Make your micro:bit smile

In the registration bag at the CSTA Conference was a very nice surprise.  The folks from micro:bit gave one to participants.  What a nice piece of swag!

There are a number of starting points and, if you took a wander through the Exhibit Hall, you may have found one.  If you weren’t at the conference and have your own micro:bit, you can still use it.  If you don’t have your own micro:bit, you can still get a bit of the programming micro:bit experience with the on-screen editor and simulator.

The site comes from Microsoft and is called “MakeCode“.  You’re not limited to the micro:bit; there are resources for “Circuit Playground Express“, “Minecraft“, “Sparkfun Inventors Kit“, and “Chibi Chip“.

MakeCodeIf you’re experienced in the world of drag and drop, you should be off to the races.  If not, it’s an easy enough environment to get started.

The first micro:bit activity is to program the LEDs for a smile or frown depending upon whether button A or button B is pressed.

So, you set them up and maybe even modify them a bit.


You can even create LED animations.

The environment provides the simulator on the left, all of the possible blocks in the middle, and your workspace on the right of your screen.

The coding blocks in the middle give you a sense of everything that can be done if you’ve been waiting to get yourself or your school one.




What puts it over the top for me is that the block environment is not the only way to program your micro:bit.  There is a toggle that lets you switch between the drag and drop and the text based Javascript environment.

Computer Science diehards will appreciate seeing the actual code that makes the magic happen.  Of course, Computer Science diehards will take offence to my use of the word “magic”.  It’s really programming and logic in action!

What’s even more impressive is the spacing and indentation that makes the code easy to read (and debug).  It demonstrates right off the bat good principles for that.


The MakeCode website open up all kinds of possibilities for the classroom.  You owe it to yourself to click through and give the activities a whirl on your computer.

Computational thinking in k-5

Proctor – noun
1. a person appointed to keep watch over students at examinations.
2. an official charged with various duties, especially with the maintenance of good order.

Such is the definition of “Proctor”.  Thanks, always referred to the process of hosting a session at a conference as an “introducer and thanker” or just “host”.

However, at the CSTA Conference, they’re known as “Proctors”.  Either way, every session had one.

Those of us on the conference committee were instructed that we had to be a proctor for at least one session and I was fortunate to get my first choice for this one.

“What does integrated computational thinking look like in K-5 by Cheri Bortleman”

I was curious about the content and approach.  I’ve seen so many presentations claim that they’re teaching “Computational Thinking” because they teach Scratch.

That may ultimately be the tool that’s used when you take computational thinking into the coding realm but is it the first step taken?  Is it the only approach to be taken?  Does computational thinking fit into all areas?

I was really pleased to see that Cheri addressed these concerns.

We started with this activity done in pairs.

Screenshot 2017-07-12 at 10.20.19

After a debriefing, a modification that ended up with nested loop, then remixing a new activity, and reinforcement with a video of what it looks like when NBA players do this sort of activity, everyone in the room was on the same page.  Not only did they have fun and see the insights of this unplugged activity, everyone was working from the same definition of computational thinking.

There were great visuals posted on the wall around the room and, at the end of the session, I encouraged everyone to get their smartphones out and take 21st Century notes.









As you can see, things scale up nicely.

We were encouraged to dig even deeper here: