Education, 3D printing and all that

Is anything moving in the education-IT market? Well yes, sort of. It’s not moving in the way that pressurised magma does not move much before the top blows off the volcano and it will move in the way that magma moves just after the top has...

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Is anything moving in the education-IT market? Well yes, sort of. It’s not moving in the way that pressurised magma does not move much before the top blows off the volcano and it will move in the way that magma moves just after the top has blown off.

Torpid UK, arguably depressed, may be set to suffer the fate of the citizens of Pompeii, set in stone as the wave of ash and rock engulfs us. What is the source of this seismic pressure? It’s three-fold. The Cloud, E-Text and 3D printing.

All three were very well represented at this year’s BETT show but there are not many takers among UK education buyers who are still fixated with interactive whiteboards and MIS software. I’ll admit that it has dawned on us that tablet devices may play some part in the future of education but BYOD hype has put the business managers’ hands firmly back in their pockets.

A quick dip into the molten rock is needed:

The Cloud
Storage, applications and collaboration through the likes of Google.docs, MS365, Zoho and so on is so no-brainerly useful to schools it should be rampant, but no. Yes, many teachers and lecturers use it semi-clandestinely but the Data Protection Act and Child Safeguarding policies put off schools. Simply put, in the UK, you cannot stick child-related data (which includes essays or artwork as well as personal details) on Johnny Foreigner’s servers...end of story, end of innovation.

E-Text
E-text or E-text books are, to be fair, raising their now profitable head. I think the notion that someone could offer proprietary material in proprietary format on proprietary readers and get away with it ... in education, is now truly dead ... and unnecessary .

The big boys and girls have worked out at last how to fleece schools, sorry I meant to say offer value to schools through electronic books. If and when BYOD achieves critical mass these ‘books’ will explode.

Pearsons, whose textbook and exam publishing business here and in the parent US cannot be overstated have committed themselves to ‘a revolution in learning’ (if I had a penny etc) which basically involves locking in and flogging school books to be read on any device. This has ‘legs’ as they say, as does RM PLC’s model of leasing e-text books. What a cool idea, the kids only lose (or use as goalposts) expensive text books anyway.

It’s there it’s nearly really ready, will it happen? My experience to date is that senior managers go blank and start flicking through the IWB catalogues. We are not, shall we say. ‘Innovation Ready’. Ofsted-ready is the watchword and they cannot be accused of being innovative except in way that say the Spanish Inquisition was innovative.

3D printing
President Obama thinks this is the future of manufacturing and to prove it the US has managed to print handguns, presumably so that the Design and Tech department can arm the teachers ... though I would be reluctant to use one made by our apprentices.

The BETT show this January did us proud with 3D printer-vendors and the DfE has even started a pilot in 21 schools giving each a lovely Makerbot printer.

I think that 3D printing combined with the relaunched Lego Mindstorms robotics could completely save computing in schools. Thirty years in teaching has shown me that students engage and get involved with real things rather than abstractions. Some, a few, children thrive on the abstract, but they go on to become Oxbridge scholars and then on to make educational policy.

As yet we are not buying 3D printers. I guess it’s because they cost £1,000 and you can get an inkjet for £50 but in the mid 90’s I paid £1,000 for my Laser Jet 4, and so did my school who bought a few. Maybe if you could print memos in 3D they would be more motivated.

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