BBC Micro:bit rollout delayed but pilot scheme gives new device a huge thumbs up!

The BBC Micro:bit should have been rolled-out to over one million year-seven pupils across the country by now. In fact, it was supposed to have been rolled out in October. Due to an issue with its power supply though, the tiny computer is now set to be sent out after Christmas.

Despite the frustration and obvious disgruntlement from staff and teachers who were supposed to receive the device in September in order to prepare for its introduction into the curriculum the following month, the Micro:bit has in fact been piloted at Eastlea Community School in Canning Town, and this week it received some welcome praise.

As part of the Design Your Future event at London Excel, some of the biggest names in the technology world visited the school in London to learn more about how the Micro:bit was being implemented and how it was inspiring learning.

Chief Executive of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, attended a ‘typical’ computing class for Year 7s and asked students about the computer and how they were fitting it into their classes, and what they would like to be able to use it for.

One student said she’d like it to be like a watch, whereas others had developed more ideas of which Mr. Nadella was greatly impressed with.

The BBC Micro:bit aims to give pupils some sort of taste of how exciting programming and coding can be, and Eastlea Community School is the first to put it through its paces. The early access to this device has been useful in helping others to see what can actually be done with it, and the main hope is that the implementation and use will help transform attitudes towards technology.

In only a few days there were lots of ideas from the children that had already been put into practice: two year seven girls had programmed the computer so it would give random answers to questions; and two male students even built an aircraft using the device, saying that it’s not just about making something happen on a screen, it’s about using the Micro:bit to bring certain ideas to life.

Satya Nadella
Satya Nadella, Microsoft

The Microsoft boss was very impressed with the uses so far but said that learning is about more than just technology, He said it’s about great teachers and great curriculums, inspired students and inspired communities. He also stated that digital technology and computers can help when it comes to learning but they are not to be viewed as a substitute for the humans who are so actively involved in this fundamentally important process.

Although Computing has already been introduced to the National Curriculum, the hope is now that the Micro:bit will help children to make practical and creative use of the skills they’ve learned so far in these classes.

Following the visit to Eastlea Community School, media sites were prompted to give opinion on the new hardware device and discuss its future use and success. The Microsoft website stated that they loved the ambition of the BBC Micro:bit and as part of the pilot programme that was launched in the school on 10th November, Microsoft are now committing to buying 15,000 additional Micro:bits once they become commercially available next year. These will then be given to 35 UK schools in Microsoft’s Global Showcase Schools Programme (a programme designed to recognise schools which are leading the way in the use of Tech and giving pupils the skills they need to flourish in today’s digital world).

This purchase will provide every single pupil in the Global Showcase Schools Programme the chance to benefit from the hardware; and it is only the first step in the Tech giants’ plans to push the Micro:bit into the hands of more young people from different demographics and backgrounds.

Microsoft UK Vice President, Michel Van der Bel said: “The creativity of the pupils at Eastlea has shown just what’s possible. The Micro:bit can inspire a whole new generation to become digital makers.”

If your school wants to get involved in Microsoft’s Showcase Schools Programme then you can sign up via the Microsoft website.

The Press Association released information on the Yahoo website last Tuesday, providing readers with positive feedback from the visit in which the BBC director-general, Tony Hall had said he’d found meeting the school children involved with the pilot scheme ‘inspiring’.

Lord Hall met with and spoke to two students, both 11, who used the Micro:bit to create a blimp, complete with propellers. They told the BBC boss: “It’s a really good opportunity, it’s made us really interested. If you haven’t found out what you want to be when you’re older this can help you see if you’re good at programming. I think I’d like a career in IT.”

Microsoft Chief Executive, Mr Nadella, continued by saying that he hoped children all over the world would get the chance to use a Micro:bit: “Every field out there is going to have an element of digital technology and to learn that right in school is fantastic. The product, and the ingenuity in the kids is what I think will become really worldwide in terms of really inspiring every kid to get out there and learn coding and express themselves in ways that are so, so creative.”

The BBC have said that in distributing the Micro:bit they hope to trigger an increase in creativity within the digital and technology sector which could help close the skill shortage gap that is so huge in the UK at the moment.

With the added incentive that all children will own their Micro:bit as opposed to it being owned by the school, and providing the postponed rollout goes ahead next year, technology in the classroom has never looked so promising.

One Eastlea pupil commented: “It’s really great that we get the chance to do things like this. That’s why I’m really glad to be at school in the 21st Century.”