Five Takeaways from the Education Tech Expo

Five Takeaways from the Education Tech Expo

8th November 2018

The Education Tech Expo was a great success. Delegates now have the tools to enable smarter working in schools. The exhibitors, including HP, SaharaAV and Instrui Training (who brought cakes), revealed how technology can optimise school expenditure. Meanwhile, talks offered intriguing insights into the future of the education industry.

When the clock struck 5pm, everyone left with an abundance of knowledge, and don’t worry if you couldn’t make it on the day — we’ve distilled the Education Tech Expo into five key takeaways.  

1) Virtual Reality (VR) Can Revolutionise Education

Delegates who experienced VR saw its immediate potential and one school walked away with more than 20 headsets. The technology is still emerging, but there is no denying its place as an education tool — history students can witness D-Day and Biology students can interact with a strand of DNA. Learning becomes a game that engages pupils with education..

However, New Ways to Learn and Spongy Elephant founder Sunny Sharma, who conducted a VR demonstration at the Expo, suggested the technology will only be successful when it’s treated as a teaching tool and not something to entertain bored students.  

There’s a bit of a ‘wow’ experience when you put a headset on for the first time, but where it really adds value is that it gives them an extra perspective. I look at VR in the context of impossible experiences, encouraging debate, visual literacy, discovery and when you take those things, it’s being able to ensure how can walking through a deep, dark wood help me, at the age of five or six, write a better story? Or how can walking through a street in war-torn Aleppo get me to understand the impact of war better? It’s when you start to apply it to creative writing, there is a literary aspect that is more powerful than being able to explore underwater with sharks, all that sort of stuff. That’s all fine, but there’s a wow factor that wears away quite quickly with VR. So, then you’ve got to tie it into something that is actually about the learning.

-Sonny Sharma, New Ways to Learn and Spongy Elephant

2) The Cloud is Changing How Schools Operate

The delegates loved the talks

One big takeaway is that schools are updating to cloud computing services in an effort to add more efficiency to their workflow.

This is particularly prevalent in academy chains as the businesses balance multiple schools while unifying their admin. Many delegates represented expanding academy chains who are considering swapping management information systems (MIS) to make the most of their recently installed cloud computing software.   

“We think 1000 schools are going to change MIS this year — that’s about one in 20 schools in England. Schools are changing for different reasons. Number one: the cloud is becoming normal. Schools are way behind other industries, or education is, in terms of having data on servers managed by people who are spending their time managing those servers people in the institution. That doesn’t happen in new businesses. It doesn’t even happen in banking. Moving to the cloud is normal.”

-Phillippa De’Ath, COO of Arbor Education

3) The Cloud is More Secure than Buckingham Palace

During the Expo, Airhead Education’s Phil Dawson demoed his excellent cloud-based product, Airhead. The product unites all your cloud-based logins under one username and streamlines the user experience, making teachers’ lives easier. But, slick and simple cloud computing raises security concerns. Many believe in the outdated idea that it’s safer to store your files in house.  

Most hacks come from humans, either from expert white-hat hackers or someone foolishly leaving their Facebook open. Cloud servers might be securer than Buckingham Palace. Beyond the techie terminology of firewalls and honeypots, Google’s data centres are physical fortresses with boots on the ground 24/7. Guards do internal and external patrols, there is CCTV and every employee is given an extensive background check. This is safer than saving all your school’s data onsite.  

4) WiFi Needs An Architect

Paul Hiscox delivers his talk on improving school WiFi

None of this matters if you don’t have great WiFi and many schools have terrible wireless infrastructure. Why do schools accept this? Because staff  believe they can set up WiFi themselves. They installed WiFi in their home so of course they can do it at work.

Talking at the Education Tech Expo, ITEC Senior Technical Analyst and WiFi wizard, Paul Hiscox revealed why that is a bad decision by using an interesting analogy — most people with rudimentary DIY knowledge could build a dog house, but could they build a block of flats? The upscaling requires an architect and skilled builders. WiFi is no different. Covering an average-sized school needs multiple routers and access points designed by someone who knows how the system can cater for a massive number of unique devices.

“There are so many schools that are challenged by bad WiFi and making it work—but you can beat it with good design. You’ve got to get experts in who understand the technology, how wireless works, the protocols, the use of the technology, and the types of devices in that school environment. Draw that expertise together. Get good design. Get good WiFi designed,planned and deployed, and you’ll get success.”

-Paul Hiscox, ITEC Senior Technical Analyst

5) Technology Needs a Purpose

Don’t install new technology for the sake of new technology. There must be a purpose and Neil Sawyer, HP’s Commercial Channel & Education Director, revealed that HP and ITEC are focusing on creating successful outcomes for schools using their products. They understand that teachers need to be invested in products. That products must balance aesthetics with productivity and ease the burden and pressures of upgrading or embracing new technology. They want schools to challenge them and they want teachers to be a leading voice.

“One of the big points ITEC and HP want to make today is that schools and colleges need to challenge the technology industry and their suppliers more than they are today. More than you ever have done before. There’s lots and lots of investment programmes that are free of charge. Try HPFE.com and followtheripple.com, anhourofcode.com. All of these great initiatives offer schools and colleges leverage for their students. The most important thing for any supplier in the technology sector and supplying to any school or college is making sure we deliver the best technology proposition and the clearest technology proposition that we could possibly give.  Importantly, put us to the test.”

-Neil Sawyer, HP Commercial Channel & Education Director

For more information on the Education Tech Expo, please contact derrick.murphy@itecgroup.co.uk

The 2018 Education Tech Expo was hosted at the Madejski Stadium, Reading on the 6th November. Thank you to everyone who attended.

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