Can a microstop replicate a Bbc micro success?

May 07 - 2021

Can a microstop replicate a Bbc micro success?

Last week, while the children were away for Easter, the BBC's micro-television finally went on the air.

Many people didn't come into contact with microcomputers until they came back from spring break in mid-April, although it is hoped that some people will play with their new equipment at home during the holidays.

The BBC has bigger ambitions for this little machine, hoping it will help start a coding revolution, as its big brother, the BBC, has done at the 1980s.

However, at present, only the 11-year-old and 12-year-old children in Britain will be inspired by the micro-drill, and what will it inspire them to do?

Computer history

The project is late-people are obviously eager to get it to their children before the Easter break in most schools.

This delay may not come as a surprise—the introduction of new hardware is a complicated task, especially with many partners working with the BBC—but it has frustrated teachers, who hastily rewrote the curriculum originally scheduled for the beginning of this school year.

That means schools now have only one semester to start using the devices in classrooms, and perhaps even more worryingly, this year students will be taking the devices with them when they leave the classroom at the end of the summer, that's thanks to the decision to send the devices to individuals rather than schools.

Bill Mitchell, director of education at the British Computing Society (BCS), said: "In order to have a long-term and sustainable future, it is crucial to have a new supply of micro bits every year." .

The BBC said the equipment would be put into commercial operation from next year, although there were few details on how it would work or how much it would cost.

The BBC became the core of the first computer literacy campaign of the BBC in 1980s, and it was also an influential tool kit.

When it was launched, an estimated 60% of primary schools and 85% of secondary schools adopted it, and many influential technology industry leaders now say it is crucial to their computer careers.

Now those who are willing to micro-success have similar hopes.

"Many of our volunteers and staff said they learned to code using the BBC microprocessor, which we hope to replicate, " said Claire Sutcliffe, director of the Coding Club.

In addition to introducing this equipment to 1 million schoolchildren, the BBC also provides extra equipment to extracurricular clubs such as Code Club.

Ms Sutcliffe said: We will have 20,000 microbits in a few weeks and we plan to deliver them to venues so they can be reused.

Computational thinking

There is no doubt that children can enjoy the fun of micro-drill, which has stimulated a series of interesting projects, but what is the long-term goal of this technology?

Those who support hands-on computer science say that just as children studying Shakespeare need to watch Shakespeare's plays to really understand work, so do those who learn computing.

"Micro Bit is a device that interacts with the physical world, and kids can see that the device can produce physical effects, which helps them understand how computing solves problems in the real world. That's very important," Mr Mitchell said.

He hopes it will produce a new generation of graduates who can "analyze real-world problems and find algorithms to solve them" . This, he says, would not only set Britain apart from other countries, but would also help these children reach adulthood -- no matter what career they choose.

"There is a misunderstanding that the new curriculum is to train a generation of computer programmers, but it is not the case," said Mr Mitchell.

It's about raising a generation of kids who can count and think

Hardcore programming

This is a problem that governments around the world are waking up to, as early as 2014, when the UK overhauled the ICT curriculum. Since the 1980s, ICT courses have shifted from teaching core programming to teaching how to use word and create spreadsheets.

In the United States, President Barack Obama has pledged $4 billion for computer science education in American schools.

The UK's national curriculum now recognises that "high-quality computing education enables students to use computing thinking and creativity to understand and change the world".

The shift in thinking goes back to the BBC Microcosm, though this time Mr Mitchell hopes to inspire more than just computer geeks.

"In fact, the BBC's mini TV only covers about 10% of children-those who are interested in hardcore programs. For others, this is too challenging.

The onslaught of new, user-friendly programming languages coupled with gadgets such as the Micro Bit offers a whole new world of opportunity, he thinks.

The British Computer Society estimates that a quarter of British schools have done a "good job" in implementing new computer science courses.

Mitchell says the challenge now is to persuade the remaining 3/4 of head teachers to compare computer science with subjects such as math and English.


Micro Bit isn't the only microcomputer on the market - CodeBug is another similar device designed to introduce programming to children.

Swedish start up company Quirkbot is shipping a small device that lets children program and build creatures using led motors and straws.

It is working with five Swedish schools and a dozen other schools around the world to create classroom content for its equipment.

My son is one year old and hasn't come into contact with the first generation of micro-drills, but he has tried to write an odd robot for a recent STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) project in his school.

As a parent, what I noticed was the pride he showed when the program was running.

He agreed that the effort was worth it.

"I found it hard to start, but I got to deal with it using experiments and errors. When I let it move and light up, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I think it's a useful tool, but I personally find it challenging.