Having visited and exhibited at the BETT show for over 12 years, it’s been fascinating to witness the evolution of the education technology market. When I first visited, the sector was dominated by providers born purely to service the education market. Gradually over the years, major consumer technology, online and retail brands have realised the importance and commercial sense of targeting kids in an educational setting to bring them onto their platform for life. Navigating the landscape is difficult, time consuming and potentially a costly exercise.
Ultimately, it comes down to one fundamental question – do your solutions give children the high-quality, life-long learning experience that enables teachers to implement them effectively? For some the answer is a resounding yes, while many others lie at various points along a sliding scale. In my opinion too few are in the ‘yes’ category making this navigation for educators a greater challenge. Here are some other observations from BETT 2020.
Robots are everywhere!
The growth of robots being used to teach subjects across the STEAM spectrum has been incredible. Just when you think the number available has peaked, it climbs again, and this year was no exception. The benefit of using robotics and coding products in a classroom setting is not a new concept but differentiating between them is becoming more and more challenging. When choosing a provider (or communicating as a provider) it’s more important than ever to start with the end in mind:
- What learning outcomes and experience will you help me deliver?
- What content do you have ready-to-go to help me achieve these outcomes?
- Where has this been done and what impact has been achieved?
- What support do you provide me to make sure I can implement your solution easily?
- What is your product?
21st Century Skills?
The appearance of 21st Century Skills continues to be a capture all for the broad profile of competencies we expect children to leave education with. As we’re now 20 years into this century with an evolving set of challenges, isn’t it time we dropped this term and focused on the skills we need now and in the immediate future? If we consider the incredible pace of technological change during this century, we need to ensure an ever-evolving skill set to adapt to a huge array of situations. I continue to be a huge supporter of developing creativity, innovation, teamwork and the many other skills this term encompasses, but we also need to:
- Encourage and provide the support to start a business from a young age, breaking down the traditional route of school to college to university to full time employment.
- Foster the skills to bring products to market to ensure technology is implemented to deliver the highest level of impact.
- Ensure a high level of respect for the positive impact that technology can bring, while ensuring responsible use at all times.
- Develop the confidence to have a personal brand, build networks and engage in dialogue with people of all age, culture and background in a positive way.
Customer Service for our kids
One of my favourite conversations at the show this year was with a teacher and a small group of his digital leader students. I had the privilege of discussing with them how our holographic solutions work and was immediately met with a wide range of further possibilities, for example ‘can we game on it?’. These were things I had not even considered and yet it made me think about the huge future potential of this technology if we put it directly in the hands of our ‘customers’.
I use the term ‘customers’ here, as what followed was a lengthy discussion between the teacher and the students about how they would use it, how they would engage with it and ultimately would they learn better with it. This involvement in the decision making was fantastic to see and something I know many of our fantastic teachers across the country deliver on a day to day basis. It is the mindset of parents and policy makers that we need to change. We need to ensure we provide an environment where kids want to be, where school (and eventually their careers) don’t seem like a chore but where they are treated as the customer and we listen to them as customers of the system at a much higher level.
Future ready application today
‘Future technology’ is already out there…we just need to maximise the impact of it. Whether that be a humanoid service robot or a 3D holographic display system, we need to get it into the hands of our children, so it becomes a familiar part of their everyday life. Take the decision by the government to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035. It won’t be our age group that drives this revolution (although I hope we will follow), it will be the children who are in our primary schools today. As part of this ambitious government agenda, let’s find a way to get real-life electric car technology and learning content in front of every child as soon as possible, allowing them to discover it for themselves as long term change starts with enabling their open minds.
If you need support in planning and executing your route to market, we have over 20 years experience across sales, marketing and product development in the education sector. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
For more information on the BETT show visit www.bettshow.com.