So, over a week has passed since I staggered through my door after a whirlwind visit the the BETT show in London’s Olympia and it seems as good a time as any to talk about some of the amazing things I saw on offer.
I think 2010 will prove to be a real turning point in the way teachers and children access and harness technology in their classrooms. This is partly due to the sharing of ideas over social networking sites like Twitter, but also due, in no small part, to the growing phenomenon that is TeachMeet. And TeachMeet BETT 2010 was definitely the place to be on the Friday night. If you haven’t been to a TeachMeet event before, or joined in via a web link using Flashmeeting you are seriously missing out. The ideas shared were invaluable and many will have a direct influence on my teaching or have inspired me to try out new things. This is true of all the TeachMeets I’ve joined in with via the web as well – everyone’s part of a like minded group and all are welcomed with open arms. Heck – I’m even thinking about approaching my LEA to organise one. TeachMeet is definitely the place it’s at!
In fact many people I’ve spoken to have commented on the ‘fringe’ activities being more of a draw than the actual technology! But interest in the technology is what brought us to Olympia in the first place and there was plenty of great stuff to see. So I thought I’d mention a few things I really liked so that you could investigate further – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
The first item I’m going to acknowledge here is iboard player. I have been a fan for a long time. It’s easy to navigate, has loads of fantastic categorised resources (which are also levelled to different ages) and is now FREE! Yes, you read that correctly – all of these fantastic activities are now free to access. The iboard is really aimed at a KS1 age group but there is much in there that you may find pupils in Year 3 are also happy to access and the activities could be very useful for pupils with SEN. The resources also link brilliantly with a number of Foundation Stage/Phase topics and I’m sure many of you will enjoy exploring what the iboard has to offer as much as the children will love the activities!
Scholastic have also come up trumps with their new interactive, multi mouse product Story Stage. Initially being launched with titles suited to KS1 (KS2 ones will be available at a later date) this is really going to revolutionise the way young pupils interact with each other on the screen. There are so many times when a classroom has too few computers for the number of pupils who want to use them and, in my experience, what usually happens when pupils share one unit and mouse is that one will take the lead and the other will sit along side passively or slowly getting frustrated (which never ends well). By hooking up an extra mouse (or up to three extra if you prefer) Story Stage has made the computer a tool that pupils truly can share. Want to change the background? Add sound, movement and objects? Visual effects? Stage Lighting? Track what each individual pupil does? This product ticks all the boxes! Of course the other great thing about it is that, with so much emphasis being put on initiatives like Storytelling into Writing, which is based on some of the traditional tales Story Stage incorporates, engaging learners and allowing for personal learning styles, this product has truly come just at the right time.
Now I wouldn’t be giving a true account of what I enjoyed seeing at BETT2010 without mentioning the fabulous people at 2Simple and their new products. They just keep coming up with tremendously usable products that pupils really love to use. I’ve been trying out the Online Tools package which just has so much good stuff on it that I just know teachers, parents, children and even grandparents (I know because I’m one of them) are really going to enjoy creating things with them.
The choice of activities available means there’s something for everyone with activities that could link to a range of things at home and at school. My particular favourite of the activities available is 2Design and Make – just check out the flaming car that I encouraged my son (a grumpy teenager no less) to create for his nephew. That’s not to say the other available activities are less than marvellous – they are all wonderful in their own way.
2Create a SuperStory is another fantastic new 2Simple product (and one I’ve blogged about previously) – this was launched at the BETT show. As with Scholastic’s Story Stage, this really links in well to a number of different initiatives and topics being currently covered in schools (for both KS1, KS2 and pupils with SEN) and, like all 2Simple software, it’s easy to get to grips with for teachers and learners alike! If you haven’t seen the product yet please check it out. If you’ve got the incredible 2CASS and you want to find out more, make sure you have a look at the 2CASS Archive – full of useful hints and tips and examples of work that may inspire you.
There were, inevitably, many more excellent products launched at BETT 2010 (and a few old favourites being showcased too) that I haven’t got time to talk about here. Online resources from BrainPOP and Education City look well worth further investigation and I absolutely loved the new StoryPhones. I as also pleased to hear from the people at Widgit Software that they are working on including predictive text in SymWriter to make it even more inclusive, although it is going to take them a while (keep an eye out in the next 12 months for it though) and was bowled over by some of the new Easi products being showcased by TTS – very child friendly!