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As a visitor (or stand owner, it wasn’t too clear) at BETT I was emailed a link to a web survey this morning which at the end promised me exclusive access to a NERP report (National Education Research Panel) concerning the “new technology outlook (for schools) in 2008” driven by data gathered from “422 primary and 272 secondary schools cross the UK” in Dec ’07.

Amongst the usual bar charts and stat heavy paragraphs I soon noticed that mobile learning was taking a real hammering and schools were instead focusing heavily on front of class ICT.

In Primary Schools “…mobile devices continue being of little value or not utilised by the majority of Primary schools.

In Secondary Schools “…little or no investment is planned for mobile devices“.

This contrasted massively against the move towards more teacher-centric (or should that be static?) ICT utilities:

“Broadly, it can be determined that primary schools are more likely to value teacher-facing technologies such as IWBs, while secondary schools are more likely to value the core ICT infrastructure.”

“Secondary schools are mostly likely to make large investments in learning platforms (22%), and IWBs (23%).”

Again and again mobile ICT learning came out badly and teacher led ICT learning came out strongly.

Initially this led me to wonder if the fault lies with the mobile device manufacturers for making their products too expensive when compared to the (perceived) benefit it brings to the learning (“Secondary schools are…most likely to identify mobile devices as offering poor value-for-money“) . Or does the emphasis lie with mobile content publishers for not producing assets that capture teachers imaginations?

“Registration systems and mobile devices are more likely to be perceived as offering poor value-for-money.”

You could simply read into all this that teachers think the cost to benefit ratio is too high. But when you see this data alongside the drive to IWBs and VLEs it starts to look more than a cold financial decision: are schools afraid to move from a teacher controlled, front of class model (the interactive whiteboard) to a distributed, more student controlled model (the mobile device)?

Is it fear of letting go some of that control that is pushing mobile learning further and further from their minds? ICT has exploded into classrooms since the late 90’s and I can imagine schools are only now starting to get a true handle on it all. So is m-learning just a technology too far right now?

Or is it the perhaps unspoken idea that somehow the outside world of ipods, mobile/smart phones, Sony PSP, Nintendo DS, Palm Pilots and so on are intrusive, chaotic and blur too obviously the boundaries between study (work) and non-study (play)?

Or is it something more practical? The small size of these devices could be an issue – after all a teacher can at least physically monitor a laptop screen or a Whiteboard – who can tell what’s going on on 30 small mobile devices in the classroom?

I don’t know – I’m not a teacher. But it’s obvious something fundamental has to shift and I think it’s a mindset, from LA level to Classroom teacher.

Of course data such as “…more than half of primary schools indicate the best delivery method for curriculum content in 2008 is via websites” and the emphasis on IWBs and VLEs is great for ode in general, it’s still a little disheartening that mobile learning investment is on such a downer.

Perhaps ode could contribute a kick start to m-learning – after all little bits of learning suit little learning devices, right?

The scope for mobile learning is enormous. The Wolverhampton “Learning2go” project has done some incredible work and companies such as look really interesting. There’s even a dedicated conference, Handheld Learning, although anyone that promotes a conference by using a quote from a Guardian journalist that says “These are not new technologies, and the speakers weren’t saying anything they hadn’t said several times before” doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence.

I am 100% sure that one day someone will crack it and break down the barrier. It may be a generational thing – a mobile savvy 7 year old in a classroom today could be a captain of m-learning industry tomorrow.

Teachmeet 08

I’m at the lovely Teachmeet 08 gathering at Olympia, ably unorganised by Ewan McIntosh.

18:12 ish. I was chuffed that Ewan described ode as “funky”.

Things are moving quickly so this might be pretty incoherent until I get a chance to come back and clean it up a bit.

18:35 Ian Usher is talking about Moodle. We like Moodle…we really want to provide tools that work with Moodle in the future. He had a quick word about content and content providers. To paraphrase… “teachers don’t like buying a “big fat box” of it”…he mentioned ode too. (edit- It went by in a slight blur but hopefully it was mentioned as an exception to the existing content provider paradigm. Here is Ian’s blog post about Teachmeet)

Right now a great mashup of Subterranean Homesick Blues just finished playing in his presentation.

It’s all very interesting with other things talked about so far…Resources for Innovators in Schools plus a look at the Asus EeePC.

Unfortunately, Alex Savage was due to speak but had to leave to catch a train.

18:45 Blogging in a primary environment using Honeycomb is being presented by Vivien Bailey.

18:50 Yacapaca sounds pretty neat!

PS – After a long day on a stand at the trade show, the beer is tasting good 🙂

20:28 Just heard Derek Robertson‘s great talk about games in education in Scottish schools…really good. Had a small nap…but I’m back!

Now for some pizza.

The growing buzz we were generating at BETT soon made us forget our tired feet and sore backs as our stand became swamped almost from the moment the doors opened. So forgive the ebullience of this post: we’re just having so much fun.

What surprised us (we all thought beforehand that we’d be lucky to get any visitors to our stand beyond people asking if we knew where the toilets were) was how many people deliberately sought us out. We’ve never shown ode publicly before and we assumed no one knew who we are; we had hoped to catch people’s passing attention at best.

Hmmm, that was a little naive in hindsight.

People who had read the blog, heard about us on the industry grapevine or seen our entry in the BETT literature, liked what they saw, made a bee line for us and were excited by what we are trying to do.

Some simply wanted to say “keep up the good work, I hope it succeeds”, others wanted to quiz us on technical details or put faces to names.

Others wanted to see what had only existed as words on a blog in 2007, others still brought friends and colleagues to the stand as they had seen some potential and wanted to open their eyes too.

It was a very eclectic mix of visitors, both private and public sector, and we loved speaking to you all. There’s no greater buzz for me than trying to sell something that I am passionate about.

And with ode, during the demo, there was ALWAYS a moment when they grinned. It might have been :

  • when they were informed all content in ode is NC Specifier tagged thus making it easy to find.
  • when they saw the playlist function.
  • when they saw a video streaming or an audio file playing directly from their ode library.
  • that content would be peer reviewed.
  • the idea that we would let users reduce what ode can do to make their experience as simple, direct or complex as they wanted.
  • when they saw how small and cute our business cards were.

Without naming names, one LEA Elearning Director said until he saw ode he was worried BETT would be yet another waste of time and that it has “made his show”.

Another Head of ICT commented that he was sick of paying £400 for a CDROM and his teachers only using £40 worth and that it was hugely encouraging finding a platform that would allow his school to buy only the £40 worth, thus freeing up funds for content from other brands.

We also had a representative from the Malaysian Government swing by. He loved the idea and wants to discuss integrating ode and it’s content partners products into Malaysian schools which adds an exciting new global dimension to what ode can do.

In fact we spoke to many international visitors today – BETT is probably the biggest dedicated elearning show in the world.

A Managing Director from a Greek educational publisher wants to discuss localising ode for the Greek market. Local versions of ode depend on the rights over content for this type of sale and local curriculum tagging but we fully intend to have ODE Greece, ODE France, ODE Spain, ODE US and so on. Eventually, of course. With all the technology/platform partners we could have gathered today we wouldn’t get anything real out the door until 3008.

By removing physical distribution as an issue (all the product on ode is virtual) publishers large and small can enter markets all over the world overnight at little cost. Which can only be empowering for any teacher in any classroom when the range of trusted professional content available at affordable micropayment level is only a few clicks away 24/7/365.

It is too soon to mention every supplier we spoke to although I will do a proper update next week when I have all the details from all 4 days.

But what’s the big announcement, I imagine I hear you cry?

We signed a deal yesterday with the UK’s biggest online teacher community, Schoolzone, who are now our “Official Community Partners”.

In a nutshell we will be integrating the ode shop into the Schoolzone website, so their 100,000 registered teacher users will have immediate access to all the fantastic disaggregated content from ode at the click of a mouse. We are really excited about this collaboration and are really happy to be working with the great team at Schoolzone over the next year. And I got to swan around the Press Office shouting “Hold the front page!” too. More news on this venture as it happens.

The official PR statement below:


Pearson Education and Schoolzone announce partnership deal in revolutionary web-based personalised e-learning store

Bett, London, 10 January 2008 – Pearson Education today announces that it has linked up with Schoolzone to be its exclusive schools community partner for ode, the next generation, free-access content store for educators.

Ode, backed by Pearson, is working with more than 20 education content publishers to provide teachers with the means to buy, download and create personalised lessons. The platform will sell ‘little bits of learning’ on a pay-as-you-go basis, allowing teachers to buy or rent individual pieces of content on demand – videos, audio files, worksheets, presentations, exam papers, interactive tools, animated games and so on – the list could be endless.

Chris Bradford, ode co-founder, says: ‘ode is a platform, rather like Amazon or iTunes, that will give educators unparalleled access to digital assets. We’re building to launch in stages throughout 2008 to bring together a community of educators and content providers. The partnership with Schoolzone is a significant phase in the development of ode.’

Elizabeth Collie, Commercial Director of Schoolzone, says: ‘Schoolzone is the natural home for content stores like ode. Embedding the service into our site will enhance and enrich our community offering, while providing ode with a ready-made community of educators looking for content.’


About Pearson Education

Educating 100 million people worldwide and with offices in over 30 countries, Pearson Education is the global leader in education publishing, providing scientifically research-based print and digital programmes to help students of all ages learn at their own pace, in their own way.

In the UK, Pearson Education is the largest and fastest-growing educational publisher. It offers leading-edge teaching and learning resources under the BBC Active, Causeway Books, Edexcel Learning, Ginn, Heinemann, KnowledgeBox, Longman, Payne-Gallway, Pearson Phoenix and Rigby names.

About Schoolzone

Schoolzone is the UK’s busiest online education community, with a strong reputation for online teacher and curriculum focused search engines, peer group reviews and evaluations of digital content. The site receives over 30,000 unique users a day, making it one of the UK’s most used educational sites, as well as the biggest – it lists 41,000 educational sites reviewed by teachers, 6,000 events and organisers, 35,000 schools and colleges, 6,200 educational suppliers and many, many thousands of educational products and services.


More news next week about Friday and Saturday at BETT and James and Ed’s attendance at the cutting edge Teachermeet at BETT tonight.

We are contributing towards their pizza extravaganza. This is the first thing we’ve ever sponsored officially which makes us feel all grown up but to get our idea in front of so many ICT/elearning thinkers who are doing some brilliant and envelope pushing things is an honour and well worth it.

Have fun, guys.

I am writing this in our hotel suite after our first ever day at BETT. Our feet and backs hurt but what a day! We’ve had massive amounts of interest from an eclectic range of suppliers and spoke to lots of teachers about ode. Basically we’re exhausted but glowing with pride that our platform was received so warmly by so many people.

But you’ll have to excuse this short post as my feet hurt and there’s a Wagamama round the corner and I’m starving. I will post much more considered and reflective detail later this week when I’ve had time to absorb it all.

I’m also BURSTING to tell you about a deal we sealed today which we’re all excited about but I want to make sure we announce it right. So come back tomorrow for the news hot off the press.

Anyway, if you visited us today we are humbled and grateful for your time and interest – it was a genuine pleasure to speak to you all. Have some photos to tide you over until proper posts later this week.

The riot of elearning goodness and bottomless marketing budgets that is BETT

BETT show from the balcony

Our stand. It can’t compare to the carnival of excess on the lower floors but we like it. Plus the rolling green hills make us feel soothed.

Our stand 2008

Anthony entranced by our massively over the top 24″ imacs.

Anthony at the stand

An arty photo by Dik, clearly influenced by a quiet period

Stand up close

Huzzah and hurrah! Pop open the fizzy, call the red arrows and fire at least 12 guns in salute – Ed won an award!

The company incubating us, Pearson, have an annual bash called the “Growth and Excellence” awards. It’s divided up into 5 categories, voted for by a range of people from across the company, and Ed won in the “Innovation” category for his implementation of the Agile software development methodology with ode.

It’s the first time Agile has been used in the business and moving to that from the more traditional ways of working was a huge and complex task. Not only did he manage this process diligently and professionally throughout the last 12 months he did it so well other teams have started to adopt this way of working.

BUT, on top of winning that award, he also came runner up in the overall company “best in class” award. So a double pike with somersault to finish for Mr Wong there.

So big applause for Ed – very well deserved.

A very quick post to say we hope you all had a great Xmas and of course wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year.

Over the next week or so we’ll be working towards getting ready for BETT. If you come and see us (and I hope you will) you will be able to pick up one of our limited edition “invite” minicards.

There’s a special email address on them which you can use to join our trial. But I’ve cleverly smudged the email address out so you’ll just have to come and see us to get one and find out what it is, won’t you? 😉

BETT invite card

What is ODE?

ODE will be a webstore where educators can buy little bits of digital educational content and put them back together any way they like. Simple.