Bett 2015: the magic of teaching

We heard from and spoke to educators, CIOs and STEM lovers at the annual Bett show in London. This is what we learnt.

By Helen Wood

Last week Rachel and I had the pleasure of visiting the Bett show, which took me back to my last visit to the Excel centre; the Olympic women’s boxing semi-finals. This time around, in comparison, the experience featured substantially brighter lighting, considerably less cheering and almost no beer. The only fighting going on was the fight to be the best tech on offer for the educators of the UK!

We loved all the new learning devices, 3D printers and stalking the giant Einstein roaming the show, but what struck us most about our time at Bett were the points raised in two of the talks we attended. One was from Jack Andraka, who at just 15 years old won the Gordon E Moore award for his breakthrough research into pancreatic cancer. The second was a debate entitled, The Changing Face of the Education CIO. Hosted by Intel VP and General Manager, Enterprise Solutions, Gordon Graylish, the debate featured opinion from Ron Chandler, CIO, Los Angeles Unified School District and Leif Gardtman, the Headmaster of Swedish primary school, Rektor.

Jack’s talk focused on what he terms “knowledge poverty” with the proof point that whilst a Katy Perry single retails for 99 cents, teenagers with an interest in ‘extra-curricular’ STEM activities are limited by the cost of papers, reports and equipment to aid them in their quest. This lack of accessibility is holding students back from exploring an interest in STEM subjects, which ultimately leads to a class divide.

Fortunately though, what we also learnt is that there are plenty of teachers in the UK who are committed to improving accessibility and fostering a greater interest in science and computing. As Gardtman commented during the debate, “the real magic in the classroom is the teacher. How do you help them succeed?” is the question the Education CIO must ask themselves.

To get a first-hand perspective, we spoke to VP of Wallace High School in Northern Ireland, David Cleland:

'I wanted the pupils to have their best digital technology experience in school as part of their learning than at home as part of their recreation

Digital technology opens the door to lifelong learning. If teachers are to maximize the learning experience of their students it is essential that the technology in the classroom is as innovative as the technology students have at home.”

STEM has been a hot topic for a while now; changes to the curriculum, government schemes and a more mobile education environment all point towards a new way of learning. We left Bett not only knowing this because we’d read about it, but beginning to experience it for ourselves. As Ron Chandler put it:

“We are at the beginning of a huge transformation in education. For many of our students this is the way to a better life. We must stay mission orientated to keep moving forward.”

Do you agree? Should digital education start in the classroom? What tools and resources would better enable teachers to improve digital literacy in the UK? Tell us your view in the comments

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