Digital literacy is an essential cog in the wheel of ongoing innovation. And as the digital landscape grows and changes, the importance of providing high-quality technical education coupled with inspiration for young people is becoming increasingly evident.
But there are still considerable barriers for millions of students worldwide preventing them from gaining the knowledge they need to engage with—and create for—the digital economy. These barriers include socioeconomic, gender, and geographic factors, and they hamper access to the technology, teaching, and other resources disadvantaged students deserve.
Teaching digital skills to students in Nigeria
The responsibility to help overcome these obstacles is partly incumbent on organizations, partnerships, and programs with the ability to provide meaningful support. One example of such an organization in action is the Lagos, Nigeria-based 'Teens Can Code' program. Its primary objective is to assist in the computer programming education and training of disadvantaged students aged 11 to 22 across seven states in Nigeria. Teens Can Code aims to provide 1,000 school students with important digital skills by hosting comprehensive, collaborative classes.
To help this cause, Nordic has teamed up with the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, a not-for-profit founded in the U.K. in 2016 to inspire every child to create their best digital future. Its Nordic SoC-powered 'micro:bit' pocket-sized computer is a user-friendly educational resource for teaching students about coding and how software and hardware work in tandem. micro:bits are available in more than 60 countries, and by 2025, the foundation aims to have 20 million of these devices helping 100 million young people learn about technology.
Challenge winner solves conservation problem
A Nordic grant now enables Teens Can Code to train more teachers and volunteer educators to deliver invaluable workshops. The students actively participate in the Micro:bit Educational Foundation's 'do your :bit' (DYB) challenge, inspired by the United Nations' Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
The DYB challenge was designed to support future innovators and allow them to create social impact through micro:bit technology. The 2019-2020 challenge engaged with an estimated one million young people worldwide—more than half of all entries involved or were exclusively made by girls.
In 2020 the Teens Can Code workshops produced the winning entry for Africa. Using the micro:bit simulator, the winning team designed an alarm system that would alert if it detected any underwater pipe vandalism. The students had discovered that such vandalism was causing harm to sea life around Nigeria's coastline.
Creative coding with next-generation micro:bit
Teens Can Code will use the Nordic grant to carry out an enhanced version of the training program from the previous year. This will focus on workshops that allow young people (in particular girls and those from disadvantaged backgrounds) to become involved with the DYB challenge. It will include an additional technical session on how to code a micro:bit and explore some of the new features and functions available in the new micro:bit.
Unveiled in October 2020, the next-generation micro:bit includes all of the original functionality, including magnetometer, accelerometer, and temperature sensors. Furthermore, the transformative tool also offers a built-in speaker and microphone and supports new complex functionality such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications.
An ongoing commitment to STEAM education
By powering micro:bit hardware and software, and supporting initiatives like Teens Can Code, Nordic reinforces its continued commitment to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) education. There's a long way to go, but technology can positively impact the lives and careers of young creators across the globe. What's more, investment in wireless tech-driven STEAM education can contribute enormously to the future talent pipeline in areas like research, engineering, development, and innovation.