Is the BBC Microbit project fatally damaged?

BBC Microbit training

In September 2015 I was very excited to be starting a job teaching KS3 Computing and ICT at the time when the BBC Microbit was being given, free of charge, to every Year 7 child in the country – or every Year 7 child whose teachers were aware of the scheme and registered for it which, I suspect, is not precisely the same thing.

But we are still waiting. This week I am planning my scheme of work for the Spring Term – and the BBC Microbit will not feature in my Year 7 plans. They were supposed to be with us in the Autumn term, and we are still waiting. At the moment, I can’t see them being used in school until the Summer term, even if I get them in the Spring term. The current Year 7s will be lucky if they get one term’s use out of them in school.

My confidence in the project is severely damaged. With such a huge delay, I am not prepared to spend any time planning lessons, or even block off weeks in the calendar for them, until we have a complete set in school. I know there are resources online, and I can play with the online code editor – but it’s not the same as having the devices. The selling point, surely, of the Microbit is its physicality – and until we teachers have them physically in our sweaty paws, I’m afraid it’s horribly like vapourware.

If schools had just been given 1 sample device each, that would have helped. I was lucky to get to play with one in a training session, but I had to hand it back at the end of the morning. If every teacher there had been given one, we would have gone off and evangelised about it, we would have played with it, made projects, we would even have planned lessons. We wouldn’t have been able to help ourselves.

Whilst we wait, the Raspberry Pi foundation has done something even more extraordinary, I think, than the Microbit: they have given away a computer on the cover of a magazine. I know the devices cannot be compared (apples and, er, raspberries), but it’s an extraordinary achievement that, I’m afraid, makes the BBC project look shambolic. I have no idea whose fault it is, I’m not pointing the finger. I want my Year 7s to get their Microbits, I want to use them, teach with them. But if people like me, sympathetic, broadly on-side, are frustrated, I fear the Microbit project may now be fatally damaged.

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6 Responses to Is the BBC Microbit project fatally damaged?

  1. Matt says:

    It is a very frustrating set of circumstances which has led to the delay in microbit roll out and the impact on lesson planning is painful. Sorry. :( Planning using the emulator on the website is not the same as using a real device, but it will certainly let you cover everything until you move on to controlling physical inputs and outputs. (You can even play with microbit music which is fun!) The project team are doing everything they can to make sure not only the device, but a plethora of resources and projects are in place to support you with your planning. I hope your excitement for microbit is rekindled when it is sat in your hand.

  2. Codebug says:

    Have considered CodeBug as an alternative? Or at least use one until Micro:Bits arrive to help you plan lessons? CodeBug was funded by kick-starter and the relation with Micro:bit is mentioned here:
    We think these little devices are really great for teaching the basics of computing and thought it was a shame if a large organisation didn’t have the means to overcome their challenges.

  3. Howard Baker says:

    Hi – I’m Howard Baker from the BBC. Just read your post and I wanted to reassure you that we are on track to deliver 1m BBC micro:bits to teachers and pupils in the new year, and that we know how important it is to get devices to teachers first. It’s great to see that you’re already familiar with the resources on the site, and hopefully it gives you a head-start before you do get hold of your own device, which you will still receive ahead of the nationwide pupil delivery.

    It’s an ambitious and unprecedented project – we’re working in partnership with global hardware and software experts, and with teachers, to make it truly transformational. We’re confident that when teachers do receive micro:bits, and especially when children get hold of their own, they’ll be incredibly engaging and much-used learning tools in school, at home, during the holidays and beyond. We’ll be doing all we can to make it easy for you to do so – with new resources, live webcast lessons for schools and exciting projects to inspire students and showcase the capabilities of the device. And if you have any suggestions we’d really love to hear from you.

    Many thanks,
    Howard Baker

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