The closure of schools has called attention to the digital divide, which sees poorer families struggling or unable to access education*. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t cause this divide, but it has highlighted it and its impact on many people in our society.
As our Foundation CEO Philip outlined back in April, part of our response to the pandemic and social distancing measures is to send free Raspberry Pi computers to students who currently lack the technology to complete their school work at home. Generously funded by the Bloomfield Trust, we have started to distribute Raspberry Pis in the UK.
Who is receiving Raspberry Pis?
Our approach for this initiative is to work with partner charities that help us identify the right recipients for the computers; we want them to go to young people who don’t have a suitable device for completing their schoolwork in their home.
The first partner charity we’ve been working with, whose team has been so patient as we’ve learned together how to do this, are the incredible School Home Support, a youth organisation working to improve school attendance, behaviour, and engagement in learning. With their help, we’ve so far distributed more than 120 Raspberry Pi 4 computers (with 2GB RAM), together with all the peripherals including a screen. School Home Support were also able to secure funding to provide high-speed internet access to the recipients’ home so students can reliably connect to their schools.
How are we helping them set up?
The young people set up their Raspberry Pis themselves, and we provide detailed instructions to guide them through this process. Most of the families have never used a computer like Raspberry Pi, so they need encouragement and support to get up and running. This is being provided both by the excellent School Home Support practitioners, and by Raspberry Pi team members, who answer questions when recipients get stuck.
“My mum was confused by the setup at first, but having a call to explain it really helped, and now we see how easy it is to set up and use.”
Raspberry Pi recipient
Recipients are already benefiting
Before receiving these computers, many of the young people only had occasional access to their parents’ phone to find out what school work had been set for them, and to complete it.
“It’s much easier to do my schoolwork now on the bigger screen. I feel like I’m learning more.”
Raspberry Pi recipient
We’re getting feedback that the Raspberry Pis help recipients focus on their work; they now have their own space to work in and more time to complete schoolwork, as they’re no longer rushing to share a device with other family members.
“I don’t always enjoy doing homework, but it’s better now that I have my own computer to do my work.”
Raspberry Pi recipient
Having a Raspberry Pi has increased the students’ motivation, and it has reduced stress — for parents as well as children:
“The Raspberry Pi kit came at a time when I really needed it. Up until that point, T had to do his homework and access the school’s home learning using my phone, which was not very practical at all. This was made worse by the fact that he had to share my phone with his sister, which ended up causing a lot of arguments. He was so pleased to receive a computer he could use. At first he had a lot of fun playing different games on it, and I was surprised about how well he was able to understand and help me set it up. The only negative was that he enjoyed playing games on it a bit too much! I feel relieved that he has his own computer which he can use. It was very stressful and frustrating having to use my mobile phone. There were times when T would be using my phone to do his work and he would be interrupted if I got a phone call, which meant that he would have to log in again, and sometimes would lose his work.”
Parent of a Raspberry Pi recipient
What are we doing next?
It’s wonderful to hear stories like this of how our computers make a difference in people’s lives. We’re still learning lots: while many families have been able to get up and running easily and quickly, others are still overwhelmed because they are unfamiliar with the device. We know we need to do more to build their confidence.
As we’re learning, we’re also talking to our next charity partners in the UK to help us identify more recipients, and to help the recipients get set up on their new Raspberry Pi devices.
If you are part of an organisation that could partner with us to support families in need of access to technology, please email us at email@example.com. Be aware that your organisation would need to fund the families’ internet access.