Last week was the annual BETT Show http://www.bettshow.com/, which this year has moved to the ExCel Arena in London’s Docklands. Apart from being the wrong side of London it was a much better venue than in previous years. All the usual big tech companies were there with tablets, tablets and more tablets, although Blackboard were unusually locked away in a separate room – possibly for their own safety. However, I often find the smaller stands around the edges have more interesting things going on as anything from the big companies has usually been launched previously at a big US show.
Having said that, I had a really interesting chat with Andrew Milburn from Planet eStream, who are the company that provide our media streaming http://mrclabsestream.swan.ac.uk/. I discovered that is possible to embed videos tagged with the module code automatically into Blackboard. So if you have a video recorded for your module ( a filmed lecture, TV programme etc), it can be immediately seen by your students in the relevant Blackboard module. In the summer eStream will allow screencasts to be recoded directly in eStream then instantly uploaded and hence viewable through Blackboard. Lots of possible use there I think.
There were a number of companies showing off their Clickers. The two I spent some time with were TurningPoint, who supply the clickers we have here http://salt.swan.ac.uk/en/clickers.htm and Ombea, a new Swedish company supported by the former UK distributors for TurningPoint. TurningPoint have agreed to lend as a set of NXT devices http://www.turningtechnologies.com/response-solutions/responsecard-nxt that we can use for an extended period to test how well they can be used for multiple choice exams. Are there any takers for this pilot?
Ombea http://www.ombea.co.uk/ looks very similar to TurningPoint and has a few extra features including Response Connect http://www.ombea.com/products/ombea-connect/ which allows you to “store, track, and administer the results from multiple interactive polling sessions. Upload all results into one, central location for easy organization of data.” We’ve invested quite a lot in TurningPoint but it will be interesting to see how they respond to the new kid on the block.
Unifrog https://www.unifrog.org/ describe themselves as providing “intelligent university choices”. They gather the publicly available information on university course and claim to provide “The easy way for students to choose the best universities for them and for teachers to track students’ progress.” There is nothing much we can do about how the product is used but it will be interesting to see if this sort of resource becomes popular and how it affects applications. Will it change the importance of the publicly available data? What happens to the stuff behind the paywalls.
However, for me the most interesting stand was Cyber-Anatomy http://www.cyber-anatomy.com/ and particularly their interaction with the cheap as chips & Leap Motion https://www.leapmotion.com/ As someone who didn’t see any difference between 3D and 2D version of Avatar I was a little sceptical but to my layman’s eyes the 3D anatomy software was really impressive. When I said, “What would be great is if you could use your hands to manipulate the image” Tom Nicknish from Cyber-Anatomy whipped out a Leap Motion sensor and proceeded to do just that. There seem to be lots of applications for this so hopefully we will have one to play with soon.
As usual BETT2014 was a mixture of interesting, seen it before and strange things that education ministers like but don’t have much relevance for education