Friday was the first time in a couple of years that I made it to the BETT show (it stands for the British Educational Training and Technology show) and despite it being a bit of a long day, with far too few seats, and coffee that was stupidly expensive, it was a worthwhile trip.
The biggest stands weren’t actually the most interesting ones (aside from Intel’s – more about that one later). There were a number of smaller companies exhibiting some pretty original ideas, and despite much of it being targeted at visiting teachers, it was still worth a look.
It was good to drop by the Edugeek stand, and finally put faces to some of the names that frequent the forums, – it was also good to get a free smoothie from the guys on the Smoothwall stand next-door, especially taking into account the pricing of refreshments in the place!
Although I’m currently in the process of writing our own helpdesk system at DataSwift, the folks at the Topdesk stand seem to have an impressive product for a pretty reasonable price (they’ve sent me a demo pack, which I’ve yet to try out).
I wasn’t exactly inspired by one stand, where the salesperson didn’t even know the basic system requirements of their (pretty technical) product! – nor by another vendor, who tried in vain to demonstrate how good their product was, only to have it time-out with every other click…
Intel had a number of their new Classmate 3 netbook-cum-tablet-pcs on their stand, and had apparently seeded them liberally throughout the exhibition halls. The new machine (apparently on sale soon as the NEC Otomo) is pretty standard Netbook specification on the inside:
- Intel Atom CPU (1.6Ghz)
- 1GB RAM (upgradeable)
- 1024 x 600 8.9″ TFT display
- 60GB HDD (or a 16GB Solid State Device)
- 802.11b/g/n wireless
- SD card reader
- 2 x USB 2.0 ports
- VGA connector
- Gigabit Ethernet port
It’s that last item on the list that gives a clue toward what makes it stand out from the crowd, – it’s effectively a tiny tablet-pc, albeit with a fairly low-end touch screen, so handwriting recognition isn’t likely to be stunning. A lot of educational software is targeted at interactive whiteboards these days, and -assuming it will run in the 1024×600 screen size- it should be equally at home on the Classmate/Otomo. The case of the machine is pretty rugged too, with a carry handle integrated into the chassis. Apparently it’s been drop tested at heights of up to 60cm officially, and up to 1m unofficially, so it should be capable of withstanding most of the rigours of classroom life (especially if you go for the SSD option).
We’re looking at getting a demonstration model at DataSwift, so may be able to let local schools have a play if they missed out at BETT.
Now if only I can tear myself away from interesting gadgets, and get our helpdesk finished…!