Finalist category: Digital Skills Award
Digital Skills Award, Winner, 2016
It’s clear that there is a strong and well established need to focus on computing, digital and coding skills within the UK. A number of reports have highlighted this skills gap, including a study carried out on behalf of O2 towards the end of 2013, which found that Britain will need 750,000 skilled digital workers by 2017 which, if not met, could result in costing the UK as much as £2bn each year.
The BBC took on the challenge to get a whole generation of young people, aged 11 to 12 years old, coding again, as they did when the BBC Micro computer was released in the 1980’s. BBC Learning developed a number of concepts from early 2014, from wearable tech, coding platforms, playful devices and codeable kit, tested a number of ‘proof of concepts’ at a series of family events, focus groups and at schools throughout 2014, before finally settling on a pocket sized programmable prototype device; the BBC micro:bit.
The BBC micro:bit is a pocket-sized computer being given free to every pupil in Year 7 in England and Wales, S1 in Scotland and Year 8 Northern Ireland, to inspire them to get creative with digital and develop core skills in science, technology and engineering, delivered by the BBC and 30 partners. That’s 1 million small codeable devices providing a hands-on, tangible, learning experience for learners to develop an intuitive understanding of physical concepts in technology and computing, as well as complex thinking and problem-solving strategies.
The webapp has been started over half a million times – this is where students go to write code and view scripts. The BBC micro:bit simulator has run almost 2.3 million times, so that students can check their code running on screen before they download it and transfer it to their micro:bit, and over a quarter of a million scripts have been downloaded ready to be run on a BBC micro:bit – this is when a user downloads the programme they have coded onto their device, and highlights the genuine impact of this project.