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BETT 2013: Agile Education

The BETT Show, one the biggest education technology shows in the UK, takes place every January. It moved this year to the ExCel London from its previous location of Olympia and apart from the longer journey from Waterloo I thought the location was a success – note to self: check location before leaving home and don’t assume its always in the same place…

The core theme this year was a ‘New Era of Digital Learning’. And with the effective use of technology to close the gap between home and school, we can provide a better education experience for our children.

Rather like the introduction of a more powerful telescope opening up a new vision of our solar system, four developments in education ICT are opening up a new vision of what is possible in (and outside) the classroom:

1. Broadband access to the web
2. Interactive whiteboards
3. Touchscreen devices
4. Wireless networking

This is now providing learning experiences that simply were not available just a few years ago: Hand every student in the class a tablet device, connect them to the resources of the Internet, demonstrate the same pages on an interactive whiteboard and provide the teacher with the ability to manage all devices in the classroom.

An example – direct students to a page that demonstrates fractions or to YouTube for information on relevant topics, download educational games and let the class explore and play. What will happen? Students will likely try out crazy ideas, experiment with sums or watch to videos. No more manic photocopying before the class starts, no more ‘lost’ homework sheets – and the students can work at their own (supervised) pace and be able to go back over material as they wish (perhaps at home with a parent).

Learning activities were not possible with the technology of a previous generation, is now in the hands of the student – this allows an engagement, a connection between the device and the student’s mind that helps the child construct understanding of hundreds of topics in the way they prefer to learn, in every subject. And it’s fun.

Children are using these devices outside of school so why not capitalise on this trend and use these same devices to educate, inform and challenge our students? Education can then extend outside of the classroom and be available when and where the student wants to learn – and accessible using their own smart phones, tablets, pcs…

I am excited at this time when so much is possible through ICTs that are already here. BETT 2013 showcased ideas that no one of us could have imagined, and opened up our imaginations to new possibilities.

Rob Aldridge

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