It’s a good time to be 11 years old in the UK. In the United Kingdom this October, about a million 11-year-olds will receive a free BBC microbit computer. (It’s not quite a letter from Hogwarts, but still pretty cool.)
The BBC microbit (officially micro:bit) is a tiny programmable computer—4cm by 5cm—with motion detection, a compass, and Bluetooth. In a large collaborative effort, the BBC’s education initiative aims to inspire creativity and innovation among kids in British year 7 in school. This isn’t the first time the BBC has done something like this. In the 1980’s, BBC Micro introduced computing to a lot of kids. It was the first time most of them had been exposed to computing.
“We happily give children paint brushes when they’re young, with no experience—it should be exactly the same with technology…[it’s] all about young people learning to express themselves digitally, and it’s their device to own.” Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning said. “It’s our most ambitious education initiative for 30 years. And as the micro:bit is able to connect to everything from mobile phones to plant pots and Raspberry Pis, this could be for the internet-of-things what the BBC Micro was to the British gaming industry.”
The BBC and its partners in this project will work with teachers and schools to support the rollout of the computers this fall. There will be lots of support for the curriculum, such as Live Lessons, getting started videos, projects, and tutorials.
The micro:bit is also set to become commercially available later in 2015 so that kids outside of year 7 will be able to pick it up.