The 25th annual British Education Training Technology (Bett) expo at Kensington Olympia might have been slightly smaller than usual, but the buzz from the long queues stretching outside and crowding the narrow passageways at the 14,000m2 hall may have been louder than before.
Some 29,000 visitors from all over Europe were expected - 1,000 more than in 2008 - although exhibitor numbers shrank from 700 to 650. Channel players were there hoping to capitalise on revenues in the education sector for 2009.
Richard Boughey, transformation manager at Education Leeds, said the
initiative is about everything that goes into building better schools for the future, with IT playing a critical role.
“We are thinking about building brilliant schools with brilliant IT,” he said. “That means having wonderful buildings and wonderful architecture, but it also means working with the pupils and with the community on what they want.”
But Future Schools is not about putting the latest products into schools. It is about how IT fits into the larger picture to improve learning.
“People approach me all the time with a piece of software or hardware
convinced that it is brilliant. And it may be,” said Boughey. “But resellers
have to stop
showing me features and start showing me how the technology is used.”
He added that education resellers need to figure out how a piece of technology fits into the school system and how it might really change children’s lives.
Products do not have to be the newest, latest or greatest; Future Schools wants ideas on how to use technology, anything from a biro to a Mac, to improve learning.
Boughey said Sony has come up with a unique way of incorporating PlayStation Portable (PSP) in education. “We can use PSP to do lots of things that are nothing to do with games.”
Raj Pandya, general manager for Sony business-to-business channels, said Sony Professional’s solutions for education are all about collaboration. PSPs are a link in a school- or even community-wide digital collaboration chain that facilitates learning.
“Children can use PSP instead of standalone voting systems. Kids have their own gaming devices in most cases, so the technology is familiar to them. With the traditional voting systems, you can not take them away from the school,” he said.
PSPs support media created on other Sony technology such as the HVR-Z5E, EX-1 or EX-3 cameras and the HW10 projectors.
Videoconferencing is more popular in schools too as class sizes shrink,
allowing economies of scale by combining classes at remote locations and linking
classrooms overseas. With that in mind Sony also had its high-definition screens and videoconferencing gear on show.
On the lookout
The vendor showed its SNC-RX550 surveillance camera and support system. This can be programmed to recognise and send alerts for suspicious behaviour, such as a group of students loitering at a particular time and location such as near the gate when lessons have started.
“The channel might not be aware we can create collaborative solutions using all our own products,” said Pandya. “And devices like PSP will talk to anything.”
Intel announced its Learning Series initiative that integrates hardware, software and services for delivery to education customers. The chip maker also showcased the Classmate PC, a convertible laptop with touchscreen.
UK-based PC maker CMS will offer Intel Atom-powered Classmate PCs pre-loaded with student-friendly software via the Intel Learning Series initiative.
NEC displayed its version of the Classmate PC: the Otomo.
Dave Newbould, EMEA product manager at NEC, said the Otomo is unusual in that it is specifically designed for children and their educational needs. It also ships with special education software and is ruggedised to withstand a fall of 50cm, such as out of a child’s school bag.
Anti-theft software on the Otomo shuts the machine down if it fails to connect to the school server at selected times. “If you give a laptop or netbook to kids, they will drop them and they will break. The Otomo has been through some ruggedisation tests.”
NEC also showed an interactive digital classroom set-up, incorporating applications that allow teachers to control and manage their classes remotely.
Parental control allows parents to fix the hours of use and restrict or monitor web functionality.
The vendor’s Virtual PC Center and FlexPower server were also on display.
Online reseller Misco highlighted cashless catering solutions, multi-function printers, education software and product bundles, and Hydravision digital signage.
Survey showcased a range of geographic information system (GIS)
packages for schools.
Smart Technologies’ new interactive, multi-user, multi-touch Smart Table was a highlight. The Smart Table can support 40 separate inputs at once.
Nancy Knowlton, co-founder of Smart Technologies, said its latest interactive screens and adaptations at the show are highly sophisticated.
“Ours can now differentiate between a fine-tipped pen and a finger and react to that,” she said. “You can also scroll across pages using your finger.”
Mike Broderick, chief executive of Turning Technologies, said the education IT market in the UK is more advanced than in the US. However, the voting systems market is less mature than in the US, presenting significant sales opportunities.
Turning Technologies launched its ResponseCard Anywhere radio-frequency, receiver-based voting system and ResponseWare Web voting system software, which is compatible with BlackBerrys and iPhones.
“These are part of the next generation of voting system technology,” said Broderick. “You can use them for virtually unlimited numbers of students at one time.”
demonstrated what it believes are the essential elements of networking for
education customers, showcasing eco-friendly technology, such
as its green Ethernet switches, unified education-focused wireless and security offerings such as firewalls and surveillance.
Reseller PC World held presentations and demonstrations, including one from
e-Learning foundation chief executive Valerie Thompson, and live classroom
displays of personalised school learning projects via its Innov8ed scheme.
This year also saw interest in Bett seminars up 30 per cent on 2008. By the start of the show, some 3,000 seats were booked.
Keith Clifford, marketing manager of Bett organiser Emap Connect, said IT is
increasingly integral to education.
“Bett is the place to touch and test resources and learn why using technology makes such a difference to children,” he said.
Seminar sessions were on topics such as enriching the curriculum, personalised learning, management and leadership and modernisation.
The Bett show also dished out 12 awards to promote quality education technology, including to Espresso Education for best early years education application, and to CTVC’s secondary school video service TrueTube.
Richard Joslin, exhibition director at Emap, said: “Winners have produced engaging resources that respond to the needs of the education system.”
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