Just as CES 2017 provided us with a yardstick for the state of consumer electronics, BETT 2017 (the British Educational Training and Technology show) affords us a glimpse into where education is heading next.
Technology is transforming education. Laptops, 2 in 1s, tablets and Chromebooks are cheaper to buy and more powerful than ever before.
At the same time, the rise of the Maker Movement has made resources such as the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit for Genuino 101 (powered by Intel’s Curie compute module) fun and accessible. While cloud computing is changing how and when students learn, both inside and outside the classroom.
At BETT 2017, SAM Labs showcased smart construction kits for teaching kids coding; Immersed Games has developed an online game world where students learn as they quest; while Sutori is building a powerful storytelling platform that enables teachers and students alike to create interactive, embeddable stories.
“We’ve got to make technology available,” said Microsoft’s Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education.
“But to bring it all together we have to raise the bar for how we can drive innovation and transformation.” Salcito was one of several, speakers at BETT 2017, which also included explorer Ed Stafford, chef Heston Blumenthal and TV legend Sir Tony Robinson.
To highlight education innovation, the BETT Awards celebrates the future of teaching tools and content. Winning the ICT Innovator of the year category was TeacherIn, an app that connects schools directly with supply teachers, bypassing the need for recruitment agencies.
The growth of the Internet has allowed digital learning content to flourish, both for schools to use as part of the curriculum and for parents to help their children at home. Early Years Digital Content award winner Busy Things, for example, features over 700 activities to help kids improve their numeracy and literacy skills.
The advantage of digital content is that it excites a generation of children growing up in a world of computers, tablets, apps and the Internet. Kids newspaper First News bagged the BETT Award for Primary Digital Content with its Literacy iHub, while Educake Science walked away with the Secondary Digital Content prize for its ability to plunder 10,000 questions to set GCSE and Key Stage 3 homework.
The hardware children use is just as important as the software. It’s why the Chromebook ProLine from Prowise won the Digital Devices award at BETT 2017. Powered by an Intel Celeron Processor N3060, this spill-resistant 2 in 1 runs the Chrome OS, has an 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 pixel screen and a battery life of 10 hours.
The runner-up in this category is also well worth a mention. The C-Pen Exam Reader is a pen-sized scanner device that reads exam paper text out loud for students who have dyslexia or reading difficulties.
If BETT 2017 is anything to go by, technology is leading the way towards smarter schooling and more accessible home learning. It might not mean Minecraft lessons on 84-inch touchscreen Surface Hubs, or transforming old computer rooms into DIY robotics labs. But new software and hardware is enabling a new form of 360-degree learning that will benefit students and teachers alike.