Microsoft is working as part of an initiative to provide every Year 7 student in the UK with a personal computing device that enables them to explore the possibilities of computer science, both in and out of the classroom.
Students in the age 11-12 bracket will receive a BBC micro:bit device which has been specifically designed for use by students with little or no computing experience.
Microsoft has been working closely with a number of companies as part of the project, including ARM, Farnell, Samsung and, of course, the BBC.
The device is half the size of a credit card and will show students how they can create the types of computer games, programs and apps that they are familiar with and regularly use.
The BBC micro:bit device can be plugged into a computing device using a USB cable.
Using a browser-based coding and content platform called Microsoft TouchDevelop, the device can then be programmed and used to build computer programs with touchscreen devices. It works with all the major smartphones, tablets, desktop operating systems and browsers.
Microsoft is also providing web-based programming tools, the Microsoft Azure-based hosting service and teacher training materials as part of the initiative.
“We’ve all become very good consumers of technology,” said Steve Hodges, principal researcher at Microsoft Cambridge. “It’s not sustainable. We need to have producers of technology.”
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