This week was a big week for technology in education. Why? Because this week the annual BETT show took place. This year they have moved location from Olympia to ExCel. This was probably one of the best things they could have done. The new venue was brilliant, everything was on one floor and in the same room, the food outlets ran down the side with numerous entrances to the show making eating and drinking much easier. The other advantage to this new venue was the space, this allowed for bigger and better show stands a whole new learning arena and much more space to move around. Lets hope next year they decide to stay at ExCel.
As for the show I went with some specific areas to look at so I didn’t visit or see all stands. I find this to be the best way to explore BETT otherwise you end up spending hours walking around and not getting anywhere. I was able to do this even more effectively this year as they released a BETT app which allowed me to explore and mark on a floor plan the exhibitors beforehand.
The first product I explored was interactive touchscreen tv’s. These seem to be the next big thing to replace the interactive whiteboard and projector solution which has been around for the last 10 or so years. These seem to have many advantages and make an ideal replacement. First they are much sharper, clearer, and brighter making the image easy to see from a long distance. All screens are also 1080p HD and have great colours. The screens are multitouch allowing from two to four people to interact at the same time. They all seem to have toughened glass over the normal panel and use inferred technology to read the interaction. They seem to come in sizes ranging from 32″ upto 80″ although I felt for our classrooms 42″ to 55″ would be fine. You also have the option to have them wall mounted or on a movable stand. Some also have fixed wall brackets with movable arms allowing you to pull the screen from the wall and rotate it, pull it down to the children or move it up out of the way. The other alternative is a stand which allows the screen to be flipped and used as a touchscreen table! Finally you have the option to buy these tv’s with built in computers thus allowing you to have an all in one solution with only a network and power cable coming from the tv. Also gone are the days for the need of an amp and speakers as the TVs have speakers built in. Compared to even modern IWB and projector solutions these are a major step forward. You may think sounds great but they must be expensive and the answer is yes they are but to be honest no more expensive that a new IWB and projector package. However the running costs of the tvs are where the savings are to be had. First you no longer have to replace bulbs and projectors, then no more filter cleaning is required, the real advantage is the electric cost approx £80 per year compared to £300 to £400 for an IWB and projector. Also the screens have an expected lifespan of 25 years!
I think we’ll be making the change sooner rather than later.
Some of the products I tried are