BBC micro:bit – Get Creative, Get Coding, Get Connected with Samsung at BETT 2016

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BETT 2016 was in full swing this week and among the plethora of interesting seminars, we had the pleasure of attending a live presentation of the BBC micro:bit – Get Creative, Get Coding, Get Connected with Samsung.

Innovative technology in education is not only thriving, but it’s constantly evolving which is why we’ve put together a quick summary on what we learned at the presentation for you to easily digest.

What is BBC micro:bit?

BBC Learning decided to start the micro:bit to carry on the legacy from the BBC micro (a distribution of desktop computers in the 1980s) and to attempt to plug the digital skills gap helping the digital native generation become digitally skilled. A central idea behind the micro:bit is the freedom to code anywhere and everywhere – all you need is an internet connection. This way it isn’t limited to the classroom, but “taking the coding experience into the real world”. Pupils can (and did in the pilot) take it home and use their smartphones to try out their own creative uses.

How can pupils get coding?

Pupils can write code on the website (www.microbit.co.uk) or using the app. There are currently three choices of code editor to use (JavaScript, Microsoft Block Editor and Microsoft Touch Develop) and there will be a fourth one coming soon (Python). These can all be used via both the website and the app. You don’t even need a micro:bit to have a go at coding! There is a simulator on the website that anyone can use.

What are micro:bit main features? 

The micro:bit itself has the following features:

  • 5x5 LED display
  • Input buttons
  • Motion detector
  • Compass
  • Sensors
  • Bluetooth chip
  • Accelerometer

It can be also be connected to other devices or household objects (e.g. you can make a keyboard from fruit).

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Has it been trialled and tested?

The prototype was tested in 11 schools, and students came up with some creative uses including using the LED display to tell stories and play rock paper scissors. 1 million micro:bits will be delivered to schools, so all Year 7 pupils will have their own. Code Club will also be distributing 20,000 to 9-11 year olds, plus Samsung Digital Classrooms will also be receiving 30 each. Teachers will receive their micro:bit a few weeks earlier than students to give you time to familiarise themselves. The BBC plans to send them to teachers just after February half term, with students receiving by the end of term.

There are already free resources and lesson plans available online. Once micro:bit is fully launched, BBC will open source the hardware and software and micro:bit will be available to buy through a not for profit company in the summer.

How can micro:bit be used?

micro:bit can be used in multiple ways such as: 

  • Rock, paper, scissors game: shake the micro:bit to tell it to show one of the three images at random
  • Friendship / romance test: two people hold the corners of a micro:bit and it gives a score out of 10 for how “compatible” they are
  • Use the micro:bit as a remote for the camera on your phone so you can take selfies
  • Use the motion sensor feature on the micro:bit to tell your phone to take a picture of someone when they are snooping in your bedroom
  • Scoreboard for table football (see pic)
  • Control the volume on your guitar when moving it (see pic)