Thursday, 22 January 2015

BETT 2015 - the end of an era

Well, for me at any rate. My last trip to BETT (at ExCel) has been an interesting one, although the same can't be said of Nicky Morgan's opening address which was a combination of hackneyd soundbites reflecting a discredited ideology and plugs for favourite suppliers. I confess there was only so much I could stand so I left before the end.

Secretary of State for Education speaking at BETT 2015

What struck me most about BETT this year was the lack of any strategic thinking, consensus or focus in the field of educational technology. The anarchic mix of technology providers all scrambling to take advantage of the free-for-all that is education in England today proved to me that nobody has any real idea of what we should be doing with technology in schools.

On the product front, some trends were conspicuous. 3D printing was everywhere, with machines of every shape, size and price. Great fun it has to be said. The other trend was the explosion of solutions for storing and charging mobile devices - with companies employing eye-catching colours and styles to distinguish their products from the others.

One of the more depressing sights at BETT was the huge number of interactive display screens that all had eager salespeople demonstrating them by turning their backs on the people they were talking to. This obsession that teachers have with control from the front and with themselves being the focus of attention in a manner akin to a circus performer means they insist on 30 pairs of eyes being trained at all times on their finger tips as they are alternately waved about in the air and darting about on the surface of a screen. It is such a shame that Professor Robin Alexander's excellent work on dialogic teaching is about as far away from everyday practice as you could get. Unfortunately, what these interactive screens do is encourage and perpetuate an approach to pedagogy that is little different to that which would have been experienced in Victorian times. So much more could be achieved by using technology to support and underpin an effective pedagogy as opposed to perpetuating out-dated and stifling teaching techniques of the past.

There were some good moments though. Visualiser technology has come on in leaps and bounds since they were introduced into UK classrooms in Barking and Dagenham in the early part of the last decade. Also I was impressed with the new range of wireless interactive tablets - complete with screens - from a new French company called Numetis, which is much more pedagogically sound than an interactive display screen, because as their brochure says, "instead of staying in front of the students, the teachers can easily be among them".

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