Design and technology teacher Jonathan Boyle reflects on the BETT 2015 journey
3D Printing3D printing at BETT: amazing bronze effect from UltimakerWe have journeyed together. This was as global as it gets and long may it continue. As like minded souls, we converged on utopia for a day or two and Bett 2015 tasted as good as it looked.

Those new to Bett succumbed quickly to chaos theory and ‘pinged’ from stall to stall wondering if they might ever get out. It takes years to understand the lie of the land. But ExCeL, in London's Docklands, is a massive, appropriate and modern venue.

Going with an old hand will save you from many of the pitfalls, not to mention the velcro effect of bags, booklets and biros for services you will never need. Driving to the event is easy and being able to return to your car underneath the ExCeL halls is a huge advantage.

With my hat on, I looked for the ‘something old’, ‘something new’ and ‘something gone forever’. I am all about Design and Technology and too aware of the struggles our teachers face in maintaining the profile of this amazing subject (as ill judged government policy stifles creativity in manufacturing in favour of questionable benchmarks).

Michael Gove joins the 'gone forever' category – ironic

In terms of ‘something gone forever’, I listened last year to Michael Gove as his keynote speech extolled the virtues of what he had done to free up the design and technology curriculum. Ironic. For those of us old enough to remember, we have been here before and I fully expect that someone will realise that this country was built on manufacturing and we will soon have a big hole to fill. Of course design and technology will come to the rescue. We are just biding our time, continuing to strive for brilliance and doing the best for our students.

ExamProAQA ExamProAQA’s ExamPro: at £60 it’s ‘well worth the money’ was on my shortlist and it really is ‘something new’. Covering an increasing range of subjects, ExamPro brings together examination questions, mark schemes and examiners' remarks in a slick package that is suitably editable. At £60 it is well worth the money and is a certain purchase for me. While its interface is in its infancy, it already removes the chores associated with downloading and managing numerous large PDF files.

In ExamPro you simply select the questions you want with ‘drag and drop’, while further resources associated with each question are just a tab away. Compiling your own questions, answers and the examiners'  for students is straightforward. I reckon this will be a hit with most who touch base with it. A-level questions for GCE Product Design cannot come quick enough as far as I am concerned. A Bett show hit.

Questioning technology is understandable at times. Bett 2015 was no different with Sphero and Ollie making their debut for education. The concept is ‘cool’ with Sphero which is the size of a snooker ball dashing around following a predetermined set of code. Wow. I want this to work in education. Turtle anyone? We really have moved on and this colour changing sensation is primed ready to be brilliant in the hands of innovative teachers and students. I cannot wait to see how Sphero and its rough and tumble sibling, Ollie, get on this year. I fully intend to have longer with one of these and look forward to returning with how it can be used in the classroom. Another Bett show hit.

Fuze was a fantastic product I wrote about last year (aee "For those who can't live by Pi alone – Fuze") and I was delighted to see that they are now firmly established in education. Raspberry Pi and Python are cool, so it's great to see a company getting the right attention in the press too with a profile on Sky News to boot.

TechSmithTechSmith: 'slick suite of desktop capture software'The people at TechSmith were rightly proud of their Bett Awards 2015 finalist accolade and so they should be with their slick suite of desktop capture software. I use Snagit multiple times per day, so can vouch for it. Camtasia is an amazing video-based desktop capture piece of software that can do anything you might ask of it. Combine desktop capture with your own consumer video and you will teach the most amazing things at distance. If only I had the space in this piece to carry on! Bett show hit.

Create Education, in collaboration with Ultimaker, profiled the versatility of 3D printing. All right, so 3D printing has been around for years and is on my ‘something old’ list. However, I have never seen it done with metal in PLA filament before.

I was introduced to a series of large models that had bronze cleverly integrated into the PLA filament and the effect on the products were amazing when polished. It almost looked bronze too. While this is another product in its infancy, I am delighted to see that we are finally moving towards 3D printing, integrating metals and improving the robustness of what is being made. We might even start making something useful on a 3D printer.

Cost of 3D printing drops to 'hundreds'

I question the validity of PLA over time with its structural frailties, but no one can deny its environmentally positive virtues. Filament, resolution, warping and manufacture time continue to be a bit of a nuisance for schools, but the serious reduction in cost of 3D printing kits is down from tens of thousands to hundreds in some cases over the last ten years. Imagine the numbers of teachers and students who will do something wonderful with the kit this year? Bett Show hit.

touch panel‘Symbiosis between projector and interactive whiteboard will end'There was a clear tech winner at Bett 2015 for me, and that was the huge number of multi-touch panels. Some were just shy of 2.5 metres in size and had very impressive high-definition displays with none of the cast shadow issues associated with projectors. Wherever you turned, you were drawn to a demonstration where a huge multi-touch panel was either touted or used to demonstrate.

Within a year this has been a game changer. The symbiosis between the projector and its interactive whiteboard is about to end. With prices comparing far fairer than a projector and board, you will soon witness the next big upgrade in schools. Think about it. Would you rather have a replacement projector and interactive whiteboard or a shiny uber tablet?

Massive tablets in your classroom will be fantastic for multi-touch apps for education. CTouch allowed me to take one of their monster tablets for a quick test run and it was fantastic. Bright, engaging and highly accurate. With warranties up to seven years not uncommon, manufacturers are confident in the robustness of their products too. Uber Bett Show hit.

I foresee a classroom and corridor of the future where the walls are covered in large interactive tablet displays. Students will play back learning experiences or interact with ‘poster’ displays for different subject areas. Their mobile devices will use NFC (or next incarnation) to sync the content for revision or act as a part of their lifelong eportfolio. Yes, we will retain our learning experiences in the same way we can recall our emails now. I will fully expect, when interviewing a candidate, that they will be able to share a learning experience with me interactively and even prior to interview. Think about how that might change things.

Laser tech gives projectors lease of life

It’s not all over for the projector though and if you are anything like me 150 to 300 inches are always going to be needed in a school. Two years ago at Bett I was wowed by the Casio stand with their Green Slim range. Up to 3000 ANSI lumens brightness with no bulb, they were a massive plus. Although with WXGA resolution at 1200 x 800 it’s never going to be up there with the 1080P and 4K projectors of this world. But remember there's no bulb!

Casio reminded me this year that their projectors are commercial and not consumer really, so resolution is not the ultimate issue here. I was so impressed I still bought one for home use and while the laser-and-LED hybrid has a slight colour deviance on purples and pinks, blacks are excellent. I should expect 20 years' use. In terms of the number of replacement bulbs I have bought for a range of different projectors this is a huge tick in the box. With other projector manufacturers showing their laser-based projectors at Bett 2015, there is clearly a move away from the bulb – and for all of the right reasons.

And so it came to pass, and within hours I was back to teaching like many of the other BETT visitors, excited about what I had seen and already thinking about what next year will reveal. Even our BETT cloud had a silver lining – my colleague lost his wallet but it was returned via the organisers. Not even old hands can be fully prepared for what awaits at Bett.
See also "For those who can't live by Pi alone – Fuze"

Jonathan BoyleJonathan Boyle is deputy headteacher at Madeley Academy, Telford, Shropshire

Add comment

Security code