I didn’t think BETT was as manic as in previous years, but I don’t usually go on the first day, so maybe it’s always like that. And Mr Gove was there to open it, so I’m sure he had a calming influence.
The economic situation is clearly having an impact: hardly any freebies this year. More interestingly, many exhibitors (even those with a heavy UK presence) had European staff on the stalls – looks like downsizing is happening and staff have to be brought in from all over for big events. There were significantly more Chinese exhibitors, mainly offering their own interactive digital whiteboard (IDW) solutions, and also more French, German and East European companies.
So, some things that caught my attention:
We are due to replace our classroom PCs this summer. We will be looking at the possibilities offered by virtualising the classrooms. Hardware and energy costs are less and the salesman said (Yes, I know….) that the system would be much more flexible than our current PC/image based solution.
I spoke with www.ncomputing.com
SharePoint as LMS/VLE
A number of companies were offering add-ons to SharePoint to either create a VLE, or to integrate with an existing VLE. I was impressed with what CORE had done with the integration of SharePoint and Moodle for a University (I forget where). Everyone (students, admin, academics) had a consistent SharePoint-like interface to the standard SharePoint/Outlook tools and to the Moodle environment. They have also developed tools that make creating project based SharePoint sites easy(er).
Open Source Whiteboard Software
A French government sponsored initiative, Sankore, was promoting its environment for the distribution of OER, primarily to schools in West African states. One of the offshoots of the project is an open source interactive whiteboard application that is cross platform and cross manufacturer. This could solve a lot of headaches in the sharing of IDW resources.
Studio in a Box
A company called PlanetPC were showing off their studio in a box; everything you need to set up a studio for recording videos and podcasts, including camera, tripod, mikes, chromakey lighting and backdrops, and a MacBook pro with FCP X, all in an easily transportable box.
These have been around for a while, but the next generation are coming along with brighter (ie useful) lamps. Vivitek are releasing one that is ~500 lumens (cf 2000 lumens for a basic classroom projector) for about £500. Truly does fit in your pocket.
Interactive LCD Screens
Interactive whiteboards + projectors have almost had their day; costs of large (60 inch+) touch sensitive screens are dropping. A number of companies are now offering touch sensitive video walls.
For example www.ctouch.co.uk
Smart Note Book
We use Smart interactive whiteboards. Their proprietary Smart Notebook software is very good, but has to be installed. There is now a (free) web-based version that lets anyone create resources for Smart Boards.
Enabling students to pay for ITLP courses online currently involves using the University’s heavyweight on-line shop. There are many companies offering payment software. This used to involve lots of infrastructure, but now there are solutions aimed at smaller independent units (such as nurseries and clubs) that we ought to take a look at.
I spoke to squidcard.com (who provide the Oyster card system for tfl)
All classroom voting systems are now offering mixed mode voting, where handsets can be used alongside mobile apps, VLEs and web pages. An interesting chat with the European manager of Turning Point software revealed that Eric Mazur from Harvard, an evangelist of using peer instruction in a University context, will be at ALT-C this year.
See Eric Mazur’s Confessions of a Converted Lecturer video on You Tube (it’s quite long, but very thought provoking if you teach).
In tune with recent discussions in schools about the teaching of ICT and especially programming skills, I came across a new (free) programming teaching environment. It’s aimed at schools, but also at teachers who want to learn to program.
We need one of these. A self-contained ‘pod’ with comfy chairs, soothing lights and music, and multi-projectors, to create a de-stressing environment. Plenty of space for one in our Help Centre.