New Micro:Bit Mini Computer Upgrade
The new BBC micro:bit ‘mini-computer upgrade’ is given to school children, with AI and machine learning support. It was launched in 2016 as part of the BBC ‘Make it Digital’ campaign. Four years later over five million have been used by schools and children around the world. The project is no longer run by the BBC. It was taken over by the Micro Bit Educational Foundation, a non-profit group setup to make coding more accessible.
The new mini computer upgrade features include a microphone and speaker. It can help with listening out for doorbell sounds to playing back voice recordings. The device will include a touch sensor that could count how often a fly lands on a pad.
The new mini computer upgrade version of the palm-sized device is expected to be available from the middle of November. Other new sensors on the device including light, magnetism and temperature, to create a wider range of applications.
Micro Bit Educational Foundation said the changes were in response to requests from teachers around the world over the four years since it was first released.
‘The purpose of the micro:bit is to help children unlock their creative potential and learn how to shape the world around them,’ Gareth Stockdale, chief executive of the Micro Bit Educational Foundation, told BBC News.
‘Learning coding and computational thinking can enhance their life chances in the 21st Century.’
The micro:bit is a similar concept to the Raspberry Pi but is much simpler and is more of an educational aid than the computer on a chip Pi. Both can be used for ‘maker’ style projects – in that you can attach sensors and other items to create real world projects. But the Pi is much more advanced, with slots to plug in monitors, keyboards and other ‘full computer’ devices.
The new micro:bit is a more powerful device combining all the same features of the original and extra features to enhance learning in the classroom, the foundation said. As well as new hardware features, the latest update includes a new technical platform adding support for AI and machine learning. It is a palm-sized circuit board and has 25 LED lights that can be programmed to show shapes, numbers and letters. It also has a bluetooth chip for wireless connectivity.
BBC Director General Tim Davie said the micro:bit project has the same qualities that form the core of the BBC – to ‘inform, educate and entertain. Since its launch through our Make it Digital campaign, it has helped transform digital skills and learning,’ Davie said.
Five million micro:bits in use
There are more than five million micro:bits used in classrooms around the world, used to teach the basics of coding through interactive projects. It started as a way to support computational thinking in the UK, but since then the BBC micro:bit has gone on to global success. To use the device users write code on a computer, tablet or even a smart phone then transfer them to the device to make it perform tasks.
The previous version could flash messages and record movements . The new version now includes a microphone, more memory, speaker and touch sensor. The new device can do much more, including responding to sound. It is estimated that about 25 million children have learnt computing skills on the device since 2016. The campaign is successful and is used in 60 countries.
The device is used in primary and secondary schools. As well as libraries and has even been used in universities to demonstrate coding applications.
“The [micro:bit] has a low floor and high ceiling – you can make it as advanced as you wish but it can also be very basic,” Keith Quille, a lecturer at the Technological University Dublin, told BBC News. “We teach it at primary schools and at university degree level. You don’t need lots of other tools to make it work, it’s very easy to use.”
The foundation says it transforms ‘students’ engagement with technology’. As well as building teachers’ confidence in leading digital skills and creative computing education.
Time for an upgrade
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