There’s really no shortage of small computers out there these days, but I was still amazed at how small the BBC micro:bit is. Not that Raspberry Pi or Arduino are bigger by any stretch of the imagination. If you want to remind yourself what a big computer looks like, look below (it’s the Colossus if you don’t recognize it). Or you can watch an old episode of The X-Files from the ’90s.
This new breed of computer is not only small but also really affordable. The Arduino and BBC Micro:bit retail for around £15, and you can get a Raspberry Pi for around a Fiver. The best part is that they are designed to be so flexible and hackable that you can do a wide variety of things with them.
The kit I tested was from Kitronic, one of 29 organizations that partnered with the BBC to create Micro:bit. It’s a bit more technical and meaty than the fun-looking kit you’ll find from Technology Will Save Us or Sphero, but it’s aimed at a slightly older age group, and I really enjoyed the fact that it’s hands-on electronics. coding, so that you can learn the hardware and software aspects simultaneously.
Each Kitronic kit comes with a learning resource pack that guides students on how to build it, but also on exactly what makes it work. The Resources section of their website contains a variety of tutorials, datasheets, project ideas, and interactive learning aids that support that learning.
The importance of digital skills is increasingly recognized, with many teachers now keen to incorporate topics such as coding into the curriculum, but it is not always straightforward for them to do so. This is why, as we begin a new academic year, they are launching a range of learning resources specifically to support the delivery of STEM-based lessons using the BBC micro:bit.
“We are already seeing all kinds of projects being created by students up and down the country and there is an undoubted enthusiasm for the device as a tool to support coding and integrated projects. Given the number of orders we have received, there is no doubt that teachers are keen to further develop their use of this resource,” says Kevin Spar, director and co-founder of Kitronic.
Their co-founder Geoff Hampson is also excited about micro:bit’s potential to create a cross-curricular platform for the teaching and learning of digital skills, and transform students from passive end users into creators of technology, not just users. Let’s develop their abilities not only in coding, but in digital creativity.
Geoff and Kevin started the company in 2005 with a mission to make electronics accessible to all, and have since sold over one million kits, including their electro-fashion range, which offer you a range of specially designed Allows to add light to clothing by stitching components together with Conductive. thread, does not require soldering. They also directly supply over 3,000 secondary schools.
We’ve come a long way since the Colossus was first erected at Bletchley Park. Most of us carry supercomputers (also known as smartphones) in our pockets, and Alan Turing would probably be surprised — and pleased — to see how the $5-cost Raspberry Pi outperforms most computers. Those whose price was small a few decades ago.
But as more technology advances, it’s probably easier to just assume it’s everything, which is why we need to educate the next generation about what this stuff really is. In other words, we need to get serious about playing with technology, or that the digital skills gap is going to be ever wider.