Short reflections on the BETT show

I popped into the BETT show this morning in Kensington Olympia (the ‘world’s largest educational technology event’). It was overwhelmingly huge! The show mainly focuses on technology and software for the schools sector so wasn’t completely relevant to me but I was delighted to find out about ‘Reading Zone’ and also the stand by British Film Institute, English Heritage and the National Archives was superb.

Image from the BETT show January 2010
Becta's funky yoghurt pot stand

I was overwhelmed by the array of software that gets peddled to schools. I’m not sure really how much longer schools will a) be able to afford these systems and b) will really need them. Why buy a package which helps you to teach Geography when you’ve got amazing open source software such as Google Earth? Some of the packages and demos that I saw looked excellent but I do worry that some schools may spend a lot of money on something that will be obsolete in a year or so. I already heard anecdotally about a college which bought some of those expensive ‘voting pads’ and the attendant software (like those on ‘Who wants to be a Millionnaire?’) and now has abandoned them to move onto text voting with mobile phones.

I also saw a demo of some 3D software from America. You donned some 3D specs a bit like those you get at the cinema and could see 3D images of a brain, a heart etc spinning round in front of you. The guy selling it said that test scores had improved 35% when teachers used it. I wasn’t completely convinced. I wouldn’t believe that statistic unless the 3D software was being used really regularly. What I’ve found with the 3D movies (with the notable exception of Avatar) is that after the first 10 minutes or so, you don’t notice the 3D effects any more. My guess is that it would be the same with the learning materials. When something’s new and trendy kids get really into it. When it’s the umpteenth time the teacher has used the resource the novelty wears off. A bit of a case of style over substance I thought.

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