Saturday, August 18, 2018

mobile digital education course update

MOBILE DIGITAL EDUCATION: Micro:bit Course Outline

Digital technology has ushered in a cycle of disruption aka creative disruption. What is disrupted? Traditional businesses, for one. In the case of digital wearables the fitness and healthcare industries are reinventing themselves. Think Apple Watch or FitBit.

Are schools keeping up with these changes? There is much talk about STEM and computer coding but to bring this future to students requires a combination of hardware, software and teacher expertise that is not always apparent. Does anyone remember Seymour Papert's advice about how teachers will have to become more skilled to incorporate the new technologies into the overall educational context:
  • Skilled in modern learning theories and psychology
  • Skilled in relating to a variety of children
  • Skilled in detecting new, important elements of their student's culture
  • Skilled in cross curricular applications
  • Skilled in computing
  • Able to apply a variety of skills creatively
The BBC micro:bit is a pocket-sized codeable computer with motion detection, a built-in compass and Bluetooth technology, which was given free to every child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK in 2016.

Here are some ideas for a Middle School mobile digital course outline. It represents a small beginning towards adapting the school curriculum to preparing students for this future. A future which is already present. Please feel free to adapt and reshare these ideas but remember to acknowledge the source. Many thanks to Roland and Paul for initially suggesting these ideas to me.


Digital wearables – take home – ownership - affordable At $25 the micro:bit (cheaper with a bulk buy) could be bought by each student – real ownership of the micro:bit is empowering and invites further exploration.

Robotics introduction for everyone
The Kitronik :MOVE mini buggy, which can be controlled by the micro:bit and is a relatively low cost ($112 with accessories) introduction to robotics
Computer coding
Far more accessible these days due to block based coding (drag and drop tiles) of Microsoft Makecode, which has built on the earlier success of MIT Scratch.


Microsoft Makecode is free online or a free app download– for coding of affordable hardware such as the BBC micro: bit (wicked simulator included)

All prices from Core Electronics

BBC micro:bit $24.95 (plus $3.95 micro USB cable plus $2.41 battery holder and batteries), with the option of personal ownership.

PCs, Macs, laptops or tablets to access Makecode

Android or iOS phone runs a micro:bit app – code can be sent to micro:bit by bluetooth

The Kitronik :MOVE mini buggy kit for the BBC micro:bit is a fun introduction to the world of robotics. To get the most out of it some add ons are required:

The Kitronik :MOVE mini buggy kit $53.95
Line following add on (sensors underneath buggy) $20.95
Servo:Lite board $19.50
Bulldozer add on $15.00
Bumper add on $ 2.95
TOTAL $112.35

There are many free resources about the micro:bit for teachers on line: and at Code Club Australia

Here are some incredibly good lesson plans by Lorraine Underwood for the :MOVE buggy
  1. Movement and Lights
  2. Drawing Shapes
  3. Simple Autonomy
  4. Radio Control

32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 CPU
256KB Flash
5x5 Red LED Array
Two Programmable Buttons
Onboard Light, Compass, Accelerometer and Temp Sensors
BLE Smart Antenna
Three Digital/Analog Input/Output Rings
Two Power Rings — 3V and GND
20-pin Edge Connector
MicroUSB Connector
JST-PH Battery Connector (Not JST-XH)
Reset Button with Status LED

This course is envisaged as part of a curriculum pathway. Some suggested hardware and software features of the future path could include:

Electronics: Break out board, eg. Kitronik Inventor's Kit (for class use) $39.95

MIT app inventor – writing apps for you mobile phone

Drones – the Tello drone is programmable in Scratch

Raspberry Pi A small and affordable computer that you can use to learn programming and more … link to essentials for the Raspberry Pi

Combine the Raspberry Pi with the Sense HAT ($52.80)

Curriculum: A Raspberry Pi curriculum has been developed here

Interesting book here, Make: Sensors: Projects and Experiments to Measure the World with Arduino and Raspberry Pi (link takes you to the contents and part of Chapter one)

UPDATE (August 25th):
Microbit Evaluation Report (pdf 51pp).
"Over 1 million of the microcomputers were given free to every child aged 11 to 12 across the UK in March 2016"

This study evaluates how this initiative went. Highly recommended.

UPDATE (August 31st)
The micro:bit Matters
Gary Stager outlines the latest micro:bit related developments, including:

Scratch 3.0
micro:bit blocks may be added to the free popular web-basedScratch 3.0 by clicking on the extensions button and your projects may combine on-screen graphics with off-screen interactivity

Microblocks (Mac, Windows, Linux)
A team of quite accomplished developers, including Jens Monig (SNAP!), John Maloney (Scratch 2.0), and Bernat Romagosa (Snap4Arduino), have created Microblocks, a free new block-based platform for programming technology like the micro:bit, in a much more intuitive fashion than MakeCode, but with potentially more functionality than Scratch 3.0. Microblocks eliminates the issue of uploading/downloading code between the computer and micro:bit by running programs on the micro:bit directly. Make a change to a program on your computer and it runs live on the micro:bit.

Check the rest of Gary's article for other updates in the pipeline, coming soon.

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