Linux at Bett 2010


You'll have to look hard for Open Source software at Bett 2010, but it's there all right and may even win a BETT award!

My bet, though, is that the real significance of this show will be a child shouting “The Emperor has no clothes!” thereby marking the start of the process whereby teachers reclaim technology for teaching...

BETT stands for “British Education and Training Technology”. This title has long been forgotten, unlike the BETT show itself. Held at Olympia, it is still going strong after a quarter of a century as the world's leading edu-tech show. 

I think I have been to every one (can that really be true?). In the early days it was pretty damn exciting. I remember the torrent of newness: colour printers, scanners, the Acorn 5000, the launch of Windows 95, desktop publishing software, Adobe Photoshop and hundreds of tiny software vendors with the latest software guaranteed to teach something or another.

All promised to revolutionise education. CAL was, and is, (Computer Assisted Learning if you are interested) how teaching and learning would be in the future. Technology changed education, even revolutionised it, but made it better? I don't think so.

The Emperor's New Clothes

Teachers, administrators and decision makers at the highest level became mesmerised by the sheer potency and wonder of new technology. A multitude of false prophets convinced the uncomprehending that computers were good for education. 

Good for the vendors sure: good for teaching and learning, I'm not so sure.

The promised education 'revolution' resulted in nothing more than an horrendous increase in administration-orientated software and the peddling of a relentless diet of state-subsidised Microsoft Office software to bored pupils. 

It achieved, courtesy of the corporate giants which took control of school ICT:

1) the lowest number of students studying Computing at university compared to any other first world country,

2) schools now employing the same number of administrators as they do teachers, and

3) every child typically consuming 3,000 A4 paper printouts every year!!

yup, insanity... and don't get me started on interactive whiteboards... why do they exist? Who thought they were a good idea?

The New 2010 Bett

Look out for three things making a comeback: teaching, learning, and thrift.

Taking “thrift” first.

The cost of school ICT is incredible, unsustainable, mad, insane and that's just Becta's opinion. From now on costs will have to be controlled and cut... (unless you believe our PM's vision of a world that never runs out of cash) …in the real world, low energy computing combined with free, open source software will rule.

Amazingly it seems with hindsight that...

Once it made sense to splash-out on MS Office or Adobe Photoshop, famously high end expensive products, but now, just as useful but free, Open Office, Gimp and Inkscape make that a financially ludicrous proposition for schools. 

Once it seemed sane to fit 500 watt PSUs to massive beige boxes to run Word... now “slates”, “tablets” what you will are “computers on a chip” with resistive touch interfaces (as in iPhone) which means that you only need a fiftieth of that power.

By way of a very quick illustration of the above: the new OLPC (so lovely) and Freescale's tablets lead the way as do the Amazon Kindle DX e-reader and Sony's latest offering in that field.

They all use free open source software and sip power hence they will be ultra low cost too.

(Microsoft have had a go and Apple are dithering but their heart does not seem in it… strange that.)

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