From Model B To Micro:Bit – Teaching Computer Science
In the early 1980’s, the UK British Broadcasting Company (BBC), in partnership with the Acorn Computer company designed and released the BBC Micro computer. With a specific focus on the educational sector and accompanying television series, the BBC/Acorn introduced a (relatively) cost-effective hardware platform that allowed schools to showcase computing technology. Furthermore, this device exposed students to the basic concepts of computing and specifically computer programming. Although the BBC Micro series was aimed at schools (with most schools in the UK adopting the platform for teaching purposes), it didn’t achieve mainstream appeal.Ellis M, Thompson G, Haskell-Dowland PS (Dowland PS)
Winding the clock forward to 2012 and the Raspberry Pi Foundation launched a revolutionary single-board-computer (SBC), the size of a credit card, which facilitated a computer (and indeed a development platform) on every desk at minimal cost. Suddenly computer science was a topic of discussion at every curriculum-related meeting and the release of the Pi was followed by a plethora or products aimed at the education sector and the mainstream interest in hobby-computing rocketed to popularity.
The BBC saw an opportunity and, working with industry partners launched the micro:bit SBC in 2015. The hardware is smaller than a Pi and was promoted directly to schools with a target to distribute one million kits to year 7 students (11/12 years old). With a strong focus on interactivity, in-built sensors and extensive connectivity, the board was designed to be easy to use, portable and flexible.
Edith Cowan University has been engaged in promoting computer science to primary and secondary schools within the region for a number of years. This paper examines the use of the micro:bit as a platform on which to teach computer science concepts to school children. The paper presents a number of activities that have been used in interactive sessions with teachers and students and documents the development and evaluation of the activities. Finally, this paper considers the potential of the platform for further activities and presents the next phase of a much larger project to develop kits of equipment and resources that will be made available to schools over the coming year.