Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Ah, I Remember What I Liked About BETT!

Blogging is a strange thing. If you know me, then you'll know I do tend to say things as I see them. My blogs are often a reflection of how I feel about something and tend to 'ramble' somewhat as I commit these to the screen. Therefore writing these things down and publishing them to the public, does sometimes leave me feeling a little exposed. In my last blog, I mentioned how I personally felt that the BETT show, since moving to Excel had become very 'corporate' and that it didn't have the noise, hustle and bustle and dare I say the heart, that was so very much part of BETT when it was at Olympia. Was this just me, or did anyone else feel the same? Unless someone comments on a blog post I don't really know how people are reacting to what I've have written. Are they indifferent, whole heartedly agree or really upset with the things I write? Interestingly that last post did generate some feedback from people who read it. They generally seemed to agree with the problems around trying to get teachers from Wales to visit or with the corporate nature of this education event. It's nice to now that I'm not the only one who was feeling this way.

So, what about BETT 2015 itself? Well, I arrived on Friday afternoon at the Excel, on what is traditionally the busiest day of the event. I met up with a good friend and we began our expedition around the hall. A generalisation but this is what I saw; lots of shiny new things from people telling us that they are much better than the shiny things you bought last year, many companies selling you pupil tracking and assessment platforms, and companies offering infrastructure solutions. Both Microsoft and Google had very busy stands, with lots of good demonstrations from teachers. Apple, always conspicuous by their absence, the company that just made an historic £11.8bn profit in the last quarter. I seem to remember that several years ago Apple made the world-wide decision not to attend any trade shows. Nothing like engaging with the the education community, who are spending a small fortune on your products, at Europe's biggest educational tech show then!  ;-)

I liked a couple of things. Firstly the Blue-Bot from TTS. I've always had a soft soft for the Bee-Bot and Pro-Bot in the primary school. Basically the Blue-Bot is a Bee-Bot that can be controlled via Bluetooth from an iPad app (Android coming shortly). Create a sequence on the app, send it to the Blue-Bot, debug the sequence if required and resend. Much like the Raspberry Pi, the Blue-Bot has a clear shell so that pupils can see the workings inside. Unlike the Bee-Bot the Blue-Bot can also perform 45 degree turns. Great stuff.

I was also really happy to see that Google Play for Education has finally been released in the UK. Schools with managed Android tablets and Chromebooks now have a very easy way to select and deploy apps to individual students, a whole class or the whole school. In my opinion it's taken far too long for Google to sort this out, but now that it has it could very well be a game changer for schools in the UK.

I was also quite taken with the ongoing developments in 2Simple's Purple Mash 2Code product. I believe that subscribers should shortly be able to have access to detailed lesson plans to go alongside a lot of other teacher support materials already available. Finally ZU3D tickled my fancy. A very simple but effective stop frame animation tool that can be used on a Mac, PC or iPad. Great opportunities to use technology to support literacy.

Reflecting on things, I now realise what it was I really enjoyed and found valuable about BETT, it was actually the seminar program (which you notice I haven't mentioned once in this post). For the last couple of years I'm sorry to say haven't been into one session due to lack of time, or perhaps focus. Several years ago our team would visit for at least two or three days. This gave me time to look around but also to get into seminars to listen to what's going on in schools. In the past I have picked up some great ideas and approaches. It's a shame that most teachers would not have the time to be able to do this. Therefore my resolution for next year is this - a two day visit built around the seminar program. In between these sessions I shall stroll around this corporate gathering, viewing stands with newer super improved shiny things, and drinking lots of coffee :-)