In 2017 a pilot initiative from Kompiuteriukų Fondas (Microcomputers for Kids Foundation) had the goal of introducing Lithuanian children to coding and computational thinking with a low-cost device.
The organisers of the initiative first ran a hackathon to decide on a microcontroller to use for teaching and learning. Following a series of challenges, the micro:bit was chosen as the device to take forward in the project owing to its breath of features and uses, cost and educational focus.
Lessons and pedagogy
To support the pilot, the Foundation created training materials, webinars and the first ever micro:bit guide in Lithuanian which translated from the Microsoft MakeCode 14-week curriculum. They also developed a Youtube channel and Facebook community pages for teachers to connect after receiving training.
Teachers and schools in each municipal region of Lithuania were encouraged to sign-up to the pilot programme, to receive devices, accessory kits and training materials. These materials were funded through a grassroots local fundraising effort which helped to cover costs of devices, transport and logistics.
A team of volunteers then delivered in-person micro:bit training to IT teachers in each municipality. In the process, these teachers became a community of micro:bit advocates and who continue to connect and work together, supporting more local teachers as they become familiar with the device. This network-effect demonstrates the impact and value of hands-on support in early stages of a training programme.
The pilot programme also encouraged participating teachers to share their new and developed IT lessons with micro:bit with all Lithuanian teachers via the EDUKA online platform.
The team also worked with major publishing house Šviesa to create educational material and webinars to support the programme. They are now in the process of creating a micro:bit electronics text book as a practical guide for teachers as they bring coding and computational thinking into their teaching practice. Together with teachers, the team also created a unique book of 11 integrated lessons with micro:bit.
Impact and results
The programme reached 80% of 5th graders (aged 11-12) in the first year and attracted local investment and fundraising from private business and municipal governments
- Reached 80% of 5th graders, a total of 20,600 students
- More than 500 teachers trained
- 10,000 hours teaching children programming basics with the micro:bit
- 400 attendees at in-person 'Microcomputers Rally' event in June 2019
- 100 new schools invited to programme in 2020 with training offered to two teachers per school
While also enabling greater access to tools for digital creativity, the Foundation also hope to influence an update to the Lithuanian national curriculum to include computing and programming.
The project won a World Summit Award in 2018 for their success in "integrating coding on microcomputers into the formal learning process”. In awarding the project, the judges said "the social initiative 'Microcomputers for Kids' provides Lithuanian kids and their teachers with up-to-date equipment, high-quality learning material and training. Microcomputers are given to all fifth graders in the country, while teachers receive training to help kids discover the possibilities of the hardware.”