George Cole welcomes mobile and gaming technologies at BETT
It’s no coincidence that the term “screenagers” has been used to describe today’s younger generation. If they are not reading text messages on their mobiles phone, they are at home looking intently at a computer or TV screen with game control pad in hand.
The key term here “looking intently” because, contrary to what you might think, when children play computer games, their eyes, brain and other senses are actively engaged – it’s not about staring blankly at a screen. And it’s this level of engagement that games designers are using to develop educational games, many of which look as if they belong more to an X-box or PlayStation 3 than a classroom.
Likewise, many pupils carry around smartphones or handheld devices and don’t see why they should be tethered to a desktop computer in order to learn or interact. That’s why at this year’s BETT educational technology show, two of the biggest themes will be handheld and portable devices, and gaming.
Computers have been getting more powerful each year, while shrinking at the same time. The laptop gave way to the notebook, sub-notebook and then the PDA. Sitting somewhere between the notebook and the sub-notebook is the netbook, so-called because it has mainly been designed for accessing the internet and going general computing tasks such as word processing. Netbooks has proved a big hit with schools, not least because they offer a compelling mix of portability, functionality and affordability.
here). It has a 13.3-inch screen, 160GB hard drive, wireless card and Windows 7 Professional pre-installed. The RM miniTablet has a 10-inch screen that can be used as a notebook screen or spun around and used like a Tablet PC with a touch-screen and stylus.RM says it has supplied more than 85,000 netbooks to education and it will be showing its latest version of the RM miniBook. This netbook has been designed for primary school pupils and has a robust clamshell design and a carrying handle. The RM lightBook is a super-slim, lightweight laptop developed with teachers in mind (review
There are plenty of brands to consider, like Asus which kicked-started the netbook revolution and continues to innovate. Among Samsung’s portable offerings will be the Q1 Ultra Mobile PC, a handheld PC weighing just 690 grams. MSI’s Wind U100 netbook has a 10-inch screen and a 160GB hard drive, while Intel’s Classmate, is a versatile, portable computer that can be used like a conventional laptop or a tablet PC, by simply twisting the LCD screen.
Portable devices are one thing, but in addition to internet access, it would be useful if users could connect to their school’s intranet or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). RM’s Community Connect 4 Anywhere. Schools using the CC4 network management solution can purchase CC4 Anywhere as an optional extra. “It means you can use any device, anywhere, any time on your network,” says RM product manager Ali Junkison. CC4 Anywhere, developed in conjunction with Citrix, even allows students to access applications stored on the school server from home. The system is secure, so that students can’t upload files on to the school network or change settings.
Ollie Bray will share pioneering games-based learning from Scotland
Ollie Bray (pictured above), of Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), is presenting a seminar on games and education called “Computer games based learning in secondary schools,” on January 14 at 12 noon in the Club – Innovation Theatre. Ollie will explore how Musselburgh Grammar School is using games-based learning to enthuse and engage students, using games such as Dr Kawashima's Brain Training, Big Brain Academy, Guitar Hero, My French Coach and Buzz the Schools Quiz.
Serious Games Interactive is showing Global Conflicts: Latin America, a game developed for 13 to 19-year-olds and which puts the student in the role of a freelance journalist. The task is to write revealing articles about major issues in Latin American countries, such as democracy, human rights, pollution and modern slavery. The game uses a mix of role play and adventure.
ConnectED’s Second Sight is a tool that enables teachers to create multimedia content for the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) console. GCSEPod’s interactive learning and revision podcasts can be downloaded on to iPods and MP3 players. There are now more than 300 podcast titles for eight GCSE subjects. GCSEPod is offering a subscription service for schools to create their own iPod revision libraries. The podcasts could be loaned to students and played on desktop or mobile devices.
Studywiz’s learning platform has a dedicated mobile learning interface for mobile devices including, the iPhone, iPod Touch, EeePC netbook, Nokia N800 internet tablet and now Google's Android. Studywiz is offering tools that enable teachers to create mobile games using a variety of templates to create question banks and answer formats such as “beat the clock”. (Studywiz will not have a stand at BETT 2010 but will be present – contact details below.)
DLK’s new suite of maths software has 3D graphics that are normally seen in action games. NumberWars is an action game set in a huge cave system and combines an action game with maths practice. And MangaHigh.com is also attracting a lot of interest as an innovative, high-quality online maths service. Finally, Ink.Learning’s Primary Steps Maths and Primary Steps Phonics games have 3D graphics, and can be used with various interfaces including, an interactive whiteboard or dance mat.
If you still need convincing of the engagement and power that games bring to learning, then a visit to Professor Stephen Heppell's Playful Learning feature at the heart of the show is in order. Professor Heppell will be working with primary and secondary learners to show how learning can be fun and enriching too. Here's how he puts it: “Survey after survey suggests that our UK schoolchildren may be some of the least happy in Europe. Playful learning is great fun and has re-energised classrooms, rekindled school-parent relationships, re-engaged brains and provided at times a powerfully competitive space for problem solving, and at other times a place for real individual concentration.
"Now games can involve running through real woods, linking with global teams, problem solving at a GPS location, laughing, moving, jumping and performing. Just as learning has escaped from the classroom, so games have escaped from the computer screen.” How could you resist?
January 13-16, Olympia, London
www.connectededucation.com Stand N54
www.dlk.co.uk Stand SW166
www.gcsepod.co.uk Stand W38
www.inklearning.com Stand T5
www.intel.com Stand E40
www.mangahigh.com Stand J60
www.msicomputer.co.uk Stand U132
www.rm.com Stand D60
www.samsung.com Stand M45
www.seriousgames.dk Stand X20
Playful Learning Stands D62 and C62