Did you buy the bling at BETT?

by Jodie Lopez

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Last week at the Excel Centre in London the annual BETT show took place. An opportunity for those all over the world with an interest in educational technology to come together and see what companies are offering and also to network with their peers and pick up ideas from teachers, consultants and thought leaders from around the globe. This year the Education Show was also hosted across the hall from BETT which gave it a different angle with non-technological options for sale too.

For 2019 the most common new gadget was the robot. Yes they are not really new in homes as there have been a lot of Christmas present favourites for a while, but in school robotics seems to be where a lot of edtech companies are focussing their efforts. From dancing robots to those that follow lines or are programmed to move along a route, there was definitely some love for the power of a cute bot. But is there the money in schools for robots? And can they be justified as a reasonable expense for the “little extras”? Unlikely in the UK but there are, of course, visitors from many more technology budget-friendly countries who are ready for a robot takeover in their schools!

There were also strong players in the maker movement such as the pi-top launch of the new pi-top (4) which is sleek and comes with a strong pedagogical approach to teaching students to code and use their maker skills to solve the needs of the present and future generations. From lighting an LED through to controlling the Mars rover and flying drones, their stand had a strong focus on the positive possibilities that tech will enable in the right hands. At a much cheaper price than some of the competitors I visited this is worth a look for any Secondary School particularly. 

The big names were of course at BETT showing their new products and sharing ideas for using popular packages such as Google Classroom and Microsoft O365.

Big conversations focussed on the abundance of VR solutions. Again a great nice-to-have but is it going to be an addition to the dusty cupboard of tech in years to come? The Delorean on their stand was of course a strong pull for film fans of a certain age, but it is hard to see how many schools can release the kind of money needed to kit out their students with VR equipment for any long term impact.

Realistically most of the products at BETT are unlikely to be seen in many schools in the UK, or even around the world. There is a lot to learn at the show and it is great to see what is possible and to pick up and find those things which will be useful in your setting, as well as the opportunity to meet and learn from other teachers.

Damian Hinds, UK Education Secretary, was at the show and talked about his plans to help reduce teacher workload. He suggests teachers stop sending and answering emails out of office hours but it is hard to pinpoint what are office hours for teachers as some choose to work in the morning and others late at night. Some teachers like to leave work early to see their family and friends and will make up the time at night or weekends. Others prefer to stay late at school and take nothing home. So I feel there is a long way to go before suggestions such as this become useful in most schools.

Kinteract were not exhibiting at BETT this year (we wanted to use our resources this year to focus on engaging with our current users and working on a very exciting new major feature which you should keep an eye out for in the future!) but it struck me that the Kinteract platform is exactly the kind of practical solution which would make more of an impact for most teachers than some glitzy gadgets. The home-school communications are sure to help teachers and parents to work together for the good of the pupils. Also the ability for people to log in when it suits them means that messages can be sent and received when it is convenient for each stakeholder. If a teacher wants to send messages on a Sunday evening or a Monday morning at 6am, or whenever works for them to fit their hours in, then so long as there is a clear school policy on the expectation of how often to log in and how much to add to Kinteract, then it is possible to reduce the email load anyway. Although clear guidelines should be in place for parental use and student use, to save teachers feeling like they have to be on call constantly, Kinteract is much easier to message on than email. A quick update to multiple children and parents is so easy to do.

The fact that Kinteract combines so many elements in one easy timeline is a key bonus too. Assessment, homework, and messaging come together in one slick package which saves logging in and out of multiple platforms and means only one training session covers it all. Hashtags make the platform easy to search and the graphs and reports mean everyone in the school community can get the information and data relevant to them in minutes.

We will be at BETT 2020 with our new exciting features to show you and we will be spending the rest of 2019 focusing on better engaging with our users and developing Kinteract to make teacher lives even easier. For now simply get in touch to see how Kinteract can be the solution you need to make communications relevant and easy for everyone.