BETT 2016 – Some Reflections
A new year and many Irish educators made the trek to the BETT Show in London and it is a trek by the time you get to the Excel Arena, down in the Docklands. Though the 2016 show came to a close on January 23rd the organisers are already focused on next year and doing it all over again.
Having been lucky enough to attend the BETT Show for a good number of years I am always asked “So what caught your eye?” and “What stood out for you this year?” I am afraid it is a lot harder to answer that question today, than it was in the past, because we no longer have new CDs, DVDs or pieces of equipment, such as interactive whiteboards or tablets, that we see for the first time at BETT. The show has changed in that regard and also the high levels of UK funding for ICT has also evaporated and this seems to have impacted on the UK attendance. Nowadays BETT is an international event with thousands of visitors from overseas and it is much more international than in the past. That is not a criticism but an observation of how the show has grown and how ICT in education, is a global business and an important strategic issue for many education systems. There was lots to see and do during the 4 days and if you want a flavour of what went on, you can catch up with the highlights on the BETT website.
So what was noteworthy or stood out for me? Well first off, there were a number of things that did capture my attention. One of the big talking points this year was the BBC Microbit Project and the general focus on teaching coding to children. The BBC plans to give every child in Year 7 a BBC MicroBit.
BBC micro:bit – a pocket-sized, codeable computer that allows children to get creative with technology. In the BBC’s most ambitious education initiative for 30 years, up to 1 million devices will be given to every 11 or 12 year old child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK, for free.
For those of us of a particular vintage we remember the BBC microcomputer that featured in many Irish classrooms in the 1980s this is a throwback to a by gone age when the BBC and technology in schools were synonymous. For more on how the Micro:bit can be used in schools see the report below from BETT 2016.
There was quite a focus on teaching coding in schools this year and many stands had developed adds-on for the Micro Bit, so hopefully we will hear more about this device during the year and that Irish schools get their hands on some soon! It is currently only available in the UK.
Minecraft Education Edition
There was quite a bit of buzz on the Microsoft Stand and they made some very interesting announcements at BETT. Microsoft announced that they have bought MinecraftEdu, having previously bought Minecraft, and the new site will be available later in the year. For more see the official Microsoft announcement. The announcement had a lot of people excited as the new site will provide new features that will better support the use of Minecraft in a classroom environment.
Learning Tools for OneNote
Microsoft were also busy announcing some further developments to OneNote with the announcement of Learning Tools.
For more visit the Learning Tools site.
The other big topic that was at BETT 2016 was data analytics and using data to make better educational decisions. One company that is making a lot of progress in that space is Knewton, which in a recent TeachNet post, and they were promoting their free open adaptive learning platform, which was announced last summer. We are beginning to see the embedding of such analytical tools in an ever expanding number of educational products and services, so it will be interesting to watch the evolution of this space.
Finally, schools are constantly looking for good quality digital content and Mozaik Education are certainly developing some very interesting content. I spoke to a number of Irish educators who were also taken by the quality of the content and the price point, it is very reasonable. I was particularly taken by MozaWeb, their online product for home learners but they also have more powerful tool, MozaBook, for teachers which could be used to create engaging learning resources. It is a Hungarian company and they were most helpful and they have produced an excellent set of resources.
So BETT is over for another year and many will wonder what new technologies and services they will have on offer next year? However, all these companies will need confident creative teachers to use their creations to good use and we look forward to hearing how people use some of these tools and services during the next 12 months.