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Bringing Computer Science to Middle School Through Physical Computing and micro:bit

Explore and create
Pre-registration required

Explore and create : BYODex

Sunday, June 23, 8:30–10:00 am
Location: Franklin 11-12-13, Marriott

Jeff Branson   Anna Otto   Derek Runberg  
Learn how Adams 12 Five Star Schools partnered with SparkFun Electronics to expand computer science course offerings in middle school with the micro:bit. The results have exceeded all expectations. Come for a hands-on introduction to micro:bit and leave with lessons to implement tomorrow.

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Please bring a laptop or Chromebook with a USB port.
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Computer science and computational thinking
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: Computer science
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Computational Thinker
  • Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.
Empowered Learner
  • Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.
Innovative Designer
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
Disclosure: The submitter of this session has been supported by a company whose product is being included in the session

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

By the end of this presentation, participants will...
-Understand the value of micro:bit as an educational tool for middle school computer science.
-Identify the benefits of forming industry partnerships when developing curriculum.
-Discover the features of the micro:bit and begin to learn how to create and download basic programs.
-Leave with detailed, standards-based lesson plans grounded in a design cycle that integrates cooperative learning structures, classroom management suggestions and relevant links to videos and tutorials.


Introduction of how the course came to be, what the district was looking for when they created it, and the partnership formed between the district and Sparkfun Electronics to support this vision. (5 minutes)
-What was the vision for the course and its place in the K-12 CS Pathway
-Why was the micro:bit selected and what questions / problems did it solve for us
-What is the story of the partnership.

Discussion of implementation to include a look at the work that went into creating the course, developing the curriculum, training the teachers and initial roll out of the course. (10 minutes)
-Overarching learning outcomes and how we envisioned using the micro:bit
-The process of development: Brainstorming with teachers, SparkFun Hangouts, Online research, development of Unit skeletons, etc.
-Professional Development
-Review of the lesson Units

Results so far - reactions from both teachers and students around the course. (5 minutes)
-Initial outcomes of learning
-Gotchas / learning moments for teachers
-Partnership perspective

Q & A / Discussion (10 minutes )

Peer programming - Hands On Workshop using the Micro:bit (50 minutes)
-Introduction to Microsoft MakeCode
-Smiley face on the micro:bit
-Rock Paper Scissors (progression)

Q&A (10 Minutes)

Supporting research

Comparing Block-Based and Text-Based Programming in High School Computer Science Classrooms -

Teaching with physical computing devices: the BBC micro:bit initiative:

More [+]


Jeff Branson, SparkFun
Anna Otto, Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Anna Otto is the Computer Science and Online Learning Coordinator for Adams 12 Five Star Schools. She’s responsible for overseeing and facilitating the development of the CS pathway and supporting digital literacy and computational thinking integration into content areas. Before joining Adams 12, Anna was a 4th and 5th grade teacher, research methods instructor, middle school tech and applied tech teacher, and a tech trainer. She’s been providing students with CS opportunities for over ten years. Anna lives in Colorado and spends her non-working hours with her husband, chasing their 4 year old twin boys and 6 year old daughter.

Derek Runberg, SparkFun

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