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Review: BETT Show 2001



When people in education attend the BETT show, they can range from teachers, lecturers, governors, LEA advisers, trainers, parents etc., all looking for inspiration when using Information and communications technology (ICT) in schools, homes and within their communities. This year's exhibition, BETT 2001 shows that the Government is in year three of their four year plan to establish a National Grid for Learning (NGfL) and making ICT the subject at the heart of teaching and learning.

It is reported that the government intends to spend an additional £1 billion over the next three years on new technology in schools. Much emphasis on using ICT in schools has been about raising standards, but now there is a feel that wider issues need to be looked at, for developing further life skills needed for the digital economy.

Even though the show has expanded into another hall, it was hard to judge whether the exhibition itself had more exciting features than in previous years. There appeared to be a more steady, comfortable atmosphere with technology settling into its niche in education with the various competitors offering more suitable technical solutions than in previous years; the panic over infrastructure has passed and now education is looking at the wider issues. The main aspect was the layout of the exhibition in the hall itself. In previous years, you almost felt as though everyone was on top of each other, but this time, the show expanded into connecting halls rather than on the upper floor. It also felt that the halls were not as crowded as before, thus making the whole exhibition appear far more comfortable.

The main exhibitor that 'jumped out at you' had to be the Compaq stands, the main one demonstrating their hardware products. The main piece of equipment that really caught my attention was the Compaq iPAQ H3630 Pocket PC with its colour high-reflective TFT display powered by Windows Pocket PC operating system, including applications such as Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Voice Recorder, Notes, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, go surfing with an built in Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player (MP3), inbox for e-mail, etc.

The screen is touch-sensitive for use with pen, handwriting recognition, etc. In summary, a very impressive tool. Many headteachers present at the exhibition felt this certainly was an exciting product that children could use successfully to enhance the involvement of ICT in their school lessons.

There were many stands covering wireless technology such as Cisco, but there are doubts as to whether education is in fact this far advanced yet, as many primary schools may be installing network technology for the first time into their classrooms, and secondary schools are having to cope with basic network systems that would benefit from being upgraded.

Microsoft had their technology showcase aimed at higher education, to show how their technologies are used in this area for the delivery of better learning and administration. A product that was stated as being the way forward for primary education was the Encarta Class Server, which is a new web-based curriculum management system. A trial of this application can be downloaded from previous link. Microsoft were also promoting their Anytime, Anywhere, Learning concept, which is putting laptops in the hands of learners to make a difference.

The Intel stand was showcasing their concept focusing on interactive learning, with their demonstration of, which claims to combine dynamic curriculum based content with leading edge technology, to provide students with learning plans, constant feedback and ideas for further research in order to help them learn in a flexible manner suited to individual needs. The demonstration was aimed to provide the audience with a glimpse of the future of e-learning using 3D internet and wireless technology. The general impression was that Intel can demonstrate the classroom of the future by using wireless computer networks. Intel have developed PC cards that slot into a PC or notebook, connect to a small control unit which is attached to the classroom wall. This then enables the computer to access the network and students and teachers to share files securely with each other. One control unit can cover several classrooms and all computers would need a PC card. This is the intel PRO/Wireless 2011 LAN solution.

Many people in education are becoming familiar with the term broadband to gain faster access to internet connections, and stands such as Time Education were introducing their new high-speed internet service that uses ADSL phone lines. They also want to offer schools a 24 hour, 365 day connection for a flat-rate monthly fee which they state only as highly attractive.

In terms of other educational software applications, one small stand that appeared to do extremely well at the exhibition was The Skills Factory Educational Software. They had won a BETT 2001 award for the School Management Solution Award for their On-line Resource Bank (ORB) software, which consists of CD-Rom planning tools containing all the literacy and numeracy framework objectives which teachers can use to plan lessons, set targets, assess pupil attainment and create reports. There are completed Literacy and Numeracy lesson plans and the ORB software will also suggest lesson plans to suit particular topics. Further information can be obtained from The Skills Factory Educational Software.

A freelance journalist Jack Kenny had written a review for the Times Educational Supplement covering software from Granada Learning's Young Writers Workshop. This software is to enable teachers to treat media and writing as real media tasks. A copy of this application was purchased and tested on the long train journey from London back to the Midlands, only to find that it would not install on Windows 2000, but it was alright for Windows 98 and the Headteacher testing it also found that many of the functions appeared quite long winded. If anyone is genuinely interested in further feedback, it will be tested out back on the children in the classroom who will really be the best judges of this application at the end of the day.

For the first time this year British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA} held an Awards ceremony for Innovations in ICT, with these awards presented by Lord Puttnam. The aim is to build upon the occasion to make these awards ceremonies more prestigious and to be seen as 'placing Britain as the Hollywood of Education’. These awards are supported by the Times Educational Supplement and sponsored by BT Education.

Lord Puttnam started the ceremony by pointing out that ICT had certainly become more available to children within the last five years, with around 98% of secondary schools now having access to the internet. His main point was, however, that the culture in education still needed to change that many ICT solutions are seen as individual attainments, rather than combining resources and making educational establishments more ready to share working practices with each other.

He continued by saying that technology should be viewed as the bridge for teaching and learning and thus can only be sustained by the intervention of brilliant teachers, leading to the point that now over 237,000 teachers had signed up to the ICT training programme being funded by the New Opportunities Fund (NOF), but Lord Puttnam stated that one-off courses were not remotely adequate, that teachers should use the private sector as a benchmark to the amount and type of technology training they should be receiving.

Lord Puttnam had also been surprised by the negative reaction that had been shown by some in education to the idea of making continuing professional development part of teachers' contracts, the fact that most teachers do not often change career could be one rason for their lack of concern about skills development, he suggested. ICT strategies in education should be aiming towards reflecting those strategies in industry, there should be an integrated formulation of strategies, education are still confined to producing their own.

Even though the Government is now placing significant investment into ICT in education, there is still the need to build new models, to adapt existing cultural standards of working practice and also to open up opportunities for teachers to develop pedagogies in the use of ICT.

These BECTA awards were open to all teachers, lecturers, advisers and trainers in the UK and over 110 entries were received. Each winner received £2500 with a further £2500 going to their school or organisation. The awards were split into five categories: School Management (primary and secondary); Special Education Needs (primary and secondary); Subject Teaching (primary and secondary); Advice and Support and Widening Participation in Further Education.

One of the awards went to a Shropshire headteacher for good use of information and communications technology in her Telford school. Jenny Noel-Storr, headteacher at Redhill Primary School, was named as the winner in the category of School Management in Primary Schools and she was praised for her clearly defined strategic approach to ICT, with her clear vision and clear practice in the use of technology in the school.

Mrs Noel-Storr described her school as a learning community, because when appointed two years ago, her aim was that ICT should be at the core of administrative planning and curriculum development. A comprehensive and ambitious strategy was drawn up to support policy, planning, objectives and schemes of work.

Other award winners were Kathryn Buckby, Redcar & Cleveland Education Centre, Peter Funnell, Suffolk College, Jackie Story, Sanday Community School, David Baugh, Denbigh Primary School, Richard Heppell, Beauchamp Technology College, Helen Crawford, Murphy Crescent School, Christine deGraft, Hansen Hedgewood School, David Hampton, James Brindleyford School, to name a few.

At the opening of the BETT 2001, the Learning and Technology Minister Michael Wills announced a capital funding boost of £400 million to be spend on new technology in schools over the next three years. For further information, read TrainingZONE's recent Michael Wills article.


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