I think I’m in love… with the Micro:bit, but I haven’t always felt that way.
When I first heard about the UK giving every student a Micro:bit, I had mixed feelings. I loved the idea of having a national K-12 computer science program, but when I heard that the Micro:bit was affiliated with Microsoft, I was a little concerned. Was this a way for Microsoft to try to recapture the education market now that Google and Apple were so dominant in the US?
Once the Micro:bit was widely available and in use, I couldn’t help but compare it to Arduino and other physical computing platforms with which I was more familiar. What advantage could this little piece of plastic have over Arduinos, Makey Makeys, Raspberry Pi, etc? It certainly didn’t look like much to me. Now that I’ve been hands on for about a week, here’s what I’ve learned.
The Micro:bit was purpose-designed specifically for middle school kids (year 7 in the UK = 6th grade in the US) as an introductory tool both for programming and making. It had to be small, simple, and affordable but also have expandability and the ability to be used independently of a device. It also had to be easy to set up and have a range of programming option, including both block-based and syntax-based, to meet the needs of the range of learners we see in middle school.
I’ve used other platforms with kids and have had decent results, but the Micro:bit has an added layer in that it’s a simple tool that’s incredibly open-ended. Check out the Micro:bit Guitar, Banana keyboard (not just for Makey Makey), Milk Carton Robot, and Voter Machine.
From what I’ve seen, it ticks all those boxes and more. I’ve made a video giving an overview:
Where can I buy one? Amazon, SparkFun, and Adafruit are all great sources with fair pricing on the Micro:bit Go kit that I’ve been using (under $25). It includes the board, a USB cable, and a battery pack w/AA batteries – everything you need to get started. If you already have the accessories (standard from Arduino and other microprocessors), you can buy the board on its own (around $15). SparkFun and Adafruit have better educator and/or bulk pricing.
Want to explore more Micro:bit resources? Click to access my bookmarks in Diigo.
Example: Rock Paper Scissors Game from Micro:bit
See emulator below (best if done on two Micro:bits)
- Click Shake to play your turn.
- Click A if you won.
- Click B if you lost.