• The BBC Micro 2 - Look what's coming back to the classroom

    Last Friday I received a phone call informing me that I had to get myself to the Hack To The Future event being held at Our Ladies Catholic High School in Preston as a matter of urgency because the BBC are to be there and would be unwrapping, for the first time, the BBC Micro 2.
    So, interest ignited, I quickly re-arranged my Saturday schedule and got myself onto the invite list, as this kind of opportunity couldn't be passed up.
    A quick mention must be made about Hack To The Future (H2DF). This event was organized by Alan O’Donohoe as an un-conference and in the brief time I had to chat with him he let me know that H2DF was inspired by the EduGeek conference which he attended last year. They had over 300 young people and adults through the doors and from what I saw the level of enthusiasm from all comers was very high indeed. You can read more about the ethos behind the event here: H2DF and I sincerely hope they hold another one that I can attend for the full day.

    Once in, bumping immediately into Arran Wicher (AWicher on the forums) who was helping out, I then had a brief chat with Alan who kindly took me over to the BBC room where they were demonstrating the Micro 2, and truth be told I was a bit taken aback at what I saw. The BBC Micro 2 isn’t a hardware platform as I’d been mentally building it up to be at all, far from it.

    For those of you ‘of a certain age’ you may well remember the original BBC Micro, and its intended aim of teaching children in school to learn how to code. Well, it is this admirable aim that the Micro 2 intends to emulate; you see the BBC Micro 2 is a development environment.
    To get the lowdown on just what it is I was very graciously given time to speak to Parmy Brar, the lead developer of the Micro 2 Project, to get a bit more information on what it is, how it came about and anything else I could find that would be of interest to EduGeek members.

    The BBC Micro 2 is a prototype (pre-alpha still) cross platform development environment created for the BBC’s Computer Literacy Project.
    It aims to be an environment where students, both young and old, will be able to learn the concepts of coding via set tutorials and exercises in a variety of languages, as well as exporting or developing work as web apps into iOS and Android via an easy to use menu system which seemed to work very well when I saw it in operation. Parmy was quite enthused about several of the set projects that has students creating their own web servers and then creating web sites with active content to go on them. He has actually created a web server on the Micro 2 with just seven lines of code, and is trying to get this down to 6!

    Currently the Micro 2 only has Java and HTML support in the version being shown at H2DF, but Parmy informed me that several other common programming languages will be added, including Python and ‘C’.
    The Micro 2 environment is cross platform and clients for Windows, Mac and Linux will be available, with the Mac and Widows clients being demonstrated at the event.

    Considering the project is only 6 weeks old and was started without the prior knowledge of Michael Gove’s speech at BETT it seems the BBC has timed things to perfection given the creation of the new computer science curriculum, and there was some talk about the possibility of porting it to the Raspberry Pi when the device becomes available.

    There is now a website (www.bbchelloworld.co.uk) that has just gone live this morning and will have more information on there about downloads and availability, neither of which questions I could get an answer for unfortunately.
    Anyway, this looks like it could be something many of us should be keeping an eye on in the near future, as it may well provide a very useful coding platform for schools who are still looking to fill the missing software gap that the new curriculum is sure to deliver.

    *This is the new BBC Micro logo. Look familiar?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bbc_micro
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. CyberNerd's Avatar
      CyberNerd -
      theres a type on the link:
      Hello World!
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
    1. AWicher's Avatar
      AWicher -
      **cough** its hmmm, Arran!!!

      That sort of error would get you on my ironically named "statim" fix list
    1. ZeroHour's Avatar
      ZeroHour -
      BTW Dos_box was the author but it appears to have tagged me...
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Quote Originally Posted by AWicher View Post
      **cough** its hmmm, Arran!!!

      That sort of error would get you on my ironically named "statim" fix list
      My apologies. Still, I really do wish I had more to time to spend there as it looked like a facinating day and by the time I'd finished with the BBC everyone was packing up. I look forwards to the next one and intend to spend a full day there.
    1. danielstucke's Avatar
      danielstucke -
      It looked really interesting, I've popped some of my thoughts down here: Daniel Stucke • BBC Micro 2.0 #ictcurric
    1. matt40k's Avatar
      matt40k -
      @ZeroHour have you seen the raspberry pi project?
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      The BBC Micro 2 RP project?
    1. Gatt's Avatar
      Gatt -
      Website not working - getting a Whoopsy error?!
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Apparently they keep putting it up and down as they work on it. It only went live yesterday, and there is still a lot to do from what we have seen.
    1. JJonas's Avatar
      JJonas -
      @Dos_Box if Edugeek is seeing extra traffic it could be because Raspberry Pi posted a link to the Edugeek article on their Facebook page
    1. garethedmondson's Avatar
      garethedmondson -
      Quote Originally Posted by JJonas View Post
      @Dos_Box if Edugeek is seeing extra traffic it could be because Raspberry Pi posted a link to the Edugeek article on their Facebook page
      There was a discussion about this on Twitter today with raspberry_pi claiming it was a hoax. They retracted their comment and apologised.

    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      I miss all of the exciting stuff!
    1. trevj's Avatar
      trevj -
      Thanks for sharing this. I hope it proves to be a successful legacy project.
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Quote Originally Posted by garethedmondson View Post
      There was a discussion about this on Twitter today with raspberry_pi claiming it was a hoax. They retracted their comment and apologised.

      There is more information on what happened here: BBC confirms new computing in schools programme | bit-tech.net and it was all a bit of a misunderstanding.
    1. somabc's Avatar
      somabc -
      OMG this song! Audioboo / Hack Rap
    1. ZeroHour's Avatar
      ZeroHour -
      Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
      @ZeroHour have you seen the raspberry pi project?
      We host Frambozenbiers forums (Frambozenbier: RasPi Forums) as well. Frambozenbier are not Raspberry Pi Foundation FYI just a website dedicated to working with the Pi's

      Wow I go and have a baby and all that kicks up LOL.
    1. petectid's Avatar
      petectid -
      Correct me if I'm wrong but can't coding be taught in schools without making any expenditure on new hardware and software. Isn't there a danger of money being wasted, as it often has in the past with expensive resources and hardware. I see that any investment in the change in curriculum would be better spent on training the teachers to deliver it.
    1. GrumbleDook's Avatar
      GrumbleDook -
      Catch 22 really ... to teach coding in schools you tend to need coding environments. This either means time to set them up, get access to them on the web or to bring in kit to help do it. With things like Raspberry Pi, Arduino, etc it can simplify a lot of the work, especially when there is a ready community all helping to share resources and ideas. I small amount of expenditure to introduce open environments, make a move towards more open source offerings ... it can reap savings in years to come if planned right.
    1. petectid's Avatar
      petectid -
      Yes Tony as usual you make alot of sense. The worrying side of all this is that if schools are given an overwelming choice of resources this will only go a long way to complicating what should be a simple process. I'm of the opinion that to teach programming in schools we should probably state that the language taught should be a cross platform and object orientated. Whether that means the compiled code has to be usable on muliple platforms or recompiled/modified to run on another. A language like Java would be cheap to use in schools as the JDK is free and can be installed on the workstations if not already. The coding could be typed into a simple text editor like notepad, textedit or kate. The skills used in using most OO languages are transferable to other OO languages. The only drawback with the simple text editor route is that you would have to give your pupils access to the Command line to compile it. I think this would be still easier than using an IDE package like Eclipse.
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