The Official Raspberry Pi website

 

 

LC-1I sure make a ton of photocopies.

Education is ridiculously expensive.  The state is constantly looking at ways to reel in the spiraling budget.  As a result, my school has received fewer and fewer textbook funds over the past several years. Textbooks prices are out of control - a set for one class can easily cost $5000. I teach three different topics, so you can imagine how money I could spend, let alone how much my entire department of ten teachers would need. The money just isn't available. So, in order to allow my students to have access to a rich diversity of literary and non-fiction pieces, I have become rather creative at photocopying. 

I’ve learned to make the most of a class set of handouts.  I print two-sided, I use the same set of copies for multiple classrooms, and I attempt to reuse the copies for a number of years.  Yet despite my best efforts, I still make way too many copies. Obviously, if I had a set of devices which would store each of my handouts electronically, I wouldn’t need to spend a large chunk of my day killing trees and pulling out paper jams, but that option is much harder than one might think.

Electronic devices cost even more than books. Don't get me started on the the cost of an iPad! The Amazon Kindles are priced reasonably, but my district really doesn't have a good system of ordering e-books. And, the Kindle doesn't help me with smaller reading pieces - essays and short stories for example. I usually don't need an entire collection of writing from one individual; I need a collection from different authors. Most of the material I teach is already in the public domain and available from the internet. I'm fairly well versed with Adobe Dreamweaver (I'm using it to make this website), and for some time I have been creating an html document that contains all of my handouts. But unless all of my students have access to a computer during class time, such a collection is useless for instruction.

Then came the fateful day that I wanted a robot. Amongst all of the teacher junk mail that fills up my mail slot, I came across an advertisment for "Mr. Robot" - a five foot tall instructional that could say up to seven phrases. I immediately took the advertisment to my administration and insisted that I get a robot for my class. "Why?" you may ask. The obviously reply to that is "Why not?!!"

OK, so I didn't need a robot. It was a joke (although, can you really blame me for wanting a robot?).

Then Radio Shack went out of business.

I had grown up on Heath Kits and electronic project boards. My initial college plan was to be a computer engineer, and it took a full year of Lousiville Speed Scientific School to prove to me that Calculus is not for the faint of heart. But I have been following computer development ever since my first Commadore 64, and my wife decided to date me after I showed her how to use an MP3 player. So, when Radio Shack went under, I visited one of their 70% all-must-go sales and bought a robot kit, just for fun. I built the robot and showed my administrators that I didn't need them to buy me a classroom robot. So there!

As I built the kit, I found that I needed help. The project included an Ardiuno microprocessor, and since I had not heard of an Ardiuno microprocessor before, I did what English teachers do best: I read all about it. In the process I discovered the Maker community and the potential of the Raspberry Pi.

The Pi is microcomputer developed in the United Kingdom. Initially designed to teach programing, it has developed a following of inventors, tinkerers, and educators who have found a miriad of uses for the tiny device. During my hours of enthusiatic web searches, I came across a Pi tablet that was created by Michael Castor. He had created a wonderful little system using mostly off the shelf parts. I wondered if I could possibly duplicate his work to make a platform that would work in my classes. Even better, if I could keep the cost under $100, then I could make the project more attractive for a possible grant.

Maybe. . ., just maybe. As my friend Kenny always asks, "How hard can it be?"

There was one way to find out. I pulled up Amazon.com and I ordered me a Raspberry Pi kit.

Next: Phase One - Unboxing and Setting up the Raspberry Pi