BETT 2013 – Ten things I learned

BETT is the biggest educational technology conference in the UK and took place over the weekend. Here’s a little of what I learned while visiting.

  1. Grannies are key for self-organised learning. The ‘Granny Cloud’ is an army of online grannies recruited by Sugata Mitra to say nice things to children across the world through the internet. The basic premise is that kids in a self-organised learning environment thrive with praise and encouragement, not interference. And Grannies are the best at this!
  2. Scratch is taking over. And with good reason. Scratch is a super easy to use and free programming language from MIT. From the evidence at BETT is seems it is quickly becoming a top choice for schools wanting to dip their toes into programming.
  3. The best primary schools are far more innovative than secondary schools with ICT and different ways to learn. Which means that kids may well be going from creating 3-D models of ancient pyramids and programming their own computer games in year 5 and 6, to tedious tasks with Word and Excel once they hit secondary school.
  4. Free and open beats expensive and locked down almost every time. Almost every example of deeply inspiring work that I saw discussed was done with free or open source technology – Scratch, Google sketch up/apps/earth/art, Class blogging, Voicethread. One big exception, at least for now, is specialist accessibility software such as Proloq2go or Gridmaker.
  5. The days of the learning management system are numbered. It’s all moving to the cloud. Big providers like RM and HP are trying to carve out a new niche – providing a single log in to manage pupil’s access to multiple cloud-based services. Now online learning providers need to make sure they can help schools access usage and progress data in useful ways.
  6. The future must be device independent and cloud based. Whether or not every school goes for ‘Bring your own device’ policies, it seems to me that there is no longer a reason for schools to have to stick to one type of device. Cloud services can do everything that in house servers once did, and different devices will suit different purposes. And more flexibility for schools will lead to more productive competition between suppliers.
  7. Coding is undergoing a renaissance. There’s a few reasons for this – the upcoming addition of Computer Science to the Ebacc, more ways to learn to program online, Scratch (spotting a theme yet?), and perhaps most importantly, the Smartphone revolution. Creating and publishing your own programmes is now more accessible than ever.
  8. US startups/non profits don’t go to British Ed-tech Conferences. No sign of Edmodo, Class Dojo, Kahn Academy or Quizlet even though the British equivalents seem to be a long way behind in the quality of their products. I’m not sure if these companies are not interested in the UK market, biding their time, or just hoping for bottom-up adoption by teachers through word of mouth.
  9. Everybody is using PreziAnd it makes me feel a bit ill.
  10. Making a sarcastic comment about Michael Gove gets a cheap laugh. Every time.

Sugata Mitra’s talk was my highlight, and I’ll discuss it more in a follow up post. A very rough summary is: kids can teach themselves anything (including degree-level biochemistry), and kids that do this enjoy themselves, retain more, and build important social skills and learning habits. Oh, and by the way, schooling as we know it is obsolete.

What did you get out of BETT? Do you agree schooling is obsolete? Do you think Michael Gove is funny? Let me know in the comments below.

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2 Responses to BETT 2013 – Ten things I learned

  1. drnicholls says:

    I didn’t get to BETT so this was really interesting for me. You’ve given me some food for thought and some ideas to follow up. I look forward to hearing more.
    Strangely I was discussing the fact that technology was going to end up being device independent and cloud based so it interesting to know that was a theme. My one concern would be the data security implications- did anyone address this?

    • danhunnisett says:

      Glad you found it interesting. I’m sure data security was addressed a great deal, but to be honest I was more interested in looking at the educational possibilities this time around.

      My gut feeling is that it should be just as easy, if not easier, to handle this stuff in the cloud as there will be an economies of scale effect – a large organisation should be better equipped to manage security than a small in house IT team. But it is definitely a consideration.

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