The Micro:bit project supported by Etteplan
Since 2016, Etteplan, together with other partners, has been driving forward a pilot project called Micro:bit. The project’s objective is to promote the teaching of programming in a fun and creative way in Finnish schools. The Innokas Network, which is coordinated by the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Educational Sciences, has been one of the project’s partners since 2017.
So far, a hundred teachers from fifty different schools across Finland have utilized Micro:bit programming. According to Technology Director Jaakko Ala-Paavola, supporting social projects will remain important for Etteplan going forward.
Originally designed by the BBC, Micro:bit is a project that takes programming education to schools in an easy and fun way using a small single-board computer. In the winter of 2016, Etteplan teamed up with other partners to cascade the pilot project into Finnish primary and secondary schools. In 2017, the Innokas Network of the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Educational Sciences started to coordinate the project.
Etteplan’s Technology Director Jaakko Ala-Paavola says that it is important for Etteplan to participate in promoting programming education in Finland, making it possible for future generations to study technology and acquire the skills required by the future Internet of Things early on.
“Our objective has been to encourage Finnish school children to embrace technology through the joy of creativity and spark a passion for the opportunities offered by programming. At the same time, we want to show how interesting programming can be at its best.”
Jaakko Ala-Paavola, Etteplan's Technology Director
Creativity blossoms when programming
The Micro:bit device, the size of a credit card, has embedded features, such as an LED display, a compass and an accelerometer that the students can program using a computer or a tablet and a programming language corresponding to their skill level. The device can be used to create games or it can be utilized in a variety of self-made products and inventions. Laura Salo, who works as a project coordinator for the Innokas Network at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, says that the creative use of technology starts with the students and their ideas. “Only creativity is the limit when programming with Micro:bit; this is something that the students have also borne testament to. The ideas programmed with Micro:bit have ranged from eye-glass wipers to muscle training exercise counters and portable loudspeakers,” says Laura Salo.
Since the fall of 2016, programming has been included in the curriculum of Finnish primary schools. The Innokas Network strives to support teachers’ continuing education in this area. Salo points out, however, that schools are free to decide themselves how teaching is implemented.
“The teaching of programming always starts with induction into the philosophy and basics of programming. In this, the Micro:bit device is a brilliant tool, as it gives students the chance to be inventors and come up with ideas, rather than just being mechanical users,” says Salo.
Ala-Paavola is thrilled to see that, thanks to teacher training, the positive results achieved in the project have an exceptionally broad reach. Approximately a hundred teachers from around 50 primary and secondary schools from Oulu in the north to Helsinki in the south and numerous other cities have worked with the Micro:bit project.
Primary and secondary schools from across Finland
“In Finland, teacher training is a strong focus, and the Innokas Network was the perfect partner for us because we want as many people as possible to benefit from the good results achieved through the project. By introducing teachers across the country to the realm of programming, we are spreading the good word of programming in an optimal way,” he says.
Two teachers were selected for the project from each school to participate in the training. Salo says that the Micro:bit project was well-received by both the municipalities and cities and the teachers and students.
“I was happy to see that each party was equally committed to the project. Based on the feedback we have received, programming supports the students’ future skills and the development of collaboration between teachers,” she adds.
Collaboration is important in social projects
Within the Micro:bit project, the Innokas Network already organized an additional training tour open to all teachers in eight locations. The Micro:bit device has also established its place in the Innokas Network’s technology education portfolio. Municipalities and schools can use the device in their commissioned training. The Innokas Network website contains material that is free for use for educational purposes.
“Based on the feedback we received, 80 per cent of teachers would recommend Micro:bit training to their colleagues, and 90 per cent found that working with Micro:bit improved their own work as a teacher. All in all, working with Etteplan was a very encouraging example of how interesting and constructive corporate collaboration can be,” says Salo.
According to Ala-Paavola, Etteplan wishes to participate in socially relevant projects in future too.
“The future will increasingly be built around technology. That is why it is important to take an interest in technology already at school and for children to have the opportunity to grow into it early on. We look forward to similar partnerships going forward,” says Ala-Paavola.