Micro:bit Small-board Computer Launches in U.S. & Canada to Inspire Next Generation of Students
The Micro:bit Educational Foundation announced today the micro:bit is now available to schools, clubs and families across the U.S. and Canada. The micro:bit is a credit card-sized, programmable device designed to teach the next generation of children fundamental critical thinking skills through computer programming.“The goal of the micro:bit is to give educators and parents an easy-to-use tool to teach the basics of computer programming and inspire students to imagine, invent and innovate,” said Hal Speed, head of North America at the Micro:bit Foundation. “Our goal is to put this device into the hands of 2 million elementary and middle school students in the U.S. and Canada by 2020, in an effort to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn these valuable skills. In the digital age, computer science is a foundational skill vital for every student to learn. It’s a skill that applies to many different subjects, including math, science, art and music.”
A recent study conducted by Gallup found that while 90 percent of parents in the U.S. want their child to learn computer science, only 40 percent of schools offer computer programming or coding classes. Additionally, the diversity problem in STEM fields starts in elementary school. Girls, students of color and lower-income students are all less likely to have access to computer science learning in K-12 schools.
The Micro:bit Foundation hopes to address these disparities by integrating the micro:bit device into elementary and middle school curricula throughout the U.S. and Canada. As part of this effort, the foundation has partnered with a number of organizations that specialize in the development of curricula, including Project Lead The Way in the U.S. and Fair Chance Learning in Canada. Microsoft has also developed its own curriculum for the micro:bit and a wide range of lesson plans are available on the micro:bit website.
“The micro:bit is incredibly powerful, not only for getting students excited about computer science, but also for teaching the critical thinking skills necessary to solve complex problems,” said Heather Koleszar, an elementary STEAM teacher at the Union School District in San Jose that recently participated in a micro:bit pilot study.
The pilot study focused on pinpointing the most effective ways to integrate the micro:bit into existing curricula and on identifying new opportunities for teachers and educators to use the device to fulfill their digital education goals.
The micro:bit includes 25 LEDs to display simple images and text, two programmable buttons, a variety of sensors and can connect to other devices via Bluetooth. Additionally, the pins on the edge of the device allow for easy expansion to other hardware modules and broadens the creative options for students.
The micro:bit can be programmed using the popular block-based coding language Scratch. The micro:bit Scratch extension is available at scratchx.org. Students can also program the device using Microsoft MakeCode, which allows them to switch back and forth between block-based and text-based coding.
The Micro:bit Foundation aims to put the device in the hands of 2 million children across the U.S. and Canada by 2020 and hopes to eventually reach more than 100 million kids around the world. The device starts at $14.95 USD and authorized resellers include Adafruit, CanaKit, Fair Chance Learning, Fry’s, MCM Electronics, Micro Center, SparkFun and others. For more information about the micro:bit or to find the nearest reseller, visit www.microbit.org.
For those attending, the micro:bit will be on display at ISTE 2017 in booth 3241.