A Better BETT

I dropped into BETT earlier today (I was in London and the free bus pass for old people meant an easy bus ride to Olympia from Kensington). It was interesting to be immersed in teachers once again, but not necessarily uplifting. It was good to see and hear Stephen Heppell working with some children who were developing programming skills and making digital games with some free software called ‘scratch’. It was, apparently just what Michael Gove was talking about at the BETT opening. But although the teachers and students were pleased with themselves the games were rather unimaginative, full of poor clip art, derivative ideas and very predictable: hardly a creative breakthrough. I guess it should be a reminder that it will not do to just change the software that is used in IT. There is a need to change the teachers and the context. Programming plus creative arts teachers could be fun (and I always include teachers of English in the group of creative arts teachers). These programming exercises needed illuminating with concepts of narrative, imagination and mystery.

I was reminded of an occasion years ago when an old woodwork teacher was trying to tell me about the BAUHAUS. It was clear he had no idea what he was talking about and the book ends made by the students were awful.

On another stand www.edintheclouds was talking about the small junior school, of which he is a governor, which uses Google docs exclusively and has abandoned corporate servers and LA VLE’s. They all work in the cloud and recognise that life is messy. He also talked of teachers naturally wanting to engage professionals, from all over the world, in their students learning. Good to hear but not exactly a new conversation. The technology is more accessable now but, to be frank, it has been there for some years – but mainly locked out of schools and classrooms by firewalls, and IT experts.

So not so much of a change – but perhaps Gove will stimulate debate about what IT can and should be in schools. We do have some good models of creative IT practice in art and design (which I have writtten about before – search in right hand column). Perhaps it would be sensible to marshall some arguments and exemplars. Its always best work with the grain of the prevailing political ego.

PS I didn’t know Stephen Heppell was born in Chalfonts see http://www.heppell.net/
PPS You can get Scratch here http://scratch.mit.edu/
PPPS Thanks to Pain Quotidean for the coffee and free wifi – love my iPad.

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About Dan

Senior Advisor, Art Inspector, Member of the Expert Advisory Group for Art, Consultant working with NSEAD, IOE, QCA, UCE, UOG. Currently lecturer at UCL working on a project in Kazakhstan to develop text books for a new art curriculum.
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