There’s no need to fret over the future of desktop Linux; Raspberry Pi has that covered. It’s expanding the future of Linux in other ways as well. Let me explain.
At this very moment, thousands of children are hard at work tinkering with wires and connecting circuits to watch lights flicker on and off. They are typing lines of Python and are awestruck as a robotic arm comes to life for the first time. Smiles are widening on each child’s face as new boundaries are being crossed and experiments are taking shape. Linux has brought this joy into the lives of each of these children. How? Through the small but very powerful computer called the Raspberry Pi.
How is the Raspberry Pi expanding the future of Linux? When it comes to learning the craft of creating code, there are several beautifully crafted frameworks that can get children up to speed faster than any IDE or code book. First and foremost is the programming language Scratch. This language, created by the Lifelong Kindergarten group out of MIT, is geared towards teaching children how to program through an easy to navigate drag-and-drop interface. This interface allows the user to see their code come to life much more quickly than they would through a text editor or an IDE, which is exactly what is needed for a child’s attention span.
Other companies that are involved with Raspberry Pi have also tied in with the power of Scratch to make learning complex concepts much easier. There’s even a robotics company by the name of Dexter Industries that has created a kit that allows users to design their own robot using Scratch.
There’s also the Sonic Pi program that combines both the power of music and the power of coding to teach children. Using Ruby, children are able to code up any range of music, from a couple of notes to a complete symphony. Sonic Pi is amazing because it can teach two ideas at the same time, no matter which way you spin it. Either the user learns about music from knowing how to code or learns how to code from knowing music. I have taken quite a liking to Sonic Pi, since I know how to code but don’t know anything related to music.
Not only is the Raspberry Pi introducing Linux to children, but it is also introducing Linux to the parents of these children. I run a Raspberry Pi meetup in Washington, D.C., and about a week or so before the first meeting a member asked if they could bring their children to the meetup. I also help run a Java User Group (JUG), and I never had anyone ask to bring children to the JUG before, so I was more than happy to say yes. From this, I also encouraged other members, if they wanted, to bring their children as well.
Along with the twenty plus members who appeared at the meeting, about six children also showed up. Let me tell you, these children, who ranged in age from about nine to twelve, blew my socks off with what they had been doing with their Raspberry Pis. When I inquired among the group exactly who had been wiring directly into the Pi via the GPIO pins, one of the children and I were the only ones who had.
The kid was way ahead of me. I had just been doing very basic level projects, but this child had been wiring his Pi up with an old Nintendo controller to play games. I was amazed to hear this, because this was exactly what I had been reading about concerning children and the Raspberry Pi — children learning and taking Linux to a new level at an age that no other device or hardware has done previously.
Since the meeting I have fielded many Linux-related questions from parents that are members of the Raspberry Pi meetup, who were curious and wanting to know how they themselves could learn more about Linux. This curiosity was born from seeing their children playing with and using their Raspberry Pis and wanting to be a part of that experience. It’s simply amazing and is a beautiful thing to see; a family coming closer together over software that’s been designed out of the goodness of people’s hearts.
If you have never played with or purchased a Raspberry Pi, I encourage you to splurge a little on yourself and go enjoy this amazing tiny computer. The sky’s the limit with what the Raspberry Pi can do, and who knows, you might awaken your inner child with a DIY project that you have been dying to do, like that homemade weather station you’ve always wanted to create or putting together an outdoor camera to watch birds. As for the future of Linux, don’t worry. It’s in some small, younger and very powerful hands and the future has never been brighter.
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