So this week saw the annual learning technology event at ExCel London. I first went to Bett in my NQT year and remember being overwhelmed with the scale; in terms of the products available, the variety of specialists, and the numerous different options for CPD. This year was no different. New venue, same atmosphere. Friday was hugely busy, and it was a little fraught at times getting around and knowing where to start. For me, the most useful part of something like Bett (apart from a chance to network / catch up with people) is getting along to the seminars and hearing real stories. I gain a lot more from hearing real examples and implementation (whether low or high tech) than I do from visiting vendors. I am not being disparaging of the exhibitors at all – they know their stuff – but I like to see or hear about practise. Maybe that’s just how I learn!
So here are a few of my highlights (not in any order):
1) Sugata Mitra ‘The Kids are Alright‘ session in the arena. I’ve seen Sugata before but you can’t really get enough of him! His style, passion, wit – all combined with ground breaking work. If you haven’t heard of him before or seen him then his project Hole in the Wall is one to investigate. Listening to him say ‘with Google, anyone can pretend to be an expert‘ might make you worry for the future of our profession but the caveat is this: without guidance and focus you only pretend. He suggests that if we give children the opportunity & resources then they will seek to learn. Now this might not be true of all children for certain! There are plenty of examples of disaffected students who choose to not learn – but then maybe they haven’t been given the right resources or opportunities? For more information on his project, watch this Ted Talk . Part of the presentation involved an interview (led by the male voice of Siri FYI!) with Jordan Casey, a 12 year old self-taught app & game creator. ICT doesn’t even get taught in his school, yet he is selling tech professionally. It was certainly inspiring to hear this humble yet clearly incredibly gifted young lad talking to 700 people.
2) Microsoft Live Learn sessions. There were plenty to choose from on the Microsoft stand! Being kind of Microsoft affiliated you might think me biased, but the reason I enjoyed these was because they were REAL. I didn’t go to look at the shiny gadgets (not just for that anyway), and I wasn’t after training in how to use Win 8. What I liked was hearing from real teachers sharing how they have used Microsoft technology to empower learning. There were various examples of creative use of software – but the focus was on the fact that these are FREE to educators. Nobody was selling me a product (though I did get mocked for using an iPhone on the stand but that’s a long standing joke, apparently I’m always on my phone). I will happily recommend anyone to join Microsoft Partners in Learning and also to get looking at the Teachers Blog and following @microsofteduk .
I particularly enjoyed sessions by:
– Mandeep Atwal on ‘A New Era for Digital Learning‘ – Mandeep is an award winning teacher and always happy to share ideas, try finding her on @mandeepKatwal .
– David Rogers on ‘Using Devices to Empower Students‘ (especially since it was based on the work that we have done in our department so I could feel a warm glow knowing that secretly it’s all me and Sam really :-p ) – I’m sure there will be a write up on his blog soon so check there or harass him on @daviderogers
– Charlotte Beckhurst on ‘Windows 8 at Hartsbrook E-ACT Free School’ – sharing the great variety of apps that she employs in primary school. Made me quite jealous to not teach so many different subjects! Especially loved the use of photos & animal sounds for literacy. @charbeckhurst
– Kristian Still on ‘BYOD in Education’ – just generally chatting to Kristian about transforming learning was quite exciting, and the BYOD ties in with our own work. For anyone wanting to introduce BYOD policies in school I’d recommend speaking to both he and David Rogers. Follow @kristianstill or see his blog.
3) E-Safety: Motivating and enthusing young people through the use of social media by Beth Smith of Catmose College. I loved this session! Led almost entirely by the students themselves, who were so incredibly well spoken and professional – barely displaying any nerves which put me to shame (as by this point I was getting nervous of our session coming up!). The bulk of the focus was on the makingwav.es software (available on all platforms) which seems like a fantastic opportunity for schools to engage children with safe use of social networking and blogging. The website allows students to create blogs and access each other’s work to share, but under strict moderation from staff. Students can upload work to share with others (or keep private as they wish) – provided it has been moderated and approved by teachers first. The content and access is filtered and encrypted, only shared with those to whom permission is given and with students’ details kept private behind layers of nicknames (not real names), avatars, and moderated comments. It seems from my first impression to be a great way of engaging and encouraging sharing and peer feedback on a large scale, with the benefit of teaching e-safety simultaneously and preparing young people for the future world of social media. Rather than simply banning all social media and then just hoping they don’t accidentally get into unfiltered lands of facebook/twitter/youtube it allows practise and development of skills in a safe way. Students can also earn backpack Mozilla Open Badges – being rewarded for completing certain activities which can then be kept as digital portfolios to share at future interviews for college & work, e.g. Senior Reporter journalist badges, etc,. All types of content can be uploaded; images, video, text, powerpoint, etc,. Students were beaming with pride as they shared their online work, actually choosing to go online and upload news reports or whatever they felt in their spare time! Check out the school’s work here .
All-in-all, it was a great couple of days and I thoroughly recommend booking in for Bett 2014 and maybe try to get in to teachmeet there too. It’s not about the hard sell, it really is about empowering learning – through any means. My favourite way.