DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: EDTECH

Bett will once again be returning to ExCeL London from 23-26 January 2019, giving educators the opportunity to hear from inspirational speakers, find practical edtech solutions for teaching and learning and share best-practice.

From 21st century skills and neurodiversity to exceptional pedagogy and classroom resources, Bett will showcase the latest education trends, innovations and resources, and bring to life all the skills that learners today will need in order to thrive tomorrow. 

During the four-day event, hundreds of exhibitors offer educators the opportunity to get hands-on and trial and test the latest products and solutions that have been designed to combat the sector’s challenges and take teaching and learning to the next level.

Ahead of the show, we spoke to a handful of exhibitors to find out what trends and challenges we’re likely to see over the next year and how edtech can help to transform and support education in 2019. Here is what they said…

What trends are we likely to see at the show?

Ricky Ye, chief executive officer for DFRobot (stand C413): “Greater emphasis continues to be placed on integrating hands-on STEM resources into classrooms, so I anticipate seeing more resources that promote this type of learning. School budgets continue to remain tight and subsequently, resources that can be scaled up will be popular. It is important that edtech resources continue to provide learning opportunities for students as their knowledge and abilities expand”.

Anthony Coxon, co-founder of GCSEPod (stand B114): “There is likely to be a lot of focus on artificial intelligence (AI); the new kid on the block - although it has been around for some time. Unfortunately, although a nice to have, the proof will be in the pudding as to whether there is any hard evidence of impact on results and attainment”.

Dave Grosvenor, education programme manager at Learning by Questions (LbQ) (stand F160): “Over the years Bett has seen technology trends come and go, particularly those focused on hands-on learning – think panels, robots, and VR glasses. However, short term engagement is not synonymous with long term learning. This year, we think edtech trends will revolve around how these resources can empower teachers. Teachers shouldn’t have to learn tech to teach and these resources should help ease their workload, not add to it. We anticipate that this shift to focus on teachers’ well-being will be a welcome change across the board!”

Craig Scott, VP of technology at ViewSonic (stand D180): “This year we are likely to see solutions that will focus on increasing student engagement. We foresee that the Internet of Things (IoT) integration for data collection and AI/machine learning will be popular. However, while data is key, without proper analysis and the tools to evaluate impact, it will be meaningless. Therefore, we should start seeing more intelligent resources that will help educators create meaningful analysis in order to increase teacher/student engagement and overall attainment.

Sam Warnes, former teacher and founder of EDLounge (stand E170): “Virtual reality (VR) is going to be the big one! I believe we’re going to see it become more and more incorporated into the curriculum to support learning through immersive environments. Our development plan for 2019 is to ensure that English, maths and science can be taught more functionally and in smaller chunks via the virtual classroom so that these topics are better understood by students”.

Karen Bierde, head of strategic growth for Kognity (stand F72): “Poor implementation is the number one reason that EdTech products fail to have an impact in schools, according to a recent study. Hopefully both the buyers (schools) and the EdTech providers will start to take this seriously, with it being a core part of a purchase process! Focus on challenges for teachers and students (workload and wellbeing) will likely continue, whilst budgets remain low. Effective tools which help alleviate these challenges will likely gain traction in schools”.

Preben Hasen, chief commercial officer at KUBO Robotics (stand F70/F71): “While having a number of coding resources at the show isn’t dissimilar to previous years, we’re starting to see a shift in the way STEM learning is positioned in the classroom. Rather than simply providing resources to engage pupils in STEM subjects, we’re seeing a greater focus on the importance of how to understand and communicate with technology and demonstrate to children the purpose of what they are learning.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean the latest and greatest gadgets either! Screen-free solutions can be just as effective, if not more so, when teaching and learning how to code. Not only does it create a more playful, hands-on way of learning for children, it also makes it easy for teachers of all disciplines to introduce computer science and coding into their daily teaching activities in a simple and engaging way”.

What challenges will the education sector face this year?

Ricky, DFRobot: “I think that one of the main challenges for schools and teachers over the next year will be finding ways to include hands-on STEM learning into the classroom. Many assessment methods continue to be written exams however, subjects like computing don’t fit neatly into this traditional model. Educators will need to continue to advocate for hands-on and real-life learning and assessment methodologies”.

Anthony, GCSEPod: “There is nothing more frightening than the very real horror story of funding in education. So, some might say that now is not the time to be spending on Ed Tech, but for those SLT’s in the know, quite the opposite is true, as they realise that for maximum impact, with modest outlay, embedding the right technologies with supporting content within the teaching framework might very well save the day, bringing positivity, reducing workload and workplace stress”.

Dave, LbQ: “Over the past 20 years the edtech market has become busier than ever. I think one of the main challenges schools and teachers will face in 2019 is being able to make informed choices about what will solve the problems that exist in their environments. It’s becoming increasingly important to use evidence to determine which resources will provide effective support and allow teachers to focus on what they do best – nurturing learning”.

Craig, ViewSonic: “One of the key challenges we believe that edtech vendors, educators and students face is the increase in complexity and multitude of edtech apps, tools, and products; there are so many solutions available it’s hard to identify which ones will provide schools with the best outcome that suits the needs of every student. The key question from teachers will be to distinguish exactly how edtech will aid their teaching methods, rather than adding to workloads”.

Sam, EDLounge: “I believe the main challenge will stem from teachers’ workload: ensuring that teachers are as upskilled and knowledgeable as they can be when it comes to technology will be a challenge because so many of them simply won’t have the time to practice using technology. Today’s students are millennials; they gravitate towards technology and have a natural affinity for it. If their teachers don’t have the technological knowledge to answer their questions or challenge them, how can they keep them engaged with the subject?”

Karen, Kognity: “Schools still do not have a holistic view of what a digital strategy entails. It is not simply having a computer lab or a 3D printer and hoping that it yields results. Rather, a school needs to see it in a much wider context - how does the technology work with the current ecosystem, how does it fit into a teacher's pedagogy, how do we ensure we have systems or products that complement each other?”

Preben, KUBO Robotics: “With the increasing number of new resources appearing in the market, it remains difficult for schools and teachers to identify the right resources and tools that will make an impact on teaching and learning. Educators should look for technology resources that have longevity in terms of meeting curriculum demands and should try to avoid fads. For example, learning to code is a foundational skill that, once grasped, can be applied to many aspects of technology”.

And finally, how can edtech help transform and support education?

Ricky, DFRobot: “Effective edtech helps bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical applications. These hands-on resources encourage teachers to find more creative ways to teach curriculum that also impart soft skills such as problem-solving and collaborative work and can help transform the learning experience for students”.

Anthony, GCSEPod: “Edtech is streamlining the workload for teachers, providing them with automated and instant data and analytics; which are becoming ever more necessary to prove and drive outcomes in learning.  Due to educators often having to wear more than one hat and teach outside their specialism, it is becoming ever more important to build confidence within the faculty and give them the tools they need to carry out these duties with confidence and be assured the content is there so no time is wasted”.

Dave, LbQ: “Edtech should be used as a tool to enhance pedagogy. I believe edtech should be re-coined as pedtech; it should offer holistic solutions that put teachers first and illuminate learning. After all, products are what people buy, solutions are what people want”.

Craig, ViewSonic: “The ‘scale-up’ concept, also known as problem-based learning can help encourage student engagement. This concept helps teachers assume the role of facilitator, encouraging students to take a more active role in their learning. Edtech which offers more open and cross-platform solutions, will give educators more flexibility and creativity when it comes to teaching and lesson planning”.

Karen, Kognity: “Technology is often viewed with deep scepticism from the educational world, and it is important to nuance this. Technology is neither a threat nor a saviour in education. Rather, when correctly designed, it should be an enabler of improving the existing ecosystem, by enhancing the role of the teacher and simplifying differentiation of teaching based on each student's needs”.

Preben, KUBO Robotics: “Using technology that supports “adaptive learning”, for instance, artificial intelligence, will mean that teachers can gather data that not only demonstrates how individuals are learning, but also identifies the gaps in a student’s understanding. This information can then be used by teachers to effectively and efficiently tailor programmes of learning to individual needs”.

For more information about the show or to register to attend, visit: www.bettshow.com

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“If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow” - John Dewey.

I was first introduced to this quote by Lee Parkinson, and I think it illustrates perfectly how we should think of edtech. When it comes to technology in the classroom, we tend to follow the most up-to-date trends; this has been how I have used technology such as Minecraft and online memes (ideal for grammar). Plus, there really is an app for absolutely everything. However, to bring real benefit to edtech usage, I’m now changing my thinking.

I had always believed that, in a fast-paced world, we need to find the latest app of the week and involve it in the class to best stay at the cutting edge. However, more recently I have backed off a little. I came to the realise that learners don’t need our help on discovering apps, or figuring out how to access them. They need help with using these resources creatively and effectively. So, at Old Hall Primary our approach has changed from having the latest app on the iPad, or the newest piece of software on the computers - we have slightly gone back to basics.

Apple apps - Back-to-basics

For me, Keynote, Pages and iMovie are a necessity on any school iPad. Admittedly, I was guilty of not using these enough, but since taking the time to really understand them - as well as going through the free Apple Teacher programme - I have done a u-turn. This could be due to the ease of many other apps, or possibly user interface on third-party apps that we use more regularly, but investing the time can really pay off. I think this could also be the case for Google and Microsoft products too, both of which offer self-taught programmes similar to Apple Teacher. I thought I would share one ‘hack’ / feature for a few resources...

Keynote... and Magic Move!

Keynote can used to create presentations. It’s similar to Powerpoint, but with a cleaner, less complicated look, which does help the user interface. A fantastic feature that I wasn’t aware of is Magic Move, a transition tool you can apply between two slides. If the next slide shares any objects such as images, text or text boxes with the previous slide, those objects will be magically moved from one position to the next, and this can then be saved as a video! Therefore, you could turn a presentation into an informative animation, which would be very helpful to explain relationships and cause & effect, such as:

  • Movement of tectonic plates.
  • Circuits.
  • Solar System and the movement of objects.
  • Explaining computing concepts.

Pages… and Instant Alpha!

Pages is Apple’s word processing software, best described as a mixture of Word and Publisher which has the simple, intuitive look of most Apple products. The main feature that I got excited about was Instant Alpha, which allows you to delete the background or a selected space of an image. This offers a couple of benefits: it makes the image look more part of the text, rather than the old copy and pasted image with a box around it, and it also allows for a basic ‘Photoshopping’ effect of a couple images becoming one.

 

iMovie… and CCTV footage!

This is probably the Apple software that people are the most familiar with, iMovie is a very effective video editor where you can add pictures, videos, audio or a combination of all three. The effect I like to do was shown to me by Amy Kingsley, an Apple ADE based in Manchester. Amy uses Apple products in an inspirational way in KS1, creating a CCTV effect video!

In truth, the effect is actually using two features. The colour filter is enabled done by tapping a clip, selecting the Filter button, and selecting a filter (I like to go for a black and white one for this end product). If you only want a portion of a clip to have a colour filter, just split the clip and add the filter to the segment you want. The second part of this is to add a title. This is done by selecting a section of the video, tapping the Title button, and choosing the style of font and its position (for this I prefer lower). The end product is very effective, especially for creating exciting videos such as dinosaurs or aliens invading the school, or even staging a break in to help inspire a newspaper report.

Seesaw… and changing your Classwork Mindset!

Seesaw is an online portfolio system that can be used to collect and comment on work. More importantly, children’s parents, guardians and carers can comment on the work too! To get started, teachers will need to upload pupils’ names separately (or, for speed, they can enter a full class list). Seesaw then does the rest. Honestly, this is enough to give each child a login and account for Seesaw. Not only that, but Seesaw does all the hard work to give the child’s parents a log in, too. Plus, it’s free!

Seesaw provides the perfect way to keep a constant record of a child’s progress. It links brilliantly with other apps, so it is a fantastic way to collect and share work with pupils on their iPads. As Seesaw links well with other apps, information can be uploaded in a variety of ways:

  • Photo – I have done this with artwork, homework projects, work from class, and even Science experiments, as well as work from Computing.
  • Video – I have used this for Science experiment videos, PE work in dance and gymnastics, Computing for explanation videos. Any videos from the camera roll can be uploaded.
  • Drawings – I have done this with explanations to gauge children’s understanding; similar to how I use Explain Everything.
  • Note – Not the most amazing feature in comparison to the rest but still valuable for research purposes.
  • Link and File – These are great for sharing work from the teacher and doing some project-based learning.

 

It is worth noting that all of the above features can also be improved further with a brilliant feature with is adding a sound file, or annotation. This can be the child explaining what they have done or the teacher giving feedback to a piece of work. In addition, there is the facility for parents to add feedback too, which is very powerful!

Skype... and Book Creator

I enjoy using Skype, as there is so much power in having an expert stranger - I was lucky enough to get Jillian Morris-Brake. Jillian runs Bimini Shark Lab in the Bahamas, and has years of experience where she has traveled, filmed and photographed extensively across the globe. I was excited for my class to get the opportunity to speak to Jillian, as she could provide not only the content for our persuasive text, but also the purpose, which was going to be to shared on her website sharks4kids.com.

Launching Skype in your classroom is a fairly simple process. All it requires is a new account, some video and audio equipment, and a device to broadcast from. Skype used to only be available through the computer, but you can now use it on many different devices.

Following a Skype interview with Jillian, I asked the children to discuss the notes that they had made; they even swapped notes that they had made from Jillian’s lesson. We followed this with some research in class using iPads, laptops and, of course, books.

The next day I set the class up on Book Creator Chrome, which I had used with small groups, but I had wanted to try in a class situation. Dear me, what a game-changer! Book Creator itself is an app that has been used in schools for a number of years. Recently however, a Chrome site was launched. This has many of the same features, with one major addition: collaboration. Now, I have had some good moments with edtech, but 24 laptops accessing and working on the same book at the same time - wow! In short, we wrote an informative eBook about sharks and the threats to them, and managed to complete it in four hours: two hours were spent writing it, and then two the next day to edit.

In summary, I am not necessarily suggesting that you go out and use these specific edtech resources. This year, choose any piece of edtech that you are unfamiliar with, or haven’t used in a while, then spend some time learning its features. Brainstorm how to use it, share it with a colleague, give it a month or so of using it now and again in class, and see where it goes.

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From scores to written comments, verbal responses and summaries or the possibility of combing them all in order to generate a comprehensive narrative of a student’s progress - most teachers know what authentic assessment looks like.  It is personalised, it is descriptive, and it is encouraging. Most of all, it should make a difference and give direction to the learner. Good teachers know what valuable feedback looks like and they also know that it must be delivered in a timely fashion and tailored in specific ways to make an impact.

The first component for any kind of genuine assessment and feedback is that of getting to know the students and their educational backgrounds, interests and academic goals. However, all of this comes at a cost and that is time. Teacher time is valuable and as we know, class sizes are not getting any smaller.  From descriptive feedback, to assessments, to contributions and achievements, there lies the complexity of collation and organisation of all things said. How do you remember everything that you have said to a student, and have you remembered to jot it down to include in the final evaluation?

With AI growing in demand and offering a future of great promise, it comes as no surprise that there are now numerous technologies available in the marketplace to produce real-time, data-driven responses and personalised feedback and assessment for students. Artificial Intelligence platforms, such as Kinteract, provide for customised learning programmes, with the intention to improve and accelerate learning outcomes for students.  This can start right from early years to university, creating a digital record for a lifetime of achievement and rewards.

Teachers using AI personalised learning tools, such as Kinteract, can make informed decisions based on their students’ outcomes and can steer the learning pathways for their learners so that they can accelerate at their own pace, some faster than others. As a result, students are offered interventions at just the right time with just the right amount of feedback to improve or accelerate learning. One size does not fit all, and this makes me wonder if we will see younger graduates in the years to come?

Assessment is truly authentic when students can take ownership, engage in and share their personal learning plans. Involving parents with very young children to support their development is a more powerful form of assessment than ever. By providing an immediate and personalised window to their child’s school day, carers can now be equipped with the knowledge they need to maximise on opportunities present and resolve any problems that may go unnoticed.  We all know that children are unique and develop in various ways, and by utilising collaborative spaces, such as Kinteract, one can be reassured that no child is left behind.

With AI on the rise, there is no doubt that there is the potential to shape the next generation for more personalised learning and responsive teaching; helping teachers to more effectively meet the diverse needs of many of their students simultaneously. If we can think of authentic assessment more as a process of practice instead of an outcome, then innovative AI applications, like Kinteract, might be the best place to make a start.

Discover for yourself how Kinteract supports assessment best practices. Sign up for your free account today.

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As a school leader, I find myself wondering how to best utilise the resources we have: time and money. What should I focus on? How can we use our staff time in the best way possible so that our teachers can be prepared to lead learning-filled classrooms? Which technologies should we invest in? Which areas of learning research and development should we focus on? There are so many choices and limited resources.

In June, I travelled to the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference in Chicago. Along with nearly 17,000 other eager participants, I spent three days in workshops, lectures, visiting the expo, networking with teachers from around the world and reflecting on how all of this new knowledge could empower the students in my organisation.

ISTE is so much more than a technology conference. It is a pedagogy conference. It was like a giant discussion of what works best when and where and how to implement best practices. Information, skills and experiences were shared in every direction. Check out #ISTE18 to see examples of what I mean. Or even better, check out #NOTatISTE18 to see what you missed.

During my visit, some trends became very obvious:

1. Programming

The idea of students of all ages learning how to code and program was being discussed at every level. The idea of computational thinking extends well beyond the Maths classroom. A whole body of activities aimed at teaching students how to think in a logic way to solve problems were introduced, discussed and tested.

Further read: Students build coding skills block by block.

2. Professional development

Everyone was asking “how can we train our teaching force to be ‘ready’?” I noticed that in many settings, teachers were referred to as “learners”, and that professional development was no longer about workshops and lectures. It was more about professional learning where teachers had embedded training often administered in a need-to-know, personalised way. I could hear from many of the participants that “technology coaches” had now been replaced with “learning coaches”.

Further read: Great example of “shifting” to professional learning.

 

3. AR and VR

Very trendy in the gadget world, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are now becoming accessible and “buildable” by teachers and students. Finally, the price is right and the possibilities are endless.

Further read: Check out Google Tour Builder.

4. Neuroscience

This body of research is now leading the choices we make in Instructional Design. How students take in information, remember and connect important ideas, spacing, chunking, looping - all technical terms for how we can more effectively organise learning in our classrooms.

Further reading: The Learning Scientists blog.

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The thought of robots in the classroom scared many people a few years ago. Today, teachers and administrators are starting to embrace the idea of an assistant. Many schools were talking about how they were piloting Alexa and Echo in the classrooms to answer routine questions. In addition, there were multiple examples of how AI when integrated with our digital teaching material could help tailor the learning path for just that student.

Further read: 7 Roles for AI in Education.

6. Design Thinking  

Another trend evident throughout the conference was the idea of creating, designing and making ideas grow. Entrepreneurial thinking, idea-to-action and design lessons and activities were evident in many workshops. On a district-wide and state level, the discussions were focused on how to shift this exciting trend and problem-based way of working from electives and one time projects to a more systematic and integrated part of every classroom at every level.

Further investigation: My favourite speaker at ISTE was @thetechrabbi. Follow him on Twitter for great inspiration.

7. Digital citizenship  

No longer is it about being careful who you connect with; the trends were much more about how to make your connections work for you.

The focus is moving away from warning students about online risks or trying to curtail their activities and toward helping them leverage the power of digital media to work toward creation, social justice and equity. The new digital citizenship, also reflected in the ISTE Standards for Students, is about being in community with others and creating digital citizenship curricula that shows students possibilities over problems, opportunities over risks and community successes over personal gain.” - from Julie Randles

Further Read: Check out Be Internet Awesome with Google.

8. Personalised, student-driven, blended, instructional design

Many different words all baked into one idea... empowering the student to take charge of their own learning. How teachers design the learning activities, build the (face-to-face and online) environment, and manage the learning time determine the when, where and how our students will learn. No longer is it a pie-in-the-sky dream to personalise and tailor for each kid. With the right methods and tools, this is finally becoming a reality.

Further read: All that we have learned, 5 years working on personalised learning

So, back to my original questions:

How can we use our staff time in the best way possible so that our teachers can be best prepared to lead learning-filled classrooms?

Model best learning practices - personalised, embedded, just-in-time learning

Which technologies should we invest in?

Across our organisation, our major investment is a powerful LMS. This is sort of our epicentre for learning. Other than that, tools that my teachers request and believe in. If they have a plan for how it will help their students learn more, I want to hear about it and try to make it happen.

Which areas of learning research and development should we focus on?

Brain-based science and motivational psychology … and, yes, edtech tools that can help us implement best practices.

These are the trends I am thinking about. What are you focused on?

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School children are constantly engaging with their peers on digital technology and social networking sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and Musical.ly. While it is sometimes harmful - reports of cyberbullying cases are increasingly commonplace - digital technology also comes with considerable benefits. Below are some of the top e-health tools that enable pupils, and those supporting them, to access mental health and wellbeing advice at the click of a button.

1. Chat Health

This school nurse text messaging service was developed by the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. ChatHealth is a confidential text messaging service which enables school children aged 11-19 to connect with their school nurse for help and advice on health and wellbeing issues, such as depression and anxiety, bullying, self-harm, alcohol, sex, drugs and body issues. Students will generally receive an instant confirmation message followed by a full response within one working day.

Find it at: www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/services/childrens-services/school-nursing/chathealth

2. SAM

This is an anxiety management app created by the University of the West of England, Bristol. SAM helps users understand the causes of anxiety, monitor their anxious thoughts and behaviour, and manage their anxiety through self-help exercises and reflection. The app also allows users to share their experiences with the SAM community, and fellow anxiety sufferers, through a ‘social cloud’ feature.

Find it at: www.sam-app.org.uk

3. Worrinots

Created for Primary school children dealing with anxiety and worry, this app allows children to send a written or recorded message to one of four Worrinot characters: Chomp, Shakey, Rip and Stomp. The pupil’s message is then forwarded to a designated person at the school. The app can also be used by teachers as a tool to monitor their pupils’ wellbeing and provide early intervention where necessary. Worrinots was developed with the help of child psychologists, school staff and counsellors, and is Ofsted compliant.

4. WellHappy

An app for London-based 12-25-year-olds, this guidance and information resource contains details for accessing more than 1,000 local support services for mental health, sexual health, drugs, alcohol and smoking. Through the app, young people can also blog about their own experiences, read FAQs, jargon busters and information about rights and advocacy.

Find it at: mentalhealthpartnerships.com/resource/well-happy-app

5. TooToot

This platform and app, which offers ‘a voice for your students’, is an alternative way for students to report incidents of bullying, cyberbullying, racism, radicalisation, sexism, mental health and self-harm straight to their school, when they are unable to do so face-to-face. The app can be used by students (to report concerns directly to teachers), by school staff (to record incidents and behavioural concerns) and by parents (to report any concerns to school staff) Tootoot provides students with 24-hour support.

Find it at: www.tootoot.co.uk

6. ForMe

Developed with Childline by teenagers, this wellbeing app is aimed at children and young people, up to 19. Features include: access to self-help articles and videos on topics such as body issues, exam stress, emotions, bullying, abuse, mental health and self-harm issues. There is a message board where children can chat to others about what’s on their mind. Children can keep track of their daily mood through the app and tailor content that’s relevant to how they are feeling. If a child needs more support, the app will content them with a Childline counsellor for a phone or email conversation.

Find it at: www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/for-me

The year for progress

With teachers’ workloads persistently increasing, technology will continue to play an important role in enabling schools to screen for, and monitor, the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils. Apps and websites are essential in making effective use of teachers’ busy schedules and maximising their time with children: allowing face-to-face contact to be as targeted and beneficial as possible.

Access to digital mental health support also comes with an array of benefits for children, such as the ease, cost-effectiveness and swiftness in which these services can be tapped into. Additionally, digital technology provides an opportunity for pupils to share experiences with a group of like-minded people, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie.

While professional face-to-face services are still an essential part of supporting young people with mental health and wellbeing issues, digital support may be able to reach children who are unlikely to engage with mental health services. According to a 2016 Centre for Mental Health report, entitled Missed Opportunities, children are waiting on average 10 years for effective mental health treatment. Lastly, digital technology brings with it a level of privacy and anonymity - key for young people who are not comfortable to voice their concerns in person.

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BESA is proud to share the news of a brand new series of LearnED Roadshows in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE). There will be eight one-day events focused on exploring the best ways for teachers to incorporate edtech into their classrooms. The first event will take place on Thursday 29 November at The New York Stadium in Rotherham and is free to attend.

The events are designed for headteachers and ICT leads and will aim to inspire and inform school decisionmakers through peer-to-peer panel discussions and DfE keynote speakers. The aim is to improve teaching and learning outcomes, assessment and support leadership and management across the whole school.

The concept, created by BESA and the DfE, comes after Damien Hinds’ announcement this summer on the UK government championing edtech. BESA’s members are some of the most trusted and high-quality edtech suppliers in the UK. We feel that a collaboration between top quality suppliers and school leaders would be highly beneficial when incorporating edtech seamlessly into classrooms.

BESA’s director general, Caroline Wright, is delighted to share this initiative with teachers and the education supplies sector:

“I am delighted that the DfE’s plans place teacher training and support at the heart and soul of their future approach to edtech. As Damian Hinds says, technology can be used in the classroom in ‘revolutionary ways’ – allowing students to explore a rainforest from their classroom, or programme a robot.

“There are many examples of ministries of education across the world evangelising about the revolutionary potential of education technology, often supplied by UK companies. It’s very welcome that our own Department for Education is now setting out a vision for edtech that, if realised, could have a ground-breaking impact upon its implementation worldwide.”

We would like to invite all headteachers, ICT Leads and members of school senior leadership teams in the Rotherham area to attend our first event on Thursday 29 November. We will be announcing speakers, panellists and the full agenda in the coming weeks, but tickets will go fast, so be quick!

Get your free ticket to the Rotherham event here. Not from the area? Don’t worry! There will be a further seven shows taking place around the country throughout the academic year. To find an event in your area, click here.

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact William Prieto-Parra. We look forward to seeing you there!

By Roisin McHugh - Events and Communications Coordinator

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Technology has transformed the classroom over the past decade. Computers, smart boards and laser cutters - which were once few and far between - are now commonplace thanks to the £900m spent on education tech every year. These changes have gone a long way in creating a more engaging learning experience, but the next wave of developments will take things to the next level, by creating more sensory experiences that help educators convey concepts to students in new, hands-on ways. So what should your school be looking to invest in? Here are three top choices.

1. The power of virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) has the power to immerse users in a completely new environment. When applied to education, it can enable students to virtually visit a broad range of places and see theories conceptualised in a highly immersive way, all from their classroom. For example, VR headsets are being used by schools in Dubai to virtually transport students to Egypt, where they can measure the bases of pyramids.

With the appropriate financial investment, this technology could easily be instituted in the UK and used for the same purpose in a whole host of subjects. Students could take a virtual trip inside a live volcano for Geography, or go on a tour of the human heart when learning about its structure in Biology. Anything is possible, and everything will deliver a sensory, interactive and highly engaging learning opportunity.

2. The potential of smart materials

Over the next couple of years, we can expect to see intelligent surfaces and smart fabrics make their entrance onto the classroom stage. These will build on existing smartboard technology by turning any wall or tabletop into an interactive canvas for collaborative learning. For instance, it could be used in a Maths class to enable students to work together on a problem, facilitating not only academic development but also social skills.

3. The use of 3D printing

3D printing provides numerous possibilities for creating tailored, multi-dimensional learning tools that can bring experiences normally only accessible outside the classroom inside its walls. For instance, it would be financially and logistically impossible for most students studying Ancient Egypt to travel to Cairo to see the funeral mask of Tutankhamun. However, with 3D printing they could not only print a replica - bringing them face-to-face with the history they’re studying - but also handle the object, which is impossible with real artefacts.

As 3D printing technology improves, so does the level of engagement it can deliver. It used to only be possible to print in one or two colours, but new models can now create full-colour designs. For colourful objects, like our Tutankhamen example, these advanced capabilities make all the difference in creating a more realistic and visually engaging copy.

Designing a complex 3D model using CAD or CAM may be beyond the capabilities of certain age groups. However, many 3D printing companies produce scanners that enable users to create designs by scanning existing objects and converting them into printable files, as well as offering pre-made printable designs. This means that students could, for instance, download and print molecule parts, recreating the type of experience they could have at a science museum.

The value of virtual reality headsets, smart materials and 3D printers for facilitating learning across all subjects by providing more creative educational experiences is clear. With this in mind, it’s vital that schools and their governing bodies direct the £129 billion expected to be spent on edtech globally by 2020 into these avenues so that pupils can have the best learning experiences possible.

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What is more engaging than a robot dog that kids can program? Or a virtual reality trip through the jungle? Or a 3D printout of Michelangelo’s David? This is the beauty and the diversity of edtech: there is literally something to engage everyone. And isn’t engagement important when it comes to kids? Getting them focused and fully immersed in the lesson - what could be more crucial?

Well, there’s the not-so-small matter of the learning itself. How can a child program a computer if they do not have a solid grasp of numbers? How can a child articulate their experience of a jungle without the basic vocabulary and grammar to convey it? Engagement is a ‘nice to have’, but learning… that’s an essential.

Ironically, learning is something the edtech industry may be guilty of drifting away from. Bigger screens, more gadgets and gizmos, more fun… not necessarily a significant amount more learning. A perfect example was given by education minister Damian Hinds recently, in an article published in the Telegraph in August 2018. In the article, he openly stated that the introduction of interactive whiteboards into schools did not have any reflection in the academic achievement of pupils, and said "schools must decide which products suit them best".

It’s not just the pupils who have been affected (or not affected, as the case may be). The schools, the teachers, the budgets and, subsequently, even the edtech industry itself as the boy who cried wolf (or robot dog!) have all had their fingers burnt. According to the latest BESA statistics, a quarter of teachers, in the modern age of 2018, still maintain that technology brings no significant impact to their classrooms.

It’s almost the rain on the parade, isn’t it? The ultimate party pooper. It’s like Father Christmas coming to take all of his toys back.

In our rush to create brighter colours and louder sounds and hipper concepts… we also forgot that learning, for its own sake, can be fun. Recall the pure joy of finally getting something right. Or the addictive feeling of wanting to get a better score on the next round. What we need to remember is that real learning doesn’t need to be condescending or dressed-up like an accessory from Back to the Future. It can have integrity.

So what should you look for to separate the edtech wheat from the chaff?

1. Accessibility

It needs to be easy to use and implement for busy teachers who do not have the luxury of time to learn complicated new tools. As simple as it needs to be, it also must be flexible so that teachers can use it the way they want to, not be dictated as to how to do their job. Edtech should empower, not burden.

2. Differentiation

One of the key positives for technology in the classroom is that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it’s adaptable, and that makes it possible for different pupils to learn in different ways. Edtech should maximise this, not just as a one-hit wonder or gimmick, but as a long-term solution that helps children throughout their school careers.

3. Quality content

Great mediums such as VR and 3D printing are being developed all the time, and it’s easy to get very excited. But before you invest, check that they have quality, curriculum-aligned content that teachers can get on and use. This was the problem with interactive whiteboards 10 years ago. Without a clear strategy of use and content teachers can rely upon, expensive edtech can end up gathering dust in the corner of the classroom.

4. Evolution

Everyone who has a smartphone knows that by the time they’ve got it out of the packaging, another version has been released. Make sure that you invest in future-proof solutions for your school, ones that regularly update their content and evolve their platform so that today’s purchase can last for years to come.

5. Evidence

Don’t buy on a promise. Any developer worth their salt will have conducted some research, and have evidence that their product does what it says on the tin. Ask to see some proof of their claims, so that you know you’re investing in edtech that actually delivers.

There is no question that technology is the key to unleashing the potential of our amazing teachers and pupils, but we do everyone a disservice by pushing solutions into schools that haven’t got the infrastructure to support real long term learning.

A robot dog should be for life, not just for Christmas.

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Fostering creativity in students has dominated discussion in education since the turn of the century. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) lists creativity as one of its 4Cs alongside critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. In 2016, the World Economic Forum released its top ten list of desired skills for 2020, including creativity among them. Professor Michael Fullan includes creativity as one of his 6Cs, and describes it as the need for students to possess creativity and imagination.

Despite these attempts at defining creativity in education, a challenge remains: explaining what creativity looks like within the traditional school culture. Too often, ‘creativity’ gets confined to a single course - such as art - or an individual unit, project, or activity. However, Professor Fullan defines creativity not only as “the opportunity to pursue novel ideas”, but also as “economic and social entrepreneurialism” and “leadership for action.” He argues that students need the opportunity to use their imaginations, engage in problem-solving, and have the opportunity to learn through play. Therefore, when schools provide these conditions, students have a chance to develop their creative skills.

As an app, Book Creator does not create these conditions any more than a paintbrush or crayon creates a masterpiece. And yet, when placed into the hands of students who are given the opportunity to imagine, explore, problem-solve, and create, it removes the technical limitations from a student’s imagination. Not only does Book Creator provide students with the capacity to work in text, drawing, photos, video, and audio, but it also encourages them to embed and incorporate content created in any number of tools. The open-ended, multimedia capacity of Book Creator then supports the conditions in which the creative process can occur.

Book Creator is an open-ended, creative and cross-curricular app that empowers students and teachers to create multimedia ebooks. Available on iPad and Chromebook, Creator launched in 2011 and has gone on to be one of the most popular apps in education, winning the 2015 Bett Award for Best Educational App, and 2018 American Association of School Librarians Best Website for Teaching and Learning.

Returning to Fullan’s notion - that creativity not only results in a product, but also entrepreneurialism and leadership - how might educators allow students to harness the power of digital tools such as Book Creator to design a creative solution to a community challenge, or take action as a leader in the classroom? Multimedia tools encourage students to share their thinking and demonstrate their understanding in varied and previously unimaginable ways. The challenge then lies in how skilled educators might design new learning experiences that foster the creative process.

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It was Warwickshire County Council that first introduced us at The Coleshill School to the Digital Schoolhouse (DSH) team. We were so impressed by what the programme had to offer, that when the council kindly agreed to fund the initiative, we applied to become a DSH school straight away. While we’re a Secondary school, a significant number of Primary school pupils have chosen to come to us specifically because they’ve enjoyed the DSH experience so much. So, from that perspective alone it’s been massively successful. However, we’ve experienced even more benefits as a school...

As Computing teachers, the programme really opened our eyes to the importance of our students understanding the subject’s concept in order to fully appreciate its principles. So many students will sit at a computer and carry out a checklist of actions to reach their desired result. What many don’t understand, however, is why they are doing these various tasks. Therefore, if there happened to be a problem (a glitch in the system, for example) at any point along this checklist, they wouldn’t be able to try alternative routes to rectify it, because they simply wouldn’t have the conceptual knowledge that would enable them to do so.  

The DSH programme is a way of simplifying and explaining concepts away from a computer, something we never would have explored before. Over a year in, not only do we use this approach with the Primary school pupils, but we also apply the same concept to our own students. We’ve put quite a lot of what we’ve learned into our schemes of work for our Key Stage 3 students; ultimately, it’s changed the way we teach Computing in the school as a whole!  

A DSH session's activities depend entirely on the areas and styles upon which each school wants to focus. Workshops could focus on anything from understanding sequences in computing, to more playful computing activities (which can be embedded in workshops or delivered separately as an injection of play-based learning). Examples include:

Get with the Algo-rhythm

Aims to develop the understanding of a sequence and highlight the importance of accurate instructions. Developed by DSH and Langley Grammar School, Get with the Algo-rhythm was born from the ‘Computing through Dance’ project, to use innovative computing to appeal to girls. Flow charts are developed to instruct famous dance routines, including the Hokey Cokey and Thriller!

Cat on Yer Head

Cat On Yer Head is a crowd game that aims to teach key game-design principles using unplugged techniques. DSH worked in collaboration with Playniac to develop teacher guidance to help bring this exciting activity into the classroom. You can deliver it as a fun five minute starter to your lesson, or turn it into a main activity stretching over 20+ mins.

Jazzy Jigsaws

Here’s one that helps to develop strategic thinking and collaborative thinking skills within learners using jigsaw puzzles. This activity, developed in collaboration with Code Kingdoms, takes this well-loved game further by building in opportunities to develop Computational Thinking skills.

Click for larger version

You can find more workshop ideas at www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk/workshops.

The DSH programme benefits Secondary schools, but it is also hugely valuable for Primaries too. It’s a great way to start teaching key skills related to Computing from a young age, and helps prepare them when it comes to making the transition to Secondary school. By the time they come to us in Year 7, for example, they’re already familiar with programming and debugging system; it’s an incredible starting point for them!  

Primary teachers really appreciate the programme too, as obviously Computing isn’t where their skill base lies. Several teachers have told me that prior to doing the DSH workshops, the extent of their Computing knowledge would have been limited to Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. However, the programme can really help to develop their skills - some have even used it as their Computing project!

My advice to other Secondary schools is this: Apply to become a DSH school. And to Primary schools, I say: Reach out to your nearest DSH school to schedule some workshops as soon as possible!

To find out more about the Digital Schoolhouse initiative, head over to www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk and get involved!

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