A difficult choice for Michael Gove on January 30th 2013?
Where to go on January 30th 2013 will be a difficult decision for all those who are involved in education and learning across the globe including the now “converted” Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove.
If you attended either of the two big festivals in Olympia in January you might have a clue what his dilemma might be?
Early in January at BETT, The British Educational Technology and Training Show, the world’s largest educational technology trade show, owned and managed by EMAP, in partnership with the British Educational Suppliers Association, hosted over 30,000 visitors from over 100 countries around the globe.
This was preceded by the Education World Forum and a “closed shop” of overseas education ministers and government officials who come to see what is in the UK Plc shop window which might brighten up their classrooms and lecture theatres and boost their PISA rankings and digital economies.
They came to see what the latest technology had to offer the worlds education professionals in their quest to make learning more engaging, inspiring and effective for learners.
BETT goes back a long way, founded in 1985 it will enjoy it’s 28th year in 2013 and will move to a new home, close to London City airport at the Excel centre in London’s Docklands and BETT has also spread its wings into the Middle East suggesting that BETT is the UK Plc Learning technology shop window.
Interestingly this reference in Wikipedia illustrates a challenge BETT has tried to address;
“Criticised in the past for perhaps marginalising teachers due to the increasing business nature of the show, the producers have introduced a number of teacher friendly events such as TeachMeet to tackle this.”
Trying to put learning at the heart of a Trade show was made considerably easier in the years of “plenty” when government funded organisations such as BECTA, TDA, QCDA, SSAT, NCSL, DfE and many others had big marketing budgets and were anxious to be seen.
Sadly, some no longer exist or because of cutbacks none of the remaining quango’s or arms length bodies are allowed to, or can afford to exhibit.
There was also a series of popular seminars and workshops grafted on, by Emap and Naace, for the hordes to have a sit down when they had become a little weary of a few hours in the Marrakech souk type frenzy on the floor.
Teachmeets and Collaborate for change fringe events have also tried to provide more of an opportunity for teachers to share and learn from each other.and have proved very popular.
The Government position
And this year we returned to the ritual of the Schools Minister or Secretary of State, if they were not busy, formally opening the show and having a few well chosen photo opportunites and soundbites to make them look “cool” and up to date with learning technology.
In fact this year Michael Gove, chose the opening of BETT to share the “epiphany” he has recently had about the potential technology has to transform learning.
There are many claiming to have been the tipping point in Gove’s “Damascene”conversion.
Some think it has been the sustained campaign from interested bodies such as the British Computer Society, Naace, Association of Learning Technology, the Hope Livingstone Next Gen report.
But why has it taken so long for Michael Gove to be converted when some, campaigners, like journalist Merlin John, began raising this issue before the current government came to power? Or could it have been the recent speech by Google's Eric Schmidt who suggested “Britain had lost it’s way” and had betrayed the legacy it had been left by Alan Turing.Or. It might be perhaps the fact that the OECD PISA league tables in 2013 may contain a requirement for an asessment in “problem solving including ICT”?
A more cynical view suggests it is the influence from the private sector,developments in the the US and Westminster lobbysits that have created this “perfect storm”?
The limited number of organisations which managed to get into Sanctuary Buildings to see Michael Gove immediately following the General Election included Apple, Pearson and News Corp.
Perhaps someone bought Michael Gove,or his advisers,a copy of “Liberating Learning”-Technology, Politics and the Future of American Education, by Terry Moe (Hoover Insitute,Stanford) and John Chubb (VP Edison Learning Inc.) for Xmas?
After a read it it is not difficult to understand why Pearson and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp have been snapping up most of the companies involved in technology for learning and especially assessment here in the UK and the US.
The rolling back of the state control and interventions (Becta ,Local authorities etc) is surely giving encouragement to the private sector of the opportunites for profit to be made?
So watch this space!
Learning Without Frontiers
Whilst BETT managed to pack Olympia at the beginning of January Learning Without Frontiers demostrated how,with a different focus, mindset, design and priorities, Olympia can be transformed from a marketplace of trade to a “cirque de soleil” of learning.
Instead of the mega-stands of the Googles and Microsofts of the technology industry the gallery of Olympia was transformed into a futuristic and stimulating learning environment full of pods and presentations from pupil digital leaders,digital start-up companies and organisations involved in promoting innovative ways of learning using technology.
All of this was built around an audutorium which featured,either in person or live via videolink some of the worlds top thinkers and futurists in education and technology,including Noam Chomsky,Ray Kurzweil and Ken Robinson.
The event was sprinkled with some inspiring inputs on technology and neouroscience by Dr Paul Howard-Jones, the man behind TED talks,Jason Wishnow, Conrad Wolfram who designed Wolfrom Alpha, Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, the chief software engineer at Google, Andrew Eland and Mitch Resnick, MIT Media Lab, and Lord David Putnam and Professor Stephen Heppell who have been consistent campaigners on this issue for many years.
The clear focus throughout LWF was learning and the technology was secondary.
The inspiration behind LWF, Graham Brown-Martin,began his personal quest as “Handheld Learning” in 2004 when over 200 people gathered in a venue Graham organised (and had planned for about 100) to discuss developments in mobile technologies and their potential for transforming learning in a cramped room at Goldsmiths College.
“It was at that point I realised my passionate belief in the power of technology to liberate learning was shared by a large and growing community here and overseas”.
Now, several years later,in 2013,and running alongside the sister Learning Technologies event, Graham is planning for around 10,000 visitors and 1500 delegates to his Learning Conference and Free festival at Olympia on 29/30th January 2013
And that is where the choice issue arises.
BETT will be staged at ExCel from 30th January – 2nd Feb 2013
So which one will you choose to attend?
Or if Michael Gove is still Secretary of Schools which one will he open?
Learning Without Frontiers – All speakers videos on here
Merlin John “The Conservatives and the long wait on ICT”
Eric Schmidt MacTaggart Lecture
“Liberating Learning”- Technology, Politics and the Future of American Education, by Terry Moe and John Chubb
Michael Gove BETT speech
Bob Harrison is a school and college governor,a former Principal,and is Education Adviser for Toshiba Information Systems. He was part of the team that designed and delivered the NationalCollege BSF Leadership programme and NPQH.