My top new discoveries at BETT 2015

The BETT show is always a veritable goldmine of educational wonder-stuff and this year didn’t disappoint. A few new discoveries stuck out to me so I thought I would share them. I should say that I have a very definite bias towards primary education, computing and startups so this probably influences my picks.

1. Plotagon ( / @Plotagon)

Plotagon is a tool for Mac, Windows and iOS, which takes a movie plot, written by the user, and turns it automagically into an animated 3D cartoon. A large range of scenes, characters and actions make the range of possible animations virtually limitless. Plotagon starts with a limited set of free content with the additional content being purchasable in-app.

I can see two really great uses for Plotagon. The first is “it’s not PowerPoint” as a medium for pupils to communicate topic findings etc. The second is for teachers to use as a way to introduce a topic or communicate an idea in a bright, engaging, visual fashion but with minimal effort.

2. Monster Phonics ( / @MonsterPhonics)

There are a few good phonics schemes out there with Jolly Phonics being the one I am probably most familiar with. All these schemes work by giving an easily understood element to associate the phonic to. What I liked about Monster Phonics was that by providing both characters and colours, you can see how young children will develop strong associations between the phonics and the monsters. The idea of personifying also, I think helps the children to “make friends” with the phonics and find a greater level of comfort more easily. Add to that that the scheme is incredibly cheap and you can’t go too far wrong!

3. Now Press Play ( / @nowpressplay)

Now Press Play is a great product comprising a number of sets of headphones and immersive audio content across a number of curriculum areas. Pupils plug in (actually they are wireless but you know what I mean) and enter the scene in question, be that a roman siege, a mathematical situation or a trip to Mars. As an adult trying the product out I could feel myself being drawn into the situation so for kids this is a hugely powerful product in terms of engaging them in the topic at hand. Apparently they will come and do demos and this is a siubscription service where a school gets one or more class sets with all the content included for an annual fee.

4. Bits & Bytes ( / @BitsBytes_cards)

Algorithms you say? Computer room booked up? School iPads in use? This ingenious and fun product is a totally non-digital way to teach the concept of an algorithm as being a series of instructions but through the medium of cards, with a few monsters thrown in. To play the game the cards are lain out in a grid with a player starting in each corner and the goal being to get to the centre of the grid. They take it in turns to make a move, learning to think sequentially all the way. In the advanced version of the game the whole sequence must be planned at once with obstacles and traps positions to remember. Take enough sets for a whole class and you have one noisy, fun and educational classroom.

5. Ohbot Robot ( / @OhbotRobot)

Ok, I’m a nerd at heart so the idea of a robot you can build yourself then control with Scratch got me a little bit over-excited. Many a geek has hooked up Lego Mindstorms or even a Kinect to Scratch but a full on robot head is a step beyond. I would see this as a more able or computing club activity for KS2 or KS3 as it is maybe a bit on the fiddly side but tons of fun and a really memorable way to engage with the subject. Currently being crowd-funded for £80 a pop but can you really put a price on awesome?