Technologies and solutions that should help students engage better with their education were the theme of this year’s giant BETT show, and VARs looking for clues to help them pitch successfully to schools and colleges should take note, according to organisers.
Stephen Heppell is a professor of new media environments, chief executive of Heppell.net and organiser of the ‘Playful Learning’ focal point of the annual show, which was held at Olympia in south-west London from 13-16 January.
Heppell says IT that is entertaining as well as educational is likely to become more popular as the market enhances its understanding of the value of play.
“Playful learning has re-energised classrooms, rekindled school and parent relationships, re-engaged brains, provided a powerfully competitive space for problem-solving, and at other times a place for real individual concentration,” he said.
“A whole classroom of learners from Lampton School in Hounslow is playing, tweeting, and provoking BETT guests using hardware, software, devices and ideas.”
Not about computer games
It does not have to be about conventional computer games. Instead, education is evolving towards incorporating games that involve diverse technologies and encourage interactivity with the real world.
“Just as learning has escaped from the classroom, so games have escaped from the computer screen,” said Heppell.
Signs of a games-based, ‘playful’ approach were in evidence on many stands around the 14,000 square metres of trade show that made up BETT 2010. Arvind Desikan, head of UK consumer marketing for show lead sponsor Google, said tech-savvy, creative students can also come up with new ways to use technologies. Interactive games-type approaches help teachers and students alike.
“Google is delighted to be taking part in ‘Playful Learning’ at BETT,” said Desikan.
At the central ‘Playful Learning’ stand in the Grand Hall, children competed against each other using 2Do It Yourself, a game, quiz and puzzle creation program from Hendon-based 2Simple Software. Using Surrey-based SatMap Systems’ Active 10, an interactive, handheld GPS with Ordnance Survey mapping, children created maps and planned field trips for a variety of subjects combining IT with the great outdoors.
Three-dimensional technologies and applications from a range of vendors appear to be growing in popularity and were scattered across the show this year.
Ahmedabad-based Designmate was showcasing a selection from its range of 5,000 3D movies and 1,000 interactive applications targeting subjects such as science and design — ahead of UK expansion this year.
Looking to partner
Vineet Koka, vice president for marketing and operations at Designmate, said its technology has been adopted by 20 UK and 4,000 Indian schools. “We are looking to tie up with a major player and launch our products with them in the UK this year,” said Koka. “We want to launch 1,500 movies and 500 interactives in the UK.”
The 22-year-old developer company has been selling successfully into the Malaysian, Thai, Singapore, Saudi, Kuwaiti and US markets, and wants to establish a solid footing in the UK and Australia, he said.
Nottingham’s CIE-Group displayed its 3D digital signage solution from Luminis. Teamed with a lenticular screen from the likes of Magnetic, the all-in-one signage appliance projects 3D images that can be viewed without special spectacles.
“This is the first time this 3D digital signage has been shown in the UK,” said Chris Edwards, CIE-Group marketing director. “The digital signage market is quite new for us but because of the developers we were working with we had the opportunity to bring this over. We want to work with installation partners.”
Ray Barker, director of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), said he was pleased with the interest in BETT this year.
“One big message coming out in every discussion is what people have been saying for many years that it is not about the technology but about the people. How many times have we heard that? But really, it is about that this year,” said Barker.
On track to exceed record
Some 750 organisations came to BETT in 2010, and the show was on track at the time of going to press to meet or exceed the record 30,000 visitors it saw in 2009.
Seminar bookings were up by 30 per cent. International visitors in particular were up, exceeding 6,000 in terms of registrations for 2010. The show is considering reintroducing country-focused pavilions.
“The largest contingent from overseas [in terms of visitors] is from Scandinavia. We have had about 70 Swedes register this year,” added BETT’s Heppell. “I think north-western Europe and Scandinavia are the biggest.”
Show organiser Emap and Building Schools for the Future (BSF) body Partnerships for Schools (PfS) had a ‘Future Learning Spaces’ (FLS) featured area at the show to highlight BSF successes from across the UK. One of the sponsors and information-pod providers was Ramesys.
“Many school leaders are now engaged in redefining their school’s vision, ways of working, and physical and virtual learning environments. We recognise the impact significant change has on staff and students and how important it is for schools to learn from and support each other through this process,” said Ramesys’ communications and marketing director, Nicola Newman.
Richard Joslin, show director, said: “In the FLS, visitors can see first-hand the innovative approaches to learning being implemented in schools.”
BSF will see all 3,500 English state high schools rebuilt or remodelled within 20 years with a view to optimising the learning potential through providing the right environment, working with the right technology. FLS included RM’s virtual-reality-based learning demonstration as well as information on biometrics-based e-registration, locker management, access control and cashless catering infrastructure for campuses.
Literacy goes mobile
Mobile devices of all kinds were another big focus for BETT. E-readers were on display from a number of vendors, including Samsung, which also had the near-obligatory line-up of the latest netbooks, and seminars discussed the future of literacy as supported by new mobile-device applications and such near-ubiquitous items as media players.
Concepts showcased its wireless t41 hub, which enables students or staff to
wirelessly power any mobile device anywhere on a campus, whether indoors
The recent 14-19 Reform aims to redevelop the UK’s education system in a way that addresses individual pupil needs specifically and hopefully improves their engagement with their education. As a result, five new diplomas were launched in September 2008, followed by 12 more staggered over the next three years.
The role of technology in this is to enable, for instance, student monitoring and support across multiple venues or campuses, as well as management issues arising from a more direct partnership between child and educational institution. Suites of applications targeting a more ‘personalised’ curriculum were displayed by vendors such as WebBased and MatchWare.
Steve Moorhouse, chief technical officer at e-learning specialist Autology, demonstrated its e-learning app of the same name, which gives both teachers and pupils quick access to pre-vetted sources of information without web-surfing.
“It is available 24/7, 365 days from anywhere, at home as well as at school, and because we are using an autonomy environment [with features of self-management] it is most secure,” said Moorhouse. “The main thing about it is its ease of use.”
Autology also allows teachers to filter written work for plagiarism and double-check research references more quickly and easily, because the references selected by the student can be brought up on page as you progress through an essay or report.
Class material and assignments can also be delivered to the student using the system, categorised as suitable for up to 14, 16, or 18-year-olds. And students can easily choose to work up a grade (or down) if they feel more comfortable, without the embarrassment of publicly appearing to be ‘different’ from their classmates.
David Spratt, head of vertical solutions at Sony, said BETT proved a great success for Sony, with the stand hosting 30 appointments on day one alone. Although the morning snow did stop some people from attending, those who did make it seemed keen rather than mere tyre-kickers.
“The quality of the meetings we had was very good, with real tangible opportunities,” said Spratt. “We had audiovisual and IT managers in secondary and higher education, and some from the industry, such as integrators and reseller partners.”
Creating a buzz
Graham Wylie, product marketing director at Steljes, said the show had a really interesting vibe this year, with a buzz about the new technology available that was a definite breath of fresh air.
“3D may be a big thing for schools given the right content and apps,” he said. “This year we saw four or five different ones, a few more than last year. But it still felt like a technology looking for an application.”
Interactive whiteboard (IWB) features such as gesture control have started to make touch-screens even more user-friendly and dynamic. Meanwhile, support for Windows 7 in more offerings would increase the possibilities for interactivity with Office productivity applications used in schools across a range of subjects.
“We were talking to people about where their budgets were going, post-election, for example. It seems that more money may be able to be spent next year on technology that improves learning performances, that enhances the way teachers are able to teach,” added Wylie.
Technologies that ‘virtualise’ peer review processes for teachers could be a major hit, he guessed. On display were online peer-review-focused applications that harness video, for example, and remove the need for two teachers to be taken away from their normal classroom schedule in order for one to review the other. Instead, it can be done online at a convenient time and place also slashing travel expenses.
“Peer reviewing is very expensive when you have to have another teacher standing in your classroom,” said Wylie.
Ray Fleming, education-business marketing manager at Microsoft, said the software behemoth not only had its own stand but partnered various others at BETT. Its own stand hosted 20 presentations a day, attracting 2,500-3,000 people.
“We had 20 demonstration pods, because we have so many products that are appropriate to education from SharePoint to Windows 7 and more obviously education-focused ones such as DreamSpark and certification programmes for MCSE qualifications,” said Fleming.
People were saying that budgets had been tightened. Increasingly, too, schools and colleges wanted technology that actually helped them improve the quality of the education available to students as well as potentially boosting the performance of the students.
Fleming notes that the mandate for a virtual learning environment means schools were asking how applications such as Microsoft Office might help them make the most of a virtual learning environment.
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