Sunday, 24 January 2016

BETT 2016

Greetings from my couch! I'm in recovery mode after a very busy two days in London at the BETT 2016 Show. For those of you who haven't heard of it before, it's a showcase for ICT in education, formerly called the British Educational Training and Technology Show. It's free to enter (You just need to register) and there's plenty of accommodation nearby in London's Docklands.

This was my first time going to an educational showcase of this size. I was blown away by how big it was. All exhibitors, guest speakers and visitors wear ID badges and you could spend hours just people(and badge)-watching alone. There were so many people from different sectors of technology and education.

It's easy to get overwhelmed when you first walk in. There's so much going on and so many people wandering around and handing you free stuff. Just look at this haul! (And that's after I did a cull and got rid of loads!) 

Once you get into the swing of it, there's so much to see and do. There are seminars to attend, stands to look at with interesting demos. And you'd never know, somebody might even grab you to film you talking about your reaction to it! 

Anyway, moving on to my (less superficial and more educationally-minded) discoveries and experiences from the event. As you know if you're a regular follower of this blog, we've really made a push to get our children coding at our school. One of the first exhibitors that stood out with this in mind was SAS apps. They provide a (paid!) service, App Camp, in which children can create their own apps and share them within a school's own web app.

We also came across these friendly, blue robots, Dash and Dot. These allow for simple programming with young children. They reminded me of BeeBots and BlueBots (more about those later!). However, the same exhibitors gave us a quick demo of Makey Makey.  This allows children to experiment with programming, engineering and art. They can turn everyday objects into touchpads. 

I particularly like this Makey Makey banana piano from their website!
Image source:

One of our stops was at the Lego Education stand where we signed up for a workshop on the new Lego WeDo version 2.0. We already have the original WeDo kits at school but it was great to see that this one has a wireless bluetooth smart device and can be programmed using iPads. This is a massive advantage for schools/clubs who have more iPads than desktops available for coding!

The curriculum pack comes with easy-to-follow lessons with open-ended tasks. We tried out the first task and had great fun learning through inquiry!

Another point of focus I had in mind was looking for ways to get our youngest children using technology in different ways (including coding). The TTS stand provided lots of inspiration for how to build up a bank of supplies to share within the school. Here are some of the resources I found interesting. The Blue-Bot is a great way to teach the really little children how to do simple coding and they now have a TacTile reader (see the picture below!).

I really enjoyed the demo of the Zu3D software for making stop motion animations. It's very child-friendly and has lots of different features. You can even film the model with a green screen and put it on a photographic or hand-drawn background. It would be fantastic for integrating writing, oral language, visual arts and even music. Again, this is not free, so I'm definitely going to look into what options would be available for doing stop motion animation within the classroom.

So there you have it, a brief look at just some of the things we saw this weekend. I would highly recommend the BETT to anyone with an interest in ICT. The dates are already set for BETT 2017 so do have a think about it!

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