The University of Helsinki’s Innokas network launched a cooperation project with the Micro:bit Foundation on Monday, 3 April, including a BBC micro:bit pilot with 50 Finnish schools and a study on the impact of the pilot.

Why the Innokas Network?

Several Finnish schools suggested the Innokas Network, coordinated by the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Educational Sciences, as a partner for the pilot.  Innokas promotes the use of digital technology in teaching, and its network of teachers enthusiastic about the topic spans throughout Finland. This is exactly what the micro:bit needs: an extensive and active teachers’ support network for its teaching tools.

The small but powerful micro:bit is already in use at 15 schools around Finland, and when cooperation launches this autumn, 50 more schools will join in. Micro:bit’s CEO, the Finnish-American Zach Shelby, hopes that some day all schools will offer the best teachers in the world the opportunity to use simple teaching tools for coding and robotics. And since the micro:bit is backed by a foundation, its goals are not commercial: it wants to have a positive impact on girls and also boys and pupils from rural areas in coding and robotics. 

 

The micro:bit is an easy tool for learning coding and robotics

In the UK, a million seventh-graders are already using the micro:bit teaching tools with their teachers. Digital technology is a perfect match for Finland’s national curriculum, but there are no easy tools for teachers, so enthusiasm may soon flag. The easy tools can help pupils code, build robots and make music. 

 “Throughout our pilot, the Innokas Network will study how the teachers and children work and at what age pupils are most receptive to the micro:bit,” Shelby explains.  “It’s very popular in the UK.”

According to studies conducted in the UK, it is easier and more fun to learn computer skills at comprehensive schools using the micro:bit, and 87% of teachers said that their pupils learned how to code. The teachers also said they learned a great deal. Nearly all of them want to keep using the micro:bit.

 

Coach experience is key 

Lauri Parkkonen, a class teacher by training, now works at the Joensuu Media Centre as an ICT instructor and a coach for the Innokas Network. He has been waiting for a long time for a device like the micro:bit, which solves many practical issues at once.

 “The micro:bit is affordable, easy to use and versatile, it’s not tied to a particular platform, and it can be programmed using a block-based JavaScript editor or Python,” Parkkonen lists. “In addition, it can be used throughout comprehensive school, from primary education up until secondary education, as is specified in our curriculum.” 

In his pilot project, Parkkonen has used the micro:bit with first-graders, by integrating contents from visual arts and mathematics.

According to Parkkonen, the micro:bit’s main strength is its versatility as part of phenomenon-based learning: for example, pupils can create their own compasses to study directions and then go for a forest walk for environmental studies.  Mathematics can cover the programming, but the micro:bit can also be part of crafts – pupils can create e-textiles, such as a “compass glove”. Other features can be added to use its sensor capabilities, and separate sensors can be added, for example, temperature or light sensors, making the device a versatile research tool to support learning.    

 

The BBC micro:bit

The Micro:bit Foundation became an independent non-profit foundation in October 2016, originally envisioned and established by the BBC, with other founders including ARM, Amazon, The British Council , the IET, the University of Lancaster, Microsoft, Nominet and Samsung  

The main partner in Finland is Innokas Network and other partners are MeHackIt and Etteplan , who has helped sponsor the pilot.

More information about the pilot in Finland

More information:

Head of Innokas Network Tiina Korhonen, tel. +358 50 448 6933, email tiina.korhonen@helsinki.fi

Micro:bit Foundation CEO Zach Shelby, tel. +358 40 779 6297, email zach@microbit.org