I spent a day at BETT 2016 (a showcase for Educational Technology) on Friday. It is about 14 years since I last attended, back then Interactive Whiteboards were just about to become mainstream. Haven’t things changed and hasn’t it grown!
The sheer size of the exhibition, now at The Excel Centre, was unwieldy. The layout was like a rabbit warren of tunnels between a mixture of massive corporate displays and pop-up micro efforts with a banner printed last week in Staples. All of them potentially interesting but unfortunately distracting and completely unnavigable, even with the help of the not so handy map which unfolded to a size big enough to power a yacht if the wind caught it.
Then there were all the people. Not the people visiting, although there were plenty of them, but the people selling – there were hundreds of them! Many of them seemed to be ‘Exhibition Specialists’ who had probably been selling sails (the size of my map) at The Boat Show last week. Their sole purpose was to scan you, well your badge code, with their iPad, iPhone, iPod or (if they were a corporate stand) a special scanner. They must have been on scanning targets or bonuses because once they had your precious e-mail address they just wanted to move onto the next person. It was noticeable when you spoke to someone with a real, rather than a mercenary, passion for their product as you had to remind them to scan your badge.
On top of all of that were all the stages and presentations, I counted at least 10 presentation areas all with different timetables and none of them with a single seat by the time I got there.
However, I loved it! Lots of people were genuinely enthusiastic, passionate or even evangelical about education and how we might be able to make it better using technology. People had come from all over the world to share, learn and try to improve the education of children. I saw some ground breaking technology which was exciting, some brilliant ideas which were inspiring and a lot of stuff I wish I had access to, let alone my students.
Despite my grumbling above, this is my real issue – it is clear that even within this country, even within the state sector, even within counties and postcodes, there are schools who have and schools (and children) who have not. Clearly this isn’t fair or right but as I left I wondered why?
I teach Primary and we know we have always been a poor relation to Secondary Schools when it comes to technology but it was clear that the differences within the Primary sector are huge. I know all schools circumstances, budgets and cohorts are different but that in itself doesn’t explain the massive differences. Why are some schools thinking that they are on the cutting edge with a suite of 30 (24 working) Windows based PC’s which will only connect to the internet if you turn them on a few at a time whilst other schools have sets of iPads or 1:1 chromebooks?
I stumbled into a presentation by a Primary Head, I didn’t catch his name because, predictably, I missed the start. He was the answer to my question. 3 or 4 years ago they had invested in iPads – 1:1 I think. There didn’t seem to be anything special about his school, no additional funding, average cohort, just a ‘normal’ Primary School. The only difference was the fact that they had someone passionate about using technology. Rather handily, it just so happened he was the Head Teacher but I realised it could be anyone, it could be me. I am not a Head Teacher but I am passionate that technology can make teaching and learning better for our teachers and our children and so I want to make sure that Edtech is for everyone.
How is this going to happen, I’m not sure yet! It may well depend on what is contained in the many e-mails I will be receiving this week from all the people who scanned my badge on Friday. I am sure it will start small but I know that unless people with a passion for getting technology into the classroom do it then no one will, we certainly cannot wait for the ‘powers that be’ to do it, so the children in my school will miss out and be at a disadvantage.
I will be writing about this much more over the weeks, months and possibly years. Any advice, anecdotes or warnings will be gratefully received.