Schools minister Vernon Coaker MP might not be well known to those involved in ICT for learning but he has picked his BETT appearances deftly. One will be at the launch party of the British Assistive Technologies Association (BATA). It's an historic moment for this community and here founding chair Martin Littler explains why:
"Children and adults who need assistive technology to live and learn must not lose out in the thin times ahead. Through ignorance, their needs were frequently ignored when there was money! Previously there was nobody to speak up for those who needed technology to give them an even break but now there is.
"The British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) – created towards the end of 2009 (story here) – is going to lobby for this important group of technology users and for the world beating British assistive technology industry which is ahead of the United States in key areas and streets ahead of Europe.
"BATA’s launch party on January 14 at London’s Olympia Hilton (which coincides with the second day of BETT 2010) will herald in the creation of a unique alliance of commercial developers and publishers, local authority education and health experts; academics and third-sector organisations. Together they will highlight the special technology and inclusion needs of some learners and can advise government and others on how these needs can be met.
"With an election looming, spending under severe review and some familiar quangos for the chop, there has never been a more appropriate time for an organisation to speak up for those who face additional barriers to learning and living of a full life.
Opportunity for the industry to offer advice and pressure government
"Fortunately, the UK has 30-40 companies and organisations with pre-eminent expertise in areas such as severe and complex special needs, communication and learning difficulties. BATA offers the opportunity for this industry to come together with charities, needs assessment agencies, university departments, and local authority support services, to offer clear and impartial advice (and pressure where needed) to government and elsewhere.
"This is not before time. Large-scale educational initiatives run by the NOF [New Opportunities Fund] funded ICT training for teachers or the National College for School Leadership initially ignored the needs of those receiving special education while the Curriculum Online software scheme and “Learning Platforms for all pupils” never did include all learners.
"Initiatives like the Government’s Home Access scheme, where learners with special needs were included from the start, highlighted the clear need for a ready source of impartial advice on assistive technology and some firm persuasion for officials to focus on the needs of the end user and not just on the administrative processes involved.
"Inclusion is not the whole story either. Being included in what other people are doing is very important, for instance young people without speech will need a communication aid to join in. But others will find that what they are being included in does not meet their needs at all. “Pre-text” learners or learners with severe learning difficulties, for example, would have little use for the current crop of learning platforms or for any of the online content they might access through the Home Access Scheme. These instances call for designs to meet specific needs, otherwise inclusion for some people will mean being included in something that offers them little or nothing.
"The UK assistive technology industry and the educational agencies, from which this association has sprung, have a great deal to offer the rest of the world. BATA and its website (www.BATAonline.org) are intended to grow to be the shop window for British expertise and assistive technology products in the years to come."
To become a founder member of BATA, go to the BATAonline website and download the flier which gives full details.
The BATA launch event is at 7pm on Thursday 14 January 2010 at the Olympia Hilton next door to the BETT Exhibition at Olympia. Champagne and nibbles are kindly sponsored by Microlink. Follow signs for the Special Needs Fringe.
January 13-16, Olympia, London
Inclusive Technology – BETT Stand P2
Schools minister Vernon Coakley MP will officially open the BETT 2010 educational Technology Show at Olympia, London, on Wednesday January 13. This keynote presentation will be in the Apex Room at 11.30am.
This will be followed by the BESA "Breaking the Bonds of Learning" keynote (supported by Agent4change.net) in which Professors Stephen Heppell and Angela McFarlane, learning expert Tim Rylands and 2Simple's Max Wainewright will give their wishlists for ublocking progress to 21st century learning. Mobile phone interactivity for the audience will be provided by Steve Sidaway and the Txttools service.