The world of education technology is expanding and growing at an incredible rate. Bill Best and I visited the BETT exhibition today at London’s Excel centre, comprising hundreds of the worlds EdTech suppliers – both established and growing.
BETT is the foremost gathering of educationalists and technology experts who are focussed on using technology in order to promote and support learning across many different learning styles and practices. From robots and artificial intelligence, to virtual reality, classroom interaction, and even beanbags and lockers. Everything possible was on offer, and there was something for everyone related to learning and technology.
One exhibitor we were keen to catch up with was School Radio, who supply radio equipment and support for learning opportunities that harness the power of radio as a tool for learning. Liam Burke gave us an overview of the services that they offer, and the way that School Radio ties in with the National Curriculum. School Radio also exhibited at the CMA Conference last year, so it was great to see radio being promoted in the context of learning and technology resources, and at an exhibition that has a global reach.
Liam explained that by using radio production techniques, learners get hands-on opportunities to discuss and explore ideas using an immediate set of tools that learners can manipulate and edit without the need for high-level technical skills. Hearing and listening are central to the learning process, and using radio as a technique that provides direct feedback and support the listening process, has a powerful effect when handled properly in the classroom.
While Bill and I chatted with Liam, two young guys in their school uniforms visited the stand and wanted to know if they could practice using the microphones and the control desk. Apparently, this was their second visit to the stand. It was great to see that among all the robots and interactive interfaces, that young people can still be engaged by the power of radio, the simplicity of vocal communication, and the skill of listening.
The investment that has been channelled into digital learning continues to grow. The promotion of digital engagement and virtual learning experiences is gathering pace at all levels. As community media advocates, keeping abreast of these changes in expectation and opportunities for innovative development of technology and new learning practices is a considerable challenge. While many of us nurture our fondness for legacy forms of media, we also have to plan and anticipate the ways that technology is changing learning, and the opportunities that new platforms and systems offer that enhance the learning experiences of future generation who want to create and control their own media platforms.
One thing I personally missed from the day was a quiet area with books. Despite what all the technologists might tell us, the most successful learning tool of the past two millennia has been the written word and the book. Quiet contemplation, rather than electronic stimulation, in my view can achieve much more in terms of understanding and innovation, and we can’t let the technology race ahead of use.
Likewise, listening to people telling stories is still one of the most profoundly important aspects of our shared experiences. Many have predicted the demise of radio, in which we are replaced by robots and automation systems, but we keep coming back to people telling stories and talking about their experiences using vocal media. Despite all the excitement of a technology exhibition, radio still has a very important role to play in learning, and we should continue to explore how we can support learners to engage with the best forms of storytelling and discussion.