The PicoCluster Solution!


Last month the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, released the results of the first ever national test of technology and engineering literacy in the United States.   (See an overview here )  A staggering 57% of American 8th graders are not proficient in technology and engineering skills.  While many are celebrating after comparing the results to those in reading and math, as a country we still have much work to do.

The results of this test point out several areas where improvements can be made.  And PicoCluster can be a real solution in many of these areas.  Let’s start with the lead-in from the Washington Post article – Girls Outscore Boys on Inaugural National Test of Technology and Engineering Skills.  As a woman, this doesn’t surprise me.  But somewhere between 8th grade and college, many girls are either losing interest in technology or are feeling inadequate.

 

A PicoCluster can help solve both of these issues.  First, unlike other computers a PicoCluster is cute.  It is fascinating to watch it work.  Because of its small size, it is portable, too.  Second, a PicoCluster is a social computer.  While it can operate as a big data cluster, it can also work as several individual computers allowing for group collaboration both on and off the computer at the same time.  No other computer on the market offers this.  Girls scored particularly well on the collaboration portion of the test, so having a computer that encourages that skill will boost both interest and self-esteem.  Third, PicoCluster encourages learning.  Not only can you learn programming in Python, Java, and other languages, you can also learn Big Data software like Hadoop, Apache, and NoSQL.  And you can use these languages to create a media center for all your dvd’s and music, create wearable electronics, even make digital art (here’s how to make a digital garden)

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There were large socioeconomic and racial disparities noted on this test.  For example, only 25% of students who received free or reduced lunches at school scored proficient, compared to 59% of students in higher income categories.  Private school students had an advantage over public school students – 60% scoring proficient vs. 42% of public school students.  English language learners, black students, and Latinos also scored lower than their white and Asian counterparts.  PicoCluster can be a solution here, too.  While many private schools and public schools in more affluent areas can afford to purchase laptops and iPads for every student, many schools in poorer areas struggle to get enough working computers for a computer lab.

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A PicoCluster is very cost effective.  For the price of 6 or 7 iPads you can get a 20-node PicoCluster where 20 kids can be on the computer at one time.  With free monitoring software, a teacher can see what each student is working on at any given time.  He/she can step in to help immediately when a child is struggling, or move a child ahead when a subject is mastered.  PicoClusters come in a variety of sizes – 3-node, 5-node, 10-node, 20-node, even 100-node clusters are available, using your choice of Raspberry Pi's, Odroid's, or Pine 64's.  You can connect clusters together to make your own configurations, or we can customize a solution for you at minimal cost.  Some schools we are working with are experimenting with students using individual Raspberry Pi’s at home that can be put into a clustered environment while at school, giving children access to technology wherever they go.  With the PicoCluster learning platform, schools will have access to educational materials designed to help their students succeed.

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PicoCluster isn’t just for educators.  All of us at PicoCluster LLC have at least one PicoCluster in our homes.  My son has 4 girls ages 3-10 and has a 5-node PicoCluster in his home.  I love it when the girls come in from school or playing outside and say, “Let’s go play on the PicoCluster!”

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Students who took this technology and engineering test were asked about their main technology teachers.  Two-thirds of them said family members were who they learned technology from. That’s a huge percentage!  How can you help your children excel in this world filled with smart phones, smart tv’s, smart appliances, and computer chips in cars, watches, and even clothing?  Start with buying a PicoCluster.   It’s the only computer you can build from a kit or purchase already built, expand as needed, comes with its own learning platform, and can be used by 3 or more people at the same time.  Kits start at only $129, so it’s affordable, too!  Choose from Raspberry Pi, Odroid, or Pine 64.

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