Our classroom glows with activity. One kid drafts a how-to article in which he explains the steps involved in wiring a cardboard Minecraft controller. Another writes a branching-path, choose-your-own-adventure story in Twine, a free, downloadable interactive fiction app. A student who’s claimed throughout his middle-school career that he isn’t a writer leans close to his laptop screen, finding and fixing coding errors. He composes, compiles, and debugs more than 100 lines of code to light up a three-by-three-light LED display plugged into his laptop.
A pair of especially curious students sits huddled around our newest computer, an exposed-faced circuit board smaller than a paperback book. It’s called a Raspberry Pi. They’re watching how the code they write in one window changes the course of a game in another. They may not know it yet, but these kids are playing with an open-source computing platform that just might change the way we teach young people how to interact with computers.