Last year huge investment was made in the education industry, with almost two-thirds (64%) of education employees reporting investment in digital technologies. This, according to government statistics, equates to more than £900m.

A chatbot is an "artificial intelligence (AI) program that simulates interactive human conversation by using key pre-calculated user phrases and auditory or text-based signals" (technopedia.com). Businesses throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere are rapidly adopting chatbots to support their business. Vodafone, the well known phone company, has a chatbot to help people learn about which phone plans best fit their needs, for example. But what about using chatbots in educational settings?

When expectations are growing but budgets are falling, you have to be confident that how you spend that budget has a strong impact in the classroom, and is therefore really great value for money.

I still find it hard to believe that the internet as we know it today was only created around 30 years ago in the 1990’s. It was only much later than this date did it start to become mainstream, with my own first experience of it in 1996 - and that was only at school. This is because it was still really expensive for your average person to have at home, our household certainly couldn’t afford it until some years later. The internet’s true potential was yet to be fully realised, however, and in such a short space of time, it has created (and destroyed) billion pound businesses in that small time frame.

Arguable the busiest day so far, the Innovate My School and Edtech Impact teams greeted day 3 with energy and excitement. As the coffee and conversation flows, we soak up as much as possible as the final day of Bett approaches.

Conversations are powerful, and they fuelled day 2 at Bett. Edtech Impact were joined by the Innovate My School team who, after grasping the sheer scale of Bett, loved every second they had catching up with suppliers and securing more innovative companies for our pioneering Speed Date sessions. The Bett Futures area was absolutely buzzing with people discussing Edtech Impact, which went live on Wednesday. Here are our highlights from Day 2.

Upon entering The Excel, it becomes clear why Bett Show veterans recommend you plan your day carefully: it takes ten minutes to walk from one end of the hall to the other, with countless curiosities to catch your attention along the way. From dancing robots to discussions with industry leaders, it truly is an action-packed, immersive event for all involved in education.

So what made day 1 special for us?

The goal of a teacher is to teach their students the best they can. To achieve this goal, educators need to be adaptive. This is because, of course, each student is an individual. As such, they learn differently and have different needs.

Students that place on the autism spectrum have certain difficulties that need to be addressed by educators. Luckily, with the numerous technology innovations that the modern era has brought us offers plenty of opportunities for educators and students with autism alike.

What Is Autism?

To understand which technologies help students with autism and how they help, it’s first important to understand what autism is. You have to understand what difficulties an autistic student faces in a classroom to be able to address them.

According to the American Psychological Association, autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is recognised by social and communication impairments as well as restrictive and repetitive patterns in their behaviours, interests, and activities.

The full title autism spectrum disorder should be noted as well. This means that even if you have a pair of students with autism, they might present very differently. The goal of technology is to help make the learning process helpful to all students.

Visual Scene Displays

The Diagnostic Center Central has said that as many as 50% of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are non-verbal. Many others struggle with communication and are limited verbally. This can make simple learning processes in a traditional classroom setting more difficult. For instance, how does a student join in a class discussion when they aren’t verbal?

This is where visual scene displays can come in handy. These can be found in the form of mobile apps most often, making them easy to weave into the classroom.

This type of technology allows students to put their answers and join in the discussion via an art scene. This way, students can join in without being limited by the struggle with speech.

On the note of autistic students and visuals, it can also be helpful to add graphics to classroom assignments. These can be much easier to process for these students rather than a page of written instructions.

Adjust Technology for Sensory Sensitivity

Another aspect of ASD is that many individuals with it have trouble with sensory sensitivity. This might include sensitivity to bright light, loud noises, and even tactile feelings such as an itchy sweater can be uncomfortable.

In this section, we will look at how the technology that you already have can be adapted to fit these needs.

One example would be helping students that get overwhelmed by bright lights. If you go into the settings of almost any desktop, laptop, or tablet, you'll be able to turn the brightness down. It only takes a few seconds and it can make a huge difference. Some students might also do better with a bigger screen or for computers to be bypassed with printed assignments when possible.

Students who are sensitive to sound might benefit from a pair of headphones or muted background music on educational games. Due to tactile sensitivities, headphones might not be an option. When it comes to tactile sensitivity, some students might do well with the flat surface of a tablet while others might do better with traditional keyboards.

Also, having a sensory-informed classroom is important, because sensory tools improve attention and participation, and can have big benefits for kids with learning and attention issues.

Once again, you’ll be able to learn more about what works for a student through working with them and taking advice and information from their parents about their sensitivities.

Social Skills on Tape

It was noted earlier that students with ASD struggle with social skills. This can cause them to act inappropriately when they don’t mean to. However, unlike most students, they might not understand another student’s reaction to their behaviour and learn from it.

What can be very useful, though, is to use videos for teaching social skills to students. This can be particularly useful to younger students as videos teaching manners can be useful to all students.

Typing Vs. Writing

We mentioned earlier that the topic of typing on a smooth tablet vs. physical keyboard might appeal to some students with autism more than others. However, there is an argument for utilizing typing vs. writing in the classroom.

It was noted that autism affects an individual’s development. Among these developmental steps that they might struggle with is fine motor skills. That means that when they have an idea in the classroom, it can be difficult to express it by writing it down on a worksheet.

Instead, consider introducing the use of computers or tablets into the classroom that will allow students to type up their ideas and answers even though they are struggling to write them down.

This is useful to all students as well. In the modern era, the likelihood that students will need typing skills is very high. So, teaching these skills in the classroom can be helpful to all your students. 

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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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