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ICT in Education

Archive for January 2014

Impressions of BETT 2014

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Things aren’t what they used not be, certainly not when you get to my age, and true also of the BETT Show, an event I have been visiting since its inception back in the early days of computers in schools. BETT is now a very different beast from those early, heady days when the focus was largely on innovative learning and teaching, small companies finding their way in this new market and many small, often teacher led software companies. There has of course been gradual change over the years but none so marked as in the years since 2010.

AT BETT 2014 the space was dominated by providers of technology and management tools – everything from the latest interactive table to tablets, and MIS systems to a myriad of tools to track and analyse data (keep weighing those pigs and they’ll put on weight . . .). The now ubiquitous tablet was everywhere as were the packaged solutions and the technology to lock them down so as to prevent the user being able to do anything useful with them. Command and control rules it seems.

However, if it was tools for learning the visitor sought then, especially for specific curriculum tools, the options were limited. Even the old favourites had to be searched for.

The highlights, at least as far as primary is concerned could be found on the 2Simple and Sherston stands, both companies having taken the new curriculum by the horns. 2Simple’s latest product 2Code has to be on of the outstanding pieces of software of this year. Very professionally demonstrated by a confident young lady (all of 10 years old!) who put some adult presenters to shame 2Code takes the stress out of teaching the coding elements of Computing to KS2.

Other products to support this aspect could be found on the Sherston stand where a much re-written but still familiar Crystal Rain Forest variant that covers all coding requirements and utilises Scratch programming. On the Pearson stand a combine kit for teaching about computers as well as coding looked interesting. Kano utilises a Raspberry Pi with a specially designed keyboard and a simple programming language called Matrix. If you have a techie KS2 teacher in your school this is well worth looking at.

As far as the other aspects of the Computing programme of study are concerned – and remember that coding is only one part of this, the while range of e-skills, digital literacy and e-safety must still be taught – there was surprisingly little on offer in the way of support materials. For overall guidance the best starting point are the joint Naace/CAS materials (free to download) while if an off the shelf scheme of work is wanted then the Rising Stars product Switched on Computing is currently the sole choice. At least it utilises tools and software that schools already have or can download cheaply or free, such as Scratch. Highly recommended.

Special Needs aspects were well supported as usual. However for mainstream there was little to see that further supported ICT across the wider curriculum. Can we rely on subject associations to here? The challenge of course is to bring connected learning and all its tools into what is becoming a dated 1950’s curriculum rather than one that educates children for the challenges of the Third Millennium.
Mention of connected learning brings me finally to the demise of the learning platform, at least in the form envisaged by the erstwhile Becta in the early 2000s. Few of the players from those heady days made an appearance and of the few that did their stands seemed rather quiet. Broadly schools no have tow main choices – their own Moodle provided by a management company such as WebAnywhere or to go with the big guys and embrace GoogleApps. Both can do the job, albeit in different ways but unless you want almost complete local control and servers then currently GoogleApps and its other components has the edge.

But, where was the real innovation at the show? Simple – from the schools and their pupils. If you visit next year make your focus the many high quality talks and lectures reporting on real innovation and development. This will be of much more use than yet another sales presentation.

Written by Paul Heinrich

January 25, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized