Learning for less and managing schools for change were the lead themes at the show billed as the world’s largest education technology show this year. About 30,000 potential buyers were expected through the doors at the 27th Bett.
Without last year’s snow, the floors seemed satisfyingly busy even on the first morning of the four-day education technology expo.
Ray Barker, director of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), said: “Despite 2010 bringing many changes to the education sector, it remains passionate about continuing to raise standards.”
Cost reduction was, however, to the fore. Phil Birbeck, managing director at reseller Equanet, said it is schools’ key challenge. “The good news is that with emerging technologies such as virtualisation, more powerful networking and creative solutions, the classroom ICT experience doesn’t have to suffer,” he said.
Equanet’s stand worked to show the reseller’s expertise in the education market as well as simply showcasing its technical offering.
James Bird, chief executive at Stone Group, said: “With the proliferation of IT across the curriculum, schools are increasingly pressured to deliver personalised pupil access to technology. Stagnant budgets, however, are making this more difficult.”
Stone Group used Bett to launch its @ccessAbility Scheme, where Stone takes on the administration burden of helping schools deliver 1:1 computing to pupils, which is normally costly for schools and requires government funding, Bird said.
Stone also recently gained accreditation as an Apple Solutions Expert in Education – offering Apple products, including mobile devices, with an eye to the increasing consumerisation of technology.
Similarly, VIVO Rewards offered its web-based rewards app for Apple and Android, and Groupcall launched Emerge, a management information system for the iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad.
Mobile launches included Fourier Systems’ MiLAB data analysis and Limitless Learning’s rAPPid Revise revision apps.
Various cloud, managed service or hosting offerings were as prominent as in B2B IT.
Sukhdeep Singh Rayat, account manager at Virtual Internet (VI), was promoting its Vi Enterprise Cloud offering to schools. Using VMware’s hypervisor, VI is promising schools high availability, cost-effective scaleability and content delivery.
“We only got the chance to come at the last minute,” Rayat said. “However, we think we are offering something of real value.”
Private cloud provider DediPower was punting for new customers, backed up by its newly expanded management team and partnership with Semantise, which provides collaborative enterprise apps for the American Community School as well as councils.
CST had its security offerings on show, while Talisma promoted its CRM. The E-learning Foundation was explaining how its charity work could help schools bridge the digital divide. E-learning for topical subject areas such as English for children from different language backgrounds, and the European Parliament were on show, with Texas Instruments deserving a special mention for its offering aimed at inspiring children to learn maths.
As in 2010, 3D technology was in evidence but with vendors taking a more focused approach. Matthew Dunne, account manager at VAR CDEC, said it had formed a unit specifically to take advantage of 3D opportunities in schools.
“We offer a great value alternative to a high-end 3D or 4D immersive solution, with the chance to ‘rent a 3D tent’,” said Dunne.
The tent will do presentations through 2011 on space and the solar system, with prices starting from £450 a day, Dunne said.
School IWB stalwarts Promethean and Smart were there in force, each with large stands. Smart announced seven offerings, Promethean its Millionaire for Schools quiz tool.
Vendors were also there looking to partner. Julia Zhou, general manager for the European division of Chinese manufacturer Hangzhou Gaoke, said it would consider all opportunities with UK companies.
“We make interactive boards, visualisers and multimedia controllers,” she said.
Meanwhile, Paul Donovan, a spokesperson at Netgear, warned that some schools are being exploited by suppliers and buying kit they don’t need.
“It’s vital that teachers do not fall for the slickest sales pitch; they need to find a trusted partner to provide them with a value-for-money solution,” he said. “The last thing they need is to be oversold the latest bells and whistles, which may hamper them in the long run.”
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