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A look at Bett ‘trends’

Terry Freedman, independent educational ICT consultant and publisher of the ICT in Education website, shares his thoughts on ‘trends’ at Bett and beyond.

It’s always interesting to try to predict what will be the main features of the educational ICT landscape in evidence at the next Bett, and this year will prove no exception to that rule. Each year I carry out a survey in which I invite people who have attended Bett to say what they thought were the main trends in evidence, and back in January 2011 several people cited 3D and mobile technology (you can download the full results from Unofficial BETT-Related publications now available). In January 2012 one of the main trends seen was cloud computing.

That would seem to be the wrong way round in a way: if a school was considering going down the mobile learning route in a big way, it would be sensible to make sure it has a wireless network that can cope in place, along with storage facilities which would, no doubt, be at least partially cloud-based. That, certainly, is what has emerged from my own ongoing research into the Bring Your Own Technology trend which is beginning to appear in the educational as well as the corporate sector.

The best way to make sense of this apparent incorrect order of events, and the answer to the question “So what?” is, I think, to regard Bett to a large extent as an indicator of future possibilities. In that sense you could argue that Bett, as a whole, is ahead of the game. Those trends noted by my survey respondents are now being recognised more and more in the “blogosphere” and the education press in general. Much of the evidence is anecdotal, but a recent report by BESA confirms them, at least as far as tablet computing is concerned. The figures are quite staggering.  According to “The future of tablets and apps in schools”, primary schools and industry believe that by the end of 2012 4.5% of school-purchased computers for pupil use will be tablets, while the corresponding figure for secondary schools is 7.4%. They may seem like small numbers, but they equate to 30,000 and 74,000 tablets respectively.

Those percentage figures leap to just over 19% and 25% by the end of 2015, and 45% and nearly 47% by 2020. In other words, if these predictions are accurate, nearly half of the computers children will be using in schools in 2020 will be tablets.

Hopefully, that will translate over the coming years to more and more educational apps available and, perhaps even more important, more and more guidance and evidence on how to get the best pedagogical use of them.

It will be interesting to see, at Bett, what the trends are in not only devices and device management, but also in what apps are there and how teachers are using them. As we move more and more into a mobile-dominated era, I suspect it is the last two that will become even more important.

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant. He publishes the ICT in Education website at www.ictineducation.org.

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