micro:bits for good

At the beginning of November, 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to Singapore to attend and present at Edutech Asia 2019. During that time, I had the opportunity to hear about their initiative to use micro:bits to help students learn technology in authentic ways. An article from 2017, Micro:bit launch: What you need to know about the coding gadget Singapore plans to introduce, explained it as:

School-going children in Singapore will soon be using a pocket-sized, codeable computer, called the micro:bit, to pick up coding skills. The move is aimed at instilling passion for technology among young Singaporeans. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will work with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to roll out micro:bit as part of its new Digital Maker Programme over the next two years.

In the exhibit hall at the conference, IMDA showcased the micro:bit-for-good projects that groups of Singapore students created. The following video provides a sampling of students explaining their projects.

micro:bit Global Challenge

The Micro:bit Education is sponsoring a challenge to use micro:bits to address two of the UN’s Global Goals: Life Below Water and Life on Land. They provide lots of resources on their website:

Previous micro:bit Global Challenge

In 2015, world leaders came together to decide on a series of “global goals” to build a better world. We challenged students aged 8-12 across the globe to consider how these goals could change the lives of themselves and others, and to design solutions to these goals using the micro:bit (https://microbit.org/global-challenge/)

Although this contest/initiative has officially ended, it could still be used by groups of students as a reference to create micro:bit-for-good projects. Some resources from this challenge follow:

The following is a guide developed by Canada Learn Code to help students prototype their micro:bit global challenge idea.

A Maker Education PD Workshop

I had the privilege of presenting a day long maker education workshop at Edutech Asia on November 7, 2019. I was excited about having teachers and other professionals from Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, and New Zealand attend. What follows are some details and highlights.

As they arrived in the morning, I asked them to access the workshop slides and create a name card lit up with an LED.

They then used these name cards to introduce themselves.

Next, they were provided with copper tape, coin batteries, LEDs, and Chibitronics’ circuit stickers along with instructions about how to make series and parallel circuits; and asked to create pictures from their circuits. Here is a video of some of the participants sharing their processes:

Then, they were asked to further reflect on their learning by playing my Maker Reflection Game.

They were then introduced to their next making segment in which they could pick to do one or more of the following projects:

  • Bristlebots
  • Gami-bots
  • More advanced paper circuits
  • micro:bit books
  • Makey-Makey Characters

I repeatedly encouraged them to take pictures throughout their making processes in order to document their learning.

To reflect on this making segment, they were introduced to several types of online educational technology creation tools to use for their reflective piece. I believe that reflection and assessment should be as fun, exciting, valuable, and informative as the making process itself. Here are some examples from the workshop:



Finally, they were instructed to create a poster using visuals and LEDs in their small groups about their day and how they can apply their learnings when they return to their work environments.

. . . and here are the slides provided to the participants:

Language Arts Lesson Using a micro:book

In Learning in the Making I discuss the importance of and strategies for integrating technology into the curriculum.

Maker education needs to be intentional. It follows, then, that if we want to bring maker education into more formal and traditional classrooms—as well as more informal environments such as afterschool and community programs—it needs to be integrated into the curriculum using lesson plans. This chapter begins with a discussion of the characteristics of an effective maker education curriculum and then suggests a lesson plan framework for maker education– enhanced lesson plans.  A powerful maker education curriculum includes the following elements: 

  • Instructional challenges are hands-on, experiential, and naturally engaging for learners. 
  • Learning tasks are authentic and relevant, and they promote life skills outside of the formal classroom. 
  • Challenges are designed to be novel and create excitement and joy for learners. 
  • Learner choice and voice are valued. 
  • Lessons address cross-curricular standards and are interdisciplinary (like life).
  • Learning activities get learners interested in and excited about a broad array of topics, especially in the areas of science, engineering, math, language arts, and fine arts. 
  • Communication, collaboration, and problem solving are built into the learning process. 
  • Reading and writing are integrated into learning activities in the form of fun, interesting books and stories and through writing original stories, narratives, and journalistic reports. 
  • Educational technology is incorporated in authentic ways; the emphasis is not to learn technology just for the sake of learning it. 

Educators need to approach their curriculum and lessons with a maker mindset. With this mindset, they can figure out creative ways to integrate maker activities into existing lessons and instructional activities. Educators in these situations start with the standards and objectives of their lessons, as they typically do with “regular” lessons, and then design or identify maker activities that meet the standards and the lesson. It simply becomes a matter of “How can I add a making element to my lessons to reinforce concepts being learned?” 

The micro:book Lesson

After showing the micro:book activity (see https://make.techwillsaveus.com/microbit/activities/animated-microbook) to a bi-lingual co-teacher, Natalia, she took off with it to develop a lesson to teach her Spanish-speaking students types of sentences. See the video below for her explanation of this lesson and a student example.