Last week we visited Bett, Europe's largest education technology trade fair. Having a product in the space (our web-based shared whiteboard AWW), we were interested to learn about what's on the cutting edge of edtech.
We were not disappointed. Hundreds of exhibitors displayed everything, from 3D printers to edutainment apps and network monitoring equipment for schools. Here are a few things we were most impressed by.
The sheer scale of the endeavour of BBC micro:bit is amazing. The hardware is really nice - capable enough for tinkering, cheap enough for everyone, and open enough so you can easily interface with various sensors, motors, and other peripherals. But what was surprising was the ecosystem already built around the project. Dozens of companies and organisations showed their related products, including a full-blown IDE by Microsoft. The support that schools are receiving for integrating it into their curriculum (every child will get one, and teachers are being taught how to use them) is also essential. Last but not least, BBC is putting its weight behind promoting it, including using some of its very popular brands like Doctor Who.
It all boils down to this: While other countries define computer literacy as "can use Microsoft Word", in a few years, every primary school student in the UK will have programmed a computer and built a robot.
Ever since I first read about Raspberry PI, I wondered when someone will make a simple kid-friendly laptop out of it. This is what pi-top are doing (there's a laptop and desktop variant). Nice thing about their products is that a child gets the computer with some (easy) assembly required. This drives home the point that a computer is not a magical device, and encourages child curiosity.
It's not all hardware, though. pi-top comes with preinstalled Linux-based operating system with included Minecraft, Scratch and open-source LibreOffice suite.
In our opinion, pi-top is what the dream of One Laptop Per Child was: an affordable but capable computer for every kid.
The proliferation of interactice whiteboards and solutions for more dynamic and interactive learning experience in the classroom is nothing surprising. Still, the sheer breadth of products was staggering - almost every other vendor had or used IWB in their presentations.
Curiously, most of the solutions were geared toward in-classroom interactive use, and comparatively little was shown about flipped classrooms or remote learning, which are use-cases our AWW fits very well. Visiting Bett was thus a great opportunity for us to expand our network of contacts and meet potential new partners that have complementary products.