Physical computing involves interactive physical systems or devices that can be programmed through software. That sounds very high-tech – but basically it involves bringing coding to life by programming something that you can touch to do something.
For example, if you have a Microbit you can use a piece of tape to create into a fancy bracelet that flashes a message. Or if two people each have a Microbit – these can be programmed to make a symbol for either rock, paper or scissors so that a digital version of this classic game can be played as the Microbits are shaken.
Physical computing activities for learners have a range of benefits, including:
- encouraging an holistic view of computer systems across hardware and software
- encouraging creativity and personalisation of projects
- promoting learning by doing, trial and error, collaboration
- engaging the whole learner – mind and body
In our Physical Computing in the Classroom Microsoft Virtual Academy, SchoolNet SA’s Megan Rademeyer discusses a range of physical computing ideas with Matthew Hains from TechTeachers.
One of the main points we discussed was how to make physical computing work in schools that don’t have access to resources or a computer science teacher. Matthew showed us how you can still try physical computing without tools like Microbits or Adafruit, by going to the Makecode website and coding a virtual Microbit. There are a range of great activities to try that don’t require any formal computer science training to follow.
Please check out the course on the Physical Computing for the Non-Computer Science Educator course on the Microsoft Educator Community for some more pointers on this topic. Be sure to send us some pictures of your learners trying out physical computing so that we can share your lesson ideas with other teachers.