The BETT exhibition may not be the first place you would think to look for research evidence on ICT in learning, but a range of first-class sources are to be found with the added attraction that you can talk to the people who commissioned or carried out the work. Research overviews in this area offer a great starting point for students, teachers and others who want to get a feel for the evidence base. They are easy to read and cover a lot of ground - potentially saving months on the net and in the library.
Start with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), Teacher Training Agency (TTA) and British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) stands to get a taste of the evidence the policy makers are working with. This year the DfES will have some early evidence on motivation, pedagogy and attainment. The British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa) will have its survey of ICT in schools - always an interesting read especially in tandem with the DfES statistical bulletin so you get two views of statistics on things like ownership and use of ICT in schools.
Nesta Futurelab has established a reputation for thorough yet highly readable research reviews; adding to the reports on creativity, thinking skills, motivation, language learning, primary and secondary science are the latest in the series on Computer Games and Learning and Use of ICT in Informal Learning. I have to declare an interest here as a co-author of the games review.
For news from the research front line visit stand T60. InterActive Education: teaching and learning in the information age is the largest ICT and education research project so far in the UK, involving over 60 people.
The project is a partnership between the University of Bristol Graduate School of Education and 10 local schools, funded by the ESRC. Now in its final stages the project will be sharing findings and evidence from the teachers and classrooms where the research happened.
InterActive set out to understand more completely what ICT had to offer and to analyse the processes involved in integrating ICT in teaching and learning. We looked at the ways in which various strands - policy and management, professional development, subject cultures, out-of-school use of computers - interweave to create a complex context for learning and teaching. The approach was to involve researchers and teachers on equal terms in the enquiry, bridging the frequently cited gap between research and practice. Anyone visiting our stand can talk to teachers and researchers ready to talk about the research and its key findings and watch short, multimodal presentations showing clearly that the research was done in real classrooms during normal lessons. Longer versions are available on free CDs. Our stories are not all of sparkling successes and revolutions in learning; there are problems and setbacks, a need for re-thinking and questioning assumptions. But there is always learning and a moving closer to finding ways of realising the potential of what ICT has to offer.
After the very high level findings of earlier national projects, InterActive begins to dig deeper into complex relationships between teachers, learners, learning and resources that we need to understand if we are to make meaningful choices about when and when not to use ICT. Which is after all the whole point of all the BETT frenetic activity, for me at least!
Angela McFarlane is professor of education and director of learning technology at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Bristol