Ultra:bit is a major, national micro:bit programme in Denmark developed and run by DR, the national broadcaster.
After a hugely successful pilot in 2018, the programme began a national roll-out in 2019 supported by a range of partners: Agency for IT and Learning, Engineer the Future, Coding Pirates, DigiPippi, BUPL and Danish School Students.
Ultra:bits's aim is to at bring micro:bit technology and digital creativity into the classrooms of children aged 9-12 in a structured, meaningful and sustainable way by giving children exposure to digital technologies and computing.
A key strategic approach in the development of Ultra:bit was the focus on programmes and content for children, which were considered the cornerstone of project and devised with the overarching theme of ‘Children, Creativity and Technology’.
Programme design and development
The education team at DR Skole worked with teacher consultants in the early stages of Ultra:bit's development to gain an understanding of key concerns and pedagogical needs. Following these consultations, they developed education materials for a variety of different subjects such as maths, science, craft and design, to integrate technological understanding and the use of the micro:bit directly into existing lessons. By incorporating technology into core subjects, teachers can more easily find the time and meaning connected to the use of technology in school.
Lessons and pedagogy
A key learning from BBC ‘Make it Digital’ project was the need to support teachers to develop their interest and confidence in using micro:bit. This was considered essential to maintaining momentum in the project and ensure its long-term success. To support this:
- DR Skole developed materials for the following subjects: Danish, maths, science and technology, crafts and design.
- Materials were also created for “assisted learning” which are subjects that focus on social relations, reading, homework assistance and exercise.
- Short, simple exercises were developed for use in all subjects as well as an interactive introductory course for using basic block programming. (DR Skole's recommendation for teachers is to use 2-4 of these lessons as introduction to coding and micro:bit.)
- A ‘travelling taskforce’ also endeavours to reach schools and districts nationwide by offering teachers a free 3-hour course. This course has a focus on competence development in relation to coding, technology understanding and digital creativity.
- DR Skole also collaborate with Future Classroom Lab (FCL) to develop teaching and learning materials and makerspace activities.
As broadcasters, DR were also well-equipped to leverage well-known platforms to strategically devise their programming, generating deeper interest from all children aged 9-12. In doing so, they were able to incorporate micro:bit into broad, popular fiction programmes and those with a technology focus. This content was integrated into the most popular programmes and formats, as well as via YouTube with well-known TV personalities familiar to children.
Impact and research
The Ultra:bit campaign has reached 1400 (90%) schools in Denmark across the country and over 70k students, with expansion planned into more year groups in 2020 and beyond.
A survey of teachers who participated in the Ultra:bit pilot in 2018 showed that:
- 90% of the teachers found it was easier to code using micro:bit
- 95% of students found it easier to code than they thought
- 85% of the teachers felt enabled to help students use technology for creative solutions
- 96% of teachers said students wanted to learn more about coding and technology
- 90% of teachers said students expressed interest in knowledge about technology
- Over 60% of teachers began to create their own lessons and materials indicating a change in practice and sustainability
DR are conducting a baseline study of 8000 students which will run over 3 years to assess longer-term change in practice, efficacy and usage. The goal is to monitor indicators of change, where micro:bit is used with confidence as an integrated tool for learning.
The success and impact of the Ultra:bit programme has been recognised on both the national and international stage:
- DR Skole’s micro:bit-focused media and programming won a national media award in early 2019 which was a first for children’s content
- “Cross Platform Special Prize” at the Prix Italia awards in September 2019
- Prix Europa Award for Best European Online Media Project of the Year in October 2019