Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Creative Tech Roundup from BETT 2019 London

BETT is an annual event in London to showcase the best in educational technology. Tech Age Kids attended the event to see what's new for 2019 and how education is fairing in helping kids learn the right skills for the digital future.

Tech Age Kids hosted two workshops from our book micro:bit in Wonderland, which was well received by teachers. The book, based on a familiar story, uses project-based learning to learn useful skills, like coding and connecting electronics and making. Read the Alice page for more information about the book.

The learning through making theme celebrated with the launch of the new Pi-Top 4, is something that really resonates with us. The Pi-Top 4 is the most compact version of Pi-Top's Raspberry Pi computer. (Personally, I didn't like the black-box look and feel of Pi-Top 4, but maybe it has something to do with me trying to get away from the mystery of how computers work in the Big Black Box.) The Pi-Top 4 has neat add-ons and because it is portable it lends itself to be built into projects, like a Mars Rover, Humanoid and Drone (some of the examples they had on display.) It's well positioned for KS3 and KS4 learning. Learn more.

In my opinion, BETT is losing its ability to appeal to UK schools. At least the ones I've worked in don't seem to have enough budget to keep basic tech like interactive whiteboards and computers for the children working. The lure of programmable robots and electronics kits, seem out of reach for many UK schools.

However, amongst all the interactive whiteboards and VR classrooms we did find a few gems, which we'd like to highlight (in no particular order).

  1. Pip from Curious Chip

    Pip is finally here. Last year Curious Chip successfully completed their Kickstarter campaign and they are shipping the first units to their backers in Spring 2019. We were delighted to see some of new apps and add-ons for Pip.

    It's definitely something to keep in mind for Christmas 2019! Learn more.
  2. Ohbot Picoh

    We were kickstarter backers of the original Ohbot and love the idea of introducing children to AI technology in a fun and interactive way (we've written a few posts about Ohbot already). When speaking to the team from Ohbot, they said they wanted to bring that technology to more children, hence launching Picoh. Picoh works on the same tech, but the barrier to get started is lowered with a small robot, that you don't need to build and feels more appealing to the consumer market.

    You can help fund this project by backing the company on Kickstarter. Learn more about Ohbot.
  3. DFRobot Boson Kits

    Every year at BETT there are more and more 'new' robotic and electronic kits on display. It's hard to know which products are a good choice to invest in. One company from China that stand out for us is DFRobot. Their kits are well designed and some also integrate with micro:bit. It makes sense if you've invested in a particular technology in a school, that we buy other things that will work with it.

    We like their Boson kits for the micro:bit, and new add-ons like the Micro: Maqueen, Micro: Circular and Micro: Gamepad. Learn more.
  4. The micro:bit Foundation

    The micro:bit Foundation annouced their new block-based coding editor, MakeCode in December 2018, and there was lots of opportunities for teachers to get familiar with it through hands-on workshops. There's also an extension for the micro:bit for the new Scratch 3.0 which is well worth exploring. The MakeCode editor has been much improved for touch-screen devices, making it accessible for tablets and children using touchscreen laptops (read why we recommend touch screen computers for younger kids).

    Learn more about The micro:bit Foundation and its work.
  5. Crumble

    Crumble isn't new, but we wanted to highlight it, as it's a fantastic piece of kit for schools and quite affordable too. The Crumble is often seen used to make buggies and robots but it has a lot of scope for creativity and using in Design Technology projects. Phil Wickens (a guest writer for Tech Age Kids) shows off his students work with Crumble in this video. Good news for some teachers who use Chromebooks in school a Chrome OS version is coming soon.

    A full review of the Crumble is coming soon. Learn more on the Redfern Electronics website.
  6. The Hummingbird Bit

    We spotted the Hummingbird electronics kit at BETT last year and was impressed with the creative applications with this kit. They went away last year and developed a board that works with the micro:bit. Now you can use the Hummingbird board with the micro:bit and the MakeCode editor with the Hummingbird Bit library of code blocks. We picked up a kit and will write a full hands-on review soon. Learn more on The Birdbrain Technologies website.
  7. Sphero Specdrums

    Sphero announced a new product called Sphero Spectrum as CES 2019 and we were delighted to get a hands-on demonstration. It's a pretty neat way of bringing the physical and digital world together. You wear a ring and tap on colours, which play sounds through an app. You can play pre-programmed colours or you can make your own sounds from real-world objects.

    The 1 ring kit retails at $69.99 but if you want 2 rings its $99.99. (Look carefully, as all the packaging and marketing material shows two rings!) They will be shipping early 2019. Obviously not affordable for UK schools, but a cool gadget to put on the Christmas list for 2019.Learn more.

Creative Tech in Education

During BETT I also attended the Creative Tech in Education event organised by the talented Helen Leigh. It was a brilliant evening of sharing ideas and technologies that can be used by schools to teach computing and technology ina . creative and engaging way. Helen spoke about her new book, The Crafty Kid's Guide to DIY Electronics (a full review coming soon) which is available to purchase on Amazon US | Amazon UK AND her MINI.MU glove that allows you to create music through gestures with the micro:bit.

There were also inspirational talks from Tanya from Pimoroni, Lorraine Underwood and her incredible Cube, Aadi from Kalebr and the awesome Frazer from CLIP Sounds and Music.

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