(Posted by Fiona)
The highlight of last week was attending BETT 2009 at Olympia. This year I was spared the 5am get up for the morning train as my cousin has conveniently moved into a central London flat, so I travelled down on Wednesday evening – a great improvement! I avoided the usual crush on the tube and got there so early on Thursday morning that I had to attempt sneaking in through the exhibitors entrance (it didn’t work, but I did find a warmer place to wait).My priorities for the exhibition were seeing the multitouch tables in action, new primary software/web content releases, netbooks and furniture for the 21st century classroom.
I started at Smart Technologies with the multitouch table. I was interested to know what one of these devices would add to a classroom, and what content has been developed to use on it. The interactive table has an HP computer running Vista inside it, with Smart software which enables the multitouch function. The table can cope with up to 40 users at the same time, although it would never need to as you can only comfortably fit about 6 people around it. Smart have developed seven applications for it, which teachers can edit: tangram, hotspots (click and drag activities), letters, addition, media (photos etc) and multiple choice. The idea is to create more applications and have an ‘App store’ similar to the iPhone, where teachers can download the ones they want. The main strength of the table is that children need to interact and cooperate when using it, and all agree when a task has been completed. But with the current price tag (around Â£6000) , there just aren’t enough educational applications for it yet to make it worth the investment.
Â The Smart multi-touch table
My next target was Microsoft to see Surface, which was the original multitouch table. Surface has a more grown-up design, and the applications I saw demonstrated were aimed at older children. The applications are being developed by a range of software companies, and as yet are still limited. With this technology it will be a case of waiting for the tipping point when the price comes down and the educational usefulness goes up.
Â Microsoft Surface
The best new software I saw was from 2Simple (as usual) and is called 2Do It Yourself. This can be used to create games and activities for the learning platform, or as easy to use games creation software for primary children.
A major theme of BETT this year was that just about everybody from Dell to Samsung now makes Netbooks (mini cut price laptops for internet access and basic Office type functions). Most of the hardware stands had rows and rows of them.
Smart technologies officially released Notebook SE (student edition) which is designed for pupils to open their Smart Notebook files on any machine, work on them, save and carry them to the next computer. It will be available on a special pen drive with a wrist strap. I expected this to be a free download, and was disappointed that Smart will be selling it on the pen drives – price to be confirmed.More information on Bett 2009:
Opening speech by Jim Knight MP