It’s here, it’s finally here!
Last week, the BBC announced that it had started to make deliveries of its micro:bit pocket-sized computer to all year 7 school children around the country. This news is welcomed very much with open arms as teachers and institutions across England can now breathe a huge sigh of relief and carry out a mass round of applause; the rollout had been anticipated and waited-upon with baited breath since September last year.
The tiny codeable computer aimed at encouraging pupils to learn the basics of programming is a modern take on the BBC Micro (a device once used by millions of children and one that was heralded as revolutionary way back in the 80s) and the introduction and use of the micro:bit in schools will hopefully kick-start a coding revolution.
BBC Director General, Tony Hall, said: “The BBC micro:bit has the potential to be a seminal piece of British innovation, helping this generation to be the coders, programmers and digital pioneers of the future.”
All one million pupils are expected to receive their devices in the next few weeks; great news for the many teachers who have already received their batches and have been champing at the ‘bit’ to incorporate them into their lesson plans and begin using them alongside their students.
Despite a fair chunk of the school year already behind us, it’s important to reiterate at this stage that it is the children and not the schools who are being given these devices. This means that pupils are able to play with and master their micro:bits outside of term and classroom time and hopefully continue to use them in subsequent years.
If the micro:bit delay has been as frustrating for schools, teachers and pupils as it has been for us here at Bee.it, then the BBC are offering some form of consolation – they’ll be shipping out more micro:bits than originally planned, giving teachers additional devices to use with other year groups, not just year 7s.
Furthermore, the hardware and most of the software will soon be open-sourced meaning that the micro:bit will be available for anyone to purchase from selected retailers.
The BBC micro:bit has a development board which is compatible with several major programming languages, is kitted out with LEDSs, buttons, an on-board accelerometer and magnetometer, Bluetooth connectivity and input/output rings to support all manner of accessories. There are a few simple online editors and step-by-step projects for year 7s to start out with which can be found on the BBC website, and as mentioned in previous articles that we’ve published on the micro:bit, there’s a dedicated Android app available to download and an iOS app is due to be released very soon. A live lesson can be seen here.
The release last Tuesday went viral on social media with many schools, teachers and pupils taking to Twitter to voice their excitement and to document the reception the mini-computer has received.
@BBCMIDigital tweeted: “Are you ready to write the future? The #bbcmicrobit arrives in schools today”https://twitter.com/BBCMIDigital/status/712172471110266880?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
@linziehunter tweeted: “A free #microbit for every child? I remember when our whole primary school had to share one of these bad boys” https://twitter.com/linziehunter/status/712083589362544640?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
And coverage continued on the BBC news channel with @Kitronik tweeting this picture: https://twitter.com/Kitronik/status/712169894499000320?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
Even tween favourites, The Vamps, got involved as they made a special delivery to one school in Islington: https://twitter.com/BBCMIDigital/status/712223046233362433?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
Further information on getting started with the micro:bit can be found on the dedicated website which has all manner of tutorials, games, and fun and interesting things to enable children to make the most of this ground-breaking piece of equipment.
With trustedreview.com claiming that in comparison to competitor and rival, Raspberry Pi, the BBC micro:bit “looks hard to beat”, it therefore seems as though the long, arduous wait has been more than worth it. In the coming weeks as pupils and teachers begin to get to grips with the basics of the micro:bit and as they learn how to master their tiny devices we can only hope that feedback remains and continues to be positive. Watch this space.