Inspiration and Innovation in Edtech: Highlights from BETT 2015

This year at BETT, students spoke out about what they wanted from educational technology, and education experts provided up-to-date advice on innovative teaching practices such as flipped learning.

Inspiration and innovation were again the key themes at BETT 2015 as they were last year. Kids spoke out about what they wanted from educational technology and experts provided up-to-date advice on existing practices such as flipped classrooms. It was an incredible four days featuring exhibitors and speakers (including Bob Geldof!) from around the world. For a full description of events, visit the BETT site, and look up #Bett2015 for first-hand accounts of the conference.

Ministerial Keynote: Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education

Following a talk by Bob Geldof, who emphasised how education could help poverty and crisis, Nicky Morgan welcomed everyone to BETT 2015. In her talk, she stressed how innovative technologies must be at the heart of the next stage of the education reform programme. She was followed by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on open access to information.

Tablets for Schools: Developing a Mobile Learning Strategy

A crowd gathered at the Samsung Stand to listen to Mary Palmer, Director of Tablets for Schools, talk about our mission to transform education through technology. Read more here.

“Ask Kids What’s Best for Them”: Digital Natives Speak Out

A lively and extremely knowledgeable panel of young students explained how they used technology to enhance learning, and how digital leaders are essential to promote digital learning in the classroom. One of the first questions they were asked was whether they Students were asked whether they would rather have a good teacher, or good technology? On the whole, students preferred good technology, but pointed out that this good tech could help teachers learn how to teach better.

The students were also asked for their thoughts on BYOD, and expressed concern that parents might not be able to afford the devices, or that kids with old devices would be judged.

And what did the students think about flipped classrooms? They agreed that it can sometimes mean that they end up doing as much preparation as the teacher, but it was worth it because the extra prep aided learning. One student pointed out how just one person not doing their homework brings the rest of the class down: flipped learning forces students to do homework.

Students mentioned interactive whiteboards as one of the technologies they used most often: “we can do everything from math equations to English”.

The students were keen to answer the question of what creators of technology needed to keep in mind. Interactivity topped the list, though students were very clear that interactivity did not necessarily mean that it must be educational: “it should be based around a subject”. The tech also had to be easy-to-use, and different from what they already had.

In conclusion, students recommended that tech should be made more available, and that it should be used across all lessons. Also, the Wi-Fi should work. Students also observed that they had seen their teachers using technology incorrectly, in which case there was: “not much point in having it”.

Flipped Learning – Righting the Wrongs: Dr Ashley Tan

The “Future of Learning” segment included this thought-provoking talk on new ways to think about flipped learning. Flipped learning involves moving instruction away from the classroom to the individual space, with face-to-face class time used help students with the subject matter. Prominent education consultant Dr. Ashley Tan shared his own missteps with flipped learning. The turning point for him came when he was creating podcasts for his master’s level students, and realised that his students actually did not want lectures. For Tan, flipping is not about doing the same thing in a different way, but an opportunity for teachers to design more meaningful homework, taking a student-centred approach to flipping. For example, he warned that flipping is not a way to increase curriculum time at the expense of student personal time. Dr. Tan went through the three dimensions of flipping. The first was learning as teaching. The second was learning as content creators. The third dimension was to move away from conventional flipping. Find out more about Tan’s work here.

“Success is down to training and leadership”: Dominic Norrish (Director of Tech, United Learning)

In this talk aimed at school leadership, Dominic Norrish reminded the audience that leadership is not about hierarchy, and described in detail what the role of Director of Technology should entail. Perhaps most importantly, the director needs to be a skeptic since technology won’t solve every problem.

The director should ideally be part of the school leadership team. They should also support staff development, and line-manage the technical staff (though Dominic noted that this last point is controversial).

As for the skill set required of a Director of Technology, Dominic listed a number of necessary attributes. The director must be a great teacher, in addition to having a good understanding of the technologies used by schools. More pragmatically, the director should be commercially-minded in terms of managing suppliers, projects, and contacts, in addition to possessing personal qualities such as empathy, optimism, inquisitiveness, inventiveness, and the ability to listen to colleagues.

“Educational Conformity Drives Students Out”: Ken Robinson

Ken Robinson’s book-signing (“Out of Our Minds”) saw massive lines of people waiting to get their copies signed, so it’s no surprise that the turnout for this famous educationalist’s talk was standing room only. The theme of Robinson’s talk was “Learning to be Creative”. According to Robinson, creativity is about “challenging what you take for granted”. His talk also included warnings about the dangers of unfettered access to technology.

Were you at BETT 2015? Share your experiences!

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