BETT 2012

Another year arrives which means my yearly mosey up to Olympia to check out what’s new and shiny within the world of educational technology! This post should’ve arrived sometime last week but this week also coincided with a rather useful Moodle round-table event so thought might as well bundle both together in the same posting session 🙂

My first port of call as ever was the Microsoft stand where Office 365 was once again my topic of conversation… a feeling of deja vu from 2011 as I was asking exactly the same questions but hopefully the outcome will be that it finally gets fully released this year. Some hope for integration with Moodle this time round as ADFS looks a better bet than LiveID and hopefully its SAML roots could mean better SSO options… we live in hope! With students getting their own Sharepoint-based file storage to replace SkyDrive a Moodle 2.x Office 365 plugin could be awesome… whether we’ll see one is another matter…

System Center 2012 suite was mentioned for release very soon and having seen this I reckon I’ll need to be doing some testing in the not too distant future
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/system-center/default.aspx

After visiting my usual suppliers and checking out a couple of wi-fi systems I then wandered over to the SMART stand. Our place makes heavy use of Smartboards but I was beginning to wonder what SMART could be showing this year as there’s only so much you can do with the product… but then they showed off Notebook 11…  impressed! The interactive widgets were very neat and some little features like the embedded web browsers and context menus have breathed new life into the product, will be keeping a keen eye out for the Beta and then having to update my training sessions to match.

On another positive note SMART must have been listening to customer feedback (mine included) and have added direct URL support to the Express web viewer… great news and opens up a brilliant possibility for Moodle integration…

  • create a new resource type in Moodle
  • code the plugin to take the direct path to the Moodle resource
  • append the code for the Express viewer to the beginning
  • open SMART files directly from Moodle and keep the interactivity without needing the software installed 😀

If any coders read this and would like to help please get in touch as I need all the input I can get!

One other product I was hoping to find (but couldn’t) was something to manage room bookings (easy) and create a live digital signage display from the data (seemingly not so easy?) As an organisation with lots of students coming into the building we need to quickly and easily point them in the right direction, which means a piece of software would need to…

  • check each room’s next (or current) booking based on system time
  • display the booking on the correct room
  • check for any changes on a rolling basis and update as necessary

Unfortunately all the booking systems I saw use a grid to lay out the day view, which isn’t intuitive to a student looking for their course and doesn’t make for good viewing even on large screens. Looks like we’ll need something custom, maybe building on the base of the open-source MRBS system? On a similar note has anyone “skinned” MRBS to make it a bit more friendly looking? Certainly seems to be a powerful system but far from pretty!

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