Currently used by millions of school aged children across the planet, the BBC Micro Bit minicomputer will be receiving its first major update since all the way back in 2016. This new updated model includes a speaker with a microphone, as well as artificial intelligence and machine-learning capabilities. Once a BBC led project, this device is now being run and produced by the Micro Bit Educational Foundation, a group seeking to make coding more accessible for children of all socio-economic backgrounds, with the product set to hit the market next week at £11.50.
As explained by the chief executive of the Micro Bit Educational Foundation Gareth Stockdale, “The purpose of the Micro Bit is to help children unlock their creative potential and learn how to shape the world around them,” where he continues to note “”Learning coding and computational thinking can enhance their life chances in the 21st Century.”
Micro Bit has long been built for educational purposes, with approximately 25 million children that are learning computer skills with the device in more than 60 countries currently. In fact, the BBC give away a free Micro Bit to every seventh-grade student, where this device is used at all levels of education from elementary/primary school to colleges/universities.
According to Keith Quille, a lecturer at the Technological University Dublin who runs free Micro Bit learning sessions for children and teachers alike “ 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.” Guile then goes on to illustrate that “We teach it at primary schools and at university degree level – because you don’t need lots of other tools to make it work, it’s very easy to use.” Applying to modern times, the Micro Bit Educational Foundation has also donated 5,000 devices to students across the U.K. to help them with their schoolwork at home without access to many traditional schooling resources as a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
As for the device itself, the Micro Bit is a palm-sized circuit board paired with an array of 25 lights that can be programmed to display numbers, letters, and shapes along with a Bluetooth chips used for wireless connection. Instead of entering the code straight into the computer, owners can instead write their choices with the selection of one of four programming languages via web-based on a PC or through an app on a smartphone or tablet. Once the scripts have been written, the compiled scripts must then be transferred to the Micro Bit itself, which then serves as a standalone device that can be used to do tasks such as flashing messages or recording movements. The Micro Bit can also be attached to other electronics to even form a robot “brain,” or even a musical instrument.
With a much-improved microprocessor, a touch sensor, more memory, along with the aforementioned speaker and microphone, this new model promises to make educational learning experiences as engaging as ever. Taking this a step further, the built-in speaker will even allow for users to compose their own music and the ability to create interactive motion-sensitive instruments. Paired with the microphone, the Micro Bit will be able to respond to sound, for example potentially creating a disco light that moves in real time to the music being produced.
In explaining the benefits of the Micro Bit, Lorraine Underwood, author of Save the World with Code exclaims “The simplicity of Micro Bit means no accessories are needed to go with it, and now it has a speaker and microphone, it can do so much more.” Simply put according to Underwood “Children love things that are interactive, so adding a sound will enhance the learning experience.” With the Micro Bit still scratching the surface of its vast potential, this is a device worth investing for a better tomorrow, as after all, knowledge truly is power.