A Rapidly Growing Community in Malaysia Despite COVID-19
On 16th March 2020, the government of Malaysia declared a nationwide lockdown in a drastic effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Schools were closed and all face-to-face events had to be called off.
Our team had earlier scheduled 14 training workshops as our outreach campaign to be carried out between February and April this year. The plan was to visit each state and provide hands-on training for local teachers. They in turn were to guide their students to participate in RERO Annual Championship (RAC2020), an annual robotics and coding competition for primary and secondary school students.
Sadly, this year we only managed to conduct 4 training workshops before COVID-19 broke out and threw all our planning out the window. It was with a heavy heart that we cancelled all remaining sessions.
Despite the pandemic, we refused to be deterred. Since we could not meet in person, we decided to go online. So on April 4th, we had our debut live webinar for teachers. Together, we explored MakeCode Editor and learned to program rero:micro, a micro:bit robot. Much to our delight, over 1000 teachers from across Malaysia tuned in and participated actively throughout the live session.
In a way, the lockdown had broken down geographical and logistic constraints; and thus enabled us to introduce the micro:bit platform to more teachers. To date, the YouTube video has garnered over 7k views, way more than what we had expected.
Besides the discovery of using webinar to reach out to a bigger audience, I also reaped another unexpected benefit from being forced to work from home. Around that time, my husband and I were in the midst of writing the guide book for our new project kit for micro:bit, the EDU:BIT. As my 7-year-old son was stuck at home with us, he was roped in to be our beta tester.
Joshayne took the task seriously indeed; he even created a Word document to list down all the typos and inconsistencies that he detected as he went through our draft, chapter by chapter. In the book, we featured popular childhood games with a digital twist. We had fun building and testing the games together with Joshayne. It was insightful for us too as we get to observe him and gather his honest feedback to further enhance the kit and its content.
Albeit the unevitable delay due to COVID-19, we managed to run a low volume test run and soft launched the kit domestically. Towards the end of August, we conducted a three-session train-the-trainer webinar series for a pilot group of around 100 teachers.
Fuelled by the positive feedback we received from these early adopters, we geared up to launch a Kickstarter campaign for EDU:BIT. It’s now live on Kickstarter untill 22 Oct 2020. At the time of writing, we are at 426% funded, 354 backers and another 10 days to go.
Moving forward, we are translating the EDU:BIT guide book to local languages. With the help of volunteers and local educators, we already have the book translated to Malay, Tamil and Hungarian. Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Thai versions are currently work in progress. EDU:BIT book and its translations (pdf format) are available for free download from https://link.cytron.io/edubit-download.
It’s indeed exciting to see the growing community of micro:bit enthusiasts, both locally and globally. We expect to see an exponential growth next year when all Year 5 students in Malaysian primary schools will be introduced to coding via Design and Technology subject under the new official syllabus. To ensure that our teachers are fully equipped and supported, we’ll continue to work closely with other micro:bit community partners to champion micro:bit in Malaysia.