Monday, April 08, 2019

new microbit affordances

Thanks to Gary Stager's blog post (here), I've downloaded
  1. his Scratch cards for the micro:bit, and
  2. Microblocks.
Scratch project cards for the micro:bit enables one to create interdisciplinary projects that connect screen action to the physical world. By pressing the A and B buttons, shaking or tilting the micro:bit you control actions in your Scratch project such as changing colours, costumes, spinning or moving sprites, drawing lines etc. There are more ambitious project ideas on the cards too.

Microblocks. I didn't understand what was useful or new about this from the blurb on their site, since the micro:bit is autonomous. You write the code using MakeCode, view it in the simulator, download it to your micro:bit, unplug your micro:bit and run it off a battery.

But an article by John Maloney in Hello World (here) explained it clearly. The advantage is not autonomy through untethering. With Microblocks you also have live programming directly on the micro:bit. The simulator is no longer necessary.
Unfortunately, most programming systems for microcontrollers aren’t live. They require a compilation and download process that slows experimentation and interrupts the smooth flow of ideas. For example, Microsoft’s MakeCode takes 10-15 seconds to compile and download a program to the BBC micro:bit. While that may not seem like much, after a few dozen cycles, the process can feel tedious.

Tethered systems like Snap4Arduino take a different approach. They run the user’s program on the host computer and treat the microcontroller as a peripheral. While this does provide a compelling live programming experience, the microcontroller must remain tethered to the host computer that is running the program; it isn’t autonomous. This requirement to remain tethered to the host computer makes it cumbersome to embed the microcontroller in an art project, wear it on a hat, or build it into a mobile creature like our robotic rabbit.

MicroBlocks supports both live programming and autonomous operation. Users can see and test code changes immediately, yet their code continues to run when the microcontroller is untethered from the host computer. MicroBlocks gives the user the best of both worlds.

No comments: