This week I spent several days at the massive BETT show in Olympia; always a good start to the year. Some of the stands were truly awesome in size – and cost. One primary software company I spoke to, with a smaller stand in the Grand Hall, had spent £35,000 on the space; Google must have spent well into six figures – eat your heart out, IATEFL. In 2011 over 29,000 people attended, a 17% increase on 2010, with 30% from overseas; initial indications are that this year was even bigger, with a similar UK / overseas split – yet EFL was still in meagre evidence. The big four ELT publishers had stands (though CUP’s was predominantly books – sure you’re at the right show, guys?) and there were a couple of interesting players in the primary sector.
The event was opened by a keynote speech by UK Education Minister Michael Gove, who heavily criticised ICT training in schools and stressed how much more needed to be done in the field of teacher training. Couldn’t agree more, Mike…You can read the full text of the speech here .
Of course, most of what he said was directed at the UK state educational system, but his comment that “technology is going to bring profound changes to how and what we teach. But it’s equally clear that we have not yet managed to make the most of it” applies to every market and every sphere of digital endeavour. Costly interactive whiteboards languishing in unopened boxes; digital learning resources that are little more than pdfs on screen; learning management systems that teachers can’t be bothered to engage with; apps that vanish into the black hole of the app store through inadequate marketing; the list of missed opportunities goes on and on. The risks, from the publisher’s point of view, are huge. But the riskiest policy of all is not to engage fully in the brave new world of digital education, and in not providing a full service solution to teachers and clients – including training packages, even at the most basic level.