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Evaluation of Micro-bit

 Microbit2

The BBC micro:bit is a pocket-sized codeable computer with a small bank of LEDs, motion detector, a built-in compass and Bluetooth technology. Part of the BBC’s 2015 Make it Digital initiative, the device aims to inspire young people to get creative with digital and develop core skills in science, technology and engineering.  Over 1 million of the microcomputers were given free to every child aged 11 to 12 across the UK in March 2016.

The aim of the study at King's College London was to gather initial reactions from teachers and students about the new BBC micro:bit. The evaluation was intended to gather information on how teachers and students perceive the device and what can be learned through working with it.  Key areas of interest were usability and applicability to other subject areas. The study also intended to examine approaches to teaching with the micro:bit.

The study was designed around interviews and focus groups to gather in-depth feedback from teachers and students. Key areas of questioning were around:

  • Particular features of the micro:bit that teachers and students like/do not like
  • Potential barriers/facilitators to using the micro:bit as a tool for learning Computing
  • Access to areas of the Computing curriculum through the micro:bit
  • Support given by materials/resources available/needed for the micro:bit
  • Relationship of the micro:bit to other areas of the curriculum

Interviews were held with 15 teachers, and 8 focus groups took place totalling 54 students. Of these students, 43 were from Year 7 and were using it in class as part of the curriculum. Another 11 students were from year 8 or year 9, where teachers had been using the micro:bits with other year groups as part of extra-curricular activities. Each interview lasted approximately 30-35 minutes and each focus group lasted 20-30 minutes. All interviews and focus groups took place face-to-face.

The study found that the product has many positives including:

  • a tangible nature that engenders active engagement with technology
  • support of many programming languages
  • opportunity for embedding in STEAM projects
  • opportunity for incorporation in real world projects

Microbit1The micro:bit was well-received in schools. All children in the focus groups were positive about the micro:bit as a motivating and engaging device to use in the classroom. All the teachers interviewed felt that the children were engaged with the micro:bit and that it was a low entry introduction to programming with physical devices. Children offered many positive and enterprising suggestions for broader and cross-curricular projects using the micro:bit.

The work highlighted a range of issues around pedagogy and physical computing. Some teachers do not feel prepared to teach with physical devices and need more training and curriculum materials, rather than one-off projects.  These findings will form the basis of some further work. The micro:bit can be extended with additional components which both extend what can be learned using it and extend the physical computing benefits. The extra cost of these resources would need to be taken on by schools. The study also highlighted some issues around the logistics of the roll out programme.

This work was commissioned and funded by Microsoft.

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