Tiny Computers Part of Workshop to Benefit Local Schools
July 1, 2013 – Georgetown will train teachers from local underserved middle and high schools how to program a computer the size of credit card as part of a workshop to help them inexpensively integrate computers into their classrooms.
Georgetown’s department of computer science is hosting the July 10-12 workshop for teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Washington, D.C, and Montgomery County, Maryland.
“We thought that if we could somehow engage traditional science teachers as well as computer science teachers in middle school and high school … it would really enhance the education of kids and … their interest in computational thinking,” says Lisa Singh, associate professor of computer science and the workshop’s co-organizer.
The three-day training session is made possible by an $8,400 gift from the Google CS4HS (Computer Science for High School) program.
The 10-15 expected participants each will program a small computer called a Raspberry Pi during the workshop and keep them to use in their schools.
Despite its size, the Raspberry Pi can be plugged into a monitor and keyboard and used to create spreadsheets, write reports and play games at a fraction of the cost ($100 or less) of high-end computers.
What’s going to happen over time is if the trend continues where computer science isn’t taught early enough in the curriculum, we’re going to have a situation where we have two different groups of people: Those who understand technology and how it works and those who just use it."
—Lisa Singh, Associate Professor of Computer Science
“We’re hoping that …[the Raspberry Pi will help] teachers that are serving in schools that don’t have a budget, that can’t spend $2,000 for a laptop, that can’t go out and buy 30 computers,” said Helen Karn, associate dean of the College and workshop co-organizer. “It’s really within the affordable range and limited [only] by your imagination.”
Karn said they hope the workshop will spark an interest and provide ways for students to learn more about computer science and computational thinking in their core science and math courses.
“You have talent everywhere but if the students don’t have the opportunity, the teachers don’t have the opportunity, how do you develop that talent,” she says. “That’s really why we’re going to schools that don’t have a lot of extras.”
The workshop organizers also say they hope to reverse what they see as an ongoing trend.
“What’s going to happen over time is if the trend continues where computer science isn’t taught early enough in the curriculum, we’re going to have a situation where we have two different groups of people,” Singh says, “Those who understand technology and how it works and those who just use it.”