Micro:Bit – Tinkering with a Micro Processor

The Micro:Bit is a very interesting microprocessor that was gifted to all Year & students IMG_9918in the UK in 2016 – it is said that many were given and never turned on as there were rafts of teachers and students who did not have the time, curiosity or ability to get them working.

The BBC Micro:Bit

I had a short play with one at the FOBIT conference in Singapore earlier in the year and have wanted to explore the device further ever since. After picking one up for $15us on Ebay I have been reading, testing, exploring, playing and tinkering and I only wish that I had a whole class set. The resources are there, they are able to be coded in many different ways (my favourite is JavaScript Blocks Editor, which is Scratch like in design and presentation) and the STEAM applications are immense.

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image from BBC Micro:Bit website

The Technology Will Save Us Blog offers a Lego Challenge and by adding a few bricks I had a device that at the turn of a dial told me the temperature in the room.

Through nesting a few loops I was able to turn my Micro:Bit into a Magic 8 Ball (well Magic 6 Ball) that when shaken provided one of 6 random messages to be displayed across the 5X5 LED screen.

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 7.09.03 PM

Lastly, it may have been a bit messy and fiddly, but I was able to download the iOS app to my iPhone, Bluetooth pair it with my Micro:Bit and then send the code I had written through the airwaves to make the device work in a way that I wanted.

In short… Micro:Bit – Cool, easy to use, I want more for my classroom and so much scope to be used from beginner to advanced level.

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Really getting into Coding with Scratch

It has been too long since I have written here (there are dozens of unfinished posts over the past 3 years, but few published). I am now in Vietnam and teaching ICT, rather than a classroom teacher, and it has been a whirlwind of difference. It is a much bigger school, but as I teach most of the students I get to know them all and it allows me to be the kind of teacher that I normally am.

Big change as been, other than having access to Google again, the amount of coding that I teach using Scratch and it can be upwards of 15 hours a week. I feel that I now dream in Blockly and ‘if then’ or ‘forever’ loops. It is like being immersed in a language and it has increased my knowledge beyond all belief.

Year 1 throughscratch-music 3 are using the offline editor and are learning to make instruments play a tune or making balls bounce around the screen and play a recorded sound when they collide. Year 4-6 are making playable video games and now beginning to realise that they are able to create games in their own time (such as the final scratchgame).

Scratch has recently introduced Educator Accounts, for which you need to apply and get approval (a day to wait), but this now allows you to manage multiple online classes, reset their forgotten passwords, add or remove students and sign them up without the need for email addresses to login – such a time s
aver and it may help me keep my hair a few more years.

There are scores of resources out there, any question that you have is answered by a forum post or YouTube tutorial and once you give it a go your students will love it. I know that when they get to Secondary they will be problem solvers, better at logic and reasoning and have a good understanding about how code is laid out and how to change variables and create loops and conditionals.

My first successful game (Even though it has a glitch or too)

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/140541688/?autostart=false

This game was created by a student as part of his International Week homework to teach visiting year 2 and 3 students about Ecuador in a fun way.

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/136647435/?autostart=false

Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.

This ancient Chinese proverb expresses how I feel my learning has been progressing the past 6 months, not stagnant, but moving forward slowly and as the end of the year approaches, and the first anniversary of this blog also approaches, I can say I am not standing still, but may need to walk a bit faster.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 4.30.05 PM
This Webpage is Not Available – a very common occurrence behind the GFW.

This is my first blog I write since August where I have not needed to turn on my trusty VPN as I am in Singapore on holiday – it is liberating. Living and working behind the Great Firewall has been an adventure, but the internet restrictions of the GFW have stolen half the tools within my 21st Century Teacher Toolbox…

-YouTube
-Google Docs and Apps for Education
-Blogger
-Wordpress
-Edublogs (Unless we subscribe as a school for over $1000)
-Twitter
-Skype

…all unreachable within my classroom environment. Blogging platforms and Google  gone from a modern classroom seems unthinkable and I have spent the past half year rethinking and reworking my philosophy to ed tech as it relates to my present situation.

Stolen from Smosh.com.

The Classroom

All of the restrictions aside there is still much that I can do as a professional for my own learning and there are still ways that I can create a connected classroom…

-I am creating a class Wiki.  Wikis are not my preferred  tool with a year 2 class, but it will suffice in the absence of a blog. Additionally, it will allow me to embed YouKu videos (China’s version of YouTube) and gives us a platform to share work as well as host relevant clips for flipped learning at home. With many of my parents not being native English speakers it may also break down the barriers between school and home.

-Skype: I can access skype through my personal VPN, so connecting with other classes through Skype is achievable.

-Email: Letters never seem to arrive, but connecting to other classes through email is a definite.

The Teacher

Now for me as a learner and a connected teacher I just need to keep looking at the glass being half full. I am researching into some online study, but reconnecting with my PLN is a must, as through the GFW and timezone differences I have been inactive on Twitter and Google+ and not dedicated the time to blog reading and hashtag following that I normally would. Edcamp Home is a mere 14 days away and I can not think of a better way to inspire a new year and prepare a teacher for the second term.

I have discovered that learning to code is like a Soduku  or Crossword and is giving me a better understanding of how a computer and the internet works. I am halfway through a html course on Code Academy and trying to create Apps for my Android phone with MIT AppInventor (You have to give it a go if you have an Android, and get your class to give it a go too!).

I got my class involved with Decembers Hour of Code initiative for Computer Science week  – seeing 6 year olds programming Angry Birds was inspiring and let me know that Scratch, another product of MIT,  will be part of my class program next term.

Lastly I need to remember about this blog – writing a blog post like this is the best way for me to clear my head and order my thoughts, make a plan and direct my thinking, let me reflect and redirect, as that was the purpose of this blog when I created it, but if I do not use it with regularity is is a waste.

HTML Basics – My first step to Coding

45 minutes of Tutorials on Code Academy and I created my first website in Code… Wow, it was fun, frustrating and challenging and I want to know more.

This was what the code looked like. I added it to the Txt option of this post and there it is!
This was what the code looked like. I added it to the Text option of this post and there it is!

Luke’s Test Website

Luke’s Test Website

Who Am I?

I am a teacher of 11 years experience who is trying to learn about code and coding so that I am able to try to use it within my classroom or special projects like 20% time.

My Learning this year

I have begun a personal learning journey that is making me try new things. The first step was Twitter and the second step was my professional blog. Now I am trying to learn about coding
Click here to visit me on twitter

Hopefully the image will link through to my blog and hopefully this will work when I click submit!

Cargobot App – Angry Birds crossed with Code Academy

Cargo Bot App - Click to be taken to App Store.
Cargo Bot App – Click to be taken to App Store.

I may be late with picking up on this, but I have just discovered Cargobot – the first App to be created on an iPad  using the Codea App and it is just too awesome. Learning coding is on my ‘To-Do’ list for the next academic year and am researching into Code Academy at the moment as a starting point.  With Cargobot you are introducing the concepts of Coding and I know that any student that I have ever taught would love the challenges that Cargobot offers.

Drew Minock and Brad Waid, the two guys who introduced me to this App,  mentioned in a webcast from #ISTE13 how they had their students using this app in class and at home when one of the students was told that they had created a new ‘Best Solution’ for the level and was asked to please record then upload to YouTube – how cool is that! Just imagine how inspired  that child have been to know that at Grade 4 they have achieved what no one else, no even the App developer, had achieved before?

Now add it to your classroom environment and you are onto a winner. The game is all about  Logic and reasoning skills, trial and error, working through a problem and persistence – skills that every teacher is trying to foster in the 21st Century learner.  When you attempt the problem you can see how many moves it takes to reach the best solution and when you reach a solution you are given a star rating out of 3 just like Angry Birds-  a 1 star or 2 star solution means your solution is OK or  your solution is good, but could be done better.  To me that becomes a second challenge and makes me want to do better – I will persist until I get those 3 stars that have eluded me.

Maybe add it as a homework challenge? In those paperless classes with 1:1 iPads it would be perfect, as all you need to do is set a level, get the kids to work on it and then record their best solution and upload it to their blog or digital portfolio through YouTube like my 2 start solution below.  The next day in class you could get into groups and discuss each others solutions, possible problems, ways to improve solutions and then rework the solution.

Further Readings

Cargo-Bot, An Addictive iPad Game That Teaches Programming Concepts

Cult of Mac – Cargo-Bot is the World’s First Game to be made entirely on the iPad

Two Guy’s & Some iPads – EdReach Presents talk from ISTE 2013

Codea App