Last week, NewTechKids headed to London for BETT 2015. BETT is the world’s largest education technology event and going there gave us the chance to see the latest in edtech, meet with the companies behind some of the teaching tools we use in our programs, and identify trends and new thinking.

Here are a few of our observations.

Keep Your Eye on the UK

A big shout-out to the UK Department for Education and the primary and secondary schools in this country. Last September, computing became part of the core [mandatory] curriculum for all schools in the UK. The UK government has mandated that all students are taught:
– the fundamental concepts of computer science
– computational thinking and programming
– the ability to analyse and evaluate information technology
– the usage of information and communication technology

Being at BETT gave us a chance to see how the UK’s edtech ecosystem is developing around the computing curriculum and how teachers, students, schools and universities, technology companies and other players are collaborating and co-creating products, services and solutions. This type of ecosystem is needed to push the computing curriculum forward to adapt, expand and reach students in new and exciting ways. It was great to see a live demo in the Samsung School of a British teacher instructing students who used tablets to solve computing problems in real time.

Education Technology vs. Technology Education

The vast amount of exhibition booths were companies offering education technology solutions, ranging from classroom management software which helps teachers keep track of their students to online assessments and digital content. We visited the booths of the tech titans: Google, Microsoft, HP, Samsung, Intel as well as smaller but interesting players such as Frog Education, a UK company which¬†creates “cool technology for schools that takes the stress out of teaching”.

We loved Frog Education’s approach: to develop products focused on serving the specific needs of schools. A particularly-friendly teacher chatted to us about how his school is using the Frog platform to enable school children around the world (the UK, China, Africa) to teach each other lessons. He then invited us to participate by having NewTechKids students teach a session on programming and share their work as examples and inspiration.

MIA: Companies which Combine Technology Education Content and Teaching Tools

What we missed was a stronger focus on technology education solutions which combine content (curriculum, lesson plans, etc.) and teaching tools related to teaching technology, computer science and innovation. Pearson and Discovery Education were there, showcasing their great educational resources as was LEGO Education which showcased the LEGO WeDo and Mindstorm robot kits that we use in our NewTechKids bootcamps and programs for 7-12 year olds.

But we expected to see many more. This absence is not all bad. It just made us realise that there’s room and business opportunities for companies active in this space.

All in all, BETT 2015 was a great experience. One last thought to share which comes via John D. Crouch, Apple’s VP of Education, who spoke at BETT’s conference: “Technology is an environment. Not a tool.” We’d all do well to remember this as we advance technology education and technology in education in our own, different ways.

– Deborah Carter, NewTechKids Co-Founder and Business Director