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Health warning: trade shows and whiteboards can give you a headache

January 21st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Last Saturday, I visited the British Education Technology Exhibition at Olympia in London. I have never been to BETT before and was curious as to what it would be like.

I can’t say I was impressed and three hours left me with a headache and a marked aversion to interactive whiteboards.

I can’t really complain – BETT delivers what it promises on the label – an exhibition of educational technology. Perhaps naively, what I was looking for was something about the use of technology for learning and that I struggled to find.

There were lots and lots of stands showing the latest in shiny gadgets. Most were interactive whiteboards – a throwback I guess to the previous English government’s programme of funding a whiteboard for every classroom.

Being a bit of a nerd myself I like gadgets. But the few that impressed me were those NOT specifically designed for education. I liked HPs 3D printer (although it is not cheap).  And I loved the kit from animationsuupplies.net for stop motion photography and for developing plasticine modeling (shame the software they are using is PC only).

The Hepeel.net stand had the virtue of actually having some kids on it using computers for learning (a radical idea for BETT). And it seemed a little edupunky with print outs of how to use Google docs in education.

Despite all the hype form the ed-tech community about ‘mobile’, there was surprisingly little mobile on display. OK, there were stands showing off different handsets and a few tablets. But there has little on show that you would not find on any city high street.

Although most of the big companies had large glossy stands – including Google, Microsoft and Dell – Apple didn’t have an official stand. But there was a smallish stand sponsored by UK Apple reseller, AT Computers. And they lined up a rolling programme of demos / short workshops by teachers on how they were using the iPad for teaching and learning. These were pretty awesome. I especially liked the demo of how to use the GarageBand (one of my favourite programs) for teaching music. These presentations were full – every seat was taken.

And three seems to be a lesson in that. If you want to attract teachers and trainers to look at your product show how it can be used for teaching and training. But perhaps I am just being naïve again. Are trade shows like BETT aimed at teachers and trainers or are they really for the people with the money who buy the glossy toys for schools and colleges? And how much say do teachers and trainers have in what tech they end up with?

Postnote: Just when I was thinking I have done my duty and been to one of these trade shows I remembered that I had agreed to staff the Mature-Ip project stand at Learntec in Karlsruhe in ten days time. Have to start working on a survival strategy – any ideas welcome.

 

One Response to “Health warning: trade shows and whiteboards can give you a headache”

  1. Leia says:

    We went up specifically to look for tablet PCs and didn’t find a big a selection as we expected. Enjoyed the Hangout talks on the Google stand though.

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