Going to BETT?

It’s almost that time of the year again – BETT time!

bett uk logo with dates 24-27 January 2018 at Excel London

What is BETT?

It’s an educational tech show in London, UK and it’s THIS WEEK! (24-27th Jan 2018)

BETTfree to attend massive ed-tech exhibition with presentations and workshops spread throughout many of the stands, as well as in the designated ‘Theatres’.

Who should go to BETT?

BETT is for any teacher of any age child/young person who is interested in using Technology in the classroom.  There are many Head Teachers who attend to try and get a handle on future trends.  There are School Administrators who attend to find better suppliers of communication tools (phones, email and messaging services) or catering payment systems etc.  It’s a great exhibition to attend as a Student Teacher, to understand some of the services and technologies that can help you really engage your pupils.

What can you get from BETT?

Ideas, new kit, new services, replacement (cheaper?) services, a view of what’s the next thing to come to your school.  You can also network with Educators and experts and pick up excellent tips and tricks via the presentations and workshops, as well as at some of the stands.

There’s a good spread of official seminars listed on the BETT site and if you download the free BETT app you can shortlist seminars (and even suppliers) so that you can see what you want to do very quickly.

Top Tips for Surviving BETT

There are many people who offer tips for successfully attending large exhibitions like BETT, but here are mine:

  1. Hydrate – Take a disposable water bottle with you and drink as often as you can.
  2. Plan to visit seminar sessions spread throughout the day so you get a sit down!
  3. Be selective over promotional materials.  All stands will offer you flyers and booklets.  I hardly every accept them.  If there’s something I want to think about or come back to later I photograph the stand/promotional materials to remind me to take a look online, or arrange a trial etc.
  4. Take business cards.  This is less important these days as most exhibitors zap badges instead, but there are still some exhibitors (mainly the smaller ones) who ask you to hand-write details onto a pad.  Instead I give them my card and they keep that OR copy from it themselves.
  5. Wear comfortable shoes.  Every year I think to myself I’ll check my mileage or steps walked at BETT and I haven’t remembered yet.  Maybe I will this year…
  6. It can be overwhelming and daunting so do some preparation.  Plan what KINDS of things you are interested in to create yourself a list of things to look for.  Try and stick to your list to stay focused.  If there are suppliers you want to touch base with make a list of them (or use the app as mentioned above).
  7. Check the seminar program in case there’s something you just can’t miss.  If there is set yourself a reminder or alarm, it’s easy to loose track of time!
  8. Exhibitors get tired!  If you are attending BETT on Friday or Saturday try to remember that the exhibitors are getting tired.  It’s hard work to set up a stand, stay in a hotel and smile all day whilst standing on your feet and trying to attract people to talk to you. I have often spoken to exhibitors at BETT with the vague feeling that they’re not really on this planet towards the end of BETT week, though maybe that’s just my effect!

Other Advice

Lots of other educators offer advice, in fact Terry Freedman has created a full-blown book available from Amazon – find out more here!

Around BETT

There are two TeachMeet‘s planned during BETT.  If you are not aware then a TeachMeet is a kind of un-conference organised by teachers for teachers.  No suppliers, no-one selling anything.  Teacher’s and educationalists offer to share a 3 or 7 minute presentation on ANYTHING to do with teaching.  Anyone can volunteer, times are usually strongly adhered to and there isn’t allowed to be any sales pitches.  Some are sponsored and so feature nibbles, others are not.  At BETT for 2018 there are two TeachMeets.  There’s an international one on Thursday evening and then the traditional TeachMeet BETT on Friday evening.  Find out more and sign up to attend or present for free at the TeachMeet site

Register for BETT

Register for your free ticket to BETT online.  They email you a link so you can print your ticket and skip the queue!  Then work out how you are going to get there!



Snapshotting understanding

A couple of weeks ago I was challenged to provide inset for one of my regular schools to help them get more use out of their iPads.  To be honest I didn’t get around to really thinking about it until the day before, and then it was a bit late to get apps sorted so I reflected back on how I thought I should be using iPads more.

Recently as a company we’ve been recommending Prowise interactive screens, as much for the software as the hardware.   There’s one excellent feature of the software that seems a real game-changer to me and as it’s web-based, device agnostic and also FREE.  It got me thinking on how I could use it more.

Prowise Presenter is fairly simple to use and quite feature-rich compared to many interactive whiteboard programs I have tried in the past BUT the clincher for me is ProConnect.  This feature links your whiteboard to a large number of internet connected devices (iPad, smart phone, android tablet, chrome book, laptop, PC) via a simple code.  Once the devices have joined you as teacher there is so much you can do.  There is a free Proconnect app for iOS, Andoid and I believe Windows too.

You can ask a quick question, vote, use and create quizzes.  You can also share your screen out to their devices and they can annotate or create content on the screen you have shared and then hand it back again for you to share on your board.  For instant class engagement it is really efficient and easy to do.

That then got me thinking about other cheap or FREE options for class engagement using iPads:

Plickers is possibly the least high-tech (and so least technically demanding for schools).  Each pupil is provided with a unique laminated QR code which they can hold up one of four ways.  This enables pupils to show one of four choices (A, B, C or D).  The teacher uses an iPad (or other smart tablet/phone) with the Plickers app to very quickly sweep the room and it records each person’s response.  Quick and easy.  Ask a multi-choice question and capture instant responses.  Plickers is currently free to use.

Socrative is an app I looked at years ago and then forgot about or ignored.  I think it has developed a lot since then, and I will be using it a lot more.  Pupils need internet connected devices BUT again these can be anything (phone, iPad, chrome book, pc…).  The teacher logs into their Socrative ‘room’ and the pupils use a unique code to join.  The teacher can ask questions, set quizzes, take votes etc all with ease and instant capture to spreadsheet or PDF file.  Socrative is free, though they now have a pro level you can purchase for a small annual fee.

Kahoot! is a fairly new app to me.  It’s a teacher-lead game show where pupils race each other against the clock to answer questions.  The quicker you answer the higher your score.  There is a large bank of ready-made Kahoots to use, or you can make your own online.  Again, at present, this is free to use.

There are lots of alternatives to the ones mentioned here, but these are the ones I ended up sharing with the staff at this particular school, and I will be using these more in the future!

My return to the CAS Conference for its 9th year

After around five years of absence I returned to the 9th CAS Conference held in Birmingham today.

I was hoping for new ideas and a chance to catch up with people and I got both.

Now, cooling off in the garden with darkening skys (it is nearly 11pm) I have spent a few hours reflecting on the day…

The day started really well.  I boarded my train, bacon roll in hand, and made my way to my reserved seat to find none other than Phil Bagge sitting in the seat opposite.  Phil was one of the CAS people I met at my first CAS conference and I’ve pinched his ideas and shown his jam-sandwich-robot video to teachers ever since.  We had a lovely chat about work and life and I tagged along with Phil right up to the University.

The opening sessions were thought-provoking…

Mark Guzdial introduced us to three keys to improving computing teaching:

  1. Prediction – the power of asking the pupils to make predictions help them understand and remember more
  2. Sub goal labelling – making it obvious (almost decomposition) what we are doing
  3. Instructional design

This gave me my first take-away – trying to include Sub Goal Labelling in future resources and planning

The first breakout was on CAS’s Project Quantum with Miles Berry.  Again someone I’ve known for years and who I’ve quoted and also used his YouTube videos around the new computing curriculum with teachers in the past.  One thing he mentioned that really got me thinking was about hinge points/questions after around 20 minutes of teaching was something new to me and a definite second take-away.

Taking time to check real understanding at appropriate times within a lesson before moving on is something I probably don’t conciously focus on enough.   Project Quantum was interesting, a quantatitive online bank of quiz questions that can be used to assess pupils knowledge and understanding of Computing, but currently heavily biased towards secondary.  It made me want to contribute more primary-level questions…

The second break-out I attended was with the aforementioned Phil Bagge and Mark Dorling.

They have been working on a project around attitudes.  What makes a good Computing Problem Solver…

Phil’s resources and animated explanation and description made me want to try these ideas out straight away (another take-away).  I will certainly be introducing them into my teaching from September, if not before.

After lunch I attended a rather poorly attended session on streamlining assessment using tablets.  Will Franklin took us through Formative, Socrative, Kahoot and Plickers also mentioning Google Forms and Class Kick.  Although there was little really new here for me, it did server to reaffirm my ideas and prompt me to spend some time developing Socrative particularly which also made me think a bit more about Hinge points too… so another take-away!

The final breakout I attended was with Steve Bunce and Mark Dorling (again).  This was a look at how to move pupils from a block-based language (Scratch) to a text-based language (such as Python) via something like Snap.

The plenaries in the afternoon started with Miles once more recapping Project Quantum, but with some interesting audience participation!

The Second plenary was a very interesting and engaging talk from Chris Ensor of the National Centre for Cyber Security who talked about his organisation’s changing role since World War 1 and the modern challenges.  He talked about how they are hoping to encourage and support a new generation of security experts (and programmers who understand the absolute need for code without holes) through things like the Cyber First bursary scheme.

The day was rounded off by a charming and highly engaging session from Linda Liukas.  She’s describes herself as an author, storyteller and computer scientist (and more).  Author of the growing “Hello Ruby” book series.  Her storytelling style had the whole lecture theatre of 300+ people spellbound despite the heat and left me with even more to think about (and an Amazon bill for books).  A superbly engaging way of introducing young children to Computer Science and I can’t wait to share it with a reception teacher I know!

Thank you CAS for a great event, thought provoking and invigorating (and excellent value).

Micro:Bits in the Primary Classroom

I attended an excellent hands-on workshop with the BBC Micro:Bit at an RM Seminar at the back end of 2016.  I forget who it was that lead that session, (though it might have been Stuart Ball).

In the session we were told, anecdotally, that the Micro:Bits had originally been intended for Year 6 pupils and although I had dismissed them it became immediately apparent that they are eminently usable by all Key Stage 2 pupils using the blocks editor which is very like Scratch!

I had spent many years wandering in the wilderness (well around Bett) looking for that perfect storm of a computer-controllable device which didn’t break the bank and was suitable for Primary Schools – it suddenly looked as if I had found it!

At only £15 including VAT for a starter kit from Kitronik they really seem a no-brainer!  Combine that with the Inventors kit for less than £25 or the Line Following Buggy for less than only £27 they are truly flexible, adaptable and cheap!

I must mention here that I am not on commission (I wish I was) and that I don’t work for Kitronik but they have been really helpful and supportive and I enjoyed meeting them at Bett 2017.

Since investing in a class set of these I have really enjoyed introducing them to pupils from year 3-6 (aged 7-11) starting with the virtual experience programming the online emulator (free to do at http://microbit.org/code/) before watching their faces light up as they successfully transfer a program to the actual physical thing and it lights-up before their eyes!

We started simple, basic scrolling text controlled by a variety of inputs.  We moved on to the basic Dice program before exploring other dice options.  We then created our own compass and even moved into controlling an eco-house created from an old dolls house and using the Inventors Kit.


Whether your computing platform is PC, Chromebook or iPad based (yes they work via bluetooth too) if you are looking for something to control on a budget then I would HIGHLY recommend the Micro:Bit!

Computational Thinking

Having taught ‘Computing‘ for two years now I have taken some time during this summer to reflect on Computational Thinking.  Since September 2013 I have been telling Primary Teachers that the new Primary Computing Curriculum (England) was about ‘reprogramming’ pupils to help them think logically, to attack challenges in a logical way by decomposing them into manageable chunks.  This is a life skill and something with application across their lives and the whole curriculum from Maths to Science to Music…

I have been reading more about Computational Thinking over the summer.  I first really looked at  the phrase when it came up in Barefoot Computing from CAS.  That then made me take a look at Google’s Computational Thinking for Educators online course.  It’s a free course that will make you think a little more about Computational Thinking so if you are interested I would recommend it.

Computational Thinking involves some of the following:

Decomposition (I mentioned earlier) is about taking a large challenge or task and being able to identify sensible parts to break it up in to to tackle it in a logical manner.  This can apply to any physical or mental task from ‘writing a piece of music’ to ‘making a cupboard’ and of course will include ‘writing a computer game program’.

Pattern Recognition is about spotting patterns that can be used to help you work out solutions.  These could be patterns in data which would help you solve a problem like ‘what is causing this illness’ to patterns in a computer program so if you code that bit you can re-use that code again.

Abstraction is a confusing word which tends to make most Primary Teachers panic!.  It seems to be about discovering the principles which make the patterns happen.  Sometimes it is described as being about honing down what is going on to the bare bones. ‘get the little dots and avoid the ghosts’ = Pacman!

Algorithm is another confusing word.  Basically it’s the recipe that makes something happen.  Cooks use them to create their wonderful food, young pupils are taught them for ‘what to do when you first come into the classroom in the morning’ or ‘what we do now it’s dinner time’.  Algorithms are vital for programming.  If a programmer doesn’t understand exactly what the program should do they will not program it correctly.  In Pacman the player character needs to be able to move left, right, up and down but NOT through walls. Once you understand this little part of the program you can work out how to make it happen.

Computational Thinking is definitely a life skill, but it is also something that I believe not everyone will be able to embrace and be proficient in.  Having said that even if pupils just gain a little more insight into how to tackle something logically the benefit to society will be huge.

iOS Apps for Education

Due to increasing requests for lists of iOS Apps for iPads, iPod Touch and iPhone we have decided to publish a list of our favourites HERE.  We would like to grow this list, so if your favourite is not there then please let us know and we will take a look at it and add it if we agree with you!

Welcoming Personally Owned Devices into the Classroom?

This has long been heralded as the only option ahead for schools.  Certainly Secondary School Pupils carry around smart phone devices with computing power and applications to rival those available in their own schools, yet still most schools ban these devices from the classroom and will happily take them away and lock them up rather than allowing them into the classroom as a welcome tool.

Can schools afford to keep doing this?

Certainly educators such as Stephen and Juliette Heppell think not.  They have been running a study into the use of both Facebook and mobile phones in the classroom and it makes for interesting reading http://www.cloudlearn.net/

Other educators are also starting to prompt schools into again considering this as an option including Terry Freedman who blogged about it only recently at http://www.ictineducation.org/home-page/2012/3/8/bring-your-own-technology.html

As long ago as 2009 the Guardian ran an article about leaders of teaching unions urging schools to “reap the benefits of modern technology” by overturning mobile phone bans in schools (read more about that at http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/oct/11/schools-mobile-phone-ban )

Schools cannot afford to ignore the ipod touch, the DSi even, let alone the smartphone and the netbook that children already own.  Schools need to plan for the future.  They need to invest in a robust wireless infrastructure and be ready to have policies and teaching practices in place to welcome personally owned devices into the classroom with open arms!

BETT 2012

Once again the BETT show is nearly upon us.  It is the technology in education show for the UK running from the 11th-14th January this year in Olympia in London.  The show usually boasts more than 30,000 visitors and more than 600 exhibitors distributed through four zones spread over two halls and two galleries.

You can get more information and book your FREE place at http://www.bettshow.com or you can read more about what’s happening on the BETT BLOG at http://bettshow.wordpress.com/

Will you get the opportnuity to wander the halls and galleries?



An older site, but one which is worth highlighting!

Fakebook (http://www.classtools.net/fb/home/page) is a face-book-like site where teachers can create FAKE profiles for fictional or historical characters for study purposes.  There are some SUPERB profiles and exchanges already on the site (though they are hard to find!) but teachers can add their own.  It makes for a unique way to explore some historical events in a way that today’s pupils will find engaging and easy to understand, it can also be used to really get under the skin of fictional characters too!  Another use may be as a tool for esafety discussions.  Well worth taking a look at.

One of my favourite Fakebook Characters is Josef Stalin who’s “wall” can be found at http://www.classtools.net/fb/30/IlZ3WR

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