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9 February 2017

BETT: Educating the Present, for the Future

Written by: Jed Just, Assistant Account Executive at Edelman

Innovation, Technology

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin

That’s what a lot of BETT 2017 seemed to focus on: involvement. I recently joined some of our colleagues at BETT, the world’s leading trade show for technology in education. After graduating this past summer, the world of education is far from a distant memory, but this expo presents an entirely new world. Filled with ideas and innovation, BETT highlights the latest and greatest trends that stand to revolutionise learning experiences, as well as signalling what the future holds for technology in education.

While we, the consumer, have become relatively accustomed to continuous technological advancement in our lives, we don’t always associate this with the education sector. Yet more than 900 exhibitors descended on BETT to show off the very latest variety of innovative opportunities for schools, colleges, universities and beyond. With practically every major technology brand present, launching new products and reaffirming their commitment to improving the education sector, it’s clear that there are a lot of eyes on the education technology space.

But what does this year’s show point towards? Despite the variety across the expo, some key trends emerged.

The School of the Future

Exhibitors at the event created a very clear vision for the future of the classroom. Even staples like whiteboards have become relics of an analogue world, and are tipped to be replaced by giant multitouch web-connected displays, able to showcase any kind of content in the classroom.

A great deal of ‘transformational’ tech was on show, which has been designed to transform learning experiences. While it’s become commonplace to expect advancements in areas such as development, testing or parent/teacher support; we see trends in emerging technologies like Virtual Reality and the Internet of Things that look set to create an entirely new kind of classroom experience.

There are also more nuanced technologies to enhance the educational experience, including solutions built to automatically track student attendance, aid classroom interaction/discussion and even monitor student wellbeing.

Put together, these visions paint a picture of schools becoming places of seamless interaction, where pupils have access to a wealth of information and opportunity in an environment that makes learning as engaging and encouraging as possible.

Next Generation Skills

If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s BETT, it’s that digital skills in work and practice are becoming a primary requirement for employers, and education is the place to build and develop these skills for the next generation at a grassroots level.

Just last year, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport found that a digital skills shortage existed in the UK labour market. With clear potential for these skills to drive innovation and competition across industries and the wider economy, it comes as no surprise that supporting the development of these skills is set to be at the forefront of the agenda for education. It’s by no means an overnight fix, and the sheer variety of exhibitors at the event highlights that there are many facets to how we can educate our leaders of the future.

But the benefits around bridging the skill gaps go even further and by making digital literacy a key component of development from a young age, equipping pupils to lead the way in innovation and creativity.

Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects were also a key area. It might seem like a natural fit given the tech nature of the expo, but it’s also crucial to the dialogue around building engagement in these subjects at younger ages. It’s no secret that there’s a gender imbalance across STEM fields, so working to drive interest at education-level is a crucial step to getting more women into STEM and increasing diversity.

Conclusion

As with any written school project, we must end with a conclusion! BETT 2017 certainly brings together a lot of the possibilities for the future of education, with the common goal to drive the involvement and potential for every pupil and student.

Technological advancement is bringing with it several issues to the education sector, just as it has done in other industries: privacy concerns, resource costs, deployment difficulties and as mentioned, closing the digital skills gap. With the the pace of technological revolution, ideas presented at this year’s show may soon become redundant, with entirely new visions presented by BETT 2018.

It’s also worth questioning if the prevalence of technology in education ultimately affects its inherent human nature, especially with younger children. But as technology pervades every other aspect of our lives, it’s clear that it needs to be embraced to compete in the future economy: if something can easily and markedly enhance a child’s education, it makes sense to embrace it.

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