Star Wars and the micro:bit

“I wanted to make it play the theme from Star Wars.”

So began a Grade 5 student’s response this week when I asked her what she was working on with her micro:bit program. It was her very first session with it but she, and the rest of class, did have several other experiences in recent months making things with Scratch.

I recorded a video in which she runs her program for me; you can hear the theme.

She then went on to explain that she had recently learned how to play the theme from Star Wars on the recorder. She knew the fingering, the notes, and the length of the notes. Now, she decided to make the micro:bit play it. She showed me how she used the ‘play tone’ blocks to make the notes and set the length.

Here is the bit of code she made that plays the notes:

star wars microbit

Three things made a strong impression on me as she told me more about her project:

  1. She came up with her own exciting idea to do something on the micro:bit and was given the encouragement and support to try it. She was passionate about the idea.
  2. She transferred her knowledge of playing the recorder to coding the micro:bit to do the same thing. This reminded me of Papert’s notion of syntonic learning in Mindstorms (although not exactly the same).
  3. She transferred her knowledge of making & coding in the Scratch environment to the process of making & coding in the makecode environment she was using.

And, there was a fourth thing that made an impression—the variety of projects by the other students in the class. By genuinely inviting students to pursue their own exciting ideas and passions for an initial project on the micro:bit, they were highly driven to see it come to life. In the span of about 45 minutes, and in the very first session, students made digital dice, a magic 8-ball, and music or message events tied to buttons. They were already talking about things they were going to work on at home.

If you have not yet read it, I highly recommend reading this article called A Different Approach to Coding written by Mitch Resnick and David Siegel. The 4P approach outlined in the article (and summarized below) is a tried and tested set of guiding principles that results in a higher level of engagement, motivation, exploration, and far more meaningful knowledge & skills being developed over time (I recently wrote about the kinds of knowledge and skills I would expect of effective coding to learn experiences).


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