micro:bits for Scotland supported by Digital Xtra Fund

Micro:bit Educational Foundation donates 1,200 micro:bits to Scottish extracurricular digital skills initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund

Six initiatives across Scotland will benefit from a total of 1,200 micro:bits as part of their support from Digital Xtra Fund. The hardware, donated by Micro:bit Educational Foundation, will enable Apps for Good, Inverness Science Festival, McLaren High School, The Prince’s Trust, and West College Scotland to deliver activities beyond the initial funded programme run and help inspire even more young people into digital technologies.

Over half the Local Authorities in Scotland lack sufficient teachers to effectively teach computing science in secondary schools resulting in courses sometimes being reduced or dropped. Many teachers are already at capacity with little time to keep abreast of changing skills needs in the technologies sector. The resulting skills gap among young people will have long-term consequences on their future opportunities as well as the Scottish economy.

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation’s vision is to inspire every child to create their best digital future by enabling children around the world to get creative with technology and invent in their schools, clubs, and at home. Similarly, Digital Xtra Fund is striving to give every young person in Scotland access to digitally creative activities regardless of their gender, background, or where they live by providing grant awards for exciting initiatives which inspire young people to understand and create with technology, not just consume it. Both organisations were created in 2016 and share very similar goals, presenting a natural opportunity to work together in Scotland.

The six initiatives received grants as part of the 2017/18 Digital Xtra Fund grant awards to deliver a variety of exciting digital skills initiatives across Scotland. Each have a unique approach to engaging young people with digital technology. For instance, Apps for Good teaches young people how to build, market and launch digital solutions to address challenges faced by their community and a total of 332 micro:bits will be distributed to nine schools across Scotland who have enrolled in their Internet of Things course. The course explores the benefits and potential issues surrounding IoT and introduces participants to the technology underpinning IoT devices. Students learn how to build circuits using sensors and actuators so that they can understand the principles behind the technology. Resources are based on the micro:bit and Arduino microprocessor boards, so having the hardware on hand is key to learning the material. Schools will also retain the hardware, allowing them to reuse it to deliver future activities.

During last year’s Apps for Good IoT course, the award-winning solution ‘SafeStep’ was created using micro:bits by students at Dunoon Grammar School. It consisted of a range of potentially life-saving rugs with inbuilt pressure sensors that determined if somebody had fallen and uses an app to alert carers or loved ones.

"The impact of this initiative has been shown to be very positive and the Foundation is very proud to have supported the scheme"
– Kavita Kapoor, Chief Operating Officer, Micro:bit Educational Foundation.

West College Scotland will take a different approach to engaging young people with the micro:bits sharing a total of 500 units between three new coding clubs at Renfrewshire secondary schools and 27 primary and secondary teachers who took part in a training session hosted by WCS in association with Microsoft Education, Renfrewshire Council, and Paisley YMCA. The session focused on increasing teachers’ confidence and encouraging the use of coding in the classroom with each teacher receiving a set of micro:bits for use in their classroom. This training is vital to creating a strong ecosystem of computing activities in Renfrewshire as these teachers will now manage the current coding clubs as well as initiate new ones with the assistance of STEM Ambassadors and senior school pupils.

"Since 2016, initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund have engaged nearly 20,000 young people across Scotland. But the real legacy of the Fund will be a strong ecosystem of extracurricular activities who have the right hardware and educator confidence to continue giving young people the opportunity to get hands on and creative with technology. Support from organisations like the Micro:bit Educational Foundation is key to achieving this legacy."
– Kraig Brown, Partnerships & Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund.

Digital Xtra Fund is currently developing the 2018/19 grant awards supporting digital skills initiatives across Scotland, many of which use the micro:bit to engage young people. The Fund is supported by a range of industry partners who share a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world.

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