Every year before the IPPN, I go through the Expo listings to try and find some interesting companies who are vying for business. With the announcement of ICT funding coming close to the end of the month, technology companies are going to be busy. There seems to be over a dozen companies trying to sell printing contracts too. However, there are some other interesting surprises in Ireland’s biggest education showcase.
The first two stands that caught my eye are clever by name. Clever Kids and Clever Mind Toys both sell products that aim to help children think and create. In an increasing time where creativity has never been more important and where Richard Bruton wants to curtail it all by turning children into coding monkeys, it’s important to make sure we have resources that challenge children to think. Clever Kids: G8 and G9 and Clever Mind Toys: L8. (See all Cogs the Brain Shop B5)
No Protests at this Site
With a website like uisce.ie, one might be forgiven for thinking this company was Irish Water. Put your picket cards down, it’s much less controversial. Coláiste Uisce offer water-related school tours. Colásite Uisce: C8
Blast from the Past
Cantec are back. Maybe they never left, but I haven’t seen them around for a long time. Cantec sell printing products and if I remember correctly were one of the biggest companies serving schools in the 1990s. There must be an ICT grant knocking about… Cantec: I2 and I3
EASE-y does it
EASE look like a very interesting prospect with all sorts of gadgets and interesting bits and pieces. It’s great to see an Irish company selling BeeBots for example, which I believe are one of the best teaching tools ever. They also sell multi-sensory equipment and construction kits. In fact, they seem to sell a lot of stuff for schools. EASE: I11
EMU Ink are a relatively new company that publishes children’s books written by children. I first came across them at the Hay Festival in Kells last year. For any aspiring authors in your school, it might be worth checking out. EMI Ink: F10
Eye on the Ball
Football Bungee caught my eye, which means I’ll probably be very proficient with their product, which appears to be a way to help children and adults alike in hand-eye coordination. It’s nice to see a very small idea being exhibited at such a big exhibition and is probably worth a look. Football Bungee: B8
iDon’t Believe It
There are 4 companies who are sticking a small “i” in front of a word to gain your attention; they are iFundraising, iNetSafety, iConnect and iClassCMS. You can probably figure out exactly what they sell by removing the letter. Internet Safety might be worth looking at and Ger Brick seems to be doing very well around the country. He’s probably worth having a chat to. The other interesting one for me is iClassCMS. It’s been a while since we’ve had someone vying for a chomp at this market as Aladdin and Databiz are the two market leaders here. Based on the website, it attempts to help schools have lovely websites and have some student management features. However, it looks like it falls very short of what both the established services can do in terms of student management. Having said that, it’s probably worth a look in case there’s more to it than meets the eye. iClassCMS: K10 iNetSafety: L7
In (good) Form
InForm looks like an interesting product – it is an app for a school. I’ve seen quite a few of these over the years, none of which have taken off. I was struck by their video on their website where the principal said the app integrated into the system they were using already. This has raised by interest as most school apps don’t do this. I’ll be surely visiting. InForm: B7
What’s in a Name?
Learning Together caught my eye due to its similarity to Educate Together’s Ethics Programme, Learn Together. In fact, they might find themselves swamped by ET schools thinking that this is what they are offering. Sadly it isn’t and, to be honest, from my quick look through the website, I’m not really quite sure what they do. It also looks like it might be aimed at second level rather than primary level but I could be wrong. Anyway, I await a company who will exhibit resources to support our Learn Together Programme but will still stop by the find out what these guys are all about. Learning Together: A2
After School Care
Sherpa Care are a company that run after school clubs. In a clever move, possibly motivated by Richard Bruton’s plans to force schools to open their classrooms up after hours as childcare facilities, Sherpa offer after school clubs on the site of existing schools. If you’re already resigned to Bruton’s agenda, you may as well get someone else to do it. Sherpa Kids: J11
Finally a Glimpse of Primary Planning Tool
If I counted the number of queries I’ve been getting over the last six months, the Primary Planning Tool would be up there with the most popular. However, of the dozens of times I’ve been asked about it, I haven’t been able to give the query an answer. I have tried to test out the Primary Planning Tool on 3 separate occasions. Each time, I’ve been told that the only way they’ll let me see it is if I either drive 30 minutes to an education centre for a demo evening or a 30 minute demo from one of their team. On the grounds that I believe products should be intuitive, I’ve counter-offered to check it out for myself, which has been refused. If I do nothing else at the IPPN Expo, I will be marching over to this stand and will be attempting to get 30 seconds on it without being mollycoddled through it. I have no doubt the product is decent enough but hopefully I can give a proper review of it. Primary Planning Tool: F1
I have deliberately left out many of my regular favourite companies who are there every year, not because I don’t like them, but I have written so much about them in the past. I’m a little bit surprised by the lack of technology companies when I went down the list. There seems to be a myriad of printing solutions, a couple of Apple Resellers and a few companies selling interactive screens. Given that we’re going to be awash with money for ICT, I thought there’d be a few companies selling wifi solutions and things like that.
Another addition to the Expo will be Leader talks, two from Edco and two from Microsoft. The one from Microsoft looks interesting as it will be about the use of Minecraft in education. I think it will be worthwhile having a look at this. Other than that, there’s the usual seminars and this year I’ll be presenting one for the first time on technology for school leaders, which I’m happy to say has sold out. As always, I’m looking forward to meeting up with principals over the couple of days, learning some new things and having philosophical rows about the patronage system.