BETT-er Learning Spaces and more – Reflections from the BETT Show 2015

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Now in its 30th year, the British Education Trade and Technology (BETT) Show 2015 took place at the Excel Centre in London in  January. The BETT show has become one of the largest educational technology shows in the world and there were many exhibitors and speakers of interest to myself and my Learning Spaces colleagues.

Sir Bob Geldof at BETT 2015

Sir Bob Geldof at BETT 2015 (Image Source: http://www.bettshow.com)

With a diverse range of speakers, from Sir Bob Geldof, to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and educationalist, Professor Sir Ken Robinson, the show attracted large crowds of educators from the Primary through to Higher Education sector.

The first session I attended entitled ‘The changing landscape of technology in higher education’ discussed the balance between technology and pedagogy and what was next for the sector. Panellists were from Wikimedia, Universities UK, UCISA and FutureLearn.

The main points to emerge from the discussion were that

  • higher education needs to be more open and the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is just the first generation of this move towards openness
  • the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) agenda is here to stay
  • students expect to see some of the teaching material from the courses they are going to take prior to enrolling on a course,

The other session I attended was on ‘Creating Innovative Learning Spaces’, presented by Costas Calcanis, eLearning & Innovation Manager at Redbridge College.

Redbridge College's iZone Plan shown

Redbridge College’s iZone Plan shown (Image Source: http://bit.ly/bettizone)

The presentation covered the redevelopment of a large outdated IT-drop in centre, which was redesigned into smaller flexible spaces for training, group work and reflection for both teachers and students. The new space is called the iZone, is completely wireless, has a video and podcasting booth, tablet devices available for loan, flexible furniture, portable touchscreens and a bespoke booking system.

The space is also home to the e-Learning team and is used for AppSwap breakfast mornings so staff can share ideas about how mobile devices are used in different subject areas.

Staff support comes from  by what Costas called ‘aggressive support and training’, which includes both face-to-face and self-paced online modules through their virtual learning environment. It was an inspiring talk of what could be done to a physical space to engage both staff and students and improve learning and teaching.

If you’d like to read more about the work of the iZone at Redbridge College, see their website:http://redbridge-college.ac.uk/facility/izone/. This is the link to their BETT presentation: bit.ly/bettizone

I also took part in a short panel discussion, entitled ‘Assessing the role of social media in higher education: #goodorbad’ with Professor Andy Miah, Chair in Media from Salford University and Dr Rosie Miles, a Reader in English Literature from the University of Wolverhampton.

Professor Miah discussed how he’s been using If This Then That (IFTTT), as a way to automate the use of various social media platforms and how the power of social media is aiding his teaching, by connecting his students to issues across the world.

Rosie Miles discussed the use of creating Twitter to create famous characters from novels such as Frankenstein and tweet things they might have said if they used twitter. It was a great example of the creative use of social media and how it can give students a deeper understanding of texts through this type of engagement.

I discussed the need for caution in the use of social media and how there needs to be a distinction between your public and private life online and how universities need to think about social media much earlier at the curriculum design stage.

The panel discussion was covered by the Times Higher Education Supplement. You can read the full article here.

In addition to the talks, I saw many flexible furniture options, teaching pods and projection equipment that will give us several options when planning the future development of our teaching spaces.

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