Team Kano shoots itself in the foot by claiming #RaspberryPi are gathering dust in schools

Kano, the British start-up who ran an enormously successful Kickstarter campaign in November/December last year have claimed that schools are allowing their Raspberry Pis to gather dust, without checking their facts first. This article, which appeared on the PC Pro website, contained this little gem from Alejandro Simon, Kano’s head of software:

“It wasn’t friendly for the teachers,” he said. “They received [Raspberry Pi] kits and massive instruction books and they weren’t prepared for it – so they were gathering dust.” “I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault – you can’t force ICT teachers to learn,” he added. “They aren’t going to know without guidance.”

Neither PC Pro nor Kano themselves had decided to talk to Eben Upton or anyone else at the Foundation before publication of the article. Their evidence is entirely anecdotal and they clearly haven’t looked very closely at the Google Pi boxes. I’ve seen Google Pis in-the-flesh, as it were, and I can assure you that they don’t contain ‘massive instruction books’ – on the contrary, they include a very concise, professionally-produced, how-to-get-started pamphlet.

Fortunately, however, someone pointed the article out to the Foundation and Eben has since had a response published on the same website. The highlight of that article is this quote from Eben:

“We do have good tracking on the vast majority of those,” he said. “The reason why I’m absolutely certain that, if there are some [kits] languishing on shelves they’re in a tiny minority, is because we’re required by Google to have very good visibility.”

He then goes onto explain the measures the Foundation has gone to to ensure that this tracking is carried out.

Unfortunately for Kano, they’ve decided to compound their initial mistake by offering this:

“We don’t think Raspberry Pi is gathering dust in general, just that particular ‘kit’ and documentation wasn’t used as it was supposed to.”

Which is neither apology nor evidence that they have changed their minds or researched the issue any more than they did to begin with.

Although I broadly appreciate the work that Team Kano has done creating their product and funding it, and I like the look of their books and the kit itself, I’d like to point out to them that their product doesn’t guarantee to end up in the hands of kids. The kit is at a good price point that means that hobbyists and hackers will be attracted as well. One wonders how much of the $1.5 million raised represents kids getting hold of the product. I haven’t, I admit, asked them for an estimate, so I invite them to comment on this blog with statistics that show that their aim of getting their kit into kids’ hands is being met by their Kickstarter campaign. They have said in the original article that one school bought as many as 80 kits. Well, is this the tip-of-the-iceberg, or is this just a single case?

One hopes that, in future, they think carefully before effectively ‘biting the hand that feeds them’. Without the Foundation’s original goals, and without the amazing product they brought to market, the Kano kit simply would not exist. The Foundation is so open to questions and suggestions that Team Kano had ample opportunity to get their facts right – let’s hope they’ve learnt their lesson.

This is an opinion piece and, therefore, represents my opinion only. I have no affiliation to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, although I am a strong supporter of their mission to build up the next generation of programmers and hackers.

I am not a fan of the Kano. I feel that it became enormously popular because of some good marketing and product design. The heart is the Raspberry Pi and, although I think their documentation shows promise, it doesn’t make the Raspberry Pi any more user-friendly or kid-friendly by sheer virtue of being orange. I also think their keyboard is too small for long-term programming. But that’s just me!

7 comments for “Team Kano shoots itself in the foot by claiming #RaspberryPi are gathering dust in schools

  1. Agree with you 100%. I’m also not a fan of the Kano. I think it’s just marketing and orange coloured & the major selling point is actually the orange colour. I think a better kickstarter to make the raspberry pi more useful to kids & schools is the HDMPI. Anyone can find a keyboard, mouse, some books & docs but a nice display is harder to find in quanity

  2. I get the advantage of a well put together kit with good documentation … but a normal keyboard is only £5 and will work just as well. Not sure why you need $1.5M to just put together a user manual with some coloured accessories. Although in 1993 I did question the usefulness of something called the “internet” so I can sometimes be wrong about these things 🙂

    In a more positive light I think more Pi options increases the chances of people finding a setup that works for them. If this gets more teachers on board then great. I guess time will tell. I suspect the Kano guys were trying to emphasise a selling point of their all-in-one kit and their statement was more badly judged rather than a deliberate insult to the Foundation as such. Some Pi’s are gathering dust, it’s just hard to know exactly how many.

    These sort of tensions are inevitable given the thriving Pi eco-system so it’s no bad thing in the long term. This doesn’t happen to here-today-gone-tomorrow fads. Long live the Pi!

  3. I’ve kept my mouth shut about Kano since i saw it which was hard as couldn’t believe how much money they got off the back of their kickstarter. My major concern is they are going to hide the CLI and computer part of Raspberry Pi give people totally simplistic semi-computing activity and basically put us back to square one.

  4. As much as I’m not a fan of Team Kano’s 1,000,000% OTT marketing and hype I look forward to receiving a copy of their SD card with the educational software installed on it as that is going to be their main contribution to the Raspberry Pi party and it might be a platform on which to build and push it into education.

    Only someone behind a large pair of tinted glasses would say that the Foundations efforts to get Raspberry Pi’s into the hands of kids has been a success story 🙂 [

    Maybe Team Kano (even though they want to make you want to put your fingers down your own throat) are actually the ones for the job?

  5. clearly it’s marketing! but it worked. I bought one for my 7-yr old based on the properly marketed appeal to kids. Of course I go straight to Adafruit, etc. for my pi projects but I am an adult who has an attention span that is longer than an episode of Adventure Time. One success right here, and that is the success that currently matters to me. Still, as it was most eloquently put in the article, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!” Bad form Kano.

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