The BETT Show comes around each January and entices all of us working in the education sector to play with exciting new toys and then (they hope) buy or sign up. Here three ALT Newsletter readers from further and higher education share their experiences…
Richard Chantler, “the BETT newbie”
I have recently joined the E-Learning Team at Queen Mary University of London and this was my first outing to a learning technology fair. It was a somewhat daunting task to identify stalls which may be of interest from the 779 to choose from, but I went with an open mind and was keen to learn as much as possible across all areas of learning technologies that were being demonstrated and promoted.
Of the 779 stalls, approximately half were listed on the BETT website as being applicable to the Higher Education sector, however I found the event mostly targeted primary and secondary schools, with more than 80% of exhibitors tailoring their products to those markets. Of those I spoke to, when their tools looked of interest, they often said they could develop the products to cater to HE Institutions (for investment).
A number of exhibitors demonstrated products which applied to a broad range of markets and these appealed to me the most. SMART, of the once ubiquitous SMART board, have launched their new product ‘SMART Kapp’ which enables users to connect a tablet to the white board device via Bluetooth and record any text that is written. The outputs could prove useful distance learning and revision resources.
I was particularly eager to learn more about VLEs other than Moodle and Mahara, to explore what features they offered. Of those I saw, I was most impressed by ‘Canvas’ which seemed user friendly and was beautifully presented. It has a simple interface, is easy to navigate and the tools were accessible through only a limited number of mouse-clicks. I know Queen Mary has gone down the Moodle route, but Canvas may be worth looking at in future.
I left the event feeling much better informed about what learning technology products are available, what possibilities there are for my institution, and excited to find out which tools we’ll adopt to further enhance learning at Queen Mary.
Yousef Fouda, the “YouTuber”
Yousef is the Chief Technology Officer at Warkwickshire College and visited BETT to find out what’s new in four key areas: Virtual Learning Environments, virtual reality, 3D printing, and hardware for staff and students. He recorded his review and used the video to launch his new YouTube channel. Watch below for Yousef’s perspective on BETT 2015.
If you liked this review, please subscribe to Yousef’s YouTube channel for more exciting technology videos.
Manoj Singh, “the seasoned delegate with a fail-safe plan”
I work as a Learning Technologist at Queen Mary University of London and have been visiting BETT for the last few years. After my first experience, I always plan my visit, make a list of the stalls I’ll visit or the technologies I’m interested in, and leave some time to explore new arrivals. This approach has helped me to avoid getting overwhelmed while visiting BETT.
One might argue that if I know what I am interested in and what I am going to see, then why go to BETT at all, why not invite the vendors to campus or contact them directly. That way, I could get dedicated time and an opportunity to have in-depth conversations. I know my visits to BETT haven’t always been fruitful, but I still like to take the opportunity to do something different from my day-to-day work and see what’s out there. We usually go as a small team and, to be honest I think it’s a good team building exercise.
I am currently involved in a project to design and develop media booths to allow our staff members to record video, audio, screen and handwriting for teaching purposes. So this year’s BETT visit was mainly focussed on the tools and technologies that will help us deliver this service. Here are some interesting stalls I visited:
Tricaster provides a relatively straightforward but powerful system to record or live stream videos. This solution also provides post-production editing features and can be implemented with little investment and time. However I remained concerned, as our booths will operate on a self-service basis, will the average staff member be comfortable learning to use a whole new system?
Wacom have good handwriting tablets and I visited them to see how helpful they might be to the project and how easy they are to learn and use. I also wanted to know if they can be connected to other devices. I think they are one of the strongest contenders in the market and should be able to meet our handwriting capture requirements.
Crestron make touch control panels. We need a simple touch panel with presets to control the devices in our recording booths. It was helpful for us to know that we can also install a tablet instead of an expensive Creston panel to control the devices in the booth.
The representatives at the stalls were very helpful but they could give us very little time and that is completely understandable. As much as I enjoyed visiting these vendors I am sure I will have to arrange a dedicated visit with them to explore their products further. Overall, I have mixed feelings about dedicating a day to BETT, but ultimately I did get a few useful leads.
Richard Chantler, Learning Technology Officer at Queen Mary University of London.
Yousef Fouda, Chief Technical Officer at Warwickshire College Group and Director of Rugby College. Twitter: @YFouda.
Manoj Singh, Learning Technologist at Queen Mary University of London.
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