This blogger went to BETT 2014. What he found will amaze you!
Jan31

This blogger went to BETT 2014. What he found will amaze you!

OK sorry for the headline. I was just curious what a bit of Upworthy-style hyperbole would do. The original title for this piece is : BETT 2014 Roundup pt 5: Other Things that Caught My Eye Less catchy eh? So this was the second BETT Show after the move to Excel from Olympia. There’s a lot to like about the new venue. Selfishly for me it’s a great deal easier to get to from where I live. I also like the large central space with all the coffee shops and seats – it provides a nice area to escape the crush of the hall and a better focal point to meet up with friends and colleagues. But I still found I got lost easier than I did at Olympia – I missed the upper level gallery that gave me a lookout spot to find stands I’d previously missed. I was also surprised by the huge area devoted to the Department of Trade and Industry. I know selling is a major part of the show, but it was a massive area that seemed to be quite empty. I wonder if it was partly so big to mask the fact that a lot of companies  were no longer appearing at the BETT show – there was no Serif, Apple, Collins, Uniservity for example. I’m guessing for some the cost of appearing at BETT is just too high, and the money can be better spent in more direct contact with their customers. The show itself was full of the usual; lots of interactive screens, tablet computers and visualisers. None of these had moved on much in the last year – all were bigger, brighter, shinier. I was rather pleased to see the almost total absence of 3D projectors – a technology that I think is unnecessary and unwieldy in a regular classroom. I thought they had gone completely but then I found one stall near the back of the hall that was still trying to sell theirs. There were a few stands with 3D printers, which look great. I would seriously love to get my hands on a MakerBot, for example. Price-wise they’re still a little high but I have no doubt the price will drop over the next 18 months So here are a few things from BETT 2014 that caught my eye, and are worth checking out: DisplayNote DisplayNote allows teachers to present wirelessly with an iPad or Android and mirror their screen to every student’s device, whether that’s an iPad, chromebook or laptop. Students can view and capture slides on their device and collaborate with each other in real-time....

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BETT 2014 Roundup pt 3 : Coding and Computing for Schools
Jan29

BETT 2014 Roundup pt 3 : Coding and Computing for Schools

With the imminent arrival of the new National Curriculum for Computing in September, it’s not surprising that there were quite a few products at BETT designed to help teach the coding aspects. I know many teachers are concerned about having to teach this, as many have no coding experience themselves. Here are a few products that caught my eye. Espresso Coding Espresso Coding is the new site from digital content providers Espresso Education that teaches pupils to code and make their own apps to share with their friends and parents. With an inclusive wide-ranging Scheme of Work, the Espresso Coding platform provides teachers with coverage of the new coding aspects of the updated Computing curriculum for Year 1 to Year 6. It even works on an iPad, and there are iPad-specific features which allows children to build games that can be controlled by tilting and swiping. Espresso Coding will eventually be a subscription resource, but it is FREE for an extended period until October 31st 2014. You can access the trial site at www.espressocoding.co.uk, take a look and see what you think. Not all of the features are there yet, such as an open sandbox area, but I’ve been told they’ll be in place when the free period ends. Purple Mash : 2Code from 2Simple 2Simple have added to their excellent range of software with the launch of 2Code. This simple to use coding tool has been purposely designed to match the new Computing Curriculum for KS1 and 2 with full lessons for different age groups and levels of ability covering everything from logic and algorithms, to writing and debugging computer programs. In addition, 2Code offers different Free Code modes of varying difficulty to encourage children to problem solve within a context. The Free Code can also be used entirely on its own to create games, animated stories and anything else your pupils can think of. It looks great. Subscribers to 2Simple’s Purple Mash website toolkit will immediately get access to 2Code when it’s released. More info here. Appfurnace Kudlian software were demonstrating AppFurnace which is a set of online tools that help children (and teachers!) to create all kinds of apps for IOS or Android without having to be a programming genius. Apps can be created using a wide variety of drag and drop widgets or for older or more advanced students, the use of JavaScript allows more complex apps to be written. It is probably most suitable for KS3+ but more able KS2 students would also find it easy to use. Before students export their Apps to their device to run using the free AppFurnace Player, a...

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A Belated Blogpost About Bett 2013
Feb25

A Belated Blogpost About Bett 2013

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. For example: 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...

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BETT Show 2012 Roundup Part 2
Jan17

BETT Show 2012 Roundup Part 2

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...

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BETT Show 2012 Roundup Part 1
Jan16

BETT Show 2012 Roundup Part 1

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...

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My BETT 2011 Roundup
Jan18

My BETT 2011 Roundup

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...

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Interview with Nancy Knowlton, SMART CEO
Jan16

Interview with Nancy Knowlton, SMART CEO

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...

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TeachMeet Takeover Talk pt1
Jan14

TeachMeet Takeover Talk pt1

Thanks to Kevin Mulryne for filming the first part of my TeachMeet Takeover talk at BETT 2011 yesterday. 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....

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Initial Bett2011 Thoughts
Jan13

Initial Bett2011 Thoughts

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....

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TEDxOrenda 2011 @Bett
Dec15

TEDxOrenda 2011 @Bett

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!...

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BETT 2011: Teachmeet Takeover
Dec15

BETT 2011: Teachmeet Takeover

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....

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Games Based Learning #Amplified Education Session
Jan18

Games Based Learning #Amplified Education Session

A discussion around the use of games and gaming at Amplifed Education at BETT 2010. We had a very interesting discussion and could have gone on for hours on this topic. Thanks to Leon Cych for sorting out all the filming of the various Bett Fringe events....

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