BETT2018

Unusually I was quite looking forward to BETT this year.  The usual trepidation ahead of fighting through slow-moving crowds perhaps tempered by knowing I wasn’t doing “the new year double-header” with Learning Technologies:

The positive vibes for BETT were perhaps also coming from some hope regarding a new ‘learning space’ in our HQ that would need fitting out with appropriate tech.  So, whilst I used to always ignore the ‘physical’ classroom stuff at the show, this year I found myself drawn to wipe clean glass desks, chewing gum resistant tables and laptop trolleys.  All in all it was quite an eye opener checking out some stuff that I’ve only really had a passing interest in over the years.

There were only a few seminars I had earmarked as worth attending so it was to ExCeL I went with the usual expectation that making it around the show floor would take most of the day – the particular sessions I did attend are reflected on below.  Also some general notes from the floor:

General thoughts from the floor

One of the major criticisms of BETT is that it is the hungry pigs at the trough of school spending/funding.  So soon after the Carillion collapse this perhaps stood out even more this year – with Capita and Microsoft probably having the biggest stalls to show quite how much of a “market” education now is.  Of course this is a little harsh on Microsoft who are often playing the long game in getting kids and uni students used to their tools on the cheap so they then query employers as to why they are still using Excel 2010 and/or Apple and/or Google.  I’m totally one of those suckers…

…pretty sure I said something similar about discussion boards in c.2004.  There’s also plenty of big ‘learning’ players at BETT – working across BETT (for schools), HE, workplace and more – such as Techsmith, Kaltura, Canvas, Claro, D2L, McGrawhill and 3M.

I attended a few bits and bobs on other stalls, including a good one on the Microsoft stand considering PISA and the future competencies learning professionals need to be supporting:

wp_20180125_14_22_27_rich.jpg

Anyways, whatever your political persuasion and thoughts on capitalism’s influence on the classroom its likely you would still look twice at the presence of the Russian, UAE and other nations’ stalls.  They seemed more pronounced (to me at least) this year but I probably think that every year.  That said, the French stall had a few interesting startups and a pleasant amount of stereotyping in the branding:

WP_20180125_13_32_20_Rich

 

Overall I fleetingly pass stalls when in BETT, in part as I don’t have a particular budget I’m looking to spend, some reflections from this year’s wander:

  • Whiteboards, screens, etc – 4K seems to have given this area a boost although a session I started to watch (facilitated by two wonderfully confident early teens) soon turned into the usual Smart farce when the software wasn’t working properly.  Still feels like a software-lite solution is best in this space so one less thing can go wrong (even if Tango and others seem to have nice additional software) – one of the worse inventions ever was the Smart TV turning a previously immediate boot device into something that has to ‘load’, update and crash.  I was though intrigued by a few claims related to “eye care tech” built into devices.
  • Laptop safety – as mentioned above, device security is potentially going to be of interest to me in coming months so it was interesting to see how the tech in this space has developed with an array of tablet-friendly lock and charge systems – as well as wireless/contact less charging.  Wireless charging remains, for me at least, still slightly magical yet the sowed it is very much deployed and ‘in the real world’.
  • GDPR was out in force with some data regulation, hosting/protection suppliers having (literally) stuck it on as an additional to their stall’s advertising.  The impact on education was also in a number of magazine and flyer takeaways.  Presumably, as with other industries, there will be a lot of people failing to prepare for this and others cashing in on the general misunderstandings and malaise.
  • VR seems to be developing along but still seems of most use where there are clear experiences to be gained – the idea of experiencing a WWI trench in VR sounded intriguing and akin to the use for highlighting the issues Syria faces: http://www.360syria.com/intro .  I’m torn on if we would ever want ‘rapid’ VR authoring or if that will open the floodgates to awful VR in the way PPT to SCORM converters did for eLearning.  Although templated AR might be useful?
  • LMS.  You would think in a school environment that the LMS/VLE would be a central tool.  However, you still get the feeling that Google for Education and Office 365 are central (on the authoring and deployment side) with student information systems the data coal face.  Perhaps due to budgets, it is seems increasingly that another (LM) system isn’t a priority – perhaps as schools will also be face-to-face focused in the first instance.  Also there seemed to be growing numbers of add-ons to 365 (such as https://www.livetiles.nyc/ that do some of the job).
  • Mobile: Nice to see that, at least some, classrooms and taking advantage of students carrying powerful devices with them by leveraging them in the pedagogy – for example with: https://www.wooclap.com/ and https://nearpod.com/
  • https://www.iridize.com/ (for context sensitive employee performance support on systems) and a few others looked less ‘BETT-y’ and perhaps more suited for the LT show.  TootToot for feedback/safeguarding would also have uses outside of the target school models and they are apparently working on an enterprise version.  Similarly Derventio’s performance management tools were clearly suitable outside of the school market – but, as always, do you want integrated HRM or multiple systems?
  • Furniture: a few worthy mentions for interesting products – Mirplay, Learniture, Freedesk, Folio, Wall Art and, surprising to see at the show, John Lewis (for Business).
  • AI: wasn’t as obvious as might have been expected.  No doubt many of the publishers (even Britannica who were celebrating their 250 anniversary) are working this in and there are other products out there like https://www.tassomai.com.
  • As well as the usual programming, robots and other cool stuff:

WP_20180125_14_19_12_Rich

Talk 1: National College for High Speed Rail on the 4th industrial revolution

Didn’t really feel like it went anywhere this one (perhaps ironically considering the home org of the presenter).  Useful I guess if people were not aware of the ‘IR4’ buzz/argument but with little direct applicability beyond a call to the attendees to be innovative.

Basically argued that the college is set up, via apprenticeships and innovative approaches, to tackle modern workplace challenges.  Yet I thought that whilst it is all well and good that this new style of college exists to “disrupt” – the use of new tech in “everything we do” sounds a little like setting itself up to fail (or at least retract when budgets are cut in the future).  Interesting bits like their use of Azure for combining data didn’t sound like they were too ‘new’ – instead leading to early warning indicators like Starfish and other solutions have in the past.

Talk 2: Leading a digital learning strategy

An impressive school turnaround story from a headteacher who put digital at the heart of the school approach.  Really a rare cultural success story with a successful 1-2-1 device programme.

Tips for success were not surprising but good to see a success story for once:

  • Sustainable, not one-off investment
  • Don’t expect tech to make life (i.e. teaching) easier: just different
  • Tech rich, not paper free: still room for outdoor learning, physical science, drawing, etc.
  • Used what was right for them: Chromebooks and GSuite
  • Staged roll-out: staff with pupils so learning together over a three years (not a complete ‘big bang’)
  • Used distance learning software and techniques when relevant (and when needed like school snow days):  including having people collaborate in the same room but at different desks, i.e. get pupils used to workplace digital collaboration style remote working
  • Google Sites for ePortfolio allows for parents to be more involved with the demo of work and outcomes
  • Continuous feedback on teachers via Google Forms to allow iterative improvement.

What was pleasing was the trust evidently put in pupils, with low-level web filtering and pupils allowed to ‘own’ their device.

Still clearly a way to go – for example, they are looking at audio feedback (even though that was well embedded when I worked in HE c. 10 years ago).  I hadn’t seen the immediate feedback available in the education version of Duolingo which looked quite good.

Overall, inspiring and the point made that a lack of IT teacher/department hasn’t held them back – and has probably helped as it means shared ownership in their culture – is probably as revealing about failed projects elsewhere as anything.

Talk 3: GDPR

A decent session that made the point that GDPR is a major issue for schools and that one reason why it is tricky is that it is really made up of three equal parts: cyber security, data protection and information governance that had, previously, been developing separately and experts find difficult to cut across.

Unfortunately were in a world of pretty terrifying stuff – like one school who were targeted by a phishing attack and parents then lost £150k in paying fraudsters a fake school charge.  A key point here being that the processing activity is key – e.g. it’s not IT’s responsibility but rather the user (such as HR teams as they hold personal data).

Getting onto Windows 10 was identified as an easy step to improve compliance and that everyone needs to be clear where they are on meeting requirements – with a way forward plan by the introduction in May – rather than compliant from day one.

Talk 4: Digital transformation

More a summary from the Ludic Group on changes in the last 20 years and some ongoing trends:

WP_20180125_15_51_58_Rich.jpg

WP_20180125_16_08_38_Rich.jpg

Nothing major here unless, perhaps, people entered disagreeing with his “digital changes everything” mantra and had their heads turned or, indeed (and this is a possibility as the Q&A question was “what is blended learning?”[!!]), eyes opened.

Some more on what learning needs to pick up from gaming

So another post on the lessons from the world of gaming.

This one was sparked by an article considering if the latest Legend of Zelda game is the greatest ever in terms of design.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time already in this iteration of the world of Hyrule and it is difficult to disagree with the arguments in the article.

The closing paragraph should particularly resonate with learning professionals thinking about how to support their organisations:

the job of the designers is not to hold your hand and guide you around a set path. It is [to] reach out hundreds of hands and leave it up to you which you grab first.

Wow! There’s a topic starter for instructional/learning design debate!

Whilst in the past people may have talked about things like “learning styles” to warrant different approaches we are now, instead, in a position where we consider the different approaches we might drive performance and support learning for people at different starting points and existing levels of competence.

Now the counter argument would be that the multiple, even unlimited, permutations of many games are not feasible in instructional design.  Instead we end up with versions of relatively simple board game constructs when gaming or fairly restricted ‘serious games’.  However, with dynamic algorithmically driven learning there is the potential for an explosion in personalisation.

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 20.33.00.png

Winning a battle with only your general left may not be recommended. But a win is a win.

Now the above image is an example of a counterfactual gaming experience, crusading as the Byzantine Empire.  Traditional L&D has of course made use of just such counterfactuals, through role plays, business modeling, simulations, etc.  If you can create an appropriate model then the variations are possible – with different focuses possible across, say, finance, marketing, etc. – all in the ‘safe’ environment of not impacting actual bottom lines, patients, customers, etc.

By thinking through game constructs there is the potential to think about what you want to achieve in a different way.  For example, the battle focused historic counterfactual (such as Total War games in the above image) and more character focused such as the grand strategy Crusader Kings 2 (images below) are effectively giving you the same goal (rebuilding the empire) but in very different experiences.

Rome

Expanding (and renaming) the Byzantine Empire across c.100 years (of game time)

The storytelling in a scenario such as the above is prompted by certain actions (for example Byzantium becoming large enough to reclaim the title of “Rome” as an achievement) but is not as structured as, say, a linear first-person-shooter game like Call of Duty.  The latter, more linear style, offers up the potential for set storytelling, with some games much better at this than others.  Which leads to an argument that future instructional designers would be best sourced from graphic communication or creative writing backgrounds.

Traditionally simulation has, of course, taken many forms in workplace development – from table top games to computer scenarios.  The challenge with simulations remains the balance between ‘keeping it real’ (i.e. actually useful in the workplace environment) and maintaining interest through the storytelling/fun and other components.  Meanwhile this post makes good points about balancing complexity versus needing to know ‘now’.

So what to takeaway?

  1. Think about how much hand holding is appropriate – it’s not always a bad thing.
  2. Have the plot/narrative/story drive motivation.
  3. Reward with hidden achievements.
  4. Use users/learners to determine if you are hitting the right balance between reality and gaming elements.

Microsoft Teams: The platform we’ve been waiting for?

What is a ‘learning platform’?  It, perhaps, needs to support behavior change and knowledge sharing.  Therefore, it has been good to try out this week what Microsoft have launched with Teams and think how it might be used.

Now, it could be used for the Teams communication and sharing.  However, my mind has wandered to how it might work as more of an ESN/LMS if you went for a topic focus – creating open/public teams per topic where the business feels it has needs.

Now there are possible problems – not least that the rather unhelpful banner prompts you download a desktop app.  Hi Microsoft – its 2017 calling, where is the mobile app prompt!

Microsoft Teams Desktop Download Prompt

As for Microsoft – this might be the way to add structure to your sharing of documents and conversations.  However, there are clearly the problems with how this should work between Delve, Yammer and other options.

So what about the LMS?  Well there has, of course, been the “LMS/VLE is dead” narrative for a while, add to this a renewed discussion around disruption.  Therefore, can Teams act in place of the LMS – for example as a “learning experience platform“.  Whilst you could argue with a lot of that article this piece certainly resonates:

A disruptive change has occurred. Companies no longer look at their LMS as the core of their learning infrastructure. It’s now the back-end, and they are searching for a new employee experience, which demands a new set of tools.

There are many exciting things happening in the learning technology space: tools like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, and Skype are becoming enterprise-class, and these tools will likely become primary destinations for learners too. Now we need a new class of learning platforms that bring all this content together, deliver it in a compelling way, and give us the social and mobile experience we use every day throughout our life at home.

 

Microsoft Display Dock

Initial thoughts on Continuum

A couple of months back I was given the chance by Vodafone to upgrade early. The choice was then clear, stay with Windows (‘upgrading’ from a Nokia to latest Microsoft phone), go back to Android (same as my work phone) or switch to Apple (work phone up-to about a year ago).

I fundamentally prefer the Windows phone/mobile/Windows for phone interface so opted to stay put.

One tempting advantage of moving to the new device (beyond the fresh battery as my Nokia was struggling to last a day) was to try Continuum.

I got very excited about Continuum on release. Here are my pros and cons from a month or so of (attempted) use with the display dock:

Pros
·        Very simple to use and setup using the ‘gadgets’ feature which I’d previously not really seen the point of in Windows 10.
·        The dock itself (see pic) is nice and has a ‘paperweight’ kind of feeling – not too light to feel flimsy but light enough to carry easily.
·        Using the phone for control (mouse trackpad and typing) work nice enough.
·        The dock comes with two cables, one with wall connection for power and one for connecting to phone – this has become my home charger with the Microsoft original now at my work office desk.
·        Great at offering functions when my primary home device (iMac) isn’t available – for example going through emails, browsing, etc.
Cons
·        I didn’t manage to pick up a dock for free (as has occasionally been the offer) so had to spend a little extra for one on eBay.
·        You don’t get a HDMI cable with the dock, so it has added to the switching on my home TV (2 HDMI ports) between PlayStation, Apple TV and Sky Box. This is another thing you’d have to find and carry when traveling (I didn’t take one on holiday and the gite’s TV only had scart cables so I couldn’t use it).
·        The Store.  It’s perhaps the information manager in me, but the Store is awful. The lack of an easy filter (currently just a limited Microsoft controlled collection/listing for Continuum enabled apps) is a glaring gap. That so many sites and user forums have listings of games and other apps that work with Continuum shows people are having to work around Microsoft’s own approach.
·        Existing non-Continuum apps. It would be really nice if these just appeared in phone dimensions, rather than not being accessible at all.
·        If I was to carry a mouse and keyboard on the go, are you really saving much space from a laptop? Perhaps, but probably not from the netbook I would have used on the go c.10 years ago.
·        The dock to phone cable included is fine for desk usage but not so great (length wise) for working with my TV and wanting to be sat back on my sofa.

·        The sound comes through the phone speakers not my TV. Admittedly the speakers are better than in my last device but it seems, from searching help forums, that audio output is a little random in terms of which monitors/tvs/etc. respond to c’ connections.

Overall, still huge potential.  However the App issues, which normally don’t bother me as I’m happy with what my phone device can do (phone, podcasts, contacts, messaging, Facebook, browsing, maps), become acute when trying to take the phone device to the next level. With the larger screen you want more games and apps.

I would recommend it though for organisations where staff are on the move and could hot desk using Word and other core apps as they go. Perhaps best for those who work in environments such as journalism, consultants (although they may want their own dock for when at client sites) and where you don’t often need to be at a desk but do want to check emails, etc. when you do – perhaps in a retail or factory environment.

My vote for the Top Tools for Learning 2016

Here’s what I submitted to the annual poll (http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/voting/).

  • Tool 1: Name and (optionally) reason for choice: Old Reader – personal RSS reader of choice for news, sharing and current awareness.
  • Tool 1: How do you use it?: Workplace Learning, Personal & Professional Learning

  • Tool 2: Name and (optionally) reason for choice: Xmarks – bookmarking for personal knowledge library and sharing of folders/topics with contacts and colleagues
  • Tool 2: How do you use it?: Workplace Learning , Personal & Professional Learning

  • Tool 3: Name and (optionally) reason for choice: YouTube – still most used video platform in terms of access to recorded webinars, tutorials, etc.
  • Tool 3: How do you use it?: Workplace Learning , Personal & Professional Learning

  • Tool 4: Name and (optionally) reason for choice: Articulate Storyline 2 – authoring tool of choice for content distribution and for developing support tools.
  • Tool 4: How do you use it?: Workplace Learning

  • Tool 5: Name and (optionally) reason for choice: Totara – simplifies our L&D management requirements for regulators, government, etc allowing more of our time on performance support and career development.
  • Tool 5: How do you use it?: Workplace Learning, Personal & Professional Learning

  • Tool 6: Name and (optionally) reason for choice: LinkedIn – learning via groups and 1-2-1 communication. A source for news and useful links (but less so than Old Reader or YouTube).
  • Tool 6: How do you use it?: Workplace Learning , Personal & Professional Learning

  • Tool 7: Name and (optionally) reason for choice: WordPress – for reflection and sharing my learning.
  • Tool 7: How do you use it?: Workplace Learning , Personal & Professional Learning

  • Tool 8: Name and (optionally) reason for choice: Prezi – started using it again this year to share messaging where the templates/zooming helps.
  • Tool 8: How do you use it?: Workplace Learning , Personal & Professional Learning

  • Tool 9: Name and (optionally) reason for choice: Firefox – as the entry point to other tools remains essential. Used over other tools for speed, plugins, etc.
  • Tool 9: How do you use it?: Workplace Learning, Personal & Professional Learning

  • Tool 10: Name and (optionally) reason for choice: Grover Pro – Podcast app of choice for learning on the go.
  • Tool 10: How do you use it?: Workplace Learning, Personal & Professional Learning