1. All things AR and VR

With innovation at the forefront of educators minds across the globe, there are many companies looking for that 'silver bullet' in edtech. Taking time to walk around the conference hall, there were a plethora of companies exploring technology for educational use. Here are my current thoughts on this topic -

Positives -
An extremely engaging way for teachers and students to interact with real or virtual spaces from their classroom. There are many free alternatives to the use of VR and AR that are already available from apps, Aurasma etc. to basic cardboard headsets like, Google Cardboard etc. These already allow immersion of VR and AR into the classroom with some creative pedagogy and technology use.

Google Expeditions is a great tool for VR allowing students to visit amazing places across the globe. Thinglink 360 and a 360 degree camera can allow you to make your very own - check out @NathanAshman for more info.

Negatives -
The cost element is always a concern with new technology and this is no exemption. The purchasing of headsets with integrated technology for a class, you are looking upwards of £2000 pounds, which I believe currently have limited use. If you have headsets like Google Cardboard, they require a smaller device such as iPhone or Android to display the images, not many schools have this luxury.

Areas for development -
Though I really like using AR apps in my classroom, I do believe companies have quite a long way to go to improve this technology. Already many AR apps are supported and work great on iPad but as far as justifying purchases of class sets of headsets, in my opinion there needs to be more educational benefits and development of user experience and content. Watch this space for sure!

2. Pedagogy before Technology

Seminars are the 'realistic' aspect of the BETT show where you get to listen to actual educators talking about the great learning happening in their respective schools or districts. One main point resonated across all these - pedagogy before technology. Whether they were talking about the use of iPad, Chromebook, AR, VR or leadership in education, it always comes back to good teaching and what we actually do with the technology.

A common model referred to in almost every session I attended was TPACK. Seemingly a more recognisable model these days, I was surprised to see mobile devices pulled out to capture the slide explaining the model. For those who are not familiar with the TPACK model - check out my previous article.

3. STEM, STEAM or just good practice?

A current focus for many schools is the explicit teaching of STEM subjects . For me, this whole element is basic teaching of integration of subjects and inquiry-based learning with students.

It is my opinion that subjects should be integrated within each other and allow students to develop real-world connections with their learning. We need to challenge students thought processes and skill development but we are often too focused on knowledge acquisition rather than real-world application. This can be difficult with the increasing globalisation of education where we are bound by standardised testing as a means to evaluate school progression and success, this is a whole bigger issue...

I do believe that STEM is a great for education, however many companies are taking advantage of this current trend by providing gimmicky technology and software. As teachers we need to be aware of this type of technology and be more creative in the way we are teaching. We need to allow students to be more exploratory with their learning and less focused on explicit stand and deliver teaching.

4. Leadership is more important than ever

With huge changes in education happening now leadership in schools is as important as ever. I was lucky enough to listen to @EricSheninger, one of the gurus of digital leadership and school leadership in general, as well as Sir Ken Robinson. Both proclaiming the importance of leadership, not only for those who hold a 'title', but also those to want to make a change in education. Eric discussed the importance of key principles of leadership their importance in today's education systems. He reflected on his once own ignorance to the use of technology in schools, referring to him once creating the policies around no technology. However, moving his school forward he’s now an advocate for technology and the importance of it in education now, and for the future.

Said to be one of the most influential minds in education currently, Sir Ken enthralled the audience with his keynote on ‘The Learning Revolution’. Discussing the change in education was up to us as educators to begin the revolution in our very classrooms. The need to create more relevant and meaningful learning environments for students to become more focused on developing skills than knowledge. This only comes from strong leadership within education at the top but also with drivers from the bottom up - YOU!

5. Community of passionate educators

As always it is great to catch up with fellow educators from across the globe. Some of the best ideas and inspiration come from informal catch ups and discussions with this network of friends. Throughout my time in the UK I was lucky enough to visit Kings School, Rochester and fellow ADE John Jones and some of the great work he is doing there with the integration of technology and computer science into the curriculum. Also I had the opportunity to visit Michelle Thomas' school Woodberry Down and see the amazing transformation of education environment they have had with teaching pedagogy and technology integration.

It was also refreshing to hear many of my fellow ADE buddies sharing their stories of learning across the various BETT showcases and exhibitions. These stories are always inspiring to listen to and draw ideas from for your own learning environment. It is a great opportunity to reconnect over a few beers and swap ‘war stories’ too - you know who you all are!