A new version of the pocket-sized BBC micro:bit computer is coming to schools worldwide, packed with new features designed to keep young students up-to-date with the latest hot trends in technology.
New hardware will help young coders make experiments with artificial intelligence, and build applications running machine-learning systems. The micro:bit 2.0 also includes, for the first time, a built-in speaker and microphone, so that sound-based projects no longer have to be connected to exterior audio systems – while also letting the device respond and react to sounds like clapping.
And in a nod to big tech and the industry’s privacy headaches, an LED will flash to make it clear when the microphone is on and sensing sound, to encourage young users to reflect on the pervasiveness of listening devices.
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“We want to support teachers teaching or taking their first steps with digital creativity and coding,” Gareth Stockdale, CEO of the micro:bit educational foundation, told ZDNet.
“So, listening to what teachers would find useful was really important, and making and creating with sounds always came out at the top. That’s why we worked on playful sounds and personality for the micro:bit, not just monotone beeps and buzzes.”
Available from mid-November 2020, the micro:bit’s new features are coming four years after the first iteration of the device was released as part of an effort to help children get to grips with basic programming skills.
A 4×5-centimetre computer complete with two programmable buttons, LEDs, and I/O rings to connect to other objects, the first micro:bit launched in 2016 with motion detection, a built-in compass and Bluetooth technology. The goal was to enable children with no prior knowledge of computing to easily code the computer with something simple in seconds, using a
The BBC Micro Bit mini-computer – used by millions of schoolchildren across the world – will receive its first major update since 2016.
The new model includes a speaker and microphone, as well as artificial intelligence and machine-learning capabilities.
Formerly a BBC-led project, it is now led by a foundation that aims to make coding accessible for children.
The device will be released next month with prices starting at £11.50.
“The purpose of the Micro Bit is to help children unlock their creative potential and learn how to shape the world around them,” Gareth Stockdale, chief executive of the Micro Bit Educational Foundation, said.
“Learning coding and computational thinking can enhance their life chances in the 21st Century.”
Since its launch, the Micro Bit has been designed for education, with an estimated 25 million children learning computer skills on the device in over 60 countries.
The previous model launched in the UK in 2016, with the BBC giving away a free Micro Bit to every year seven student.
It is now used in most secondary schools, as well as primary schools, universities and libraries.
“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,” said Keith Quille, a lecturer at the Technological University Dublin who runs free Micro Bit sessions for children and teachers.
“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.”
The foundation has also donated 5,000 devices to families in the UK, to help with home schooling during the coronavirus pandemic.
How it works
The Micro Bit is a palm-sized circuit board with an array of 25 lights