The Blueberry4 is an educational computer kit with an accompanying study guide designed to help students explore the fundamental operation of computers under the new Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies.
“The Blueberry4 consists of 10 computing modules that represent core functions of a computer system. With these, students perform experiments, which lead to increasingly sophisticated hardware and software arrangements. The Blueberry4 operates at human speed, allowing students to easily follow with their own eyes how data flows and how code works inside a computer.”
I haven’t played with the Blueberry4 but it’s certainly an interesting idea. The proof of the pudding, however, is whether it actually manages to properly expose enough elements to make computers more than a magic box. The modules in the pictures don’t entirely reassure me that that will be the case. Just having exposed circuitry doesn’t make the underlying operations any less opaque.
And at $440 a unit it would want to have a lot of educational upside compared to working with a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino.
That said, it really is great to see the release of hardware like this tailored to the new curriculum: And having it fitted to the curriculum is clearly a huge benefit. It will be interesting to see what teachers and students think once they’ve had a chance to work with the kit.
The Blueberry4 is made by the Digital Technologies Institute, full details can be found on their website.
UPDATE: Karsten Schulz is the brains behind the Blueberry4 and he reached out to provide some more information. He points out that testing in schools has had very positive results especially in terms of engagement for girls. I asked him why he thought this was so. He referred to a study about girls in computing and continued…
So, we added purpose (answering the question: “why am I doing this?”) and multi-sensory experience (especially haptic). We wanted students to really feel how a computer works. Because we introduce all concepts bottom-up, all concepts have a purpose (we do this because …). So, now we can teach students Binary in just 10 minutes and then build on top. With the Blueberry4 students even design their own programming language. We currently have extension kits in the lab to extend the computing concepts further into graphics and arithmetics. Overarchingly, we try to make the point that computers are cleverly arranged switches that operate at near light speed. Once students have understood this, everything else flows from it.