Empowering the next generation with the micro:bit

25th October 2016

Natalie Wood

I’m passionate about the micro:bit because I can honestly say it changed my life, albeit in an earlier incarnation.

When I first got my hands on the BBC Micro in my school days, I had a lightbulb moment that startled me out of my academic listlessness: here is something I can do.

Fast forward three decades and I’m working with internet technology and recognising the same opportunities presented to today’s children. Youngsters may use technology on a day-to-day basis, but present them with a micro:bit and they transform from passive users to creators. Instead of asking ‘what does this do?’, they ask ‘what can I do with this?’

Though the younger generation may not yet realise it, the power to understand and manipulate internet technology will be the most vital tool in the digital world they will operate in as adults. Developing the correct knowledge, skills and confidence to take an active role in the creation and protection of that world starts with the micro:bit.

It was for all these reasons that Nominet got excited when we heard about the BBC micro:bit initiative, which got underway in 2016. The project placed just under 1 million micro:bits in the hands of school children, presenting them with an educational tool that could shape their future while putting a smile on their face.

I well remember the magic of making something happen with a small piece of kit previously beyond your understanding, and this ignites the spark that can grow into a brighter future. Investing in the future is a huge part of what we do at Nominet, so we were understandably invigorated by a project dedicated to training and empowering the generation who will control the digital world of tomorrow.

The initial micro:bit roll-out has proved a massive success but merely scratched the surface of the vast, life-changing potential of the micro:bit as an educational tool. The question was – what next? Enter the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, a non-profit organisation committed to using the micro:bit on a long-term basis to develop the skills of young people worldwide.

Nominet is a founding partner of the Foundation alongside the BBC, Samsung, ARM and IET, and the Foundation was officially launched on 18th October 2016. I will represent Nominet on the board and we are all excited about the contribution Nominet can make in the form of technological expertise to further enhance the micro:bit’s educational remit, particularly in regards to the IoT.

The potential is immense; the micro:bit could become the leading educational tool for the IoT for the next generation. However, special care needs to be taken when connecting these mini machines and their users to the internet.

Nominet has always been committed to and active in cyber security and privacy, and there is an interesting challenge in creating an IoT device that adheres to the strictest standards of privacy and security while maintaining the simplicity and ease of use of the micro:bit. The R&D team is already hard at work meeting this challenge, and we relish the chance to push our own limits.

Nominet is first and foremost a public benefit company – is there any better way of demonstrating that than by investing time and expertise in something that benefits a generation worldwide and could serve to safeguard the future of the internet?

Nominet may not have existed when the BBC Micro first arrived, but it is now in a strong and reputable position, ideally placed to lend its weight and expertise to continue this worthy mission.

We will keep you updated on the Micro:bit Educational Foundation’s work to equip children with the technological knowledge, skills and confidence to succeed.