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Gearing up for the BBC micro:bit arrival

Sinead Rocks

Director of Education, BBC

It’s been just over a month since we took the BBC micro:bit to Bett 2016 – one of the world’s leading educational trade and technology shows. It was an anxious moment for us – we’ve been working on the device for more than a year now with our partners and have involved teachers throughout the design and testing, but it was the first time we’d put it in front of such a large number of them.

It’s fair to say we were overwhelmed by the reaction we received. The Huffington Post kindly claimed the micro:bit stole the show and it was great to see the excitement generated on Twitter from the attendees who managed to win some in a competition run by our colleagues at Microsoft.

Since then, it’s been all systems go. We promised that teachers would receive their boards around half-term and it’s been a joy to see these micro:bits make their way to educators across the country over the last couple of weeks. Here at BBC Learning’s HQ, in the midst of what is undoubtedly the most ambitious education campaign we’ve ever delivered, we’ve been hugely motivated and encouraged by the online reaction – from excited selfies and tweets as micro:bits arrive, to teachers and students taking part in the IET’s Faraday Challenge and even creating wearables already.

Many teachers have contacted us directly to express their delight at the simplicity of the device and at its seemingly limitless potential – especially when paired up with other hardware. Our online resources have also proven popular and teachers have very quickly been adding to them by sharing their own teaching plans and discoveries across social media and on various online forums.

It feels like this adventure into the world of coding is really gaining pace. And so it’s with great excitement that I’m now able to say that we will be starting our delivery to pupils on Tuesday, March 22nd.

We could not be more excited for the day to arrive. This has been a digital literacy project on an unprecedented scale and this will be a truly landmark moment for the BBC, our partners, and most importantly children across the UK.

Schools will receive an email when their devices are en route and they can expect to receive enough BBC micro:bits for each Year 7 pupil as well as additional spares and some to be kept as a classroom resource. They will also receive all the necessary add-ons including mini usb cables, battery packs and batteries.  

There have also been exciting developments on other fronts too.

The official BBC micro:bit app for Android went live this week and will connect the micro:bit to smartphones and tablets, allowing young people to code their micro:bits on the go whether they are in the playground, on the school bus or at home with the whole family. For example, they will be able to build their own selfie remote controller, launching their phone camera by pressing a button on their micro:bit, or even build their very own security alarm using the micro:bit's sensors.

We want children to be able to programme the BBC micro:bit from any device they want, wherever they want, whenever a moment of inspiration hits them. The Android app will go a long way to making this happen and there is also an iOS one in development.

The app works wirelessly because the BBC micro:bit has Bluetooth low energy built in. It’s worth calling out this particular piece of technology because it’s at the heart of an exciting revolution, the Internet of Things, where everyday objects like fridges, furniture and even clothes are increasingly being connected to the internet.

For example, one of our partners created a fun frying pan game with a micro:bit attached, where you have to flip a fake fried egg at exactly the right moment to score a point. It’s not a huge leap to then imagine a frying pan connected to the internet, giving you step-by-step instructions on how to fry the perfect egg or flip the perfect pancake.

It’s precisely these skills we hope children will learn through their BBC micro:bit – using technology to modify and improve the world around them. It might be a simple frying pan hack to make their lives a little easier, or it might be an idea that has business potential, or it might be both.

If your school hasn’t registered yet, there is still time – visit our website for details. The one thing we would ask is for all schools to ensure they’re giving us accurate numbers for pupils in Year 7 or equivalent. We’re making a million BBC micro:bits and we want to ensure every qualifying child gets their hands on one – that is what we feel will give us the greatest chance of inspiring an entire generation.

Sinead Rocks is Head of BBC Learning

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