schools in using the PI (If they are remotely intereseted)

DWC avatar

I like this man. I like him a lot. It gives me hope that children of the UK are being taught by imaginative, realistic people. Although going on a sample of one might be poor statistics.

shmibs avatar

sir, i certainly would have loved to have a teacher like you back in school.
i’m glad there’s at least one person out there looking to fix the problem, though =)

Luca avatar

Good luck with teaching Computer Science using Raspberry pi. My advice is to keep it modern. When I took my GCSE in CS they were banging on about stuff from the 70’s and this was the early 90’s. The true geeks (I include myself) ended up just teaching ourselves because our GCSE was so out of date, A level was not much better. So keep it modern everything we learn is out of date in 6 months. You are a brave man!

AskAboutXenu avatar

Every industry has its own gobbledegook. (I have no idea what a “key stage” is…) I also have no idea what Michael Gove may or may not be on about. Too much supposed ‘computing’ in schools is procedural (how to use Microsoft Word…) and won’t be relevant to the students by the time they reach the workplace anyway.

I, too, have despaired at the amount of alphabet soup being used to demonstrate what the ‘Pi’ is capable of. I have yet to see it actually being used by a student. That a brainiac can use it to do wizzy home cinema stuff is encouraging, because it shows we’re not going to be using something with limited potential, but if it’s all too arcane, this computer will be incomprehensible/inaccessible to students – and to overworked teachers – in which case it might as well be a brick.

I think that the electronics and the cost engineering has been clever, but will count for nothing compared to the surrounding environment. The ‘Pi’ will need a great manual, plus teacher materials. Sure, the hardware is on its way, but where is the manual? If there are learner-friendly PDFs I can download, I haven’t head about them. We can play with a virtual machine ‘Pi’ already, so who’s writing the manual? Where do I get it? Do I have to write it?

Manufacturing delays aren’t the bottleneck here. The small, inexpensive, powerful little computer is cute… but it can’t achieve the goals set out by its charity until there is an educational strategy and a set of equally high-quality, affordable resources that allow teachers and students – and not just the nerds – to use it in ways that make people learn. A few years from now we might be having RasPi conferences at which teachers and lecturers talk about how they’re using the thing in classes and projects… but for now, I anticipate a very patchy start.

This is not an ‘RTFM’ error. This is the time to ‘WTFM’.

wombat avatar

Silly question time:

Given that this whole project is about teaching kids to program (and possibily hack hardware), what programing tools and languages will the RPI come with?

And are there plans for easy to learn/get into enviroments? Comand line C++ compliers are good but have a steep learning curve.

Also for that matter will Open Office or simular be ported?

JamesH avatar

Lots of information about this on the Wiki.

JonB avatar

Interesting and funny post, Clive. May I suggest, however, that you restrain your sarcasm when talking about Mr Gove / the government? As funny as it is, I don’t think it’s productive on a site like this, that has a very serious mission. The fact is that Gove & co. are finally doing something about computing in schools and for my part I’d rather support that than take the mickey. Yes, I am a CAS member, too.

clive. avatar

Hi Jon. I’d rather hoped that at worst it was parody and at best, satire. Sarcasm wasn’t the intention. The mission is serious, yes. The message doesn’t have to be so dry that no one reads it. See also my link below.

JonB avatar

Yes, Clive… I later felt I’d been a bit harsh so please accept my apologies. I’m not a teacher (I’m a professional Software Engineer with over 20 years experience) but I have kids aged 9 and 11 who will be participants in the curriculum that is eventually derived and that is why I support the education “mission”. It would be utterly fab if the BBC could take the R-Pi on board and use it to produce teaching material in the same way that they did with the Acorn Proton (the machine that went on to become the BBC Micro).

liz avatar

Clive doesn’t speak with the Foundation’s voice, and as such, we’re very happy for him to say whatever the hell he likes about the Government, teaching, cattle and shotguns.

Pete Bell avatar

Love this. Can’t wait to hear from you on how you get on. I’m looking to use RPs with my classes too and face similar struggles with my Dept. Interesting times ahead!

clive. avatar

Hello all.

For anyone who thinks that it’s innapropriate for a teacher to write satire or poke fun at the Governement (or even have an opinion on anything :)), I’ve kind of replied here:
http://bit.ly/zih1Ti (post 4).

Thanks again for all the positive comments and interest – half term soon and I’ll get a chance to look at them :)

doc avatar

I am confused. This is taken from your post

“I don’t understand 99% of the technical stuff that goes on here. My knowledge of Linux is rudimentary”

Yet you claim you are going to teach kids about computers etc. That is like me teaching people how to do brain surgery when the only meat I have ever cut into is a lump of liver just before cooking it.

It also concerns me when things like this crop up about the effect it will have on the whole industry. I remember when uni’s first started IT courses there was a noticeable drop in average salaries for software engineers because companies suddenly realised they could get someone in fresh from uni at half the cost of an industry old timer. Cant imagine how devalued the industry will become if ever teacher suddenly thought they could teach stuff they don’t actually know anything about and increase the IT population ten fold.

clive. avatar

I can’t begin to reply to this: your understanding of UK teaching and education is so *fundamentally* confused and so far removed from reality that we would have no common ground for a dialogue.

It would be like trying to explain a Rubik’s Cube to a stick figure.

doc avatar

You are possibly correct, my understand of the current education system is limited but at the same time I am very baffled by it. As a father of teenagers I am horrified at times to hear the drivel they come out with about what they are being taught.

Now as a software engineer since the 80’s I would say that you’re understanding of computers and the developmental process of computer is so *fundamentally* confused I will not get into a debate about it but only say that I am glad my teenage daughters are leaving school this year so they can finally get to a proper place of education.

Avishay avatar

My name is Avishay and I live in Israel. I’m not an educator myself, but my wife is a junior high school teacher, and I believe that we (and probably the rest of the developed world) share more-or-less the same problems.
However, I fail to see how a computer like the R-Pi can make any relief. The main point with the R-Pi is that it is cheap. For this price it gives moderate computation power (and no, it won’t be a real desktop replacement). This fact can be used to increase the availability of computers in schools – but this is not the problem. Computers are available today in many schools (at least here), and there are government funding plans and philanthrops that donate money for buying more and more computers. The problem is that the teachers simply don’t know how to use them effectively. I’m afraid that having the schools flooded with R-Pis (or any other cheap computers) can’t address any of the acute problems the education system is dealing with.

scep avatar

“I’m afraid that having the schools flooded with R-Pis (or any other cheap computers) can’t address any of the acute problems the education system is dealing with.”

Agreed. Which is why there are no such plans to do this!

grumble53 avatar

Avishay, I think you miss the point. It’s not designed to be a desktop replacement. It is a development/experiment/fun platform and it’s cost is its strength inasmuch as its becomes available to anyone with a few dollars to spend. As for your second point, we are all aware that there are shortfalls in the availability of qualified and technically trained teachers but I believe a teacher is not there not to just impart knowledge but to inspire students to expand their own abilities by themselves. From what I’ve seen these days teachers don’t just ad lib their way through a lesson (as I’m sure some of mine did when I were a lad) but classes are planned in advance so structure and content I don’t see as an insurmountable problem. Teachers can research just as well a child and in addition, if there is curriculum guidance, so much the better.

Mr Dellow avatar

As a fellow ICT teacher I am excited by using these devices in the classroom. Looking forward to more.

Simon avatar


I’m a bit concerned that you’re going to be teaching ICT to 11-18 year olds when you have no Linux or electronics knowledge.

When I was 11 I had written many BASIC programs for the BBC B and by 18 was well into writing ARM assembler, and I’m far from alone in this. Please don’t tell me IT is still “how to use MS Office”.

cherish avatar

I don’t think you need lots of technical or programming knowledge to teach computing at school. Surely the aim is to expose young people to the excitement of building something for themselves and even more importantly, exploring and learning about technology?
I would have thought the requirements are:
– enough technical expertise to get them going at a very basic level
– infectious enthusiasm
– knowing what resources to point them at if they want to know more

liz avatar

That’s very much our take on things, too.

I wish I’d had a teacher like Clive; my IT (there was no “C” in the 80s) lessons were taught by a lady who was so distracted that she taught the wrong home keys when teaching typing to us. (It was mostly typing at school – fortunately for me, my parents had spotted that IT lessons in girls’ schools were meant to build an army of secretaries in those days, and sent me to a friend of theirs once a week to learn about the magic of databases and NAND gates. Very prescient, my parents.)

I do touch-type, but thanks to Miss Lyons my right hand’s one position further to the right than yours is.

ai5eedave avatar

By far, the most valuable class I took in high school was typing! I use that skill nearly every day of my life. I had a wart on my right pinky finger that made it painful to hit the right shift key, so to this day I use the left shift key almost exclusively (even though the wart has since cleared up).

My high school also required a “computer class” which spent the first two weeks teaching the students how to turn the computer on (the first week) and then off (the second week). My academic councilor was astute enough to realize that I would be bored to tears in a class that basic, so he arranged for me to assist the school’s IT department during one of my class periods. That made for a very effective computing curriculum .

JamesH avatar

Why are you concerned? I’ve been working as a software engineer for 20 years, and only recently have acquired Linux knowledge. I also knew almost nothing about electronics (and tbh still don’t ) prior to entering university, where I graduated top 3 with a 2.1(hon). Sorry to show off, but you started it, and I’m making the point that I have worked most of my life with no Linux or electronics knowledge.

And nobody is telling you that IT is how to use MS Office. IT is *support* for MS office.

liz avatar

Simon’s position is a lot like demanding of a school music teacher that she be proficient in playing every instrument.

Simon avatar

I didn’t say Clive had to be proficient in everything IT, he seems to be saying he is totally unskilled in IT.

So my position is more like demanding that a music teacher knows what music is, otherwise the PE teachers might as well take over.

liz avatar

> he seems to be saying he is totally unskilled in IT.

I recommend a re-read. The other comments here are probably a pretty good demonstration that nobody else read what Clive had to say that way.

clive. avatar

I find it curious. If a biology teacher went onto a taxonomy forum and said that their AFLP skills were rudimentary and that they’d like to brush up their PAUP skills, they’d be welcomed.

No one would infer that they were crap at biology and claim that they shouldn’t be teaching. That would be silly and rather presumptious, seeing as they knew nothing about that person or what experience and qualifications they had.

I_see_the_light avatar

I was making a similar point, got the same bashing you did……. :-(
I dont think its unreasonable that if somebody is teaching kids about programming, and they have a pupil that keeps asking the “but why, or but how” questions, that the teacher can answer them, right down to the register/assembler level if needed.
No need to be a super geek, just a firm grasp on the fundamentals of how the board/processor ACTUALLY works. And yes this will involve electronics……
Most kids may never ask, but why limit those who do want to know…..

if clive can then great! but I’m not sure I “got” that from reading his post

JamesH avatar

So, you want the teachers to be trained up to be able to answer any possible question, even if that question is so rare, very few will ever ask it? That seem like a waste of training time to me. What’s important is the the teacher can take a note of the question, and look it up, and answer it next time he sees the pupil.

Of course teachers needs a decent knowledge, but they don’t need to know EVERYTHING. For example, I had a professor at University, of whom I asked a question to which he didnt know the answer. And before you comment, this is a world renowned professor in computer graphics. TBH, I was most surprised he didn’t know, but the years have taught me that you cannot know EVERYTHING.

I_see_the_light avatar

“Of course teachers needs a decent knowledge”

I completely agree. Its nonsense to assume that anybody knows everything.

“So, you want the teachers to be trained up to be able to answer any possible question”

nope, thats going a bit far

“No need to be a super geek, just a firm grasp on the fundamentals of how the board/processor ACTUALLY works”
….so the teacher could answer most questions from the most inquisitive pupils.

sounds to me reading Clive`s further posts that he has a good grip on the subject, I didnt get that from reading his first post, it sounds like he’s a pretty nice bloke.
With regards to my geography teacher comment, no offense was intended, I’m sure there are some pretty cool geography teachers out there ………..

Alistair McNeill avatar

Of course it’s more than just office. Did you know that a keyboard is an input device? I do – Thanks school ICT! :)

Seriously though, there is a real problem here. The syllabus is a mess (at least it is here in Scotland) and there should be a separation between learning to using Office/that a keyboard is an input device and programming.

Another problem is the range of ability and experience of the pupils. Some of them presumably do need to be told that a keyboard is an input device and other may already be running a website or be creating their own games. How can you stretch them all in the same lesson? You cannot. Unfortunately this means that the former win over the latter. There is also a problem that pupils who cannot cope with more traditional subjects are directed to wards Computing classes since they are “practical” and involve “playing on computers”.

For these reasons ICT teachers have my deepest sympathies. Apart from his obvious wit, intelligence, and humility, the fact that Clive is going to buy a Raspi and learn how to use it in lessons already puts him way ahead of most in that he is enthused, willing
to learn, and planning to improve his lesson year on year. You may wish to have been taught by someone like Linus Torvalds but you are a very small minority.

Alistair McNeill avatar

An actual Scottish exam paper – Computing Studies Standard Grade General Level (GCSE equivalent)


Reading the marking guide only makes it more depressing. Familiarity with Linux is not required. How we hope to inspire the next generation of programmers and dotcom billionaires with this I do not know.

Sadly, if Scottish schools are to have any role in creating future programmers, it can only be done through extra-curricular activities.

liz avatar

Most impressed to see that they’re examined on netiquette. (Heavy sarcasm.) Perhaps we should demand visitors to this site take a Scottish GCSE before posting.

clive. avatar

“I’m a bit concerned that you’re going to be teaching ICT to 11-18 year olds when you have no Linux or electronics knowledge.

I understand. Indeed, I am a bit concerned myself that none of the music teachers here can play the sax or know how to make violins.

doc avatar

Wow did you really just say that?

As a father “as pointed out earlier” to hear a teacher come out with that comment really does bring home my fears about the education system. Rather than point out why you would be competent in teaching the young IT you are just pointing out that there are other teachers without the skills to teach what they are teaching so why cant you.

With all due respect it seems to me that you are using your position as a teacher to educated yourself in IT ( which you pretty much stated ) while getting paid for it by the state.

What happens when a student asks you how the computer actually works? About how the circuts work or what actually makes that pixel appear on the screen. You know the basics.. Like an 8 bit bus means you can have up to 8 electronic currents running down which make up a number which is why we use binary counting system on computers.. You know the basics.

Do you not think the kids will loose interest if they see you as someone who does not know what he is talking about?.

Think I might make a career change.. I will use you’re education model and become a media teacher so I can sit down all day and watch movies :)

David R avatar

Being a teacher is not about having all of the answers, it’s about being able to enthuse the students to ask questions and explore answers for themselves. A good teacher doesn’t try and ‘get information from my brain into yours’, but to encourage exploration as an aid to understanding. Unfortunately people have been led to believe that academics with good degrees and lots of knowledge make good teachers, when the converse is often true. Social skills, enthusiasm and an ability to break complex information down into understandable chunks are far more important skills to possess. As long as the teacher is a couple of weeks ahead of the class, and is prepared to say ‘I don’t know, but I know how to find out’, then students can learn very effectively.

BTW I am a music teacher and can play most instruments, and have made a violin and bass guitar  I also have a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science.

JamesH avatar

One more comment like that and I am going to banhammer you. I always get suspicious when some say “With due respect”. It’s on the same lines as “I’m, not a racist, but..”. You don’t mean it, so don’t say it.

I really don’t see you giving up your cosy career and going in to teaching, where you are so obviously desperately needed.

doc avatar

Well I think David R explained something important which a lot of “US” non professional ( in the sense of do not have a career in teaching ) teacher are probably not aware of. I also made a point of that last comment because in fact I have spent time teaching computer software engineer. This was voluntary and have helped lots of people into the industry.

As for my comments which caused you’re reply. Well I honestly think I had a valid point in my concerns about teaching of youngsters ( but David R ) has made me see a different side of things and opened up my mind. But still I believe my comments were valid and not just a troll. But to be honest threatening a ban just because you do not like my point of view ( and this is the second time I have seen it in these forums ) is really not the sort of community I like to be in. Reminds me too much of a China attitude.

So with that I will bow out and stay away. I wish you all the luck ( and you will need it ) if you are going to persist in threatening bans just because people are not agreeing with the admins views 24/7

liz avatar

We don’t threaten to ban people because they disagree with us. We threaten to ban people who have an attitude problem. And just to make sure that you don’t get tempted to come back after your self-ban, I’ve formalised your ban for you.

prezek avatar

You have never been a student? You have never seen a 10 year old operation system? Things are changing every day and nobody can know everything. Most of IT teachers I have met are teaching just how to open Internet explorer, how to search with Google and write a MS Word document. It is enough for most of kids. I have 5 teachers in my family and I know, that teaching is not about knowledges which the teacher has, but about motivation the kids to want these knowledges.

Philip avatar

Wow, did you really just type that?

‘why cant you.’
‘loose interest’
‘you’re education’

Sticking a smiley at the end doesn’t make you less of an arse.

Maybe you should just step away from the keyboard, you have nothing of value to add here.

clive. avatar

“What happens when a student asks you how the computer actually works?… Like an 8 bit bus means you can have up to 8 electronic currents running down which make up a number which is why we use binary counting system on computers.. You know the basics.”

If that was your explanation, you’d be fielding a lot of complaints from parents the other side of the exam because it’s utter nonsense. It’s not just wrong, it doesn’t even make sense :)

Did I mention that I have qualifications in Computer Science, IT and lots of industry experience? Oh, that’s right – it’s none of your business so I didn’t. You *inferred* that I was not fit to teach based on… nothing*. To comment on someone’s capability in a job without knowing them or their qualifications and experience is delusional. It’s completely mental. Why would you do that?

*If this assumption comes from my comment about not understanding 99% of the technical stuff on the forums then I’ll make this easy for you:
a) it was a literary device to make less technically capable people feel comfortable (that’s right! It’s a blog, not a CV :))
b)I mean stuff like the Broadcom datasheet – not binary; not Turing machines; not recursion; not RPN; not Java; not floating point numbers etc etc. Your assumptions are wrong; your ad hominem attacks are tedious; your time here is done. Byeee! :D

trevj avatar

Anyone who comments like that clearly has minimal understanding of what teaching actually involves. Fancy doing it yourself? Go ahead! Pass the academic stuff, enthuse the kids, deal with the paperwork… and all for a considerably lower salary than you’d get working in industry.

I’m half expecting you to pine away about the long holidays and 9-3.30 hours too! You try arriving prepared, planning interesting lessons, marking pupils’ work, dealing with individual pupil issues, attending meetings. Oh yes, and kiss goodbye to most free evenings and weekends too. Of course, there must be some teachers who take the piss and have a relatively “easy ride” but that’s the same in all forms of employment, other state sectors included.

Old Frank avatar

Doc, I hope your standard in your present job is better than your standard of English. You’d never be a good teacher with so many errors in quite simple sentences.

Paul Johnson avatar

The thing is, my “Technology” teacher knew absolutely nothing about electronics – he was a metalwork teacher who was told that now he had to teach Craft Design & Technology as it was called at the time. I can’t remember him teaching us a whole deal, but the point was the kit we needed to experiment was there. One of the driving forces behind me learning the resistor colour codes was so I could move them around the labelled draws in the stock room because I knew the teacher would have no idea which was which and hence nothing he did would ever work (sorry Mr. Bennington!)

What he did do though was encourage us. I was inspired to experiment, and he was keen to learn along with us. It was so much better than some high and mighty teacher who knew everything being patronizing.

Oh, and by the way, to second James’ point, I know absolutely nothing about Linux – nothing at all, yet my electronics degree has moved me from the UK, to Singapore, to South Korea, to Japan, to Germany and finally I’ve ended up in Silicon Valley as a director at one of the biggest companies in the valley. For some reason people think Linux is the most important thing in the world. For many of us it has no use whatsoever.

Simon avatar

you do know the pi runs linux don’t you?

Byron avatar

What’s going to happen to Clive’s students when he’s not in school? Who’s going to have the knowledge to teach them how to make use of the PR kit? From what I’ve seen, there are not enough ICT teachers who are as forward looking as Clive; the comfort zone is often in Office Applications and off-the-shelf teaching systems.
INSET courses for teachers will need to tackle this problem.
In the good old days, the Design & Technology departments had staff who not only taught computer programming (BBC Model B, Archimedes etc), but also taught students how to design and make external devices that could be programmed to interact with the world via User Ports, Printer Ports etc. The National Curriculum swept most of this away, and relics such as myself either gave up and followed the new curriculum… or retired (as I did).

Don’t forget, Clive… your D&T department may still have staff who will be invaluable to your students when it comes to exploiting this new technology to its wider potential.

Incidentally, I can’t wait to get my hands on a RasPi!! I can hardly contain my impatience. I know that I speak for many on this one.
I initially worried that the first 10000 would be snapped up by buyers who simply want a cheap media player, others who see it as a basis for commercial developments, and others who like myself want to enjoy exploring the depths of this new technology. But I’m not worried now… I reckon the feeding frenzy will give the RasPi some cool street cred, which will in turn encourage greater interest by some of the students who are usually difficult to engage in education.
And how is Uncle Clive (Sinclair) now, Liz? What does Sir Clive have to say about the RasPi?

liz avatar

No idea – but I did get copied in on an email from Chris Curry a few weeks ago, in which he was super-enthusiastic. Made my day.

Bill Moffitt avatar

Excellent post, Clive – I’m going to look forward to hearing about your progress building a curriculum around the RasPi.

The fascinating problem I see is that we have a bad tendency to teach students to effectively solve yesterday’s problems. When I was in school, they taught us BASIC and then Pascal, failing to prepare us for a world of spreadsheets and word processors (on the “user” side) and C and UNIX (on the “programmer” side). They then started teaching Word Processing and Spreadsheets just in time to fail to prepare students for a world of email and web browsing, and teaching C and UNIX to folks who would spend their lives in PHP, Python, and Ruby (thank goodness UNIX/Linux won out over those Microsoft Toy Operating Systems that nobody uses any more! ;->).

Whatever the students of today will be doing, it is going to depend on a connected grid of computing devices (some in pockets, some sitting at home, some in server rooms, etc.), all trading data over the Internet. The RasPi will be an excellent platform for developing and teaching the concepts for the next “computing” (I use quotes because the dividing line between computing and communication has disappeared) paradigm.

I’m excited to start flooding schools with these little wonders and get teachers and students thinking about the “next big thing.”

tr1ck5t3r avatar

Clive, can I just say well done for grabbing the bull by the horns, this is something I was discussing a few weeks back with regard to the pi & curriculum in general with a friend.
I was fortunate enough to be programming bbc basic’s at primary school, C64 at home when I was 8. I was writting commercial software for businesses from the age of 14. Personally I feel programming should be introduced at primary school becuase that in itself would help make maths & language (ie learning a computer language albeit written) more fun. I think the UK educational system under estimates the learning capabilties of the young brain, its a vast sponge waiting to absorb but there isnt enough to feed it. I’m largely self taught becuase my GCSE & A-Level computer science teachers just didnt know their stuff and the curriculum focused too much on history which imo was in the main irrelevant and teaching by rote wasnt really useful for this creative subject, in fact during A-Levels I often corrected my lecturer and became very disillusioned with the whole educational system as whole so I didnt bother with uni. I am however very passionate about ensuring people know their stuff and the Pi represents a unique opportunity in history along with the web to not only provide educational resources to everyone of all ages but could also provide the opportunities to create distributed collaboration projects in all forms for all ages.

If you are looking for help on which resources might be useful in your quest, might I direct you to http://www.udacity.com which is also undertaking a similar task of distributed learning which followed on from the free AI course led by Peter and Sebastian (googlecar fame) hosted by Stamford uni (Stamford have started providing free education using the web for a while now. My point here is we can learn from their experiences with regard to teaching and distance learning so with some organisation I think the pi could become quite a useful tool in teaching ICT to kids.

If I was a kid again knowing what I know now, personally the imagination needs to be fired up, it needs to be made clear that these devices have huge potential to undertake any number of projects (after all the pi can easily be a Sky box of sorts), they also need to know that what they learn today could make them the next Jobs, Gates, Brin, Page, Thrun & Norvig to name but a few, its only their desire to learn and imagination which holds them back but its equally important to manage their expectations.

With regard to curriculmn, I think the teaching could be broken down into the basics in a project like way. I think as kids we all liked projects so the education needs to be sold in the right way and its a great opportunity especially with homework to get parents involved more (women actually make good programmers and I’m a bloke saying this) which helps improve their chances of success in the future but it might also drag them away from the games console a bit more which are imo a huge time waster for society as a whole.

Anyway good luck in your quest, if you need any help, ideas or whatever feel free to drop me a line, I’d be happy to put some of my spare time into this useful cause. :-)

peternicholls avatar

During 2002-5 I trained as a teacher in Music. Secondary, then primary. I took an interest in the ICT curriculum back then, obviously when at primary having to teach it too. I couldn’t believe that we were teaching children how to use PowerPoint, or Word, or Excel. To me that wasn’t ICT – it was business and office work! Sure it used computers, but doesn’t nearly everything these days? (I’m no longer a teacher).

Now I realise that it is programming that needs to be taught. Real life programming. Start which easy stuff (moving a robot etc) but do that in reception classes and years 1 – 2, even get them to do simple screen drawing things. In year 3 there is no reason why you cannot teaching very basic outline HTML, give it a bit of styling too. In year 4 you can teach them more real life programming. They will see results, but also make things that look like the web they see everyday. Then you tell them, there is work in this. In year 4 introduce a scripting language of some kind, year 5 – 6 make some real programmes to solve real problems. Secondary school – well!

Fanciful? It wasn’t fanciful in the 70s and 80s when thats all you could do with computers anyway. And that is one of MANY reasons why I adore the Raspberry pi project. Children need exposure to this as early as possible, to show them what can be done, what they can achieve and do right now. Their brains will suck up this information, try new things and one day even help make programming a huge asset to the economy. As well as a great hobby.

retro avatar

Wonderful blog and I shall seek out that corduroy corner! I guess I sit somewhere between the geek and teacher typecasts. With an interest and limited experience of further education CS teaching and learning and a 28 year career in ‘ICT’. I’m not yet sure how I’m going to be involved in this initiative but I know that I shall.

Homer Hazel avatar

Clive, You don’t need to worry about binaries and such. Sure, some of your students will ultimately become interested in that stuff and will want to dig into that level of design, but many of them will be content with getting their hands on a computer they can do some programming on. I bought my daughter a Commodore 64 when they first came out. We used an old Panasonic 7″ tv as the monitor for the first several months. She and I would spend hours copying programs out of magazines and typing them into the C-64 to watch them run. She learned to write her own programs. She does not program today, she took the medical path, but she is truly computer literate and has absolutely no fear of computers and what they can do. Oh, I am a computer consultant and build my own computers and write programs. Mostly in high level languages these days, but back in the old days, I built my own CP/M S-100 bus computer based around a Zilog Z80 motherboard. It was fun. I had to modify the bios since CP/M 2.0 did not support my combination directly. I am looking foward to the Raspberry Pi. I predict it will be a fun toy for me to play with and to see what I can accomplish. I am prepared to buy two and give one away to make sure there are units available for those who need them, but may not be able to afford them. Now, when are they going to develop a $25.00 flat panel monitor?

Armen avatar

Kind of relevant! You guys are also looking for a similar X [not exactly the same but close enough]. Mr Negroponte also emphasizes on lack of computer programming education!


at the time of this post it had 3,185 viewers only.

Google’s We Solve for X

Armen avatar

the whole thing is very very interesting … but if you want to just go straight to the point, teaching computer programming, go to 8:45

mooncrater avatar

I’m all in favour of the kind of upgrades to Gove that you suggest.

clive. avatar

Hello all. I’d like to clear something up.

There are few people around here who do not think that I should be teaching Computing or ICT (or teaching full stop). Their authority for this is a CV (resume) that they have concocted for me in their odd little minds. Under ‘Qualifications and Experience’ this imaginary document says: “CSE in woodwork, Grade 3. Cycling proficiency badge (failed). Work experience: Child Catcher”.

Why they have done this I do not know. Perhaps they think that I am a school caretaker who got bored of shaking his fist at kids and decided to do get his own back by pretending to be a teacher. Perhaps they be afearin’ that they might unknowingly send their kids to my school, and that instead of learning stuff they will become dumber because my skills are so poor that I actually absorb knowledge from surrounding children. Perhaps they just don’t like teachers. (I’m feeling the hate for state schools in particular.)

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that anyone who decides that a person is not suitable for a job without knowing them or their qualifications or their experience is at best deluded and, at worst, as mad as a box of frogs.

So, for the record: I am a qualified teacher with several years’ experience. I have industry experience. I have tertiary qualifications in Computing, ICT, Biology and Physics. I am qualified to teach all of these subjects at A-level. I currently teach Computing and ICT. I am good at it – a man with a clipboard said so.

Sorry that this reads like a job application, but replying to these posts individually is like trying to teach a stick insect to play Whack-a-Mole: frustrating, time consuming, a bit surreal and ultimately pointless. Cheers!

P.S. I still don’t get stuff like the Broadcom datasheet and my Linux is still rudimentary :)

ked avatar

Perhaps because, ironically, you failed upfront to communicate your background and intentions clearly and succinctly. If you had done so then it would have avoided the initial consternation felt by myself and voiced by others, at least one of which has now been banned, well done! Instead you could have inspired those who do have more knowledge than you to enthusiastically support you in your mission. The fact that this point is oblivious to you is most worrying but I wish you well and hope in time that you become an expert in all things Raspi and that your students benefit as a result.

JamesH avatar

Er, why? Background was specified – Clive’s a teacher. Teachers have to have qualifications although he should have no need to provide a CV just to write a humorous piece!

I think people are taking this all much too seriously!

clive. avatar

That was my fault, yes. I didn’t realise that the Blogging Act (“Just Think of the Children” Amendment) 2006 required you to post your autobiography and CV before every comment, in case people decided to just make it up.

The chap that got banned? Yes, that was me too – I ran round to his house and typed in a load of non sequiturs and personal insults while he was making a nice cup of tea.


ked avatar

@Clive: Yes, of course, you are blameless, your actions have no consequence, anyone who disagrees is completely wrong. Here’s a smiley to excuse my impertinence at suggesting otherwise :-)

@JamesH, you are confusing “vocation” with “background” but arguably I should have qualified it with “technical”.

…and with that, since any further criticism risks a ban, I conclude my contribution to this topic ;-)

JamesH avatar

Criticism is fine. Rudeness isn’t. Your first paragraph is bordering on rude (and made of straw), so please be careful.

JohnW avatar

I must say that after reading this entire thread I tend to agree with Ked here.

It does come across as if anyone who makes a comment against what people think or give an opinion that others do not like they will run the risk of a ban.

I believe one comment emphasises my concerns with what happened and the ban.
Take the comment

“Yet you claim you are going to teach kids about computers etc. That is like me teaching people how to do brain surgery when the only meat I have ever cut into is a lump of liver just before cooking it.”

Clearly that is an analogy to point out that Clive had made the point he knew little about computers and programming and to teach would be the same as a programmer teaching brain surgery which He knew little about. To add insult to injury Clive tried to justify a ban by saying it was being rude and directed at him by changing the context of how it was said with this.

“[you teaching] is like me teaching people how to do brain surgery when the only meat I have ever cut into is a lump of liver just before cooking it.”

I already feel like I am walking on egg shells here ( and maybe ill be banned also for opposing what admin have said ) and as I wish to purchase the device not having access to the forums for guides, tips, etc would make life difficult so for that reason I will never make a post in the forums again.

JamesH avatar

Everyone is entitled to opinions or to critisise. It opinions that are presented rudely, or ad hominem attacks that get short shrift.

liz avatar

The only person responsible for a ban here is the guy who got banned. Ad hominem attacks on *anyone* here – other commenters and people writing blog posts alike – don’t go down well with our mods.

ked avatar

@liz, you posted while mine was in progress. I agree with your policy but in this instance I feel it has been unfair, particularly since clive’s responses have been much more insulting that those of others… IMHO.

clive. avatar

I think that you need to read thse posts again ked.
The only time I EVER have a dig is in response to unprovoked ad hominem attacks such as:

“why are you teaching ICT exactly……it sounds to me like geography might be more ‘your thing'”.

“[you teaching] is like me teaching people how to do brain surgery when the only meat I have ever cut into is a lump of liver just before cooking it.”

“Cant imagine how devalued the industry will become if ever teacher suddenly thought they could teach stuff they don’t actually know anything about”

The last two are from the banned chap that you seem so concerened about. Ho hum.

Deep Thought avatar

I sincerely hope that kids will now have the opportunity to learn real computer science. I missed out on that as there were no computers in schools when I left comprehensive – the next year my brother (who was a year behind me) began to be taught using punched cards which had to be taken to the local college for the program to be run! Just a couple of years later the home computing revolution began and I had the opportunity to teach myself across a wide range of relatively affordable computers, which was enormous fun. The last ‘home’ computer I owned was an Acorn A5000.

These days I use Apple Macs at home and both elderly Windoze PC’s and a Mac at work – with a BBC Micro or two knocking about at home for when I have time to mess. Linux never really interested me until the Raspberry Pi came to my attention; it sounded so much fun, like the ‘good old days’, that I will be getting my hands on one as soon as I can, and will use it as an excuse to get my hands dirty and teach myself Linux and more as well as hopefully having more retro fun with RiscOS.

May I strongly encourage ‘Clive’ and any other like-minded teacher to give it a go; our future will depend upon the new foundations they build!

Jos van Egmond avatar

“Linux never really interested me until the Raspberry Pi came to my attention; it sounded so much fun, like the ‘good old days’, that I will be getting my hands on one as soon as I can […]”.

I might have been born a tad later, starting off with Q-BASIC on MS-DOS while my friends were playing Redcat on Windhoos 95 (Dutch pun), but I sure do feel the fun involved in a new piece of tech, about to conquer the world, but understandable for everyone with relative ease.

I suppose somewhere it is a good thing that the most part of “everyone”, alphas included, claim to be unable to understand (mostly just a lack of interest). More exploration for us!

I look forward to Clive’s future blogs! His unique writing style sure kept me reading.

Jon S avatar

Good video. The count is up to 4574. The “spray-on antenna” to which Mr. Negroponte refers is listed as “Anthony Sutera on low power wireless everywhere”–it is neat too.

Jon S avatar

(This refers to the wesolveforx comment above by Armen on February 10, 2012 at 3:43 am.)

eggbox06 avatar

Quite agree, I’m an administrator for a Digital company and have young people ask me the most simple questions about Word and Excel all the time. i do believe It does needs to be balanced with coding, hardware and history of computers.

alxxthegeek avatar

Fortran will run nicely on a pii (runs on gumstix/Omap3 and 4)

Fortran 2003 so can do almost fully OO fortran ;-)

Nothing like doing systems calls in fortran
! utime.f90
! program to do a system call to uptime
program utime
implicit none
character(6) :: command
command = ‘uptime’
print*, ” ”
call system(command)
print*, ” ”

I see the UK is continuing the tradition of appointing great education ministers.

The NSW education minister is an experienced rice farmer
(degree in economics and solicitor)

Don’t worry we even have a minister for Healthy Lifestyles (not kidding)

JohnoFon avatar

I haven’t had time to read all the 200+ postings here, so I apologise if I’m revisiting old ground, but I’d like to question the received wisdom that you need to be able to write machine code before you can call yourself a programmer.

I can do it. I’ve written assembly code on PDP-11s, DEC10s and VAXes. I’ve patched running code and written device drivers, I’ve debugged high-level languages at the machine code level and I’ve even wired up an office with the RS232 cables that I crimped/soldered myself.

It was quite good fun at the time, but I don’t particularly want to do it again.

On the assumption that everyone hasn’t given up on this post I’d like to make the point that there are different sorts of programming. There are those – and I suspect you may be in a majority on this site – who get great satisfaction from making computers interact with the physical world. I have great respect for you – you are the folk who make things work, and work better and faster, and design Raspberry Pis. But I’m not one of you.

I suspect that, for many of you, the actual programming is the pleasure itself. For others of us, the coding is secondary to the challenge of design and the pleasure of the completed project.

We don’t expect an architect to be able to hew stone, or bake bricks; we expect her to know where to go to get the components required, and to be able to choose and use suitable ones, and in the same way I don’t want to code up an interface to a camera when I can download one and get on with processing the pictures

My last ‘pure’ programming job was about taking raw map data and making maps (printed and on screens) and reformatting it for other systems. In this sort of task you’re using large structures and humungous quantities of data, and assembly code is not your friend. It doesn’t help me that I can write down the bit representation of the status flags I’m using, but I DO want a system that stops me mistakenly using that bit pattern as a loop count. High-level, strongly-typed languages can do that, and they make the task easier and more reliable. Please note that I’m not using the ‘O’ words here; before them there was the concept of ‘structured programming’.

I could go on, but this would end up longer than Clive’s blog (also less informative and readable).

JamesH avatar

No need to apologise. I’m entirely with you on this one!

clive. avatar

me too, cheers!

alxxthegeek avatar

I agree with you and anyway this class of chip running linux isn’t the best sort of system to use for teaching asm or learning asm on.

A pic or avr or msp430 or similar microcontroller is much better suited and have smaller and more easily understood instruction sets.
Some pics only have 35 instruction words.
(Might want to have a look at TI’s msp430 as its very similar to the pdp11 , its almost the same instruction set)

For mapping on the raspberrypi , should be able to use
matplotlib and basemap

[…] 28, 2011 9:29 PM http://www.raspberrypi.org (via @ghostyhead) – Today, 12:48 […]

Chris Rawlinson avatar

I am surprised about the disparaging comments made about the perceived lack of qualifications of the OP. To be honest that really shouldn’t matter. Clive seems to have the drive and desire to try new things and not to be shut off from possibilities like all good and outstanding (both Ofsted and English definitions) should have.

The best Computer science teacher I had was a wood work teacher. He wasn’t clued up on all the minute things, but he had a great overview of where we should be headed. If he didn’t know something he’d say so, then challenge us to find the answer before he did. I loved that, beating the teacher is always fun. It’s a technique I use in my own teaching.

What he did do was inspire in me a love of learning and tinkering with things. We even took apart one of the Nimbus PC’s (8086) to see how it worked.

I see the Pi as a way to get the tinkering bug into kids and inspiring the next generation. It’s a cool little tool that I am very excited about. I’ve already got some of my students wanting to start a little Pi club, I hope to learn as much from them as they do from me.

Mr R – ICT Teacher

JamesH avatar

Thanks Mr R.

You are not the only one surprised on the response to what was a light hearted article (with some not so light hearted points to make!)! But then, this is the internet….


Jake Darby avatar

A very interesting article and I look forward to following your experiences with using the Raspberry Pi as a teaching aid. I also know near enough nothing about Linux itself, however I do have a good grasp of the concepts of computing and programming (helped a lot by the correct sort of logical mind). I am also learning Java in my spare time, which is fairly limited I must say between my studies (Maths degree keeps you on your toes).

I really would like to get a Raspberry Pi and may invest in one over my summer holidays.

One of the most interesting points in your article, was your discussion on computing and computer science classes as well as IT. I have experienced both courses, the first was ICT that I took for GCSE and hated every minute of.

I would describe myself as a digital native, I can use presentation software, I can use word, I can use a spreadsheet, I know how to search for something on Google. My problem with ICT was the dull repetitiveness, the boring mundanity of the tasks. ‘Highlight a cell and change it’s colour’ (provides about three screen-shots of evidence) ‘Change the colour of the cell’ (provides a further three screen-shots) ‘Enter this simple data into the spreadsheet’ (couple of screen-shots) ‘edit cell A,B,C,…’ (several screen-shots needed for each edit) etc…

I am not sure if it is a bias, but my opinion of the ICT GCSE is that it needs a complete overhaul. Nearly every child nowadays knows how to open and type in a word processor, how to edit a spreadsheet etc… I feel that there needs to be more emphasis on teaching how to produce good quality finished projects, as in your example of the presentations; in the actual GCSE I did, you could produce something akin to poop produced garbage which would still get the same mark or better as a well crafted elegant one (especially if the well crafted left out some of the gimiky/unnecessary features)

My experience with computing A-Level however was completely different. My friend and I soon established ourselves as the top two of the class, often racing each other to be the first to finish. I saw then, even in the field of programming simple procedural code, that there was a lot of personal tastes and variation. He was generally faster with better named variables, mine was generally a little more elegant and refined but slower.

I loved computing and relished in the new challenge. However it also made a few other things clear to me. First is that programming and computer science is not for everybody, several people in our class struggled to get even the most basic, as they appeared to me, of concepts. The second point is that I don’t think it is well enough supported and advertised as an option. I had not done more than about a hand full of BBC BASIC programs several years earlier and some basic simulations and calculations on spreadsheets.

In summary I guess I will say that I do believe a lot of people are computer natives, but would probably be best described as computer savages. They don’t need to be taught how to open a piece of presentation software, they need to be shown the key points on what makes a good presentation. Second computing and computer science should be included at an earlier time, if the most basic of concepts are introduced earlier, it will give people an idea of what is available and they may be able to discover something new they will enjoy.

Hmmm, okay I originally intended that to be a short few paragraph response. Oh well, I liked your comments and wanted to express my view, but now back to game theory I go.

Charlie Fitzpatrick avatar

Proud to say that’s my ICT teacher right there, from a keen year 12 student…

liz avatar

Lucky you!

Ann Cardus avatar

I loved this post so much I’m desperate to know if you might teach my children when they get to secondary school. I’m in Brentwood which is all too often known as TOWIE town. But my children don’t use fake tan or have nail and hair extensions or fake breasts, and they would love your sense of humour and hang upon your every utterance. Please give me a steer if you are anywhere near and we’ll adjust school choice hierarchy on the application form accordingly.

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