‘Professional development teachers receive has a tremendous impact in the classroom’ (Nicky Morgan…*facepalm* and my BETT 2016)

I missed BETT last year due to work commitments so it was good to go this year and see the usual mix of product evolution and emerging ideas.

Enthusiasm I had from the event was though, at least partly, brought back down to earth by the email I received from the BETT organizers not long after getting home or, at least, by the subject line:

‘Professional development teachers receive has a tremendous impact
in the classroom’ (Nicky Morgan today)

The Day 1 highlights video that was included in the email is here:

Now, that specific quote from Nicky Morgan is not actually in the above video, it is in her 14 minute talk embedded below (text version here):

Whilst you might think the sentiment in the quote seems fair; for me, the quote is a real face palm moment.  Why?  Well, because it summarizes so many of the problems with education today.

The fundamental issue I have is that professional development is not something that should be talked about as being received, it is something you should undertake by seeking out opportunities and sharing with colleagues, it is personal, yet collaborative.  If the Secretary of State for Education is reinforcing such a fundamentally incorrect concept about lifelong learning it really is a worry.  Whilst I recognize teachers are among the very busiest professionals we have in the UK, so it is difficult for them to reflect on their practice, engage in communities of practice, etc. it would still be better to encourage all teachers to engage with improving their skill sets.  Instead she links teacher CPD to DfE, university and private sector funding, all of this whilst standing in possibly the biggest single free personal development event of the year.  Oh well, opportunity missed I guess.

There are plenty more points in the presentation that I could complain about but I’ll resist with the exception of the below piece:

“we have made it clear…that knowledge is the key to excellent educational outcomes…probably the worse attitude that we can take is that access to search engines is somehow a substitute for knowledge, it isn’t”

Let’s ask the future what they think of that opinion:


Okay, okay, so we perhaps do not need to go as far as to believe we live in a world where we can just ask a computer when we need to recall something (I’ll not go so far as to suggest tools such as Cortana and Siri are there yet).  However, there is the implied suggestion that the curriculum and assessment become recall assessments as a result of a focus on ‘knowledge’, rather than skills.  Let us see what the business community (well Accenture) has to say on that kind of approach:

Indeed, even if we just look at the “knowledge is…key” opinion from a Blooms Taxonomy perspective (aka Learning and Teaching 101), then recalling knowledge is clearly a pretty low level skill.  I understand the point that the EBacc has been introduced to ensure core knowledge, with higher level skill development possible on top of that, but it jars to me to suggest that search engines should not be recognised as a hugely powerful resource.  My own instructional design aims to avoid ever redesigning/reinventing/redelivering content that exists on the open web without, at least, adding value through context.

So what about my day at BETT 2016?  Well, there was not much that really caught the eye and I did not attend too many talks as I wanted to get around the whole show.  However, some thoughts below:

  1. Adaptive tech, as mentioned by Nicky Morgan, continues to bubble away as a potential game changer.  In the Higher Education sessions I caught Desire2Learn talking about their LeaP product.  The possibilities here for automated semantic matching to create bespoke learning pathways are hugely interesting.  It was also interesting to see how D2L had one of the smallest stands in the exhibition space when Instructure had a huge one for Canvas, I guess it goes to show how the funding of tech companies changes over time (albeit that Canvas was being pushed to the event’s core schools market).
  2. I tweeted before the event that it seemed around half of all stalls were new this year.  That number astounds me but shows there is still a lot of buoyancy in the learning tech market – or at least a lot of investment speculation.  To be fair this is partly skewed by the very small stalls where people are effectively pitching ideas – there were some interesting stalls in those spaces including around analytics products.
  3. The best demo I saw was of Arcgis.com – cloud based mapping technology, with a wide arrange of options and data mapping all within the browser.  Even better is that a lot of the tool’s functionality is public, with education users able to use it for just £100 a year (per school) as part of their CSR – their profit making sales coming from other users.
  4. Microsoft.  The main sponsors/partner for the event had quite a lot going on in their exhibition spaces (including the above Arcgis presentation).  Interesting to see them pushing the idea of combining apps (including OneNote), devices 1-2-1 (Surface), session recording (OfficeMix) and more for an integrated classroom experience.  With Google and others present it really does seem to have become the battle of the ecosystems, however with Office Apps on non Windows platforms I wonder how much value Microsoft can really suggest the bundling approach creates.  LP+365 was particularly interesting in looking to turn Office365 into an LMS, in contrast to the longer standing SharePoint solutions (such as this one).
  5. Discendum seem to have cracked some of the Open Badge deployment challenges, I liked the idea of learners being able to come up with their own badges and recommend colleagues/fellow students for those.

Author: iangardnergb

My name is Ian Gardner and I am interested in various topics that can be seen as related to learning, technology and information. To see what I am reading elsewhere, follow me on The Old Reader (I.gardner.gb) and/or Twitter (@iangardnergb).

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