The Bett Show provides the opportunity for the education sector to discover some of the exciting developments in technology that could have a significant impact on the way the sector deploys Edtech in the future. With more than 800 suppliers showcasing their latest products across the four days, it provides visitors with the chance to evaluate possible solutions from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Lenovo, HP as well as Edtech specialist brands and emerging start-ups.
However, it’s also a platform for speakers to address the market. For the technology industry, there were some interesting comments from Damian Hinds, the Education secretary₁ who called for the tech industry to work with schools to use technology to improve education. In his address he maintained that “Education is one of the few sectors where technology has been associated with an increase in workload rather than the reverse.”
One of the problems faced by teachers is one that is common in many businesses. That is the proliferation of e-mail and the expectancy of an immediate response irrespective of the time of day. Hinds used email as an example of where technology has seemingly added to the teachers’ workload. Whereas in the past, parent teacher communication was very much limited to a termly parents evening or an old-fashioned handwritten letter sent by post, email has become a burdensome problem. Demanding workloads are also preventing teachers from improving their use of technology through experience and training. The minister went on to say that the focus should be on making smarter use of technology for tasks outside of actual teaching, citing lesson planning and admin.
Hinds also said the government was investing to create a marketplace for education buyers from its £10m innovation fund “Edtech is now big business here in England – a spend of £450m a year – so we need to make sure that money is being spent effectively.” Referring to the problems that teachers and schools face with so many products and solutions from so many different brands, he said there was a requirement to provide support in the procurement process through a single trusted hub. More than 100 Edtech companies have signed up to a new scheme, the LendED₂ platform, that allows schools to test their products before spending money on them. Created by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), with the support of the Department for Education, Hinds said, “We need to have an informed marketplace where people can buy with confidence and which makes it more effective and efficient for sellers to market their wares.”
Prior to the Bett Show, JISC, the UK higher, further education and skills sectors’ not-for-profit organisation for digital services and solutions, gave evidence to a House of Commons Committee₃ on the role of technology in the classroom advocating a digital-first strategy in UK education that embraces technologies, including AI and augmented reality, which will play a key role in future jobs.
However, Martin Hamilton of JISC was keen to emphasise the importance of basic skills, telling MPs that the failure of one third of key stage two students to meet the expected standards of numeracy and literacy was “an enormous problem” in relation to their preparation for tomorrow’s workplace. He also referred to the need for updated equipment citing the annual survey from BESA₄, the British Educational Suppliers Association, which showed that two thirds of secondaries and two fifths of primaries claim to have inadequate infrastructure. In their survey of a representative panel of UK schools, it was claimed there are 1.1m ineffective computers in schools. The survey showed that 35 per cent of all computers in secondary schools, and 31 per cent in primary schools, were ineffective due to their age.
In an interview with Education Technology magazine, Hamilton referred to the issue of trust in Edtech procurement. It was reported that JISC is currently undergoing research into a “kind of Edtech passport” which would work to identify companies who have qualified as trusted providers. Edtech Impact₅ is another scheme designed to help teachers to identify which products will deliver the best value for money and whether their investment in technology will deliver on the educational outcomes they expect.
With so many products and solutions on display at Bett, there is no question that the education sector needs this type of help and it’s up to resellers to ensure they become those trusted advisors.
Sources & Acknowledgements