Raspberry Pi, Used to Teach Students Coding, Hits 5 Million Sales

By Liana Loewus — February 20, 2015 1 min read
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This week, the group that created the Raspberry Pi announced that it had sold more than 5 million units—a great leap from the 10,000 computers the founders had said they initially hoped to sell.

While we at Education Week are great fans of flaky crust and fruit filling, that’s not what we’re talking about here. Raspberry Pi, if you haven’t heard, is a $25 to $35 single-board computer that’s the size of a credit card. It plugs into a keyboard and screen and is meant to be used for electronics projects. “We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming,” the website states.

In 2008, a group of computer scientists at the University of Cambridge in Great Britain formed the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity group aimed at improving students’ computer programming skills. The way to do so, they decided, was to create a small, cheap computer for programming practice. Eben Upton, one of the developers, told the technology news site ZDNet in 2013, “We honestly did think we would sell about 1,000, maybe 10,000 in our wildest dreams.” The group sold 10,000 Raspberry Pis within hours of releasing the first model in Feb. 2012.

The foundation now provides free teacher training on how to use the computers in classrooms, as well as a host of educational resources, including coding tutorials, activities, and project ideas. The $1.5 million education fund offers grants for projects that better students’ understanding of computing. The devices are now being used in classrooms around the world.

It will be worth keeping tabs on whether this Pi mania continues. The newest model came out just this month and sold 500,000 units right away.

Plus, interest in teaching computer programming seems to be on the rise: claims that 100 million people have participated in its “Hour of Code” campaign, which started in 2013. States are also increasingly allowing computer science courses to fullfill core math or science requirements toward high school graduation.

And while the Raspberry Pi’s instructional uses may be somewhat narrow, its price tag could be a draw for schools—which could get about 20 of them for the cost of a single iPad Air 2.

Andy Merrill, 13, connects a monitor and keyboard to a Raspberry Pi, a credit-card sized computer, during the “Teen Tinkers and Minecraft” program last April in Libertyville, Ill.—George LeClaire/Daily Herald/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.