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BETT 2011 – Clouds, Rain and Immersion

The usual lousy London January weather didn’t stop huge crowds from decending on Olympia once again for the annual carnival of Ed Tech. Early indications from exhibitors at the show suggest brisk business and an ever increasing international dimension. And well worth the trip it was too, agreed the overseas visitors that I spoke to.

But behind the noise and eye-candy, what key areas of Ed Tech innovation were evident?

Three key themes emerged at BETT:

Immersive Learning Environments

Several companies showed Immersive Learning Environments, including this Immersive Room featured by RM in their “Learning Emporium”.

This allows children to act out scenarios in a wide variety of environments – from the London Underground to castles and historical street themes.

Also in the RM Learning Emporium were learning environments and workstations based on Lego, microsoprocessor building, and school radio:

There was a noticable increased focus on surface/table-top interaction displays, and a big increase in 3-D displays and 3-D glasses. Promethean has done some nice integration with PowerPoint as well.

Multitouch on whiteboards – eg Promethean’s “Touchboard” – also caused quite a ‘buzz’, as did RM’s new Slate, which also has mulitouch capabilies. This Tablet PC uses a 29.5cm multi-touch screen and runs on Windows 7. Designed specifically for schooling, it is packed with features including, camera, microphone, speakers and handwriting recognition software.

It was good to see a high amount of Slate innovation from ASUS, HP, Toshiba and ACER.  The ASUS Windows 7 Slate generated a lot of excitement.

Lots of gaming for education was evident, particularly for Maths and reading solutions for the Primary sector.  BrainPop, in particular, were very popular.

The Its Learning stand – featuring their VLE with Live@Edu integration – was packed.

Data driven decisions and cost saving

RM launched Beyond Data, a professional development programme designed to help teachers use data to make better decisions.

Great to see the innovations coming from these three companies too:

Another emerging theme is using ICT to help make cost savings, and Ray Fleming from Microsoft has collected a set of examples and summarised them in a new eBook – Saving Money with ICT.

As a tax payer I’m delighted to see my childrens’ school – West Hatch – increasingly viewing ICT as an investment. Here, they have significantly reduced the number of servers through virtualisation – making them web-based rather than keeping machines on site – which has saved £12,000 a year in reduced energy consumption and maintenance.

Windows MultiPoint Server 2011, which will be available in March, allows you to plug multiple screens into a single machine and gives each user their own virtual computer, with a full PC experience with multimedia, audio, USB ports etc – saving on hardware costs and power consumption.

Cloud

On the subject of cost effectiveness, Microsoft announced that 15 million students now use Live@edu, up from 11 million students just three months ago. Office 365 for education will be the successor to Live@edu.

Office 365 for education will include everything available in Office 365 for enterprises – Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, Office Web Apps, and Office Professional Plus desktop software. The suite also will include templates and pricing designed to meet the unique needs of schools, their teachers and students. For more information on Office 365 for Education visit http://office365.microsoft.com/en-US/education.aspx

Cambridge University Press and Hunterstone showed an Azure based solution to assist search and provisioning of content within their Global Grid for Learning offering.

Two free Cloud based apps from Microsoft are also worth checking out:

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Schooling at the Speed of Thought

And finally, on a personal note, I’m most grateful to all those people who bought Schooling at the Speed of  Thought at the BETT show. Thanks to the growing international presence at BETT, the book, which I wrote in an independent capacity, will by now have reached at least 60 countries – from China to the Faroe Islands. THANKS!!!

Thanks also to my friends at elearningforce for selling the book off their stand 🙂

Schooling at the Speed of Thought

Schooling at the Speed of Thought cover

My new book is published at last. Here’s the description…

“Globally $2.4trn is spent on education every year. Yet the effectiveness of schooling systems may be as low as 7% in some countries. Whilst the sheer scale of the money being wasted every day on out-dated schooling is hard to imagine, leave alone quantify accurately, the bottom-line is that schooling needs to change significantly. Taking a global perspective, Mike Lloyd shows how schooling systems can be brought forward, out of the industrial era. By unravelling the complexities of schooling systems and proposing practical steps, Schooling at the Speed of Thought explains how we can propagate and scale innovation for the benefit of all stakeholders. Designed to help schooling decision makers plan more effective, efficient and inspiring systems, the book includes first-hand accounts from leading edge practices. Based on approaches developed from direct involvement with Ministries of Education each chapter takes the reader through a practical journey to arrive at a realistic and achievable vision for modernised schooling.”

To order the book, go to: http://www.amazon.com/Schooling-Speed-Thought-blueprint-schooling/dp/1907294910/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1294140785&sr=8-1 or http://www.amazon.co.uk/Schooling-Speed-Thought-Blueprint-Effective/dp/1907294910/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294140887&sr=1-1

All feedback gratefully recieved.

Connecting printed pages to web content

Wouldn’t it be great if a student browsing through a book could point their mobile phone at a printed page and get relevant web content immediately? That’s exaclty what Microsoft Tag allows users to do.  Star School – a South African based publisher – allows leaners to scan a printed tag with a mobile phone camera, and this automatically opens the phone browser to the relevant “media” object – hosted in the Star School LMS. This complements the learning experience by playing a video, animation, audio …etc. Thanks to my colleague Ammar Al-Attiyat for picking up on this one. Get more details about Microsoft Tag and try it yourself here –  http://tag.microsoft.com (Picture courtesy of Star School).

Deep Zoom

Deep Zoom is a feature of Silverlight that allows users zoom in and out of high resolution images. “So what?”, you may ask. The application of this technology in schooling systems spans a range of tech functions from business intelligence – making sense of vast amounts of data – to teaching tool. These two examples illustrate what you can do with Deep Zoom –

This example shows how histories – from the Big Bang to Human Evolution – can be navigated easily: http://share.seadragon.com/demos/ChronoZoom/firstgeneration.html

This example, from lookred, shows how Deep Zoom can be used to zoom in and out of schooling system data to provide insights and support data driven decision making: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wSFE3jIToA

For more information on Deep Zoom, click here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc645050%28VS.95%29.aspx

New Reading Experiences For Windows Users

Blio – a free of charge e-reader software platform – is now available for Windows users. Blio provides a highly interactive, graphical experience with superb typography, illustrations and colour. It has an integrated bookstore and Blio plans to have over a million titles.

Books are stored and displayed in a library…

Screenshot of Blio

Pages can be turned using a finger on touch enabled devices, or using the mouse on regular PCs.

Users can insert highlights, notes, videos, and web pages.

A wide variety of reading options, including tilting the book in 3d, are available.

An inbuilt reader allows text to be read to the user.

Altogether an excellent reading experience, especially when using larger monitors.

Download Blio with sample books here: http://www.blio.com/

PC boot-time to speed up

Imagine if you collectively added-up all the time wasted waiting PCs to boot-up! This may seem trivial, but in a school with 1000 students and staff each using computers every day, this could cost 1,500 hours a year! This waste is due to the fact that the BIOS for PCs dates back 25 years. Fotunately, a BOIS replacement, known as UEFI, will find its way into most new PCs by 2011. At start-up, it can take up to 30 seconds before the OS kicks in. With UEFI that can come down to just a few seconds. Every second counts, so for most PC users this will be a most welcome development. Full story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11430069

Mathematics and Interactive Classroom tools – new free downloads

Last month Microsoft released two new downloads that provide great functionality to Microsoft Office.

Maths add-in for Microsoft Office

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Maths is usually the second most important subject in schools after native language. This free add-on to Word and OneNote enables a range of maths functions including 3d graphing calculations.Available from: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=CA620C50-1A56-49D2-90BD-B2E505B3BF09

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Microsoft Interactive Classroom

With Interactive Classroom, teachers can deliver presentations directly to student computers via OneNote, and both teachers and students can annotate the presentation with their own personal or shared notes. Users can include Polling Questions in their PowerPoint decks.Available now from: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=d93f4cb5-e2bb-4543-a3bb-cd6a8ecb42cc

By end of November, these add-ins will be available in the following languages:

Japanese; French; Spanish; Italian; Dutch; German; Chinese – Simplified; Korean; Russian; Brazilian Portuguese; Chinese – Traditional; Swedish; Danish; Finnish; Norwegian; Portuguese

Bad ICT practice – key things to avoid

Michael Trucano from the World Bank highlights some bad Education ICT practice:

  • Dump hardware in schools, hope for magic to happen
  • Design for OECD learning environments, implement elsewhere
  • Think about educational content only after you have rolled out your hardware
  • Assume you can just import content from somewhere else
  • Don’t monitor, don’t evaluate
  • Make a big bet on an unproven technology (especially one based on a closed/proprietary standard) or single vendor, don’t plan for how to avoid ‘lock-in
  • Don’t think about (or acknowledge) total cost of ownership/operation issues or calculations
  • Assume away equity issues
  • Don’t train your teachers (nor your school headmasters, for that matter)

http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/worst-practice

Want to be a Martian?

Help map Mars with this cloud based collaborative environment – http://beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov Built on Silverlight+ASP.NET running on Azure, Beamartian has hundreds of thousands of images from NASA missions to Mars. Add to that a wealth of Mars related content and tools make this site a must for children with an interest in space.

On the subject of NASA, a new NASA Windows 7 theme is now being featured on the Windows 7 personalization gallery website. The Spacescapes theme offers wonderful images of galaxies, dying stars and more. Its available here.