In a groundbreaking nationwide initiative, the BBC, in collaboration with the Micro:bit Educational Foundation and Nominet, is set to equip primary school children across the UK with essential computing and digital creativity skills. The initiative, known as the BBC micro:bit – the next gen campaign, is poised to distribute tens of thousands of micro:bit classroom sets to schools for free. New teaching resources will be provided alongside these devices to accelerate computational thinking, programming, digital creativity, and machine learning knowledge among young pupils. This ambitious UK-wide project aims to inspire all youngsters to engage with technology and bridge the digital skills and diversity gap. The success of this endeavor has been made possible through the contribution of various partners from the technology and education sectors.
Nominet’s pivotal role in digital education
Nominet is leading the charge in this project, the entity responsible for running the .UK internet infrastructure. Nominet’s substantial contribution includes funding 700,000 devices to be distributed to primary schools across the UK, equating to 30 free devices per school. In addition to the devices, free educational resources and teacher training, facilitated by the BBC and Micro:bit Educational Foundation, will empower educators to integrate digital skills and computing concepts into their classrooms. Notably, Nominet’s collaboration with the Foundation involved critical research among UK primary school teachers, identifying their unique challenges in introducing digital skills. This project aims to boost teachers’ confidence in embracing technology in education by offering free training and classroom resources.
ARM: Providing technical expertise and support to underserved schools
ARM, a long-time partner of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, has played a pivotal role in crafting the original micro:bit. ARM is extending its support to underserved schools by providing a bursary as part of this initiative. This additional support ensures that schools facing resource challenges can actively participate in the project, promoting inclusivity and equal access to digital education opportunities.
Manufacturing and distribution partners
To meet the substantial demand for nearly 700,000 micro:bit devices, the Micro:bit Educational Foundation is collaborating with two manufacturers and global distributors, OKdo and Farnell. OKdo will manufacture the micro:bits, and the distribution of all micro:bit devices for the campaign will also be handled by OKdo. STMicroelectronics, a key partner, has provided the accelerometer and magnetometer at a reduced cost, essential components that bring the micro:bit to life in the classroom.
The micro:bit, along with its accompanying resources, has been purpose-designed for use in a classroom setting, with education experts and teachers at the forefront of the design process. As a result, this project places equal importance on providing education tools, services, and on-the-ground support for practitioners.
– The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) spearheads teacher training and campaign support in Northern Ireland.
– Education Scotland is fulfilling a similar role in Scotland.
– The National Centre for Computing Education is providing support for England.
– In Wales, the Regional Education Consortia and Technocamps are extending their support throughout the country.
BBC Education’s leading role
BBC Education serves as a lead delivery partner in the project, amplifying its reach through various channels. In collaboration with much-loved CBBC brands and stars, BBC Education has developed resources that seamlessly integrate computing concepts into the learning process.
The foundation’s founding partners continue to drive innovation
Lancaster University and Microsoft, as founding partners of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, remain deeply committed to the cause. Microsoft contributes the Microsoft MakeCode editor, a valuable tool for educators and students, while Lancaster University supports the underlying firmware for the micro:bit. Both organizations are actively involved in delivering other aspects of the project, such as the playground survey scheduled for 2024.
A bright digital future for young learners
Gareth Stockdale, CEO of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, emphasizes capturing children’s attention in their formative primary school years. Early learning confidence and interest are pivotal in fostering long-term engagement with technology-related studies. The BBC micro:bit initiative, which aspires to introduce the next generation to digital creativity, fun, and opportunities, is made possible by the generosity and support of a diverse range of industry and education partners. With their collective efforts, this ambitious project is paving the way for a future where digital skills are readily accessible to all, ensuring that young learners are well-prepared for the digital world that awaits them.