How to get started with the BBC micro:bit computer | Apps
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Launched in 2016 as an alternative to Raspberry Pi, and following in the footsteps of the BBC Micro series of computers delivered to schools in the 1980s in the UK, the BBC micro:bit is a pocket-sized computer that was first delivered to all 11 and 12-year-olds (Year 7) in the UK.
Two years later, the Beeb has expanded its reach to more than 50 countries, including large national projects in Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iceland, Uruguay and Singapore.
The computer offers kids the chance to play with dedicated hardware and learn coding at home and in the classroom.
But where should they start? What resources are available? And, as a parent whose child could be about to bring one home, what can you do to get involved?
A number of teachers who have been exploring the BBC micro:bit and have put together the following top tips to help others get the most out of the device:
BBC micro:bit hardware
The computer board, which enables you to see all the elements exposed, features a processor, compass, accelerometer, USB power port, a Bluetooth antenna and battery port to connect two AAA batteries.
Kids can also use the five input and output (I/O) rings to connect up to five crocodile clips via the board to hook it up to other devices.
Before you get confused with all the coding elements though, just take some time to have a play with the hardware of the micro:bit. Try getting the lights to light up depending on what you do or how you move the board.
Teachers guide: Use the “Quick Start Guide for Teachers” to get started
“Start by working through activities in the Quick Start Guide for Teachers,” says Steve Richards, ICT teacher and curriculum team leader at Eastlea Community School when we asked him how he was getting on at the launch in 2016. “It’s a really great hands-on introduction to the BBC micro:bit.”
The 32-page guide not only explains in detail what the micro:bit can do, but also gives you a number of tutorials to get you started. And just because it’s aimed at teachers and pupils in class shouldn’t put you off, the tutorials are just as easy to understand at home as they are in the classroom.
Check out the micro:bit website.
The Teachers Guide only features three tutorials to get you started but there are plenty of other things you can do with the small computer. The BBC has created a dedicated micro:bit website with stacks of information videos, tutorials, and more to try out.
BBC micro:bit lets you code with your preferred editor
“Kick off with the Block Editor. It’s a great graphical coding environment to use as you introduce students to the BBC micro:bit, before you start using the text-based programming language” says Jane Waite, Computing at School London regional coordinator (CAS London).
Nic Hughes, head of computing at Latymer Prep School adds, “There are some really effective lesson plans for the Touch Develop code editor, targeted at all skill levels.”
BBC micro:bit additional projects
“Look for ways to incorporate the BBC micro:bit into a wider project,” says Richards when we ask. “Some of our kids used them as a brain for a self-driving car, a controller for a robotic arm and as part of a fitness strap.”