Monday, 14 January 2008

Bett Show - Day Three

Friday is traditionally the busiest day at BETT and this year was no different as Olympia was full to bursting shortly after 10.00am... many would have been keen to get inside to avoid the awful January weather infliciting itself on delegates.

It's the third day and there was still a long list of things to see. First of all it was off to talk to various bodies regarding our secondary curriculum. How the new National Curriculum will fit in with the OCR Nationals and various other awarding bodies such as the Diploma in Digital Applications is a challenge, but one which will allow our students to access a wide ranging, creative curriculum. It's a challening, but exciting venture.

Another round of VLE discussions. First Class are at the front of the queue and their product has certainly developed since I used it around ten years ago. Lots of discussion about how their software aids collaboration and some of the nice tricks available. Then it's RMs Kaleidos learning platform... will it put us in a whirl? Well.... not really. VLEs are hardly the most excting things in the world to look at, they're all much of a muchness and what's far more important is the quality of the collaboration and communication that they allow.

Fronter are a company I know little about, they're Norwegian apparently and they've just won the London Schools contract so that's a big deal. They have little experience in Asia though and their BECTA Learning Platform Provider status may not be quite the status of approval it might have been.

So that's five, or maybe even six I've looked at closely over the three days and with the info I have it's now back to HK for another step in the procurement process.

I'm tipped off by a friend that I need to visit the Softease stand. Not just to look at their range of software, including the podcasting package Podium and the newly released Honeycomb, but to meet up with Danielle Markland who taught ICT at Kellett seven years ago. We have a good old natter about the school and mutual colleagues. I guess things have changed a lot in the past six years since she left.

TTS are one of my favourite software companies and Reception and P1 pupils have been using Bee Bots enthusiastically since their arrival. They have some great new products for sale, including a hand held battery microphone for younger pupils where the sound files are saved to an internal USB drive, which means that the device simply needs to be plugged in for the file to be transferred. There's great scope for using these with many aspects of the curriculum e.g. describing outcomes of a science experiment or annotating an image with an audio file.

Traditionally, pupils have used Roamers in Key Stage One to learn about Control Technology. However, our stock of roamers have seen better days and they're finding it difficult to keep up. They're also incredibly heavy when they have their batteries inside them and TTS appear to have come up with the perfect product for schools looking for an alternative solution. Their Pro-Bots build upon knowledge, skills and concepts introduced by the Bee Bot allowing students to tackle more advanced Control techniques. Sourcing them in Hong Kong may be a little tricky, but they look like a really useful addition to our Control Technology equipment.

Back to the RM stand to have a look at their ASUS minibooks. Mobile computing is the theme of many suppliers at BETT. EDAs or PDAs have previously been flagged as a potential solution, but the companies involved in this technology appear to be developing mobile phone technology rather than the EDA/PDA, which is perfectly understandable. How do you use technology quickly and efficiently in a non-classroom environment? The ASUS appears to have much of the answer, plenty of disc space, internal camera and incredibly light. The analogy used is that it works like a notebook or a draft book might do in relation to a literacy book.

The real eye-opener here is that RM are producing a computer that uses open source software instead of that provided by Microsoft. The ASUS comes bundled with Open Office, a free, downloadable Office suite compatible with other major products. With many schools looking to move away from Microsoft, the idea that one of the largest UK based educational technology companies is now providing a product without Microsoft Office provides plenty of food for thought.

I'll be looking out for examples of good practice and case studies before we investigate further. One of the main attractions of these machines is that they are amazingly competitively priced, so the provision of a pack for mobile computing is an affordable option.

Next, on to the British Computer Society to look at their e-Type touch typing software. The product looks great but is very expensive and not likely to arrive at Kellett any time soon. With the large number of online typing sites, most of which are free, available, there's no excuse for not practicing your keyboard fluency!
Having spoken to Adobe earlier in the week, it's now time to visit rivals Corel to see what they can offer us in terms of new graphics software for our older pupils. Their acquisition of Jasc's Paint Shop Pro has given them a great opprtunity to break into the education market as many schools have historically used PSP, a much cheaper package than Adobe's Photoshop suite. Their pricing is extremely competitive and will mean that the Art and ICT Departments can access an industry standard graphics package.

Real Allusion's Crazy Talk software is something I've been interested in using in classes for some time. The idea that students can find a relatively easy way to animate photographs and models opens up a world of possibilities in Literacy work. Imagine writing a story from the point of view of a dog maybe, and then being able to read your work out so that it looks like the dog is talking! The latest version of Crazy Talk looks even better and I'm hoping we can use it during the next academic year.
As this post is now incredibly long, I'll add any more items of interest from BETT in new threads.

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