Having just joined the ScholarPack team, my experience at education-related events is fairly limited, so when my colleague invited me to go to BETT- I jumped at the chance to improve my knowledge of the edtech sector (and maybe grab a ScholarPack-branded cupcake or two on the way). Here’s what I learnt...
Lesson #1: Teachers want to be less busy
In other news ice is cold… Ok, we all know how time-pressed teachers are, but I was interested to find that despite their busy schedules, they saw BETT as a good investment of their time.
Several school leaders told me that they were looking for smart solutions to cut teacher workload in half, and were growingly concerned about teacher wellbeing. Teacher burnout is an unavoidable reality - evident in the volume of workload slicing solutions on offer at BETT this year; from smarter data analysis tools to plug-and-play lesson plans. And then there was the one stand who got straight to the point with their wellbeing spa for stressed-out teachers. Well played.
Lesson #2: Education YouTubers are a teacher’s best friend
One of my highlights at BETT was a talk on the use of video in education, featuring YouTube filmmaker and CBeebies science presenter - Maddie Moate and Science Communicator - Sally Le Page. They spoke about the growing popularity of video in education - and how teachers can get free, quick and quality-assured video content on YouTube at the click of a button. Both speakers were specialists in the field of science and touched upon how important their work is, not just for helping time-stretched teachers, but also for plugging the STEM skills shortage - which takes me to Lesson #3…
Lesson #3: Skills shortages still STEM from gender imbalance
STEM skills gaps are unfortunately still rife, as is the fact that girls are less likely to pursue STEM subjects within further education and therefore their careers. However, I directly asked Maddie and Sally for their take on the matter - a loaded question for 11 am on a Friday, but they didn’t seem to mind. Interestingly, both had noticed from the analytics of their videos, that girls of primary school age are highly engaged with their content, but this interest seemed to wane by the time that they reached secondary school. Sally pointed out the lack of prominent female role models for young women and the fact that by the time girls reach further education - they’re met with a male-dominated space.
Lesson #4: Technology is addressing diverse pupil needs
On a cheerier note, teachers and SENCOs are able to use the many edtech solutions available to meet a wider range of pupil needs. A couple of teachers explained to me how much easier their lives have become thanks to hardware and software built for this purpose.
For instance, pupils with dyslexia are able to use text-to-speech software, pupils with low-vision can use tools like speak selection, and those with dyscalculia are using online, personalised learning programmes for extra support. As a result, pupils don’t feel excluded and they’re able to access the same quality of education as everybody else. A by-product of this is that these pupils are becoming more digitally literate as they learn the curriculum.
Lesson #5: Digital literacy is improving
In that vein, it was great to see how far digital education has come as a whole since my school days (picture 30 kids huddled around one Sainsbury's voucher-funded computer...) Coding, keyword searches and “becoming a digital citizen” all feature highly on 2020 lesson plans and were the topic of conversation this year at BETT.
The WEF forewarned in 2016 that children will need to become more digitally literate if they are to integrate well with the working world that awaits them when they leave school. I remembered this headline as I walked past the stand of children playing songs they had composed on their iPad from scratch, and thought - well if that’s not digital literacy in the making, I don’t know what is. When I was at school, digital literacy meant being able to make a ringtone on your Nokia 3210, so we’ve come a long way...
Lesson #6: Shop around - because maybe it’s time to move on
Have you ever dated someone who just wasn’t good enough for you? You see it really clearly now - what were you thinking? You can do so much better. Well, it’s often the same with certain service providers - including your school’s management information system. You stick with them because you think you have to, because it’s easier, or because you think you can’t get anything better. But what if you could?
This is a bit of a shameless plug admittedly - but only because the ScholarPack stand deserves a shout-out for it’s rallying cry: “It’s time to move on” which drew people to the demo booth in their droves this year. Primary school leaders were shown how to glean actionable pupil insights, save time and needless admin, and do more with their data. They witnessed first hand that when it came to their MIS they could, in fact, do better - and that maybe it was time to move on.
If you missed the ScholarPack team at BETT this year, and want to learn more about how we can help your primary school - get in touch. In the meantime - I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with more industry insights and updates - stay tuned!