The Micro:Vote project is designed as an introduction to text- based programming through a 12-week project aimed at 11 to 13 year olds. The project is designed as a School-University partnership whose aim is to highlight the role of creativity and social impact in computing through the design of digital voting posters using the BBC micro:bit and MicroPython.
Adopting a Design Studio approach, the project scaffolds students in the creation of a physical computing voting system and informative poster, to gather responses on an issue of social importance within the community. Through the lens of Human- Computer Interaction, students investigate the role of computing in activism and learn to implement data and control structures.
This project is aimed at 10-13 year olds who have an introductory understanding of programming and are looking to transition and extend this knowledge to a text-based environment. This project requires a minimum of one micro:bit between two students.
This project is planned to run for 12 consecutive computing lessons, at approximately 45-60 minutes per session. To address the challenge of interruption or disruption to this schedule, the lessons follow a ‘critical path’ in which certain lessons are highlighted as critical to ensure completion of the project. There are 10 further lessons positioned as extension tasks if needed.
The project is the product of a school-university partnership, with a university acting as the challenge commissioner , which is reflected in the learning materials.
However, the role of commissioner can be played by any stakeholder involved in computing or activism to provide student access to role models, new experiences, and the development of their identity as ‘computer scientists’. We recognize that this level of community engagement requires organization that is not always feasible within the school environment. The challenge commissioners do not have to be external parties, and we encourage instructors to explore internal stakeholders (e.g. staff/student groups/clubs) as potential challenge commissioners for the voting poster projects.
Design Brief Topics
Within the Design Studio pedagogical structure, there are two main approaches in their application: 1) a domain-driven approach that presents students with a domain within which they explore their projects (e.g. “create a project to improve your learning environment”) or 2) a project-driven approach, in which requirements structure the response (e.g. “create a digital voting poster on a topic of improvement in your learning environment”). A project-driven approach is recommended for students with less experience of independent learning.
We recommend topics be driven by the challenge commissioners, and previous examples include ‘improving your learning environment’ or ‘methods for managing school lunch queues’.
The presentation of projects can take a variety of formats, including: an exhibition, in-class presentations, a report, or a podcast. There must be some form of engagement or feedback from the challenge commissioners to ‘make it real’ for students.
The materials include a standalone tutorials which cover individual computing concepts in further detail. These provide an overview of the topic and a series of challenges for independent learners to complete.
While the current resources are based in MicroPython, instructors can convert the concepts and materials of this project into a block- based language to suit the needs of their learners. Furthermore, resources use British-context examples to explain concepts (e.g. tea-making to practice flowcharts in Lesson 4a), and instructors may want to adapt contextually-relevant examples for their own learners.
The pedagogy of the Micro:Vote project is adapted from the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Design Studio approach for Higher Education computing students. This reports an improvement in student engagement with computing concepts due the creative and practical application of theoretical concepts, improving behaviour and confidence. The divergent application of a unified codebase allows for creative student
exploration, while minimising teacher workload, providing a balance in creativity and support. This project adapts the HCI Design Studio pedagogy, and is structured to include: 1) a design brief challenge for the students, requiring the creation of a simple micro:bit voting system and associated poster, 2) a desk ‘crit’ for instructors and peer feedback on projects, 3) a design review for instructors to provide formal feedback, and 4) a presentation, in which students can present the outcomes of their work. 5) A portfolio is kept by students throughout the process to evidence the evolution of their learning.