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Bett 2016 takeaways

It’s all over. There’s no doubt that Bett was the only place to be for education professionals last week. Exhibitors showed off their tech solutions and services, speakers delivered real insight into the industry, and visitors discussed their needs and expectations for 2016 and beyond.

It’s now time for action – to move on from the debate and to make change happen. Bett was loaded with strategies and best practice. There were some powerful ideas, many that simply require a small change in approach.

Here’s a run down of 5 takeaways that stuck with me:

1. Let students take smart phones into the classroom

It’s amazing that this debate still rages on. On Thursday during ‘The Great Disruption Debate’, Maurice de Hond advocated that students be allowed to use the wealth of information that is available to them (and all of us), just as we do in the work place. Students can dig into topics, challenge the teacher and gain a deeper understanding through self-discovery.

2. Give students the ability to set class agendas

Methodologies like flipped learning are redefining how teachers use class time or set homework. A natural extension is collaboratively developing an agenda for each class. Dr Sam Aaron, Research Associate at Cambridge University, encouraged this in coding classes – let the students decide what outcomes they want, so they’re working towards something that genuinely interests and inspires them.

3. Reward teachers and students who transform learning with technology

In the session ‘Rewriting the Script for Women in STEM’, there was unanimous agreement that creating a rewarding, all inclusive learning environment for every subject was critical. Not only should everyone have equal access and opportunity, but enthusiasm and positive results should be rewarded.

4. Empower students by letting them lead digital initiatives

The ‘Infant, Primary and Secondary Digital Leaders’ session could not have given a better demonstration of how students can drive the adoption of technology in schools. From researching and defining e-safety, to older students teaching younger year groups how to code. Schools have an incredible resource in their ‘digital natives’, which can provide a huge boost to all students and teachers’ understanding of technology.

5. Incorporate life skills and real world problem solving into projects

This thought was echoed by Maurice de Hond and young entrepreneur Jamal Edwards. While it’s mostly unfair to harp on about schools being stuck in the Victorian era, it is true to say that the modern world is moving fast, and a bit of preparation for the realities of taxes, personal finance and business administration could go a long way.

It was evident at Bett that many schools were doing these things, and doing them well. It’s these adventurous teachers that will lead the way, as their experiences, failures and successes are shared amongst fellow educators.

Many schools will now be considering what technology or solutions to adopt, perhaps to get ready for roll out in the next academic year. When it comes to technology, there’s never been a greater need to choose wisely. For the decision-maker, school budgets, getting other teachers or stakeholders to buy into your vision and a smooth roll out are perennial concerns.

But, something else is now at play - students (and teachers and parents) are used to world-class apps and user experiences, such as Gmail, Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter. Give them a clunky or unintuitive system and digital fatigue will soon set in. So, choose wisely, and test and test again to see how such systems could work for your school.

Next year, perhaps there won’t be debates about whether smartphones should enter the classroom or if parents should have an app to keep up to date with goings on. What’s next could be even more exciting: Wearables opening the door to new science experiments; virtual or augmented reality classrooms uniting schools from across the globe; coding competitions being the norm; paperless schools; and I’m sure much much more.

We now eagerly await Bett 2017.

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