BETT 2011 – Clouds, Rain and Immersion

The usual lousy London January weather didn’t stop huge crowds from decending on Olympia once again for the annual carnival of Ed Tech. Early indications from exhibitors at the show suggest brisk business and an ever increasing international dimension. And well worth the trip it was too, agreed the overseas visitors that I spoke to.

But behind the noise and eye-candy, what key areas of Ed Tech innovation were evident?

Three key themes emerged at BETT:

Immersive Learning Environments

Several companies showed Immersive Learning Environments, including this Immersive Room featured by RM in their “Learning Emporium”.

This allows children to act out scenarios in a wide variety of environments – from the London Underground to castles and historical street themes.

Also in the RM Learning Emporium were learning environments and workstations based on Lego, microsoprocessor building, and school radio:

There was a noticable increased focus on surface/table-top interaction displays, and a big increase in 3-D displays and 3-D glasses. Promethean has done some nice integration with PowerPoint as well.

Multitouch on whiteboards – eg Promethean’s “Touchboard” – also caused quite a ‘buzz’, as did RM’s new Slate, which also has mulitouch capabilies. This Tablet PC uses a 29.5cm multi-touch screen and runs on Windows 7. Designed specifically for schooling, it is packed with features including, camera, microphone, speakers and handwriting recognition software.

It was good to see a high amount of Slate innovation from ASUS, HP, Toshiba and ACER.  The ASUS Windows 7 Slate generated a lot of excitement.

Lots of gaming for education was evident, particularly for Maths and reading solutions for the Primary sector.  BrainPop, in particular, were very popular.

The Its Learning stand – featuring their VLE with Live@Edu integration – was packed.

Data driven decisions and cost saving

RM launched Beyond Data, a professional development programme designed to help teachers use data to make better decisions.

Great to see the innovations coming from these three companies too:

Another emerging theme is using ICT to help make cost savings, and Ray Fleming from Microsoft has collected a set of examples and summarised them in a new eBook – Saving Money with ICT.

As a tax payer I’m delighted to see my childrens’ school – West Hatch – increasingly viewing ICT as an investment. Here, they have significantly reduced the number of servers through virtualisation – making them web-based rather than keeping machines on site – which has saved £12,000 a year in reduced energy consumption and maintenance.

Windows MultiPoint Server 2011, which will be available in March, allows you to plug multiple screens into a single machine and gives each user their own virtual computer, with a full PC experience with multimedia, audio, USB ports etc – saving on hardware costs and power consumption.

Cloud

On the subject of cost effectiveness, Microsoft announced that 15 million students now use Live@edu, up from 11 million students just three months ago. Office 365 for education will be the successor to Live@edu.

Office 365 for education will include everything available in Office 365 for enterprises – Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, Office Web Apps, and Office Professional Plus desktop software. The suite also will include templates and pricing designed to meet the unique needs of schools, their teachers and students. For more information on Office 365 for Education visit http://office365.microsoft.com/en-US/education.aspx

Cambridge University Press and Hunterstone showed an Azure based solution to assist search and provisioning of content within their Global Grid for Learning offering.

Two free Cloud based apps from Microsoft are also worth checking out:

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Schooling at the Speed of Thought

And finally, on a personal note, I’m most grateful to all those people who bought Schooling at the Speed of  Thought at the BETT show. Thanks to the growing international presence at BETT, the book, which I wrote in an independent capacity, will by now have reached at least 60 countries – from China to the Faroe Islands. THANKS!!!

Thanks also to my friends at elearningforce for selling the book off their stand 🙂