What to look for, who tolisten to and all the free training you can handle.
SO, YOU'VE got the catalogues and now you need the advice and training. Exhibitors at the BETT education technology show will be able to help. Take the opportunity to ask all your difficult questions directly to the developers and distributors while you're at Olympia. You will avoid engaged telephones and restricted hours of technical support. (One tip: give an e-mail address - the response will be quicker than a letter.) Special educational needs are prominent at the show. The Centre for Micro-Assisted Communication (CenMAC, stand SN40) will offer its usual range of support for learners hindered by disability. Director Myra Tingle says: "Multi-media is brilliant for pupils with special needs, and we're continuing to work with the National Council for Education-al Technology (NCET) to provide training for teachers in how to use multi-media authoring software."
The IT Learning Exchange (555), an award-winner for support services, is launching a key stage 2 data-handling history pack on Victorian Britain. It uses the 1891 census data on a town street and asks pupils to think about this information in a creative and imaginative way. A whole class can be involved in the project, even when only one or two computers are available.
Many of the curriculum associations and teacher unions attend BETT and their stands often display valuable resources which are not widely known. This year the National Association for Co-ordinators and Teachers of IT (ACITT, 696) will have the latest version of its Informatics pack. Dr Margaret Cox, the asociation's chairman, says: "It provides in-depth curriculum and classroom activities, together with examples of how to teach IT. And the pack now covers all four key stages."
Other curriculum advice and resources will be available from bodies such as the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (A2), the Association for Language Learning (A6), the Association for Science Education (A8), the International Association of Business Computing (C96A), the Geographical Association (A9) and the Mathematical Association (A12).
The NCET (545, 560) and its Scottish counterpart, SCET (164), are sure to have something of interest on offer. At the end of 1996, SCET promised to introduce 5,000 Scottish teachers to the Internet, so go along and find out how they did it - its CD-Rom training package is an innovative mix of technological and training expertise.
If you go to the three upper-floor seminar rooms of Olympia, you could get some in-service training for free. Each of the halls will hold four or five seminars a day. The talks will focus on how the Internet and networking can help all aspects of learning in schools.
Linda Roberts, the speaker sponsored by The TES, will not be appearing in person: her presentation and discussion will take place via a high-capacity telephone line (ISDN, video-conferencing). The Director of IT for the US Department of Education, the first holder of such a post in the White House, believes in making technology available to all, especially for those with special needs.
She will explain the relationship between national government strategies and their local and business counterparts, how resources can be brought to schools, and the difference they can make on the front line. Examining how these lessons can be assimilated into a British system, she will expand on her "absolute belief that these technologies are tools for teaching and learning".
Liz King, the general manager of Microsoft Education (231), will present "A vision for the integration of technology into education". She will attempt to place both current and emerging technologies in the context of the schoolroom.
Martyn Lewis, of YouthNet, completes the trilogy of keynote speakers. He will be explaining the YouthNet Internet site, with which young people can locate their nearest organisations for help finding work or educational sources.
The British Dyslexia Association (A1) takes over seminar room C on Wednes-day to provide an overview of the different techniques, including voice recognition, for helping dyslexic children.
Also watch out for the seminar by Roger Austin, of the Historical Associ-ation (A7), on the Internet and history, and Roger Frost's "Teaching Science using the Internet" (IT in Science, C98A) will use practical examples and ready-to-use sites to show the power of the Net to bring these subjects to pupils.
On school management, a variety of seminars will be provided, including Dr Chris Singleton of the National Association of Head Teachers (A50) speaking on baseline assessment.
With the national grid for learning just around the corner, you will probably want to take advantage of the Internet training sessions that will be offered in the Net@BETT area: sessions will be offered for beginners as well as for teachers wishing to create school home pages or even a Web site for a learning community. The sessions will run throughout the show and summary sheets can be taken away afterwards - and it's all free.