piLEARN: Reuniting education and RISC OS

Martin Hansen of The MathMagical Software Company has unveiled a new website, called piLEARN. The main thinking behind the site is for it to be a starting point for those people who wish to try out RISC OS on the ARM based Raspberry Pi computer, due to be launched in the next few weeks. He also hopes to have additional material and resources available from the site, with education being an obvious focus since the Raspberry Pi has been intended from the the outset to as a device on which kids can learn to program and Martin, as well as being a programmer himself, has taught mathematics for over twenty years – not to mention the obvious historical connection between RISC OS and education.

I asked Martin about his aims for the site, and he had this to say:

The main idea behind piLEARN is to have a first port of call of clarity and quality for those checking out RISC OS when the Raspberry Pi launches in a few weeks time. I’m endeavouring to get materials prepared that will be of general interest, regardless of whether a Raspberry Pi user is running Linux or RISC OS, although the supporting software will show off RISC OS as being the more attractive system.

I also want piLEARN to feature ‘useful’ resources for more experienced users that support them getting to grips with the device. I feel we need to get to grips with it as quickly as possible once released. Hence, the Quicksand font which Raspberry Pi will use in bold on the main logo, and in book form on a new website that they will release at launch. When I got the “heads up” about Quicksand, I quickly found it via Google, but in Open Type format. It’d be a bit pathetic if RISC OS could not even display the font chosen for the Raspberry Pi, so I spent around three hours trying to find out how to convert it. No point all RISC OS users going through this same tedious process, so the converted file is now on the piLEARN website.

Part of the RISC OS philosophy has always been to do “More with Less” and to use key items of software well. So much of modern computing, at a tinkering level, is unnecessarily complicated, and I want piLEARN to explore how to get impressive results from simple procedures. This will make more sense once the first few features have gone online.

I am, of course, on the lookout for new ideas, and reminders of things from the past that, none-the-less, work well. So, if any RISCOSitory readers are sitting on something suitable, I’d be happy to get it on the piLEARN website, helping present it, tart up supporting software if required.

As he mentions in his explanation, Martin has already uploaded a RISC OS version of the Quicksand font to the site’s ‘Resource’ page. The conversion process means it is best suited for use on a computer running RISC OS 5. However, for  RISC OS 4 (and possibly 6) users, Jon Robinson recently wrote an article on The Icon Bar explaining how to get unicode working on RISC OS 4 computers – which, as part of the process, involves getting the RISC OS 5 font manager working.

piLEARN logo
piLEARN logo

Martin has also created his own unique (and very nice) version of the old Acorn logo for use as the piLEARN logo, and has uploaded that to the site in Artworks format and, with mathematics in mind, visitors to the piLEARN website can already download a number of GCSE level mathematics worksheets as PDFs.

I’ve already given friends and family who have teenage children a pointer to the site on the back of those worksheets alone, and I can see piLEARN becoming a useful resource regardless of the success of the Raspberry Pi computer, so I wish Martin all the best with it.

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