For those who work in the IT for education sector, be they technicians, teachers, subject leads or just tech savvy teachers, Bett is the annual convention for all things new and exciting in educational IT development and releases. Held at the Excel arena in London, it’s an extremely large affair, containing suppliers and manufacturers of hardware, software, applications and web services, all specifically relating to IT in education.
This year was my first year going to Bett, and it’s clear to see where the focus of the events many displays seem to be centered around. The hardware is getting smaller, more software than ever before is free, and lots of services that once required schools to invest in their own, often expensive and sizable, hardware are becoming cloud based, managed by companies at locations completely separate from school sites, using the power of the internet.
Attending an event like this, it’s unavoidable returning with a swathe of material to wrap your head around, some useful and some really not, depending on your background and job role. Here are some of my highlights for the event and what I thought would be most useful for the education sites I help support with their IT.
1. Code Club – Interactive Workshop using Scratch and Raspberry Pis (on Linux) - Making a ChatBot
This Code Club demonstration has drawn me to a couple of computing aspects I think would be excellent to utilize around our schools. The first is the service Code Club itself, a free bank of resources and volunteer led workshops for children ages 9-11 teaching the fundamentals of computer coding, often using familiar software such as Python or Scratch (anyone delivering the new computing curriculum already will have likely seen these before). To find out more about Code Club, visit www.codeclub.org.uk
Now owned by the Raspberry Pi company, they predictably have begun delivering these courses using the Raspberry Pi hardware. If you’re unfamiliar with Pi computers, the philosophy is a computer for everyone – a PC so bare bones a model can be bought for around £26, and contains everything needed to assembly a working computer, with operating system, internet connectivity and the ability to be used for programming. These would be an ace way to show children in schools the parts of a computer, and how they come together.
Using both of these resources together could be invaluable to schools with a minimum financial outlay. And because the Pi can run Scratch, any hardware schools already have will be compatible.