Inclusion expert Sally McKeown looks at the players will, and won't be at BETT 2011, creators of award winning Kar2ouche, one of the mainstays of Shakespeare lessons, and the popular games creation package MissionMaker, will not be at BETT 2011 and they are not alone.
The recesssion has prompted many companies to their budgets and while previous BETTs were high on their agendas, for some, BETT 2011 is in the ‘desirable but not essential' category.
Donna Burton Wilcox, CEO of Immersive, is saddened by the changes which have occurred since the election. “It’s as if teachers are now saying, ‘Thank heavens we don’t have to bother with ICT any more.' This is really bad news for the educational software industry but it is also really bad news for the learners as well.
"ICT has been such a force for creativity but if head teachers have to choose between a classroom assistant or new software, they are opting for safe choice and who can blame them?”
Immersive is passing its BETT savings on to teachers by offering a cut price deal to 500 schools.
Becta, of course, is absent from BETT this year – an early victim of cuts – and the remnants of its work will be subsumed into the Department for Education.
For the first time in many years Lucid, well known for its dyslexia assessment software, will not be at BETT. Managing director Kevin Thomas explains, “BETT is a great exhibition in terms of size and number of exhibitors but the location of the special needs area at the back of the exhibition hall makes life difficult for our visitors.”
'When there is little encouragement to pioneer BETT is essential'
Shoofly is also missing. Last year it showed its VLE content Skin Deep and introduced more schools to the wonder of Angel Boy, winner of several software awards and a firm favourite for Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL).
So with this roll call of absentees, is it worth a senco (special needs co-ordinator) taking a day or more to go to Olympia for BETT 2011? Yes it is! When budgets are tight, when there is no advisory body such as Becta to make recommendations and when there is little encouragement to pioneer new developments, BETT becomes essential viewing. How else will you find out about apps for iPads to help with fine motor skills, speech and language or phonics or the latest products for children with sensory needs?
Stalwarts Widgit (stand M10) and Crick (stand F40) and Barry Bennett (stand SN18) will be attending and there are some interesting new companies. New Day Education (stand SW110) will be showing new reward and behaviour management software called BRAMS, which helps pupils take ownership for their behaviour. From Sweden Assistive Solutions comes Elevskrivbordet, a cloud service for students with dyslexia (stand S69). GrowStoryGrow (stand SW74) which starts from the premise that about 15 words make up 25 per cent of all reading in many languages and offers stories, games and audio books online in languages such as Mandarin, Polish and Russian.
So head out to BETT 2011 and check out some of the following products:
Sal’s top 10
- Personally I hate supermarket shopping, but for young people with disabilities or learning disabilities it does hold a great fascination. So, as an alternative to the real (3D) experience, try Amazing Interactives (stand L49).
- Older learners who need Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) to give them a voice will love Proloquo2Go (stand SN19). Shortlisted for a BETT award, it can be downloaded on to an iPhone or iPad and is cheaper than other AAC devices.
- Skoog (stand SN9) is a very new musical product for children with limited mobility or who need access to a full range of cause and effect activities. (see John Galloway’s review )
- Get yourself to some of the Fringe seminars. Now that e-books are outselling hardbacks we all need to find out how to use this technology for children who don’t enjoy reading. Jamie Munro of Inclusive Technology is running a session at 11am on Wednesday 12 Jan at the Hilton Hotel, next door to BETT.
- Read a book on-screen or make a speaking eBook with ClaroRead Pro (stand SN64). Powerful new technology scans and converts any publication into an on-screen PDF that can be edited and read out loud in a human-sounding voice. ClaroRead even highlights the words, in any colour, as they are spoken.
- Inclusive Technology, sponsor of the Fringe, is showing its new Inclusive slate, bringing mobile touch technology to pupils with a range of learning needs. You can see Inclusive at the Fringe or in Olympia (stand P2).
- Dockside from Rising Stars (stand B25) is for children aged 10 and older who struggle with reading. It is a soap opera and the stories follow the fortunes of families in Dockside. The stories, characters and illustrations have been developed with students at Bradford and Bristol Academies.
- From X Factor to XMA Factor. XMA (stand C100), provider of some of the technology for the Home Access Project, are promoting its work with music at BETT 2011. On Wednesday January 12 pupils will join Ben Ottewell, lead singer and guitarist with indie band Gomez, for a GarageBand tutorial and jam session that will culminate in a recording of their very own track.
- Kids Like Me is new to BETT. The company has 1,500 online resources for inclusion and will be launching a BSL Hello Poster (stand SN24).
- Nebula is an interactive wall. Touch it and it lights up and makes things happen. For games, for developing motor skills, drawing – this is a great piece of sensory kit (stand SN80). See it for yourself on YouTube (below).
Remember, plan your trip to BETT carefully but if you get lost or run out of steam, go to the Nasen stand SN15. They will soon direct you to the best resources for special needs.
Sally McKeown is a freelance writer and is an expert in special needs and inclusion
BETT 2011, January 12-15
Widgit: stand M10
Crick: stand F40
Barry Bennett: SN18
New Day Education: stand SW110
Sweden Assistive Solutions: stand S69
GrowStoryGrow: stand SW74
Amazing Interactives: stand L49
Skoog: stand SN9
ClaroRead Pro: stand SN64
Inclusive Technology: Olympia Hilton/stand P2
Rising Stars : stand B25
XMA: stand C100
Kids Like Me: stand SN24.
Nebula: stand SN80