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Today, #BackToTheFuture is (predictably) top of the worldwide trends on Twitter, with hundreds of thousands of tweets using the hashtag. The Internet is filling up with articles like “What Back to the Future got right about 2015” and Austria have just passed a law stating that hover boards are to be treated as “small off-road vehicles”.

Amidst all of this activity around self-tying shoes and hover boards, we’ve been seriously thinking about how education technology has changed in the last 30 years.



Did you know BETT was founded in 1985? The first ever show was held January 1985 as the “Hi Technology and Computers in Education Exhibition” at the Barbican Centre in central London.

BBC Micro

The BBC Microcomputer System (or Micro for short) was a series of ‘microcomputers’ designed and built by Acorn Computers as part of the BBC Computer Literacy Project.

Launched in December 1981, the Micro had 16 KB of RAM (Model B had 32), and 2 MHz MOS Technology 6502 CPU. The Micro was popular in the education market due to the Government subsidising half the cost. The BBC stated that the Micro was developed to be affordable, ‘friendly’ to use and learn on and expandable.

A study in 1985 found that there was one Micro to every 60 children in secondary schools, and one to every 107 in primary schools. Despite nearly 80% of schools in the UK having a Micro – only 20% of secondary school headteachers said that microcomputers made a significant contribution to teaching in their schools.

Apple Macintosh

The Apple Macintosh – in its wonderful beige case – was launched in January 1984. It was the first computer to incorporate a windows, icon, mouse and pointer user interface in a consumer level device. The Macintosh was moderately successful in schools due to its simplicity of use and considerable power (128 KB of RAM).

Educational software

1985 saw a growth in educational software available, particularly to primary schools. The availability of personal computers led to a number of companies and non-profits springing up and specialising in educational software. The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) Educational Software scheme also provided funds of up to £3.5m for the purchase of educational software administered by LEAs.

Unfortunately, the growing educational software market was held back significantly by the hardware availability in UK schools, limited by graphical and memory capabilities.



BETT is now the biggest education technology show in the world, hosting the likes of Microsoft, Google and Apple as well as ourselves. Professor Brian Cox, Sir Bob Geldof and Jimmy Wales – founder of Wikipedia – are amongst the people who have delivered key note speeches at BETT. The sheer variety of technologies and organisations on display at BETT, and its growing popularity worldwide, really goes a long way to reflect the huge role technology now plays in education.


When the iPad was launched in 2010, it was turning point for the tablet market. The tablet was now a highly sought-after device for consumers, but the education market was relatively slow to catch on. In 2012, just 6.9% of teaching and learning computers in secondary schools were tablets, and 4.5% in primaries.

Now, in 2015, according to the latest BESA study, a quarter of teaching and learning devices in schools are tablets, and around 74% of schools are using tablets for teaching and learning. More and more schools are provisioning their networks and developing policies for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) meaning a pupil can learn on the same device at home and at school.

A wide range of tablets from different manufacturers using the main platforms from Apple, Google and Microsoft are in use in schools, but the iPad remains the most prevalent and sought-after.

Educational apps

There are now hundreds of thousands of educational apps available across three major platforms: iOS, Android and Windows. In the 2015 BESA study, it was found that 56% of primaries and 65% of secondary schools are making regular use of apps. Everything from simple flash card apps to augmented reality are being used day-to-day in the classroom, and with a range of affordable tablets available, are highly accessible both at school and at home.

So Marty, we might not have hover boards just yet, but technology in 2015 is influencing and shaping learning in ways you could never have imagined.

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