Cross-curricular

Today I attended our schools Teaching & Learning meeting, which is cross departmental forum for sharing ideas and best practice. I had previously asked the organiser if I could speak about the micro:bit at the meeting, to introduce it to anyone who I hadn’t yet already told.

I have had many conversations with other teachers over the past 2 weeks. Geography & Science teachers have been considering the use of data logging for experiments or environmental readings at various locations around school; PE could use the device as a pedometer or repetitions counter for circuit training; maths could use it to create a real data set of scores in a game (like Chase the egg!) to produce graphs. These conversations all followed on from an inset that I attended at the start of this half-term. The inset was about the progress pupils made when there was some sort of ‘hook’ to get them interested and invested in their learning. During the inset, I remember thinking the micro:bit can provide multiple hooks in any subject.

I showed everyone the video on the website, I talked about the features and demonstrated Chase the egg! I then opened up a discussion about how it could be used in other subjects. Our music teacher asked if it could be used as an instrument and how they had been learning ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’. I enthusiastically responded with yes it could with the addition of a speaker. I then described how, as a computer science teacher we (sometimes) see music as a algorithm – Twinkle, twinkle has a melody that repeats in the sequence, line 1, line 2, line 3, line 3, line 1, line 2 (I think). Pressing the correct sequence of A, B, A+B, could produce this melody.

After I had finished talking at the meeting, I asked attendees to discuss in their departments, any ideas they have had – I will share the ideas on this blog over the coming months. When I sat down next to my colleague (and friend), she said to me…

“You are such a geek! Look how giddy you are!”

I completely agree with her – I am still excited by the prospect of what the micro:bit can do and what it means for the learners and the learning of not only computer science, but all subjects.

2 weeks in!

Quite a lot has happened over the past couple of weeks or so. I have had more time to get to grips with using the micro:bit; I have explored the different methods of writing programs for the device; I have paired a micro:bit with the Samsung APP (with varying degrees of success); I have introduced the concept of a ‘cross-curricular hook’ to my colleagues.

First of all the micro:bit website – I really did miss a trick when I first explored the website. I had completely ignored the ‘Code Kingdoms: JavaScript’ section. During an after school coding club, one of my GCSE students explored this section and started following a tutorial for ‘Worst game of snake ever!’ (I didn’t know it was called this and called it ‘Chase the egg!’ instead!). He showed me that, even though it was JavaScript, it was still quite easy to write a program in this section. There is the ability to write with just blocks, or pre-populated text or raw text input.

codeKingdoms

This seems like a fantastic feature that I would definitely like to explore with older year groups. I have a lot of interest in JavaScript and feel that it is such a versatile language, learning it would be very useful at GCSE / A-Level.

Do you want to play Chase the egg?!

Anyway, back to the ‘Chase the egg!’ game – Once the pupil had created the game, I plugged in the cable and ‘flashed’ the game on to the micro:bit. I had a go and then the other pupils had a go and it was an instant hit. This simple game, in which you needed to get one dot touch another dot by rotating the device, was highly addictive and highly competitive. I have spent the past 2 weeks showing this game to everyone, asking pupil to compete against staff, year 7, year 11, year 12, staff…everyone loved it. I even disrupted my HOD’s year 7 lesson to see who could try to beat the top score.

Microbit first use

Wednesday 10th February.

I plugged in the supplied (rather short) USB cable. It was alive and after telling me to press the A and B buttons (It pointed at these to help me), my Micro:bit wanted me to chase the dot! Like a toddler chasing a feather dancing in the air, I waved my device about, chasing the dot and my micro:bit smiled at me! Now what?! I decided to use a longer cable!

Thursday 11th February

I spent time looking at the micro:bit website and familiarising myself with it. All the time thinking, how are my pupils going to explore this site? Which is best, Block Editor or Touch Develop? I wanted to get started straight away with a simple program so I thought of a simple number guessing game that required the built-in compass to guess the number. I refined this in to a different game so it was easier to play.

After school was my weekly code club – I demonstrated some of the features of my game to a pupil whilst, unbeknownst to me, another teacher was stood behind me (A Geography teacher!)

Geography teacher: “I like this…oh I like this!”

I showed the teacher how easy it was to write a new program to just give compass bearings. He liked that too. He pointed north and I showed him that he was correct (Micro:bit said 0) I them pointed south and Micro:bit said 180…perfect.

This coincidental demonstration reinforced the belief I have that this can be a truly cross-curricular device, that can be used across the school in any subject. My journey in to how will be detailed in this blog.