The BBC launched a flagship initiative today that aims to get a new generation excited about technology. The Make It Digital campaign will provide students in Year 7 (that's around 11 years old) with a small microcomputer that will allow them to learn the basics of coding. The microcomputer, nicknamed the Micro Bit, will be a standalone, entry-level coding device with an LED display that students can plug into any computer. It will be able to communicate with more advanced devices like the Arduino, Galileo, Kano, and Raspberry Pi, as well as other Micro Bits.
The initiative is a response to what the BBC is calling a "significant skills shortage" in the UK's digital fields. The BBC's director Tony Hall said in a statement today that the company aims to make coding "as familiar and fundamental as writing" for a new generation. The Micro Bit is an evolution of the BBC Micro, a basic computing system and popular UK educational tool in the 1980s.
The Micro Bit will be distributed this fall
In addition to providing every Year 7 student with a free Micro Bit, the BBC will lead a digital traineeship for 5,000 unemployed young people and expand its programming to encourage creative thinking about technology. Popular BBC shows like Doctor Who, EastEnders, and The One Show will release new material focused on inspiring coders. There's also a talent show called Girls Can Code and a Grand Theft Auto drama in the works.
In recent years, the UK has increased its focus on classroom-based technology. In 2012, Google partnered with a UK teaching organization to provide teachers in underprivileged areas with a Raspberry Pi computer. Last September, BBC Learning introduced new programs with a focus on computer science into its children's television arena. The BBC has already teamed up with several companies for the Make It Digital campaign, including Samsung, Microsoft, ARM, and Barclays.
The Micro Bit is still in development, but the BBC plans to begin distribution in the fall of this year.