Birchfield leads way in getting content to students' mobile devices, writes Gerald Haigh
When you have developed an extensive CD-Rom library of multimedia content covering virtually the whole of the curriculum, what do you do when alternative technologies and methods of delivery begin to appear?
Birchfield Interactive, just one of many software companies facing that challenge, has taken the bold step of anticipating the inevitable increase in the classroom use of mobile devices – particularly the ones owned by the students themselves.
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I first encountered the curriculum resources produced by Birchfield Interactive when I was reviewing Religious Education software for The TES. Then on CD-Rom, Birchfield’s material supported a wide range of subjects with rich, interactive multimedia content – video, animation, audio, graphics – backed up by teaching and assessment tools.
Then virtual learning environments (VLEs) arrived, with the challenge for Birchfield of maintaining the quality of the product while meeting compatibility requirements (SCORM). They rose to that with Birchfield VLE Content Solution, and now still working to stay ahead of classroom technology, we have Birchfield Mobile. This makes all of the Birchfield content – 15,000 separate resources across 15 subjects, primary and secondary – available to students and teachers on phones, tablets and netbooks, including, of course, the devices they have in their own pockets.
A long time user of Birchfield’s material – first on CD-Rom, then on the VLE and now on mobile devices – is Keith Phipps MBE, an assistant head at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys in Birmingham. Keith, a geography teacher, is responsible for developing learning through technology, and his aim has always been to put learning in the hands of the students. Now, with Birchfield Mobile, he can allow students access to the Birchfield curriculum content, via 3G, on their phones and iPads.
“It’s used a little in Year 7, but it’s mainly with the GCSE groups," he says. "For example a Year 11 group working on glaciation would be able to work individually or in groups, going through the built-in assessment and reflecting on their learning.”
It’s true personalised learning, he says, differentiated by ability and learning style. “By providing moving images, text, and spoken text it engages different learning styles and closes learning gaps – and the hook for the students is that they are using their own handheld devices. A small proportion have iPads, and many have 3G-enabled phones or iPod Touches. Their appetite for using the material in this way is great”
At the moment, access to the material by King Edward VI students is by 3G direct to Birchfield. The plan for the future, though, is to host the content in school on a web server and allow students to join the school network with their devices. There are some issues to be addressed on the way to achieving this, but Keith is optimistic.
'The aim is to make learning more accessible for the students'
“With any development like this you need the vision, you need the will, you need the capital. And you’ll get there because most teachers have will, vision and perseverance in abundance, especially when the aim is to make learning more accessible for the students.”
Birchfield stopped exhibiting at the BETT educational technology show a number of years ago when it realised that its BETT expenditure could be more profitably used for direct marketing, but its new mobile products will be on show at BETT 2012 on the stand of Avantis, the company that has been pioneering the use of Android tablets in education (see "Avantis puts Android tablets within reach of schools").
Birchfield boss Jon Case explains: "Birchfield had planned not to exhibit at the BETT show, as we decided once again to pass on the savings from not exhibiting, to our customers across the whole of the UK in our January 'not at BETT' offer. However, in a last minute twist we have been invited to send a representative to advise on Birchfield Content for VLE and Mobile at the Avantis Stand (P1), which is just outside the conference rooms on the first floor of the main hall, which we are delighted to accept."
Anyone with questions about Birchfield curriculum content are invited tp meet him at stand P2.Those not going to the show can still benefit from the Birchfield BETT offer. Just go to www.birchfield.co.uk and select mobile or vle. Add to your trial basket and enter BETT offer code "FIFTY50" to get a 50 per cent discount. The offer ends January 31, 2012.
Gerald Haigh is a freelance journalist and the author of Inspirational – and Cautionary – Tales for Would be School Leaders (Routledge) and Jobs and Interviews Pocketbook (Teachers' Pocketbooks). You can follow him on Twitter.
AGENT4CHANGE JANUARY 2012 BIRCHFIELD MOBILE COMPETITION
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£10K of engaging interactive curriculum content
Anytime anywhere access to engaging interactive curriculum content with Birchfield Mobile
Feeling lucky? Want to keep your entire school engaged and inspired for 2012?
We have two brilliant Birchfield Mobile interactive curriculum content portfolios to give away – each worth £5,000. Spanning Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, D&T, English, Food Technology, Geography, History, ICT, Maths, MFL, PE, Physics, PSHE and RS, Birchfield Mobile features over 15,000 resources, comprising stunning animations, text, voice-overs and thousands of activities guaranteed to captivate students and teachers alike.
Easy to upload to a school’s server, Birchfield Mobile curriculum content can be delivered via wifi or 3G and works with iOS, Android, Blackberry OS and Windows mobile devices, including the Apple iPad, iPod and iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, HTC, Blackberry PlayBook, Sony Tablet, RM Slate and Motorola Xoom.
Classroom teaching, revision, independent learning and homework are all covered and the need to search potentially unsafe sites for information is removed. A perfect aid for supply teachers too, Birchfield Mobile provides instant access to curriculum areas in which they may not specialise.
For a chance to win log on to www.birchfield.co.uk/mobile/agent4changecompetition. The deadline for entries is February 28, 2012.
Alternatively, try before you buy by logging on to www.birchfield.co.uk/mobile for a free 14-day trial.