My day at BETT 2014

As I support eight different schools with ICT, I attended BETT with a variety of different objectives, but mostly aiming to look at resources for the new Computing section of the National Curriculum.

My first port of call was the Education City stand. Two of my schools have held INSET sessions on the changes from ICT to Computing in the National Curriculum, and, as they both subscribe to Education City, we have been looking at the Code Crunch tool to teach basic programming skills.  I’ve been talking to the Education City team about this, and they were kind enough to invite me to their stand at BETT to present on our experiences so far.

Presenting about Code Crunch on the Education City stand
Presenting about Code Crunch on the Education City stand

I really enjoyed talking about how the schools are developing their knowledge of the new curriculum requirements using Code Crunch and showing some examples of code that we have created. Having an audience, including a photographer and camera crew who suddenly showed up as part of the crowd, was a bonus, and I hope that those who watched saw some ways that Code Crunch will inspire teaching and learning.

The team on the Education City stand were great and really looked after me. I had chance to look at the revised version of Education City, V2, which will be launched in September. Gone are the pop-ups and the “horseshoe” shaped splash page, to be replaced a sleeker, subject-based starting point. I particularly liked the Computing resources because they cover many strands of the curriculum, not just coding. I also liked the concept of having different access levels or views depending on whether a pupil or a teacher logs in.

After lunch, I had a wander around the other stands. I made sure I went to Digital Nursery where their “Tilt and Turn” interactive tables were on display. These are fantastic  robust screens for collaborative and individual ICT use in the Early Years and Key Stage 1. Two of my schools are in the process of purchasing these and I think they will be a great resource for helping younger children access Computing resources.

Digital Nursery interactive table
Digital Nursery interactive table

Next, I headed to the 2Simple stand to check out their newly-launched product 2Code.  This builds up childrens’ programming skills though activities, also giving access to a free code area once they are confident to use the tools. I particularly like the fact that it runs on Javascript and that the display can toggle between the 2Simple tools and the “real code”. It could be a useful way of getting Upper Key Stage 2 children to start recognising text-based code. Unfortunately, 2Code is only available as part of the Purple Mash subscription, which won’t help the school I work with that has purchased the 2Simple Collection and were hoping to purchase a site license for the program.

On the plus side, 2Simple are also expanding their 2Build a Profile software. We started using this app on iPads and iPod touches in four schools this year and it’s proving to be a very popular way of capturing Early Years observations and recording them against the EYFS goals. The new 2Build a Profile primary is definitely going to be of interest as well.

2Build a Profile Primary
2Build a Profile Primary

After that, I visited the Espresso stand. Again four of my schools subscribe to the Espresso service and I was interested to see more of Espresso Coding product which is now available. Like 2Code, this had lots of activities designed for all the different year groups. I didn’t realise that it is a separate, online service which doesn’t go through the Espresso server like the rest of the content. It’s free to try until October 2014 though, and at least one of my schools is planning on using it as a coding resource with Years 1 & 2.

I also found the Rising Stars stand and chatted to them about the changes to the Computing Curriculum. One of my schools has been using the “Switched Onto ICT” materials to deliver ICT from Year 3 – 6 and we have really enjoyed the variety of cartoon making, art gallery creating, sprite designing and interactive story telling. All this will change, as the materials are being rewritten and rebranded as “Switched on Computing”. The good news is that our school can get this for free, as we’d only just purchased “Switched on ICT”. The other good news was a free book containing sample lesson plans from Years 1 – 6 using freely available software as a taster. Two more of my schools are looking into purchasing “Switched on Computing” now and I hope it will be an exciting programme of study!

Switched on Computing
Switched on Computing

Now it was time for the highlight of my day – meeting the Night Zookeeper (who very kindly rescheduled our rendezvous). A few weeks go, I was looking through blogs for useful iPad apps and found the Night Zookeeper Drawing Torch. I downloaded this and gave it to my seven-year-old to test (she gets all the best jobs!). An hour later, she was still engaged with it in a way I had never seen before and was completely absorbed in a world of Spying Giraffes, Billy the Goat, Time Travelling Elephants and the famous Dancing King. So much more than just a drawing app, the Drawing Torch inspired her imagination to create with no limits.

The Night Zookeeper (aka Paul) explained that there is a whole Night Zookeeper curriculum resource which links art, creativity, literacy and computing. I have a plan to get all my teachers and their families hooked on the Night Zookeeper apps, also including Teleporting Torch and Story Pairs, and then show the education potential of the Night Zookeeper!

Night Zookeeper Classroom
Night Zookeeper Classroom

My final two ports of call were professional networks – Edugeek and NAACE. Edugeek is my haven, my port of calm in a storm, my answer to a crisis, and home to a bunch of  IT Technicians and Network Managers who work in the education sector. I had a great chat with Elsiegee40, who gave me some useful heads-up on eSafety policies and also received my Edugeek 1,000,000 posts mug – one of the best freebies of the day! Given that my ethos is all about quality provision of ICT resources and teaching in schools, NAACE is a great organisation to align with, and I intend to take advantage of their special offer for individual membership which was available at the BETT show.

I spent far longer at BETT than I had planned, and still only scratched the surface on what there was to do. I would have liked to attend some of the talks, visited some of the hardware stands, and tried some of the cool things like Raspberry Pi and Appshed. Next year, I need to go for two days!

By the time I got back to Derbyshire, the BETT award announcements were coming through. I was thrilled to hear that Education City won “Stand of the Year”. I like to think that the judging took place around about 12noon on that day ……

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