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Hands-on Making and Coding with Micro:bit

Location: Hyatt Regency Grant A

Explore and create
Pre-registration required

Explore and create : BYODex

Tuesday, June 26, 10:45 am–12:15 pm
Location: Hyatt Regency Grant A

Mary Kiang   Douglas Kiang  
Come explore making using micro:bit, an inexpensive new microprocessor board designed to breathe life into animated art, sculptures, games, wearable technology and more! Mary and Douglas Kiang, two seasoned educators, have created a free ISTE Standards-based curriculum combining making and coding using Microsoft's MakeCode block-based coding environment.

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Internet browser (all online work is through
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Maker activities and programs
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM, Computer science
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
Computational Thinker
  • Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.
Disclosure: The submitter of this session has been supported by a company whose product is being included in the session

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Mary and Douglas Kiang will present a hands-on approach to teaching coding using the micro:bit. The micro:bit is a small, lightweight, yet powerful microprocessor that can be embedded in clothing or built into physical projects to bring them to life.

Many schools find that the micro:bit sits squarely at the intersection of three major curricular initiatives: Maker/DIY, Coding/Computer Science, and Design Thinking/Project-Based Learning. By learning to code for the micro:bit using an accessible, free block-based coding language called MakeCode (similar to Scratch) students learn the basic principles of computer science by making and designing real things.

Because so much art, design, and motion is used in micro:bit projects, we have found that more girls, minorities, and students who would simply not see themselves as "computer people" end up taking computer science and feeling successful as a result. We present a two-pronged approach: provide context and relevance to computer programming projects to attract more girls and minorities, and widen the breadth of what students do so that kids with different skills and talents are valued.

This session will be a hands-on session with as much time devoted to making and creating as possible. Teachers will leave with knowledge of how to create simple block-based coding programs and move them onto the micro:bit itself. They will also get an introduction to design thinking and how it can be used to provide context to coding activities, which research shows is effective in attracting students of all genders to programming. Finally, teachers will see lots of examples of real student projects as well as some practical tips on managing project-based work in the classroom, and a framework for assessing students understanding in accordance with standards.

We have run this workshop at teacher workshops in Hawaii, Boston, and Tennessee this summer and it was a huge hit! Teachers loved the hands-on experience and they especially appreciated the resources they left with, such as the full 14-week project-based maker curriculum that we wrote.


MakeCode for Micro:bit

Teachers will come away from our session knowing:

How to write and deploy code to Micro:bit
Specific strategies for engaging girls in coding
Tools and best practices for managing and assessing project-based work

They will also receive free resources for teaching with Micro:bit, including a complete 14-week maker curriculum that is project-based and mapped to standards.


CONTEXT (15 min.)
What is Computer Science?
What is the Maker Movement?
What is design thinking?

Girls in STEM
Research shows that a design-based approach is effective at providing context
Why making is the missing piece of coding education and how this widens the reach of your coding education programs
Creating Opportunities for Collaboration
Managing project-based work
Best Lesson organization
“Unplugged” activities
“Birdhouse” activities
Independent projects

HANDS-ON (30 min.)
In both Hands-on activities, participants will work with cardboard, tape, and other simple maker materials to create a physical artifact that incorporates the Micro:bit board. Participants will work in a browser-based block coding environment, and pairs of participants will be able to borrow a physical Micro:bit to experiment with.

Intro to Micro:bit hardware
Intro to Microsoft MakeCode

Model Lesson #1
Unplugged Activity: Interview
Birdhouse Activity: Smily/Frowny face
Independent project: Make a Micro:pet

HANDS-ON (30 min.)
Model Lesson #2
Unplugged Activity: Rock Paper Scissors (Variables)
Birdhouse Activity: Scorekeeper
Independent Project: Make a wearable intelligent counter

DEBRIEF (15 min.)
Best practices for managing Micro:bits
Assessment of projects
Curriculum resources and next steps

Supporting research

This is the 14-week maker curriculum we wrote:

This article provides data supporting on a number of practices that support girls learning STEM topics, including among other things, the importance of female role models. In our session, Mary will refer back to these and other findings, from her perspective as a female programmer.
Holmes, S., Redmond, A., Thomas, J., & High, K. (2012). Girls Helping Girls: Assessing the Influence of College Student Mentors in an Afterschool Engineering Program. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 20(1), 137–150.

This research details specific strategies that are effective with girls of color and those of low-income and immigrant families. We draw on these findings in our curricular approach.
Mosatche, H. S., Matloff-Nieves, S., Kekelis, L., & Lawner, E. K. (2013). Effective STEM Programs for Adolescent Girls: Three Approaches and Many Lessons Learned. Afterschool Matters.

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Mary Kiang, Punahou School

Mary Kiang has been teaching for over twenty-five years at elementary, middle, and high school levels. She currently teaches 6th grade Math/Science at Punahou School. Mary is a former programmer for Houghton Mifflin and Dun & Bradstreet and holds a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Simmons College. She is a founding member of the Girls in STEM working group, an executive committee organized under the Hawaii CSTA chapter. Mary is also the co-founder of GO Code!, an organization that supports girls and young women in exploring coding and STEM.

Douglas Kiang, Punahou School

Douglas has taught in grades K-12 for over 28 years. He currently teaches computer science at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is an instructor and workshop presenter for As a member of the College Board Development Committee, Douglas reviews and writes the framework for the AP Computer Science Principles course. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator and a recipient of the NCWIT Educator Award for his work on supporting girls in computer science. In 2017 Douglas received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, the highest award bestowed by Congress for mathematics and science teaching.

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