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The BBC Microbit

August 2015

For the last few years, whilst working with schools, we have always pushed the idea of having something physical to program, as it makes a massive difference to student engagement.

It also gives students more of a purpose to their programming - how many kids get excited at sorting their classmates names and grades??

Initially we were sceptical, “not another raspberry pi!” I exclaimed at the Somerset Inset training where I first heard about it.

But luckily, its not another raspberry pi - Wohoo!

It's more like a mini Arduino - much to our delight- and we cannot wait to see what students come up with!

Here are the main reasons for our excitement:

- Its got an Accelerometer and Magnetometer: With most devices and kits for education, these two sensors are usually addons, something you have to buy separately and then figure out how to connect it and get the readings etc. So the fact that the microbit has one already built in is awesome - thank you BBC.

- Bluetooth: Imagine an entire classroom of students connected via their microbits:
Teacher: 'where's Sam?'
Student: 'Hang on, Miss, he's sending me a message…he's getting told off by our French teacher!'  Student shows teacher scrolling message on his microbit.

- Open possibilities with minimal fuss: Unlike the raspberry pi which takes 40 mins for initial setup and then the inevitable question 'Now what do we do with it' the microbit is pretty much plug and play. And, its got connectors that allow it to be plugged into other hardware.

- It's suitable for a range of abilities: If you and your students are just starting out with programming in general, the 25 LEDS will keep you busy for a few lessons, which is a really nice starting point for newbies. If you and your class are more experienced, you don't have the issue of needing to buy more components as you've got the other sensors built in to get to grips with. So unlike other programming boards, there are no hidden costs and higher ability students can just crack on.

- From what we understand so far about the programming side, it is simple and quick to get up and running. Excellent.

We will be developing resources for the Microbit and sharing our experiences and tips for the classroom in due course, and of course will be offering new workshops based around the microbit, with an emphasis on connecting it to other hardware and taking things further, so do let us know if you are interested.