Jack Kenny has attended BETT since the first at the Barbican. This is his personal view of BETT 2014
What is wrong with us? We all sat there on the first morning of the 30th BETT show and listened respectfully to the tendentious speech from education secretary Michael Gove MP.
Had we forgotten that he is the one who supports the employment of unqualified teachers? He is the one who destroyed the Building Schools for the Future programme to find money for his pet free school projects. He is the one handing over control of various educational consortia to his cronies. He is the one who talks about freedom and localism and yet has centralised control of schools as never before. He is the one who does not understand “transparency”. Apparently his minions even consider Ofsted's Sir Michael Wilshaw subversive.
Gove spent a great deal of his speech denigrating what went before in IT. Was the curriculum “universally acknowledged as unambitious, demotivating and dull”? He calls it “the old curriculum” and now praises the work of the British Computer Society on the new one. Gove’s partisan reluctance to see anything good in the past does not allow for debate.
Most people who have worked with IT or ICT know that coding is not the future for most pupils; it is a small part of the future for the majority. Sure there was poor teaching when we had the “old curriculum”, to do it well took effort on the part of the teacher and the taught. Does any one think that teaching coding to everyone will be any better? It might even be worse.
The “old" curriculum was based on the idea that IT had changed all aspects of our lives, why shouldn’t it transform the curriculum too? Now there is not much emphasis on IT in English, languages, geography, history, art; not much emphasis on the creative side, on recording and editing sound, editing video and images, synthesising and sequencing sound; not much on skilful searching, synthesising findings, publishing work for the world to see, working in multimedia forms.Not much emphasis on IT in the real world that most of us live in.
What about the show? The main question when you meet someone at BETT is:, "Have you seen anything good?" Not many people had. They had seen more polish, more people looking like car salesmen but no one that I met had seen anything that they wanted to grab and take home with them immediately. There were some good questions posed. How will BYOD (bring your own devices) work in practice? How will the average teacher take to coding? Will 3D printers have a substantial impact? Which is the most appropriate tablet? Are tablets even useful in the classroom?
'If intelligence dictated buying patterns, the LearnPad should be a contender
You could not escape tablets. Bringing tablets into the classroom is a little like introducing the first whiteboards: very exciting at first but not really challenging at a deeper level and not making learners intellectually smarter. Aren’t tablets more about consuming than creating? It was interesting to look at the LearnPad stand to see how they will challenge the dominance of the iPad. It does compete on price, ease of management and use of Flash. If intelligence dictated buying patterns, the LearnPad should be a contender.
People are really what make BETT. I met Liz Sproat who is the new education supremo (UK) at Google. Liz is new to this dream job and she makes all the right noises. Her task is daunting. Google could do so much: there is vast potential for good. They have already started and the tools that are on offer to schools are impressive. It's just a question of getting the right strategy to maximise impact.
The people at 2Simple are one of the highlights of BETT; just talking to them and seeing their products is energising. They are always ready with solutions for the primary classroom. Is any company, big or small, more attuned to what is going on and necessary? Coding hasn’t thrown them. You can write code to make magic tricks. They now have 2Code.
'Secretaries of state come and go and still there is Dominic'
BESA (the British Educational Suppliers Association) is one of the heroes of BETT. Dominic’s well oiled diplomatic skills have ensured that BESA and BETT survive changes of government. Secretaries of state come and go and still there is Dominic, now announcing BETT in Brazil (BETT Brasil, São Paulo, May 21-24, 2014) and BETT in Mexico.Dominic Savage of
Surviving is just one of the great Stephen Heppell’s qualities. The Heppell.Net BETT stand was, of course, dominated by children working. Among his other activities, Stephen is patron of the the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy (IPACA) and if you are interested in where IT is going (if you are reading this you probably are) then you should check out what is going on down on that part of the coast. Significantly they have opted for Chromebooks rather than tablets and that is after consulting students!
Microsoft’s contribution to education over recent years has been impressive. Now the company is still recovering from the ill-fated introduction of Windows 8 to the desktop. One head of a leading technology company said to me in exasperation: “Wasn’t there someone at the top level in Microsoft who could stand up and say ‘This is a mess.’ Everybody else could see it within minutes of first using it?” Now they want to introduce the next iteration as soon as possible.
Anybody seen Apple?
Did you look for Apple? Find them? Apple, of course, continues on its lucrative way with many teachers hoping to equip their classrooms with iPads. I wonder how many of these teachers who are going to pour their money into Apple’s pockets have paused to wonder why Apple cannot be bothered to attend this pre-eminent education technology show? Apparently Apple has banked an Everest of cash, rumoured to be in the region of $150 billion dollars. It's a pity they cannot spare some cash to meet their devotees.
Last year I missed the former Olympia venue; this year I didn’t. Minor minus point: can’t all exhibition stands be numbered? Minor plus point: I particularly enjoyed the way that staff lined up to say goodbye as we left. It gave me a warm feeling as I mused that BETT will still be there when Gove and his zealots have long gone.