BETT 2016

bett-logo-1427445It’s truly exciting to start a new year with some fresh ideas, and they are always found in abundance at the annual BETT show, held at London’s Excel Arena. I was lucky enough to spend two days at the exhibition this year, and viewed it with a slightly different focus now that I have retired. As a senior leader, I was always drawn to investigate whole school management options – and although it was good to meet up with old contacts at stands like Show My Homework, Mint Class, Blue Sky, and It’s Learning – they held rather less of my attention this year.

I found I had more time to probe into different technologies that could have a real positive impact on teaching and learning, and it was refreshing to meet new faces and explore new contacts from these areas. I also had much more time to sit and listen to different presenters and reflect on their thoughts and ideas, rather than rush around to check off items from my school shopping list.

 To find BETT somewhat overwhelming was not a new experience, but I couldn’t help but feel technology in schools has become a fully saturated market now. There are so many different options for software and hardware that do particular jobs, that making an informed choice has become increasingly difficult. How the different companies all manage to capture a sufficient market share to maintain their existence baffles me – but perhaps some of them simply do not.

r winstonI could wax lyrical about so many products and ideas, but I will restrict myself to writing about just a couple of my highlights from the show. As far as the headline speakers were concerned, I really enjoyed Robert Winston’s eloquent delivery of his presentation about how young children learn, and how this can be related to their exposure to technology at different ages. I found the Secretary of State’s talk far less inspiring, outlining her support for technology in assisting with management and assessment tasks – but saying nothing about how it can assist the creative process in the classroom.

 g expWith regard to products, I was excited by the possibilities offered by Google’s new Expedition Project. I wrote a short blog about this back in October, and you can find out what it’s all about at the following link:

You may also want to register on the site, and open the possibility of the project making a visit to your own school. Although the main resources are not yet openly available to the public, it won’t be long before they are – so it’s worth checking it out now and getting ahead of the game. The expeditions project is a form of virtual reality where some of Google’s massive bank of images are made available for study foldthrough a ‘Google Cardboard’ viewer – a simple low-spec tool constructed from card and a couple of lenses, and into which can be slotted a smart ‘phone. There are many different versions available on Amazon for less than a tenner, or you can knock up your own for just a couple of quid. I attended a special demo session where the devices were provided for us to enjoy panoramic views of places like the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China, while the ‘teacher’ was able to direct our movements from her screen, and prompt us with questions and reef-coverinstructions. Google have already prepared 150 Expeditions for this project, and used BETT to launch new expeditions to the Barrier Reef and also inside Buckingham Palace.


There is currently a limited amount of resources on the market to be enjoyed using a cardboard viewer, mainly accessible through specific apps or via You Tube. Android phones have more to offer at present, but Google will be launching a full IOS version sometime this year. If you have an I Phone, you can at the moment at least download the Google Cardboard app and have a play with a few demonstration CZKwhgnUgAA6k6Simages. The flood gates will soon open in this area of technology, and I’m sure it won’t be long before we will all be able to produce our own images for this platform. However impressive this demonstration was, I am not sure how this will work in the classroom right now. Apart from a visit from the Google Expedition team with its collection of cardboards already loaded with a mobile device, it would be difficult to adopt in class without making use of the students own phones. I don’t know of many schools that have sets of phones available for classroom use – although I did wonder if this might be a good use for all of those confiscated ‘phones I used to collect in my office!

Reasons-to-Switch-for-Microsoft-Office-365-520Many years ago, I was given the task of setting up a VLE at my school. Staff and students quickly bought into the idea, and it did prove to be a successful support to teaching and learning. However, despite looking at many ‘off the peg’ VLE products at BETT, I have come to the decision that if I were to be given this task today, I could set up an equally efficient, functional and beneficial system from free Classroomproducts from either Google or Microsoft 365. I listened to a number of speakers sharing their experiences of using these systems in their schools, and look forward to the next software upgrade from Apple, which will include a package of management tools for schools. A VLE today would surely look very different from what was available and possible all those years ago.

 I particularly enjoyed one short talk from Abdul Chohan from the Essa Academy. He spoke of simplicity and reliability being the two vital ingredients in any technological shift, and outlined how he had used a combination of just a cheap app (Explain Everything) and a free app (I Tunes U) to structure learning. HeiTunesU illustrated his talk with a number of examples, and some of the courses created from Essa on I Tunes U by both staff and students are well worth checking out to see what is possible.


I particularly wanted to visit the Minecraft Education stand, but every time I passed there was a crowd at least three deep all trying to get inside for a seat. I am fascinated by the potential offered by this product for creative work – especially in the geography classroom. I will have to investigate it further under my showbieown steam over the coming weeks. A number of animation products caught my eye, and I look forward to getting to grips with ZU3D, Muvizu, and I Can Animate in the near future. I was also impressed by the Showbie app – and am convinced that if I was still working full-time, this would be a product I would fully embrace.

 I like to spend a bit of time in the BETT Futures section, checking out some of the latest innovations on braingothe market. I was impressed by ‘Braingo’ – a slick digital interpretation of bingo that could have a multitude of uses in the classroom. It seemed to be a really well put-together product at a reasonable price – a useful tool for primary teachers, with possibilities in the secondary sector as well.

 My last visit at BETT was made to the ‘Eye 2 Eye Britain’ stand, where I enjoyed using a fantastic product that had much to offer for schools – particularly geography and history departments. For a very reasonable price (just £99 or £159 for a network license), a school could have access to 1,650 panoramas and 11,000 photographs taken across the whole of Britain. These moving and interactive images can make stunning additions to whiteboard presentations, and are copyright free for use in student projects. These are not video extracts, but truly interactive 360 degree images that can be controlled and used  for specific aims. There are numerous demonstrations, free samples and explanation videos at the web site, why not give it a try?

ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 27 12.59

 ScreenHunter_02 Jan. 27 13.00Although we all have free resources like Google and Bing at our fingertips, the ease of operation of this package makes it very accessible for both students and technologically challenged teachers. Both simple and reliable – Abdul Chohan would approve.

Posted in Curriculum, General Geo, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shipping Containers For Houses?

contCould steel shipping containers be used to help solve the housing problems faced by some of our major cities? construct one of India’s tallest towers — should the vision of one ambitious architecture firm come to fruition.

The ‘Containerscraper’ is a vision from CRG Architects, and should it come to fruition, could be a radical housing solution proposed for the Dharavi slum in Mumbai — the bustling inner-city area where parts of the Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire” were filmed.

Read more here:

Posted in Human World | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BBC I Wonder Web Site – Resources Treasure Chest!


This is a superb site from the BBC with interesting questions to inspire awe and wonder. There are videos and other media which attempt to answer questions on geography, history, science and much more.

Regularly updated – well worth a regular check! This recent section on water use was particularly useful for some work I have been researching:

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 22 15.13

Posted in Curriculum, General Geo, Students, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Check out the Space Station

Tim PeakeI really enjoyed watching the images live on TV back on December 15th of Tim Peake blasting off for his six month stint on the International Space Station.




Tim is tweeting some great images, including these recent ones of northern England and the Alps:


N England

If you are a Twitter user, follow him at: @astro_timpeake

 You may be interested to find out when you can actually get a glimpse of the ISS as it passes over you. Go to this web site, and type in your location to get dates and times of possible sightings:

ScreenHunter_01 Dec. 29 17.31

Or you can track the ISS in real time at:

 ISS Tracker

Or watch live streaming from the ISS at:


Posted in General Geo, Human World, Maps, Students, Teachers, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Build Your Own Micro-Nation

ScreenHunter_02 Oct. 22 15.43Enjoyed this ‘Wanderlust’ magazine article about micro-nations:

Reminded me of an old project where year seven students ‘built their own country’ – always provided some interesting results!

Build Your Own Country

Posted in General Geo, Human World | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

International Border Images – Geo Starters


This link shows 21 images of international boundaries. Useful starters for geography lessons?

The photo to the left is the border between Haiti and Dominican Republic. Why do they show such different landscapes?

Posted in General Geo, Human World, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 100 UK Geo-sites from the Geological Society

giant-causewayThe UK and Ireland feature some of the most diverse and beautiful geology in the world, spanning most of geological time, from the oldest Pre-Cambrian rocks to the youngest Quaternary sediments. As part of Earth Science Week 2014, The Geological Society and partner organisations celebrated this unique geo-heritage by launching a list of 100 Great Geosites across the UK and Ireland. Members of the public nominated their favourite geosites, including some classic geological sites as well as some surprises.

The web site above provides some excellent materials to use in the classroom, perhaps as a starter activity, to inspire pupils to be interested in the natural beauty of the UK. The images and maps can be used to open discussions on rock types, human use and human impact upon these areas.

A good research homework might get the students to draw up their own lists for their local area or the UK.


Posted in Physical World | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment