• Fair Chance Learning

Stepping Stones Towards Student Activism: Social Issues in micro:bit Board Games

General Learning Strategies (GLE) is a special course offered to Ontario secondary students with Individualized Education Plans. In these classrooms you will find students identified with a wide range of exceptionalities working to enhance their literacy and numeracy skills. My challenge has been to design projects that meet my students’ personal needs, while also providing opportunities for them to find their own voice.

As I explored options for what to include in my GLE course, coding was selected as a vehicle to explore critical thinking and numeracy goals. Initially students worked on an introductory set of lessons based on the great work of Douglas & Mary Kiang. Coding on the micro:bit allows students to iterate quickly and ‘fail forward’, so that they strive to be conscientious. After only a week of learning of computer science concepts, a pair of students developed a tribute to Nintendo’s 1984 classic “Duck Hunt”.

Our final class project was inspired by the work of Professor Larry Bencze, a University of Toronto professor who encourages students to take an activist stance on social issues. Students were asked to create micro:bit based board games that revolved around an issue important to them. Once again, I was impressed by student’s ingenuity in creating games that showed both technical sophistication and a nuanced understanding of their issue.

This board game featured students commanding 3D-printed sailboat playing pieces on a voyage from Europe to Canada. The micro:bit acted as both a dice and a way to keep score. Players had to ‘navigate’ the complex issues of Aboriginal Rights and Freedoms along their journey.

Another student personally designed a game revolving around bullying:

The game featured the micro:bit displaying a custom victory message when a player moved his piece into the victory area.

The game creator also 3D scanned (using a Kinect Sensor) and 3D printed a small version of himself to act as the playing piece, essentially putting ‘himself’ in the game. These projects highlight the micro:bit’s key advantage: it allows abstract computer science concepts to come alive in a physical device a student can interact with, untethered to the confines of a screen.

About the Author:

Dave Del Gobbo is a science and special education teacher from the Peel District School Board. He is into 3D printing, gaming in education and giant espresso machines.