About this Project

Purpose and Goals of Project:
A.To review past teachings and build upon participants’ current understanding of the connections between faith and computer technology.
B.To share the capacity, limitations and adaptability of the RP2 as a tool, to facilitate learning on select RP2 programs and to advance learning in and beyond the areas of computer science.
C.To encourage experienced teachers to share Spanish curriculum and pedagogical applications of the Raspberry Pi with other teachers via RedProCom.

Project Report:

We had 3.5 days of scheduled activities and 3 evenings of unscheduled free time designed to encourage exploration and teamwork.  Each session was begun with a biblical reflection by Derek.  The sessions focused on using the GoPiGo Robotics kit with Scratch, Teaching Python, the Gimp (image manipulation program), Creating Creative Spaces, Perspectives on Christian Education and Technology. A member of RedProCom (Network of Christian School Computer Teachers in Nicaragua) also presented two workshops. The informal/unplanned activities in the evenings included doing more with the GoPiGo, installing and reinstalling Raspbian, Installing OpenELEC media Center, checking out School Tool, installing and configuring OwnCloud, and more.

Project goal A was addressed through devotions touching on topics relating to faith and technology/culture interwoven throughout the trainings. In addition, a focused session was dedicated to the topic of “Approaches to Christian Education” discussing the need to avoid dualism, Biblicism and avoiding the notion that Christian education is simply “Christians educating.” The topic of spiritual formation in the classroom was also raised.
Project goal B was met in part - we shared more about the Raspberry Pi, but work remains in order to encourage teachers to use it in areas beyond computer science.
Project goal C is ongoing within RedProCom. We left several Raspberry Pi robots with RedProCom with encouragement to share them among the schools (with hope that they will also share curriculum with each other). One of the RedProCom members presented a workshop showing some of things he has done with the Raspberry Pis.

Teachers seemed to enjoy working with the robots which are novel tools for teaching computing concepts. The students from Dordt College were also challenged in seeing firsthand the state of computing in some of the local Christian schools and caught a glimpse of some of the challenges that arise in development work.

It seems that requiring the schools to provide monitors, keyboards and mice when receiving a Raspberry Pi was not an unreasonable expectation for the schools. It ensured local school ownership and participating and moved them closer towards sustainable computer labs. One school which was slated for 20 Raspberry Pi’s claimed they had already secured 15 monitors, mice and keyboards with the balance expected in February.

Rather than hand-carrying Pi’s into the country, a local vendor in Nicaragua was approached to import the Raspberry Pi’s. This will hopefully benefit local business and ensure a local supplier for the Raspberry Pi so schools will not be reliant on teams bringing them in.

This project was made possible due to a grant received from The Charis Foundation.  We also appreciate the collaboration with Dordt College.

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In many Nicaraguan schools, computer labs are inadequately equipped. Most schools that have computer labs are furnished with an insufficient number of very outdated pieces of equipment (think Pentium 2) that consume lots of energy, create lots of heat, and are typically incapable of running modern software.  These outdated labs require large amounts of work (and in many cases money) to keep them running, which often takes away from the teacher's time that could be invested in planning classes and training other teachers.  To make things worse, an inconsistent power supply and high ambient temperatures means more damaged equipment and more lost time.  Lack of resources to fix the computers means labs are shrinking in size – meaning there are four or more students to one computer for class in some cases.  And for schools that often struggle to raise enough funds through tuition, replacing these computers with new ones is often not even considered as a possibility.

Despite these challenges, many schools are pushing forward and some are able to do remarkable things.  EduDeo recognizes the great potential in Nicaraguan schools and desires to walk alongside these schools, helping strengthen and shape computer science programs – first, with reliable and affordable hardware; second, with suitable software; and third, with a new way of understanding and using technology in education.  Responding to this need, EduDeo initiated the Raspberry Pi Pilot Project in December 2014.  The project was implemented in conjunction with RedProCom, a group of Nicaraguan Christian school computer science teachers working in economically depressed communities.  The project supplied 30 Raspberry Pi B+ units.  15 of the units were set up as a computer lab in one school.  The remaining 15 units were given to RedProCom members to set up as individual computers in their computer labs.  Four days of training were provided to help the Nicaraguan computer science teachers understand the Raspberry Pi units, introduce them to a number of programs on the Raspberry Pis, and gain a greater appreciation for a Christian approach to computer technology.

The Raspberry Pi – Pilot 6 Month Evaluation showed that the Raspberry Pi:
- had no insect or moisture problem,
- was highly resistant to power fluctuations,
- was not compromised by viruses,
- had a few problems with its micro SD card lock (but a simple solution was found),
- programs offered were well used, and
- is particularly well-suited for engaging students and encouraging them to self-learn.

The 6 month evaluation also revealed several additional lessons that will be incorporated into future projects.
a) School leadership, not just computer science teachers, need to be involved.  They need to understand the capabilities of Raspberry Pi technology and be involved in the decision making process.
b) There is a need for greater awareness and understanding of Linux and open source software.  For many in Nicaragua, Windows is the software platform of choice.  Some parents and school leaders felt that open source programs were inferior.  To counter this notion, El Alfarero School invited parents to a demonstration of what the RP2 offered.  This served as a great way for gaining acceptance.
c) There is need for training material or the sharing of best practices that challenges teachers to move away from teacher-directed learning and moves towards teacher-guided learning.  Teacher-guided learning allows individual students to explore and learn more about the computer and programs on their own, and also promotes creativity and develops critical thinking.

EduDeo Ministries has now received a grant from The Charis Foundation.  With this grant, EduDeo will focus on replacing the bulky and outdated computer lab technology with RP2 computers.  The RP2, a recent upgrade, is up to six times faster than the Raspberry Pi B+ used in the pilot project.  The RP2 runs on 2.5 watts of power, is extremely efficient compared to laptops (which are in the range of 20-60 watts) and desktops (which use up to 200 watts).  It runs an operating system called ‘Raspbian’ based on a popular Linux distribution called ‘Debian’.  In addition, it comes loaded with RP2 educational programs.

A monitor, keyboard, and mouse connect to RP2 through USB ports.  This will make it easier to repair or replace computer components in the future – as opposed to laptops (which require all parts to be functional in order to be usable) or tablets (which tend to be fragile).   The RP2 has no moving parts and has minimal overheating issues – so it is ideal for warm, dusty conditions.  All the programs are free or honour copyright codes.  In addition, the Raspberry Pi is not affected by licensing issues or the common computer viruses that plague labs using Microsoft Windows, thereby increasing security and significantly reducing the risk of software failure.  Finally, the RP2’s small size means substantially less hazardous e-waste will be created when the computer components reach their end of life.  For these reasons EduDeo has decided to use RP2.

EduDeo partner RedProCom will select two Nicaragua Christian schools in low income areas that are actively implementing a computer lab, but struggling with outdated computer lab equipment.  As a way of building local ownership, schools will be expected to commit to supplying all of the mice, keyboards and at least some of the monitors required in their labs.  In addition, the schools will provide a secure computer classroom that is appropriately wired and commit to regularly budget all replacement costs, thus preventing the need for outside help to maintain or upgrade the computer lab.  The RP2 project will supply 25 RP2s to each school and ensure at least 25 active working stations per computer lab.

The project Integrating Faith and Technology is a combined project between EduDeo's Walking Together Program and Dordt College's Amor Program.  Its main goal is to provide opportunities to serve and learn about computing in Christian schools in Nicaragua.

Participants will have the opportunity to visit computer labs in Christian schools and work alongside RedProCom. The team will join this group of teachers for a three day training focused on the relationship between faith and technology and learning together about a small, nifty computer called the Raspberry Pi. Participants will work together to help prepare a simple computer lesson using the Raspberry Pi which will be shared as part of a larger workshop.

For more information regarding Raspberry Pi, and the potential for this technology in developing nations, please see Derek Schuurman's article published by the American Scientific Affiliation: Introducing Open Source and the Raspberry Pi to Schools in Developing Nations.

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