Why I’m in love with Micro:bit

I think I’m in love… with the Micro:bit, but I haven’t always felt that way.

Front and back of Micro:bit

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:

Meet Micro:bit

I’m really hoping we can be 1:1 with Micro:bits in our middle school computer science classes this fall. We’ve discussed starting with Javascript Block Based and transitioning when appropriate to Javascript in 6th grade, then moving on to the Python Editor in 7th grade to help kids apply Python to physical computing. Check out http://microbit.org/code/ for options and click Lessons under each to see how things are structured.

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

Activity page

See emulator below (best if done on two Micro:bits)

Instructions:

  • Click Shake to play your turn.
  • Click A if you won.
  • Click B if you lost.
  • Repeat

 

Too Good Not to Share – Bookmarks from the Week of … 08/07/2017

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Too Good Not to Share – Bookmarks from the Week of … 07/29/2017 (p.m.)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Too Good Not to Share – Week of July 26, 2017

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Summer Plans: On my list for summer 2017

As many of my friends return from ISTE, I’m just wrapping up my first week at home with the kids for the summer. After a very PD heavy summer last year (two weeks of engineering courses at UST, a week at Constructing Modern Knowledge, and my regular curriculum work), I’m guarding my annual six weeks off closely, especially with my oldest leaving for college in August.

Last week I spent my mornings co-teaching a camp at my school, Maker Camp: Soft Circuits (will post about that in the near future). I’ve spent some time this week updating my website with recent presos and a new list of blogs/sites I follow. In addition, I’m working with a team to create curriculum for middle school computer science instruction as we remodel my Computer Science 6 course (just finished year 1) and add Computer Science 7. I’m also working with two colleagues to draft a plan for makerspace(s) in on our campus as we prepare for the opening of the Hugh Schilling Center for Math and Science in fall of 2018.

On a personal note, I’m working on my Python to enhance my CS abilities, coaching my daughters as they further their culinary skills (especially after starting a cooking page on Facebook – Tami’s Cooking Channel, and brushing up on sewing. I also have my summer reading book, The Future of Happiness. This is in addition to the day-to-day PD/reading and ongoing collaboration with colleagues doing summer curriculum work. Not the busiest summer, but summer shouldn’t be busy 🙂

Next summer ISTE will be in Chicago… Since it’s practically in my back yard (or a 7-hour ride on the Empire Builder), it will be hard to resist.