BESA chief says blended learning is the future

BESA chief says blended learning is the future

Digital assessment tools were one of the key education trends on show at Bett 2015, according to Caroline Wright, director of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).

Speaking at Bett 2015, which took place at London’s ExCeL on 21st–24th January, Wright said digital tools that help teachers to reduce their workload are increasingly popular, especially those that enable teachers to assess pupils on a computer instead of using a notebook. “Assessing pupils used to be very paper-intensive, but these kinds of products are immediate and tailored to individual pupils.”

Wright also said that publishers were doing a “great job” of keeping up with demand for digital products. “We live in a multiplatform world. The big publishers still have their print books, but they have digital resources too. It’s all about blended learning,” she said.

“Technology can really involve children but it’s the mix with traditional content that’s important, and how the industry builds on that. I would never suggest that there is a ‘one size fits all’ model; there is a need for traditional textbooks, but digital resources add value,” Wright added.

At the show, BESA also revealed the results of a survey of 1,225 schools that showed that there are now 2,722,000 computers in schools, up from 2, 700,000 in 2013. However, 65% of primary schools and 54% of secondaries say they suffer because of poor Wi-Fi, and 42% of primaries and 31% of secondaries say poor broadband is a problem.

“The biggest issue is schools’ ability to use digital tools because of poor Wi-Fi and broadband,”Wright said. “Schools in areas with poor coverage invest less in digital because they know they won’t be able to use them. The potential for an urban/rural divide is alarming.”

She added that teachers needed to know how to use digital resources. “Teachers need training to use the product and unless you have good CPD [continuous professional development], this can become an issue.”

Several children’s publishers launched digital products at Bett. DK’s new online encyclopedia for children, www.dkfindout.com, was made live during the show. The site is divided into categories such as history, animals and nature, space and maths, and is free to use.

Bloomsbury launched its Telling the Time app in beta at the show, ahead of its market launch in April. Jayne Parsons, publishing director of non-fiction and education, said Bloomsbury created the app in response to demand from teachers. “A lot of kids are so used to digital clocks now that they get to the age of maybe nine or 10 and they still can’t read an analogue clock.”

The app will be priced at £2.29, and retailed as part of the Andrew Brodie family of apps. Last year, Andrew Brodie’s Let’s Do Mental Maths 6–7 won a FutureBook Innovation Award for Best Children’s Non-Fiction Digital Book.