It’s been nearly a month since I attended the BETT 2013 exhibition and I haven’t yet written about the event. I’ve been super-busy with a couple of writing projects which have taken up a lot of my time recently which probably hasn’t helped. But the more I think about it the more I realised that it’s probably because the BETT show just didn’t excite me that much this year. There wasn’t really anything new.
The venue was new and shiny – with Excel taking over from Olympia which for me made it was much easier to get to. But I found the whole space quite disorientating. Stands were hard to find, and it was quite easy to get lost. I’m personally hoping that the BETT app next year has GPS and turn by turn navigation!
I’ve often said that you need to skip a show or two from time to time. The change from year to year is quite subtle, and this year was basically the same as last year and the year before. There were newer Interactive Whiteboards, more iPads, lots of VLE platforms, sleeker visualisers etc. Everything that was here last year was here this year, but a little more shiny and a little more polished.
Several stands were still pushing 3D as a viable option for a classroom (it’s not) and I even saw a 3D visualiser (just hold the object up!). Lots of cheap Chinese whiteboards without useful software ( I saw one demonstrating MS Paint) or a knocked-off clone of Smart Notebook.
I don’t think I saw anything new that made me think – WOW, what a great idea.
That’s not to say there wasn’t stuff that I liked.
BrainPop UK were demonstrating their new Game Up UK area of their website which had some very interesting games for students to play. Some good problem-solving activities to encourage collaboration. Go take a look.
Espresso was showing off their new coding module and iPad friendly layout.
I liked the look of the YoYo Game Maker which lets students code their own games and apps.
Rising Stars launched their online CPD products, which look rather interesting. And they were pushing their excellent Switched on ICT books.
I was interested to see that Steelcase (formerly Eno/Polyvision) were providing a customised version of Splashtop remote to let you control your IWB via iPad. Will be interesting to see if other IWB manufacturers follow suit in future.
Zu3d’s new animation software looked rather nice. Simple and easy to use. And not too expensive.
I went to the SMART press conference, and it was interesting to see that with a change of CEO there’s more of a push towards collaboration – like the Smart Notebook XC plug in that I wrote about after BETT. The other thing that did interest me was the SMART Interactive projector which you could operate with your finger. It worked really well and I was very impressed with how accurate it seemed to be.
SMART also unveiled their new table, and it does appear they’ve listened to a lot of the criticism of their first version. There’s now no projector, it’s a flat LCD screen. It’s wheelchair accessible, and you can now create resources in Smart Notebook rather than struggling with their amazingly complicated resource creator. The price is still crazy though – somewhere around £8000. I can see most schools going with a set of iPads for the same price. Did look nice though!
So that was BETT 2013. As always it was the people that made the event for me. It’s a good opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues at companies I do training or writing for. It’s also good to just bump into twitter mates. As always the highlight was the TeachMeet on the Friday night, where nearly 250 people got together to share great ideas and network. It also had one of the best ways of recording meeting minutes that I’ve ever seen – see the video below!
And yes, I’ll be back next year. Hopefully there’ll be something new to make me go WOWRead More
Here’s the second part of my BETT 2012 roundup, taking a look at the things that caught my eye in addition to the Interactive Whiteboards which I talked about in Part 1.
Here’s a quick summary of some of the things I saw:
BrainPop UK : BrainPop were showing their excellent range of videos which are perfect for the classroom. Moby was there for photo opportunities as always. They were also demonstrating the various new ways to access the BrainPop resources, including on a Playstation 3 and iPad – even more ways to make the BrainPop resources accessible at home. Also check out their free BrainPop Featured movie iPhone and iPad apps. Now you don’t need to have a PC at home to be able to use BrainPop.
2Simple – Purple Mash : 2Simple were there in force again this year showcasing their superb software range. The highlight of course was their Purple Mash online package which has an amazing selection of tools. If you teach in a primary school and haven’t seen what Purple Mash can do, then you must take a look!
I Am Learning : I Am Learning is a games-based revision and homework system which encourages learners both in and out of school. Students take park in games and quizzes with their scores tracked and stored for teacher assessment. I’ll be taking a look at this in more detail in a later blogpost but I liked what I saw, and it could prove to be a very useful resource for teachers.
Play Brighter : This is another website that allows teachers to set up games for their students. On PlayBrighter, you set your students ‘missions’. The games are designed so that success (which might be releasing a Number One single, or becoming a millionaire) is a clear goal that really means something to the student, not just a score that has to reached. It’s free, and looks like quite a fun tool. Like I Am Learning I think I’ll need to come back to this in a later blog post and have a proper play with the resources.
PoraOra: Pora Ora is a FREE 3D world designed to make learning fun, where primary school children are rewarded for completing educational tasks that are linked to the national curriculum. The educational content is embedded in games and quests throughout the world, so children really are learning while playing. Pora Ora is also a safe and supervised social networking site where children can learn how to interact safely online with parents gradually relaxing security settings as they get older. Looks interesting.
Primary Games : Mark Cogan at the Interactive Resources website has always produced some superb interactive games for maths, and other subjects. The online version allows teachers to subscribe and make the resources available across the school and the wider community. This year he was also showing off the new range of Primary Games apps for the iPhone and iPad which look great.
Zu3d - The Zu3D animation software was on show with a new version and animation kit. Owners of the older version can upgrade for a small fee. It’s a fun easy-to-use piece of software for making stop-motion animation and I highly recommend it. In a similar vein, also check out I Can Animate from Kudlian.
Skoog Music : I loved the look of this. A Skoog is an exciting new musical instrument designed to empower those unable to play traditional instruments. The Skoog is a soft, squeezable object that simply plugs straight into your computer or laptop’s USB port. By touching, pressing, squashing, twisting or tapping the Skoog you can play a wide range of instruments, intuitively. Designed for people with any degree or combination of physical, mental or behavioral difficulties. Looks like fun, especially for the musically-challenged such as myself.
Turning Point : The Turning Point range of response ware/voting systems has been expanded with the ResponseCard NXT which has a larger screen and a mobile phone style texting keyboard to respond to questions with full text or numerical answers. There was also the Presenter Card which is a radio device that allows teachers to physically move around a classroom while controlling their TurningPoint session. Teachers can start/stop polling as well as move forwards and back in a presentation, letting them ove away from the IWB.
I was also able to attend the launch of a book written by my good friend and colleague Angie McGlashon. Her book “Brilliant Ideas for Using ICT in the Inclusive Classroom” is an excellent guide to using ICT in the SEN classroom,but has lots of ideas for teachers in mainstream schools tool. You can buy a copy on Amazon, and I highly recommend you do!
And briefly: Word Wall were demonstrating their advanced student response system, which had quite a rugged feel to it, with a screen in the middle. Looked interesting. I also liked the look of AVerMedia’s wireless visualiser which has great potential in freeing up the visualiser so that it doesn’t have to be right next to the computer. Will make using it in science practical demonstrations much easier. Twig Science were proudly showing off their BETT award for their excellent science video collection – well worth a look. Oddizi also won an award for their primary digital content for geography.
So that’s it for BETT 2012. Next year it will be leaving Olympia and heading for the Excel centre in Docklands – for me this is a good move as it’s much easier to get to but it will be interesting to see how being at the new venue shakes up the exhibition. BETT 2013 is also a few weeks later in the year, giving me more time to recover from the ASE conference which is usually the week before.
See you next year!Read More
So last week saw the annual trip to the BETT Show – one of the biggest educational technology shows in the world, for the last time at the Kensington Olympia venue. As always anyone who is anyone in the world of educational technology was here, showing off their latest products. You can see my photos from the show here.
Like last year I was slightly underwhelmed by some aspects of the show. There was very little that was totally new and there wasn’t much of a “wow” factor. I guess that’s the downside of attending every single year for the last few years. Everything was the same as last year, but slightly updated. There were lots of interactive whiteboards, interactive projectors, visualisers, voting systems, learning platforms, iPads on show, but all just slightly bigger/faster/shinier than they were at BETT 2011 (and 2010 to be honest). Many of the people I spoke to felt the same way.
In terms of interactive whiteboards the major players of SMART and Promethean were both there in force with massive stands while there were lots of other smaller players trying to get into the market.
Promethean had many products on show, the one that caught my eye was their new ActivProgress system which looks like a move into a coordinated platform for assessment and student tracking. It provides a web-based system that is linked up with their ActivExpression student voting handsets (as well as paper-based tests) to collect and collate test scores. It should also link to SIMs and other school management systems.
Promethean were also demonstrating their ActivTable, a 46″ interactive monitor with multitouch to allow 6 students to use it simultaneously. It looks nice. Time will tell how easy the development kit is to produce your own materials. I’m still not sure if the money would be better spent on 10 iPads.
SMART were demonstrating Smart Notebook 11 which did look very good. It’s due out “in the Spring” and the version on show still had a few bugs to iron out. The ability to embed whole webpages was interesting, although sadly it won’t do embed codes – although that could be covered by some of the new html5 widgets. Directly embedding a YouTube video for instance would be a handy feature. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy when it’s released later this year.
Notebook 11 will be a free upgrade for existing users, and the rumour is that there will be an option to buy licences for the Notebook software separately to run on any system you wish – which if true is a big change in Smart’s approach.
I also spent some time on the Polyvision and eInstruction stands, being shown their latest IWB systems, both of which were interesting.
Polyvision were showing off their latest ēno whiteboard which has no need for additional speakers or amplifier. The board itself acts as a loudspeaker, which is quite a cool idea. The Polyvision board can also be written on with regular pens for those “plan B” moments when the technology fails. Polyvision boards use a magnetic strip with icons on it which control the features of the board. Polyvision don’t provide their own generic software, instead bundling the board with Easiteach or Wizteach software.
eInstruction were demonstrating their Insight 360 interactive whiteboard systems. The Mobi system incorporates a wireless slate that can be used to control the lesson and write/annotate on the PC. It also has its own touch screen for adding teacher notes or storing bookmarks and other links. It’s an interesting idea, and gives teachers the freedom to move around the classroom (and pass the slate around the class). It could also be used to control assessments using their voting systems, and store/view scores.
An interesting development is the Mobi360 for iPad which allows teachers to control their lesson via an iPad. They can write/annotate like they could on a slate, as well as interact with other devices such as the voting handsets. For those teachers who often ask if they can use their iPad like an IWB, this might be the solution for you! More info here.
In part 2 I’ll move away from the interactive whiteboards and look at some of the other products that were on show.
Let me know what you thought of the BETT show in the comments below.
So I’ve had a few days to recover from Bett 2011. This BETT saw my first attempt at a proper interview and my first appearance on a radio show (thanks to Russell Prue) as well as the usual trawl of stand after stand looking for something new and exciting. It also saw the second TEDxOrenda, of which I helped organise the ticketing for and I learnt how cool the barcode scanner app for the iPhone was when manning the door! Oh, and I did a TeachMeet Takeover for the first time, but I’ve already mentioned that
I’ve now had time to gather my thoughts, and go through my goody bags to see what leaflets and flyers I have picked up.
Mark Cogan, creator of the fabulous Primary Games group of websites, has come up with another great idea. The Content Creators website lets teachers create their own content using templates for games and activities designed by Mark. Creation is free, but if you want to download the content to use on your VLE then you have to pay a small fee to download and own the SWF file. You will be able to purchase credits in blocks which you then use to buy downloads. It’s an interesting idea, and it will be interesting to see how teachers take to this model.
Twig is a new website that provides over 500 3-minute films for Science at KS3 and GCSE level. It’s a subscription service, so schools will have to pay annually for access to the resource. Prices for a 500-1000 pupil school seem to be around the £600 mark. The service is accessed via the web, rather than via a Cachebox like some of its competing services like Clipbank. Also it is only geared to science, rather than a whole-curriculum approach like Clipbank. You can preview some of the films here. Take a look and see what you think.
Both Clipbank and Espresso were providing much-needed bottles of water and chocolate bars to weary teachers. And showing off their ever-growing range of resources. If you’ve looked at them in the past and didn’t think there was enough there, do take another look – the resources on offer grows every week with regular updates.
One thing that caught my eye, was the massive LED wall called Nebula produced by NYOYN. It was touch-sensitive and the guys demonstrating it were playing a massive game of Tetris, and then painting on the wall. The resolution is nowhere near a “proper” interactive whiteboard, but that wasnt the point. It’s designed for sensory rooms in SEN centres and therapy areas. It’s rather expensive, but I did find it rather cool.
I also loved their SoundSteps product, which made different noises when you stepped on them. Again a really interesting product for SEN teachers to take a look at. The children can choose which sounds they want to hear by selecting different cards and putting them into the card reader proviced. The sounds on offer include musical instruments, scary sounds, animals or games such as musical chairs. The mats connect wirelessly and can be spread around the classroom or hall very easily.
Serif were showing off their new software packages PagePlus X5 and PhotoPlus X4 – both of which looked rather cool, and are both worthwhile considering as cheaper alternatives to more commercial products such as PhotoShop. They were also showing off their excellent teacher resources – endorsed by OCR for use in the OCR Nationals in ICT and by Edexcel for the Diploma in Digital Applications. Now I must admit to being slightly biased as I helped write these – producing the units on Webpage Creation and Creating Computer Graphics – but I’m very proud of them so please go and take a look! You can access some units totally free, and if you buy the Serif Design Suite you get the whole lot.
I was quite impressed with the look of HUE animation studio, but that might just have been the funky webcam that caught my eye. If animation is something you’re interested in, then you should also check out Anithings.
I did also like the look of Story Stage from Scholastic, a really interesting literacy resource based on fairy tales which was also being demonstrated on a Smart Table. Even if you don’t have a Smart Table you can have multiple children using the software via several mice (up to 4, apparently). It looked great! (Update – download some Story Stage Resources from the Smart Exchange here – for Notebook and Table)
In terms of Interactive Whiteboards there were lots on show. Quite a few new far eastern brands on offer. I’ll need to address this in another blog post as I’m a little concerned about the software on show and an increasing need for a common whiteboard format to really get going.
Promethean unveiled their new ActivBoard 500, which allows Promethean users for the first time to use the board by touching it with their finger and at the same time have someone operating it with the pen. With Smart moving towards a harder board too, it looks like, superficially at least, the differences between the two are getting blurrier….
The ActivBoard 500 will also include two free multi-touch applications for mind mapping and lesson planning called NoteBoard and TouchPad. You can learn more about the ActivBoard 500 here.
Promethean were also demonstrating their Bloodhound Supersonic car STEM resources for Science, Tech and Maths which you can access here. They also announced a linkup with Millionaire for Schools, a paid-for quiz package based on the TV Show.
SMART revealed their new 800 series interactive whiteboards which have proper multitouch. Gone are the four coloured pens of the older boards, which are replaced with two pens and four buttons. Both pens can be used at exactly the same time to support multi-user writing. The board also uses multi-touch gestures. The 800 series no longer use the touch sensitive screen, instead they use Digital Vision Touch (DViT) cameras. The boards can tell between a finger, a pen, and the palm of the hand, and will move, write and erase accordingly. There’s also a calligraphy pen mode which makes your writing look a little more presentable.
In addition to the 800 series will be a new entry-level 400 series board which will also use DViT touch technology in a smaller board. Only one pen instead of the 4 colour pen tray we’re used to, or the two pen tray of the new 800 series – and no multi touch.
No sign of Smart Notebook 11 yet. But version 10.7 will be out in a few months, which will have support for the new boards. You will also be able to import free 3D models from Google Sketchup rotate and interact with them via Notebook software. With the addition of a SMART document camera you can produce mixed (augmented) reality resources where you can rotate and manupulate these objects by moving a cube under the camera. It’s an interesting use – although with the multitouch of the board allowing easy move, rotate and scale I’m not sure how much the camera adds – plus you have the usual issue of looking at the board while manipulating something elsewhere which can be confusing. Easier to just touch the board to move the mdoels I think.
SMART were also demonstrating much more content for their SMART table, plus tie-ins with software companies such as Scholastic (above) and Chromabeats. A new Smart response handset, the XE with a full QWERTY keyboard was on show, which looks very interesting, and a new Smart Slate which can be used on a Mac.
I liked the SMART artist in residence who was using a proper paintbrush and a copy of ArtRage to turn the Smartboard into a massive graphics tablet.
So that’s it. There were a lot of Interactive Projectors, 3d Projectors, VLE’s, Tablet PC’s, Assessment Packages on show, but I’ll leave those to someone else to write about
Oh, and I met Moby That is all.Read More
At the BETT technology show this week, I was given the opportunity to meet and interview Nancy Knowlton, CEO of SMART Technologies and who, along with David Martin, invented the interactive whiteboard concept with the release of the first SMART board back in 1991.
This year sees the 20th anniversary of the SMART board. The very first boards were sold to the University of Nevada and were hand-made with a mahogany frame as at that time it was easier for them to use wood than to use metal/plastic! Today over 1.8 million SMART boards have been sold!
Nancy has not been surprised by how the Smartboard has taken off. Their original business plan had their current level of sales for year 5 – but it did take a while for other technologies to develop to enable the Smartboard to really embed itself in classrooms around the world.
I asked if she’d seen Smartboards being used in ways that she’d never envisaged when they first started. Apparently in the early days they had someone who had taken one of their early rear-projection boards, and flipped it horizontally to make an interactive table. This was a military customer so he couldn’t say a lot about it what they did with it. But it does show that the SMART table is a product that has actually been around for a very long time – albeit unofficially.
Outside the classroom – SMART boards are being used by the military, in the changing rooms of sports teams for tactic talks, and in corporate boardrooms. I asked Nancy what the strangest place was that she’d heard of a SMARTboard being used and she recalled a long tech support call over several days with a customer who complained that part of his board was not responding. Eventually it was revealed that the board was being used in a tent as part of a field exercise, and that the top right corner was poking out of the tent. Nancy would not reveal if a weatherproof SMARTboard was being developed!
At the BETT show, SMART revealed their new 800 series interactive whiteboards which have proper multitouch. Gone are the four coloured pens of the older boards, which are replaced with two pens and four buttons. Both pens can be used at exactly the same time to support multi-user writing. The board also uses multi-touch gestures. The 800 series no longer use the touch sensitive screen, instead they use Digital Vision Touch (DViT) cameras. The boards can tell between a finger, a pen, and the palm of the hand, and will move, write and erase accordingly.
Nancy feels that multitouch is an important development. In theory there are no limitations to the number of touch points that could be used, but there needs to be a proper educational value in having multiple users. Two users on a SMARTboard is fine, but any more than that and the rest of the class can’t see the board anyway. The same technology in something like a SMART Table is very different – and you could have 4/5 pupils arranged around the table all interacting with the applications in a much more meaningful way.
Nancy would not be drawn on the status of SMART Notebook version 11. But version 10.7 will be out in a few months, which will have support for the new boards, plus the ability to include 3D models from Google Sketchup and be able to rotate and interact with them via Notebook software. With the addition of a SMART document camera you can produce mixed (augmented) reality resources where you can rotate and manupulate these objects by moving a cube under the camera.
The SMART Exchange online community was also something we talked about. Nancy explained how SMART have been working very hard to develop this as a community to support users of SMART boards and now there were over 50,00 digital resources on the site. Soon this will be joined by the SMART Learning Space which will offer online training materials (launched in Feb)
I asked Nancy where she saw the technology heading in the future. She said that there would be more situations where SMART would be working with software companies to produce specialised software for their boards and tables; such as Algodoo for physics or Scholastic’s Story Stage.
It was a pleasure to meet Nancy, and very interesting to meet someone who’s been involved with interactive whiteboards since the very beginning.Read More
The theme of the talk was – Essential Digital Media for your Interactive Whiteboard. The full list of links I mentioned (and a few that were left out because of time) can be found here: http://www.delicious.com/dannynic/essentialmedia
The whole presentation was filmed by Sarah at Iris Connect (thanks again for the use of your stand) so hopefully I’ll be able to post that here when it’s uploaded after the show.Read More
I’m just back from two days at the BETT show in London. I had a very interesting two days and met some great people. I was kindly given a press pass this year which led to some very interesting things, but more on that in a day or two when I’ve got a little bit more time to write.
My initial thoughts on the technology on show was one of slight disappointment. There was no new “Big Thing” on show. Everything had been there last year, and was just slightly updated, or had new features added. There was nothing groundbreaking.
That’s not to say that there weren’t things on show that I really liked. I was impressed with the new 800 Series Smartboard, I got a peak at Smart Notebook 2.7 which can use Google Sketchup 3d objects along with support for mixed/augmented reality. Mark Cogans Primary Games has a content creation tool that looked fab and I liked the look of the new Uniservity VLE called Life. And Nebula, the LED wall from NYON would be excellent in the Sensory Room of a Special School (with a large budget).
There were a lot of cheap looking boards from the far east, even more than last year. And each one had rather strange looking software. The software is just as important as the board. I haven’t heard too much about the common IWB format, and with the demise of Becta I guess it’s lost it’s driving force. I also worry about schools buying boards without being able to then get decent training and support for their staff in using them effectively. You get what you pay for and really cheap boards are a false economy.
Like last year, 3D projectors were on show, which again leave me cold. It’s a “wow” tool, with limited uses, and the practicalities of having class sets of glasses is just silly. I’m all for moveable, “3d” models, but they work just as well in a 2D space, the brain is able to cope with what’s going on. My favourite film of all time is still Lord of the Rings. It doesn’t need to be in 3D to be visually exciting and engaging.
Of course, for me Bett is more about the people and the fringe events. I really enjoyed TEDxOrenda which had some excellent, inspiring speakers and I had a blast giving my first TeachMeet Takeover presentation (thanks again to Iris Connect for the use of the stand) and visiting some of the other talks.
As always it’s not just the tech, its the people who use it that lead to inspiring teaching.
As I said, there were lots of good things that I liked, and updates to old favourites that I can’t wait to try out. I’ll blog about those over the next few days. Watch this space.Read More
Based on the success of last year’s event, another TEDxOrenda will take place in the APEX HALL at OLYMPIA, LONDON on WEDNESDAY 12th JANUARY from 6pm as part of the evening events at BETT 2011.
This is an unprecedented opportunity for educationalists to be inspired by and contribute to discussions, debates and presentations featuring speakers and topics chosen by other educationalists.
If you want to see what went on last year, you can view the videos of last years speakers here.
Like last year, the event is being put together by Drew Buddie (@digitalmaverick) who is an expert in cajoling and wrangling speakers to offer their time for free to speak at the event. Speakers are being announced one-by-one over the next few days, and the list currently includes:
- Marc Lewis – Dean of the School of Communication Arts
- Naomi Jane – Director of the 4WD Foundation
- Vinay Gupta – developer of the Hexayurt
- Alex Fleetwood – Director of Hide and Seek
- Sydney Padua – Cartoonist and animator
- Tom Watson – MP
More information about each speaker can be found on the TEDxOrenda website.
As this event is taking place immediately after the BETT Show closes on the Wednesday evening, it is strongly suggested that you also register to attend the BETT Show as this will streamline your access to the event. Registration for the BETT Show is free and you can register here
Tickets will be released in several batches and are totally free. The first batch of tickets went very quickly last week. The next batch of tickets will be released on Sunday 19th December at 10am. You can get the tickets here: http://tedxorenda2011.eventbrite.com/
We’re hoping for another inspiring evening. See you there!Read More
The main educational technology show of the year, BETT, is fast approaching. The two halls of Olympia in London will be full of an incredible array of educational suppliers, educational consultants, teachers and school ict technicians. If you get the chance to attend. And not just for the free pens.
Like last year, the Teachmeet movement is making it’s way onto the floor with another Teachmeet Takeover. Various companies are kindly giving up some space and time on their stands to teachers to talk about their passion. There are still slots available for speakers if you want to get involved, and still space for companies to get inolved too. If you want more information, go check out the TeachMeet Takeover wiki.
I was only an observer last year. But this year I am going to give a talk as part of the Teachmeet Takeover. IRIS Connect have very kindly given up half an hour on their stand on Thursday 13th Jan at 3pm. I’ll be talking about some of the best places to get (free) digital resources for use on your Interactive Whiteboard. So if you are at BETT on the Thursday, please make your way over to Stand K15 around 3pm and say Hello!
There’s some other great things taking place on the evening of BETT 2011 again, like last year. More about those to follow.Read More