Thursday, March 12, 2015

BBC launches MicroBit

This morning, PSF Fellow Nicholas Tollervey of the UK posted the following to the PSF Members List:
"Today the BBC announced the MicroBit (part designed by [Pythonista and friend] Michael Sparks) -
About 1 million of these small programmable devices will be given away to 11-12 year olds starting their secondary education at the start of the UK’s next academic year in September.
Students will use the devices to learn programming and to create games. Python is one of the three languages that work with the device.
The PSF is involved in helping to generate community sourced Python resources for the project and we hope the MicroBit will be a big part of PyconUK’s education track (taking place at the end of September).
In addition to the BBC article above, the Guardian gives a good summary and mentions the PSF here:
I have an alpha-version of the device sitting on my desk and my impression is that kids will have a lot of fun. Think Pythonic blinkenlights, buttons, bluetooth and IO."
Image credit

BBC director-general Tony Hall, speaking at the program’s launch, had this to say: "The BBC, our partners and everyone involved want this to be a defining moment for digital creativity, and a vital one for our country’s digital economy."
The MicroBit is not intended to compete with other devices. In fact, The Raspberry Pi Foundation is involved in creating learning content for the device, and the final version of the MicroBit will be able to connect via Bluetooth with Raspberry Pis and other computers, including Kano and Arduino. One goal is to teach children to write code in collaboration with others, so interconnectivity will be important.
According to the BBC article, the initiative to increase computer skills among UK school children is motivated by need, "with 1.4 million digital professionals estimated to be needed over the next five years." To answer this need, the Make it Digital Initiative is a group effort, involving approximately 50 other organizations including Microsoft, Google, Code Club, and the PSF.
A list of other participating organizations can be seen here, along with Nicholas' statement explaining the PSF’s participation:
"Education is a fundamental aspect of the continuing development of the Python programming language. The Python Software Foundation (PSF) and wider Python programming community fully support BBC Make it Digital’s efforts to encourage, engage and inspire the programmers of tomorrow. The Micro Bit is a fuse to ignite an explosion in digital creativity and we’re delighted to be a partner in such Python programming pyromania."