Kano Computers

BY Al Mahoney 

West Tisbury School 

Project Description

The funds from this grant would be used to purchase 3 Kano Build it Yourself Computer kits. Kano Computers are kits that allow students to make their own computer. I would like to begin an elective period which utilizes these computers. The kit is comprised of a single Raspberry Pi board, a wireless keyboard, a dongle, some cables and a memory card that comes with the Kano operating system. The idea is that kids will take these components and construct their own computer that they attach to a monitor. Storybooks will guide them through the process, also teaching them how to code within the Kano OS. They’ll be able to make a wireless server, reprogram Minecraft to build custom worlds, create music and even just word-process. The main point being, of course, that they do all of this on a computer they built themselves. Students are extremely excited about the prospect of this elective period. I will use funds from other sources to expand the number of Kano’s in the class.

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)

The project will be evaluated by student engagement, excitement and success at building their own computer. Having students learn what is happening inside their devices is important. From Wired Magazine… “Over the past two decades, we’ve sealed up our devices, locked them away under sapphire screens with swipe and grab,” says Klein, one of the co-founders. “When you open up those bits and pieces, give them personality, and put them in front of a young person, you catalyze more than a coding kit-you spark creative confidence.” Kano speaks to a larger trend, one where hardware startups are replacing passive acceptance of technology with curiosity-and answers-for what this stuff is really all about. Forging a connection between software and hardware, they say, will give children a deeper understanding of both.” Students who are engaged and curious do better in school. This has been proven over and over. One of the things we pride ourselves about at West Tisbury School is our choice of electives. When students have exciting courses to chose from, such as building your own computer, it gets them excited and engaged in school.

Benefit to the students and the school

The benefit to the school will be another, new and exciting elective course offering. Students will gain an understanding of how a computer works, and how to code it themselves. This will give students a great sense of pride and empowerment. From Wired, “Few children have seen the guts of a computer, and for good reason. It’s pretty confusing once you get in there. The real beauty of something like Kano kit is that it simplifies and streamlines a process that otherwise tends to be reserved for people with college degrees. After just a few days of officially seeing Kano in the world, Klein can say with confidence that kids can and want to learn about this stuff. “Kids don’t need to be talked down or pandered to, especially not when it comes to technology,” he says. “If you use clear language, good stories, and genuine game mechanics, you tap into something universal.” The internet is full of great reviews by both children and adults about using Kano. It would be a wonderful addition to this school to have a new elective class based on the idea of students building their own computers.

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)

We would begin this elective course as soon as we receive these computers.