© Calliope

Calliope mini: Coding for the young ones

Playful access to the digital world - this should soon become reality for pupils nationwide   with the assistance of Calliope mini. The mini-computer on a circuit board is easily programmed and shows the youngest how IT works.  

The charitable Calliope GmbH, being an educational project, is behind this Calliope mini and tries to give each and every pupil - starting with the 3rd form onwards - a better understanding of technological processes in a playful way. Apart from the Calliope mini as a hardware product, the enterprise also focusses on further educating teachers and collecting didactical ‘Open-education-resource-materials’. In 2016 the Calliope mini was presented at the national IT-summit in Saarbrücken for the first time.

Amongst the associates of the enterprise with the same name are - amongst others - the graduate interaction designer Jørn Alraun, Design Professor Gesche Joost, learning toy developer Franka Futterlieb, and the digital entrepreneur Stephan Noller. The project is supported by several enterprises and foundations, amongst them Google, Microsoft, SAP, Bosch, Cornelsen and the Deutsche Telekom Stiftung.

Playful learning with the Calliope mini

The Calliope mini is a micro-controller that can already be used by primary school children for many different active learning projects due to its simple block programming. In this way children can be introduced to the creative possibilities of programming without problems. The ‘mini’ was developed together with teachers so that it can be used directly in lessons and designed such that it is suitable for pupils starting from the 3rd form:  “The Calliope mini introduces the digital world to the children’s world”, explains Managing Director Jørn Alraun.

The advantage of a web-based editor with which programmes can be set up for the Calliope mini are obvious according to Alraun:  “It is not necessary to install any software on the school computer when coding, a simple web browser is sufficient. In this way our hardware, the Calliope mini, is continuously updated.”  

The so-called coding (playful programming) is a contemporary type of teaching, says the Managing Director of Calliope, as even small children are already used to the digital world. It is for this reasons that it makes sense to accompany them and to experience together with them  where the computer plays a role in our lives: “It is an important experience even for the young ones that they can tell the computer what to do for me - and not the other way round”, says Alraun.   

From Consumers to Producers

The objective of the project is to convey a digital maturity in schools: “Technology should not only be ruled but it is our intention to remove anxiety in working with it and encourage children to make use of digital tools, critically but also creatively. The Calliope mini demonstrates that a computer is not necessarily a black box. Instead, we can actively create our everyday life with computers and turn from consumers to producers“,  emphasises Alraun. Part of this process is not only to use programmes but also to create them. It is, of course, understood that technology cannot replace teaching. But: “The analogue and digital world merge more and more into one, this development cannot be stopped.“  

The Location Berlin contributes to the success of the enterprise  

Several schools and educational initiatives in all federal states already use the minicomputer and the trend is rising: “We have started many regional pilot projects showing how education can work in a digital world. Together with others we are pioneers of this movement and gladly continue on this path in order to convey digital competence to even more schoolchildren“, says Alraun.  

The location in Berlin also plays an important role in the success of the enterprise with its main office in Prenzlauer Berg: “As we produce the devices in a medium-sized enterprise in Berlin it is also practical to be located here. This means shorter ways for us and a close cooperation with the producer. It is also of advantage to us to be able to have an exchange with other great educational initiatives as well as foundations with their office in Berlin and excellent universities. ”