The BBC is providing every Year 7 or equivalent child in the UK with its new micro:bit codeable computer, hoping to create the “coders, programmers and digital pioneers of the future” according to Director General Tony Hall. The device is a collaboration between 29 different partners who hope to emulate the success of that stalwart of 80s and 90s school IT rooms, the BBC Micro.
The original BBC Micro is credited with kickstarting the British gaming industry, allowing kids to learn how to create their own programs, and that is the legacy on which the Corporation’s Make it Digital initiative is hoping to build.
The micro:bit is 5cm by 4cm and includes a motion sensor, Bluetooth technology and a compass. It features a number of LEDs that can be programmed and connects to desktop computers, smartphones and tablets where users can take advantage of specialist software on a dedicated website to develop their creations. One girl has already used it to make an alarm for the drawer in which she keeps her diary.
Here’s some modern school pupils trying to get to grips with the micro:bit’s ancient predecessor:
The micro:bit seems like a great idea, it’s free and its aim to encourage as many girls as boys to explore the idea of a digital career is admirable but there is always going to be someone who has a downer on it. You’d usually expect that to be the Daily Mail, because they like to paint everything the BBC does as inherently evil (although they’d be right if they said it about Mr. Tumble’s Party Album), but it is actually the Daily Mirror that felt the need to petrify parents this time.
The Mirror asked whether the technology could lead to a generation of hackers, which is such a backwards way of looking at a great initiative. Hackers have existed before the rolling out of the micro:bit and will continue to go about their nefarious business. The answer isn’t to stop children learning how to become a part of an increasingly digital world – if they were minded to learn skills to use for evil, there are plenty of ways they can achieve that aim.
Coding and programming are becoming more and more important skills and this country can be at the forefront thanks to schemes like this. It’s like stopping apprentices learning how to be builders because you are worried they could use spare bricks for breaking and entering.
Has your child received their bbc:micro? Have they created anything yet? Tell all in the Comments.