Scratch and the BBC Micro Bit – Get Coding!
Prior to working in software development, I was a primary school teacher specialising in Computing. While not the traditional route into programming, I did gain some valuable experience in the classroom. In recent years, the market for computing and programming products in education has steadily increased. With Apple, Microsoft and Google muscling their way into British classrooms. It seems that everyone wants in on the action.
However, there are some fantastic (and free!) educational resources that are already available for the young coder. Both the BBC Micro Bit and Scratch are great introductions to computing with resources freely available online.
MIT’s block-based coding system, Scratch, was one of the pioneers in child-friendly code when it first appeared in 2002. Through numerous iterations Scratch has developed into an outstanding educational tool. The system eliminates most syntax errors as only certain blocks fit together.
Scratch can introduce concepts such as conditional operators, loops, events and even lists and variables. The program is entirely free and can be run through your browser. The Scratch website also features a vibrant community with literally thousands of projects uploaded and shared. There is a low-ceiling, high-threshold approach to Scratch. It is simple enough for a 7-year-old child to use; it can still be seen in introductions to Computer Science courses.
Above: Shark Attack Remastered!
Another route into computing is the BBC Micro Bit. The older programmers among us may remember the original BBC Micro, released in the 1980s, which was used in schools to teach about computing. The latest release, only a mere 33 years later, is the BBC Micro Bit. An initial batch of 1 million devices were given out to Year 7 students for free with the hope of encouraging a new generation of tech-savvy learners.
Consisting of a 5 x 5 array of LEDs, an accelerometer, a magnetometer, and two pubuttons, the Micro Bit is perfect for physical computing projects. The 23-pin edge connector allows for electronics projects. Below is an example of one of the projects you’ll find on the Micro Bit website. The block code creates a Rock, Paper, Scissors game, taking advantage of the accelerometer.
For those unable to get their hands on a Micro Bit , the BBC have provided a digital simulator so that you can still practice coding and see the output. If you are looking for a way to introduce young people (or teachers!) to coding, Scratch and the BBC Micro Bit would be a great way to begin. If you have a coding itch that needs a Scratch, or if you have the Bit between your teeth, have a look at some of the following resources and get coding!
BBC Micro Bit