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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Micro:bit launches new Python Editor to help more children learn text-based coding languages – Education Technology

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Micro:bit Educational Foundation, the education non-profit on a mission to enhance children’s digital skills, today announces it is making it even easier for children to learn the text-based coding skills needed to access some of the most in-demand tech jobs.
Its new Python Editor – used in conjunction with the BBC micro:bit, its handheld coding devices – is purpose-built to address the hurdles learners usually face in working with the type of languages used by most developers by creating a more user-friendly and intuitive learning experience.
To truly address the digital skills gap – and the digital diversity gap – we need to remove the barriers that surround learning text-based languages – Lucy Gill, product manager,  Micro:bitEducational Foundation
Micro:bit Educational Foundation works closely with schools, educators and some of the world’s biggest tech companies such as Arm and Microsoft to help implement computing education at a young age and improve diversity in computer science.
It does this primarily through its micro:bit programmable device – already used in over a third of UK schools – which supports both block-based beginner coding and more advanced text-based skills.
 
With the new editor, it has reimagined how we teach text-based coding, with features such as ‘drag and drop’ code snippets, code structure highlighting and auto-complete.
The Editor has also been designed to enhance appeal to more female learners and those from under-represented backgrounds: it has a more user-friendly interface; removes barriers posed by blank screens with prompts and new features; and, by pairing with a computer, learners feel their code come to life, which improves engagement across a broader range of students.
“To truly address the digital skills gap – and the digital diversity gap – we need to remove the barriers that surround learning text-based languages,” commented Lucy Gill, product manager at Micro:bitEducational Foundation.
“With over six million of our devices in use globally, we have been able to draw on a broad scope of insights and data to redefine how we teach Python and make it more accessible to a broader spectrum of users. This is purpose-designed to make the step up from beginner feel far smaller and to bring code to life with a physical device, keeping learners more engaged and motivated.”
Python is the most widely used and fastest growing developer language in the world and has a broad application of uses, from powering machine learning to web development and data analytics. The UK secondary school curriculum introduced learning text-based languages in 2014, but to date teachers and students alike have struggled to include Python, given the jump in technical complexity, and the focus has largely been around HTML.
We know anecdotally from our community that text-based programming is top of employers’ skills wish lists – Gareth Stockdale, CEO, Micro:bit Educational Foundation
Sarah Townson, technology projects officer at Science Oxford, a Python expert who works closely with children, young adults and teachers to develop their skills and inspire a love of computing and technology, said: “I have been really impressed with the new Python Editor from micro:bit. It has already made a big difference in my Science Oxford workshops, helping the students and teachers we work with to take their first steps in text-based coding, and allowing the more experienced students to get creative and explore new features.
“The drag-and-drop code examples are extremely helpful, and the new reference menu is a lifesaver for quickly giving extra challenges and suggestions to my students.”
 
“We know anecdotally from our community that text-based programming is top of employers’ skills wish-lists– and a quick search on any tech job site can quickly confirm the size of the demand! This is an important milestone for us as we look to build upon our strong foundations in secondary education to help empower teachers to teach, and students to progress to, these hugely valuable skills,” said Gareth Stockdale, CEO at Micro:bit Educational Foundation.
The new editor is available here on the Micro:bit Educational Foundation website, where interested educators can also access freely available teaching resources.
Main image: Children from Methill Primary School, Fife, get creative with micro:bit coding device. © Lesley Martin 2022 | lesley@lesleymartin.co.uk | 07836745264
You might also like: ‘With 82% of students male, computing sadly remains the subject with the biggest gender imbalance’

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