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Microsoft promises additional 15,000 BBC Micro Bit computers to UK schools

The US company is determined to get the BBC's educational computer into the hands of more students for free.

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The Micro Bit packs a lot of tech into its tiny frame.

BBC

Microsoft has partnered with the BBC to give British schoolchildren 15,000 pocket-size, educational Micro Bit computers , adding to the 1 million devices already being distributed to 11-year-olds across the country.

Unveiled earlier this year, the Micro Bit has been built by the BBC and a coalition of companies, including Samsung, Microsoft, ARM and the people behind the Raspberry Pi. The Micros Bit is designed to be an entry-level coding device that will act as a springboard into more complex programming and inspire a new generation of computing experts. It's descended from the BBC Micro, a computer designed for schools and built by Acorn in the 1980s.

Microsoft says it will buy the devices, once they become commercially available next year, and give them to 35 schools involved in its Showcase Schools programme. "This is only the first step in our efforts to get more BBC Micro Bits into the hands of a wider group of young people," the company wrote in a blog post .

Coding has been on the British national curriculum for just over a year now, meaning more and more children are being introduced to it. With few teachers trained in computer science , however, there's plenty of need for industry-driven initiatives in the classroom. As a publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC sees education as one of its primary responsibilities.

Various tech companies have long battled for control of the education market, with, for instance, Microsoft producing software aimed at students and Apple building computers for higher education. When it comes to Microsoft's Showcase Schools programme though, the company says it's designed purely to promote "best practice and inspirational leadership" in schools.

The Redmond, Washington-based company's chief executive, Satya Nadella, along with Microsoft's UK vice president, Michel Van der Bel, and BBC Director General Tony Hall today visited Eastlea Community School in London to meet some of the first pupils learning to code with Micro Bits.

The creativity of the students, said Van der Bel, showed Microsoft "just what's possible, things we never dreamed of when we first joined the BBC Micro Bit project. This really can inspire a whole new generation to become digital makers."