The 2020 Awards in Technology

NEMA Awards

Stevenson Report suggests a National Award for Software
The need for an award scheme was highlighterd in the Stevenson Review.

“Although it seems a small contribution we propose an independent and high profile
awards ceremony, building on already developing practice in this area but with a rich
variety of categories. In this way we hope both to flag excellence (while persuading
developers to strive for it) and to introduce a vocabulary to everyone concerned. In the way that film awards currently nominate “best supporting actress” or “best screenplay”, we suggest that awards might be made for “best primary age reference CD”, “best use of sound” or “best support for group activity”

BETT Awards

In response to Stevenson’s recommendation the Department funded the establishment of the BETT Awards in 1998. They asked British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), the trade association to organise and run the competition and the judging . At the BETT Show the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, David Blunkett, handed out plaques to the winners including Apple, BT, the Cable Industry Association, QED, Lego Land, and Research Machines.

Becta became formally involved with the BETT Award in August 2002, when they were invited by the DfES to join BESA, EMAP and Hobsons as associate partners in the BETT Awards. The Department wanted to address the widely held perception that the BETT Awards were industry awards, with insufficient focus on how teachers and learners integrated resources into their classroom practice and to ensure that the judging process was conducted with rigour and integrity. (See paper to Becta’s Senior Leadership Team)

A 3 year contract was duly signed in September 2002, to culminate in the presentation ceremony at BETT in January 2005.

ICT Excellence Awards

The ICT Excellence Awards is an award scheme for schools, local authorities and other organisations supporting schools. These awards aim to identify and reward whole school excellence in ICT and reward those organisations who support school improvement with ICT.

The 2010 winning schools and organisations were announced on Thursday, 14 October 2010.

Next Generation Learning Awards: Technology Excellence in FE & Skills

The Next Generation Learning Awards rewards all types of learning provider in the FE and Skills sector and seeks to identify those across the whole system who are fully confident in the use of technology.

The winning learning providers were announced at an evening awards ceremony on 8 March 2010.

Teaching Awards

GMMM is sponsoring ‘The Becta Award for Next Generation Learning’ category in the 2010 Teaching Awards. The Teaching Awards are an annual celebration of teaching and learning open to every education establishment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland teaching pupils between the ages of three and 18. The Awards were founded by Lord Puttnam CBE in 1998 and are managed by the Teaching Awards Trust, an independent charity.
The 2010 awards are now closed for nomination. All nominations will now go forward for the 2011 Teaching Awards.

Excellence in BSF Awards

Becta is sponsoring the Most Effective ICT Partnering category of the Excellence in BSF Awards 2009. The Excellence in BSF Awards recognise outstanding achievement across the BSF programme.

The winners of this year’s awards were announced on 13 November 2009.

The National eWell-Being Awards

Becta sponsored the “Sustainable use of ICT in schools” category in The National eWell-Being Awards 2010. The awards celebrate the social, economic and environmental benefits of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

Learndirect Achievement Awards

Becta is sponsoring a category in the Learndirect Achievement Awards. These awards aim to celebrate the achievements of learners, employers and learndirect learning centres, the three main categories are Individual Learner, Business and Learner support.

LSIS Star Awards

Becta sponsors a category in the 2008 and 2009 LSIS Star Awards. These awards aim to recognise and reward individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the quality of learning in Further Education and Skills Sector. The awards cover all aspects of Further Education provision and are open to both teaching and non-teaching roles.

The 1960’s – The White Heat of Technology

The sixties saw the birth of educational technology as a distinct but multi-purpose discipline. It was a time when technology in general was high profile with large, government-funded technological projects and individual consumers buying and using technology regularly in their everyday lives. Two factors helped its birth. First, teachers began to use audio-visual technology and a whole range of other devices to liven up their lessons and a few pioneers began to incorporate computers into their teaching. Second, Government was worried that the education system was not producing the skills needed for the future and both political parties developed ways to intervene, and create mechanisms to ‘improve’ the education process. These factors are developed in more detail in later sections but the article below provides the broad context for the birth of educational technology.

Along with sex-drugs-and rock ‘n’ roll the sixties invented technology including educational technology – well almost.

It was a time of large conspicuous technological projects when governments aimed to reach the moon and develop supersonic aircraft but also a time when people began to buy and use technology regularly in their everyday lives, washing machines, cars, hoovers and there was great interest in new audio-visual devices; TVs, radios, slide projectors. These became much more accessible at home – and of course to schools and colleges.

The use of equipment including film projectors, epidiascopes and other audio-visual equipment was well embedded in many schools including primary schools by the middle of the sixties (London Illustrated News, 1967). More powerfully the concept that learning needed to be managed in an organised and systematic way (Rowntree, 1974) was gaining ground and early attempts at programmed learning were developed. The advent of the earliest computers also accelerated interest and activity in this area.

Whitehall begins to intervene in education

Technology had an impact on education in an indirect but powerful way during the sixties. Political concern about the outcomes of education and training was raised by the Soviet Union’s launch of the sputnik in 1957 and its launch of the first man into space with Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Both the UK and the USA governments were concerned that their scientific and technological education lagged behind the USSR, particularly in the quality and quantity of the scientists and engineers produced by the system but also in how schools could modernize their curriculum and methods of teaching. The school curriculum was very much a local concern, decided by individual headteachers under the loose control of local government but the Conservative administration of the early 1960s believed they were not necessarily equipped to always make the right choices in the face of the pace of change and embarked on a number of developments to reform educational practices at all levels (Times, 1962).

The Minister of Education, David Eccles belived that much of the content and processes of education were out of date (Times, 1964) and established a curriculum study group within the Ministry.. In 1964 his Conservative successor, Sir Edward Boyle, replaced the group with the Schools’ Council. SMP Mathematics, Nuffield Physics and a number of other initiatives were also set up to change the school curriculum landscape.

MacDonald and Kemmis (1975) described this as a time when relatlvely substantial efforts were made by governments to accelerate and shape educational systems to meet the manpower needs of technology-based economies”. They saw the Schools Council as a direct part of to this, a curriculum innovation system based on centrallsed invention and production followed by dissemination.

More specifically for educational tehnology, in 1963 the Ministry of Education (soon to become the Department for Education and Science), recognised the importance of audio visual devices and other technologies and set up the Brynmor Jones Committee to investigate their use in higher education (Mackenzie, 2005). They reported in 1966 and as well as advising on university education they advised on school and college use. One of the outcomes of the Brynmor Jones report was the setting up the National Council for Educational Technology in 1967.

White Heat of Technology

Harold Wilson’s government of 1966 was committed to developing the UK as a technological leader but his oft quoted words about the ‘White Heat of technology’ that the technological revolution would only become a reality with major changes to the way people did things. This has real resonance for the next fifty years of educational technology where often practice lagged well behind technology. Wilson appointed Tony Benn as Minister for Technology in 1966 who took responsibility for projects such as the development of Concorde and the formation of International Computers Ltd (ICL).

Change was also happening in education with experiments in distance learning such as the National Extension College and later the Open University being fostered and supported.

1960’s – Educational Technology’s split personality

Educational Technology in 1960

Educational Technology can of course mean many things – ‘Technological devices used for educating’ but also ‘Applying Technological Methods to Educational Processes’. Pragmatically it came to mean both. One of the results of the Brynmor Jones report and the formation of NCET with its many council members was to create in the UK a broad based, pragmatic approach, home to many different pioneers and experts, interested in the technology but also the systematic design of learning such as programmed learning, open and distance learning.

The phrase “Educational Technology” was first used in the Brynmor Jones Report of 1965 and came to cover a wide range of areas from audio visual education to programmed learning to instructional technology to the early use of computers. In particular the phrase ‘Educational Technology’ was used to mean two completely different ideas:

Technological devices used for educating – i.e. using audio visual equipment, computers etc. to teach and learn different subject matter, and later providing general tools such as word-processors and spreadsheets to improve a learners productivity.
Applying Technological Methods to Educational Processes – i.e. treating education as any other systematic process and applying technological methods to it such as creating a systems approach identifying clear goals, programming learning, creating new ways of delivering learning etc.

A Systematic Approach

Geoffrey Hubbard (1976), Director of CET, when commenting on an American Report in 1976 said:

“The fact is that technology has not developed primarily for educational applications; education has in fact ridden piggyback on technology for other purposes. Or, to put it in less perjorative form, educational technology consists of applying a systematic approach to the development of teaching-learning situations and exploiting the available reprographic and distributive technologies.”

The concept that education could be better organised and made more efficient was of significant interest during the 1960s and of course in later decades: programmed learning, open and distance learning, instructional technology, managed learning, resource based learning, flexible learning all came, and often went – at least as fashionable phrases.

Programmed Learning

In the 1960s programmed learning was high profile in the USA. Skinners work on behaviourism and programmed instruction – breaking instructional content into small units and rewarding correct responses early and often -led to the development of early teaching machines. (Wikipedia).

With the advent of computers, a number of projects such as PLATO(Wikipedia, 2014a) in the USA attracted considerable attention. The Plato project was started at University of Illinois in the early 60’s. Initially on the Illiac I computer with a single terminal (Hebenstreit, 1986) it began to build a computer system with a great number of terminals with the aim of competing in terms of cost per hour and per user with the traditional educational system.
The PLATO system was re-designed between 1963 and 1969 to allow teachers to design lesson modules using the TUTOR programming language developed by Paul Tenczar(Wikipedia, 2014b).

Educationalists in the UK were both wary and interested in these kinds of approaches and the Plowden report took programmed learning seriously.

We have left till last the consideration of the most recent and controversial of teaching aids, the making of teaching programmes and their presentation in books or by machines. It has roused strong feelings in the teaching profession because more than any other aid it has seemed to some that it might take over part of the teacher’s job. Since most programmes for primary school children have been concerned with the acquisition of factual knowledge, programmed learning has seemed counter to current trends of basing children’s learning on interest and discovery‚Ķ

We are glad to know that the Department are supporting research projects which are designed to discover the best methods of programming school learning and of using programmes in schools of all kinds. The Department have also encouraged institutes of education to provide short courses to train teachers to write programmes. Until more programmes have been produced, research results cannot be convincing. Furthermore it is stimulating for teachers to make programmes since they are forced to think hard about what they are teaching and why and to test its success. Scrutiny of the difficulties encountered by pupils in using programmes can give teachers new insight into the processes of teaching and learning. (Plowden, 1967)

Open and Distance Learning

Different area where educational technology was expanding fast was that of open and distance learning. A number of experiments were developed and the Open University and the National Extension College were both founded in the 1960s.

The Open University has always been strongly linked with the BBC and distance learning. As early as 1925 the BBC appointed its first director of education, JC Stobart. In 1926 hewrote a memo to colleagues that advocated a “wireless university”. (Chalabi, 2014)

Such a venture required strong and persistent political support and Harold Wilson, Michael Young, and particularly Jennie Lee (see photograph) were instrumental in launching the OU despite considerable scepticism and hostility from higher education and industry. The importance of educational technology to the Open University was recognised in the speech of the university’s first chancellor, Lord Crowther, at the OU inauguration on 23 July 1969.

“The world is caught in a communications revolution, the effects of which will go beyond those of the industrial revolution of two centuries ago. Then the great advance was the invention of machines to multiply the potency of men’s muscles. Now the great new advance is the invention of machines to multiply the potency of men’s minds. As the steam engine was to the first revolution, so the computer is to the second. It has been said that the addiction of the traditional university to the lecture room is a sign of its inability to adjust to the development of the printing press. That of course is unjust. But at least no such reproach will be levelled at The Open University in the communications revolution. Every new form of human communication will be examined to see how it can be used to raise and broaden the level of human understanding. There is no restriction on techniques.”

In the same year, 1969, the OU set up its ‘Institute for Educational Technology’ and a year later formed their partnership with the BBC. On 9 February 1971, the OU was broadcast on TV for the very first time. Tuning in were many of its 25,000 students that were enrolled in one of four multi-disciplinary courses in the arts, social sciences, science or maths. (Chalabi, 2014)

Bringing it all together as Educational Technology

In 1972 the DES published a report (DES, 1972) that helped define the field of Educational Technology

“para 8. Educational technology comprehends a number of distinguishable areas of activity. The most familiar is the use of technical devices to support the processes of teaching and learning. These include visual projection apparatus, radio and television systems, tape recorders for sound and vision, duplicating, photographing and other reprographic equipment, language laboratories and teaching machines, from the very simple to the highly elaborate, some of which require staff with special training or experience to operate and maintain them.

para 9 .However, the use of technical aids is not self sufficient.They are devices for conveying learning material which has to be supplied either by the individual teacher or by some other teacher or author on his behalf. Other aspects of educational technology relate therefore to the production of this material. Sometimes it stems from the general interaction of teacher and student with a range of problems and situations. At other times, it is necessary to construct the material more systematically in the light of research into the processes of learning, particularly of learning by a carefully designed sequence of steps. This process is characteristic of what has become known as programmed learning, although even here, current practices frequently embrace course structures considerably broader than those originally conceived. Thus the teacher constantly requires facilities to make resource material for himself, or to adapt to his own needs, material supplied from other sources. These needs will vary from time to time, perhaps in response to changing local circumstances or to the evolution of new attitudes and approaches to learning.

para 10. Moreover, in responding to his day-to-day problems, the teacher who decides to integrate new systems and techniques into his work will find that his innovation has implications beyond the confines of his own classroom. It may impinge on the work of his colleagues or create new demands on time, accommodation and financial resources.The more obvious material aspects of educational technology cannot sensibly be dissociated from consideration of organisation and management, or curriculum content, innovation and development.”

As Hubbard (1972) says this means “On the one hand it’s just audio visual aids writ large; on the other it’s so broad it almost comes to anything that improves the quality of education”. Luckily he goes on to resolve this ‘split personality’ of educational technology saying a move towards more effective learning can only come about by better defining what needs to be learnt, putting a great deal of thought into the creation of a better learning system, measuring how well it works and revising it in the light of that evidence. As he says the disadvantage about this idea is that it involves a great deal of effort, a great deal more time and effort than is required for more orthodox lecturing or teaching. As he says it is here that the two stream converge, for the way to get an adequate return from the greater investment in developing effective systematic learning systems is by applying technology to replicate them.

Commentary – Pragmatism rules OK

Although it was confusing for the phrase ‘Educational Technology’ to cover such a range of activities it was useful and helpful over the years to the organisations that had it in their title, CET, NCET, Becta. In practice its two meanings are clearly entwined. As Geoffrey Hubbard made clear, new approaches to teaching and learning needed to exploit new technological devices, and quite often were dependent on them. Whilst an Open University could have been created using a postal service, it only really became economically and educationally viable with television. Programmed learning only became big business with computers and integrated learning systems. Equally, computers in the classroom are only really effective when teachers change their methods of teaching, moving away from didactic teaching so techology immediately takes you into new methods – as Harold Wilson predicted. As a phrase ‘Educational Technology’ also has the advantage of being technology non-specific so useful in naming an organisation that you want to last. Anything with microelectronic, computer, etc. in the title is by its nature likely to go out of fashion or be retired once the job is done (MEP, MESU, NDPCAL) whilst Educational Technology will always have new devices to consider and explore. The great danger of such a wide definition is that it impinges on all elements of education; pedagogy, curriculum, management, governance structures etc. putting it, and any government organisation in direct conflict with established methods. For example Becta in the late 1990s had great problems having any dialogue with the National Literacy and Numeracy Projects, because they perceived educational technology as a distraction.

1967 – The first NCET

One of the outcomes of the Brynmor Jones report was the setting up of the National Council for Educational Technology in 1967 with Brynmor Jones as its first Chairman. NCET was set up as a large council of experts with a small administrative team rather than a large executive organisation. Its purpose was to “advise educational services and industrial training organisations on the use of audio visual aids and media” but it quickly became more than this including developing an academic journal BJET and advising government to set up a major computer aided learning programme.

Its Formation

In March 1967 Anthony Crosland as Secretary of State for Education and Science announced that as a result of the Brynmor Jones Report Audio-Visual Aids in Higher Scientific Education (Jones, 1965) he was planning to set up a body to “advise educational services and industrial training organisations on the use of audio visual aids and media”.

It was formally set up under the terms of a trust deed dated 5 December 1967 and funded by government through the Department for Education and Science.

The NCET was a large council of experts with a small administrative team rather than a large executive organisation There were 31 members appointed from England, Wales and NI and 4 members from Scotland. In addition, assessors from eight government departments and educational bodies attended its meetings.. They from all sectors of education and training, appointed on a personal basis.

Brynmor Jones was appointed its first Chairman. It had a UK remit covering all levels of education and training. Its first Director was Professor Tony Becher. (Hubbard, 1980).

Geoffrey Hubbard became its Director in June 1969 and continued as Director until 1987. He turned the infant organisation into one which was recognised as the leading authority on educational technology in the United Kingdom.overseeing the smooth transition from NCET to CET in 1973. He (Hubbard, 1980) describes how he wanted it to deliberately take on a developmental role, aiming to bring about “beneficial change in the education and training system in respect of methods of teaching and learning” – not just a research funding agency or an information service.

Director NCET and CET

Geoffrey Hubbard‘s background was as a development engineer with GEC Labs and subsequently as a civil servant in the government’s Ministry of Technology
giving him both an understanding of the development of new technologies and
also (most helpfully) of the inner workings of the Civil Service machine.

Two critical developments that NCET undertook at the end of the decade were to have long term consequences: proposing to government that it fund a national “Computer Aided Learning” programme and publishing an independent academic journalon educational technology.

A Computer Aided Learning Programme

At the time of NCET’s formation computers were becoming more powerful and increasingly ubiquitous in education – although they were still very large, expensive, room sized machines. In the autumn of 1967, John Duke, the newly arrived assistant director of NCET proposed a major initiative in computer-based learning. (Hooper, 1977).

In response the Council set up a Working Party:

  • 1) to investigate the potential role of the computer as a component of educational and training systems in the United Kingdom, taking. into account as necessary experience and trends in other countries.
  • 2) to outline a systematic programme of applied research and development which it would be desirable to encourage in this country, aimed at exploiting the computer to the best advantage in education and training. (NCET, 1969a, p.2)

Following the Working Party’s report and a subsequent large feasibility study (NCET, 1969b), NCET set out the case for a 5-year programme in ‘computer based learning’ in 1969 (NCET, 1969c).

NCET recommended the application of computer based learning to maths, science and medicine at university level, to maths and science for the 16-21 age group, to technician training in electronics (especially in the armed services), to the training of computer specialists, and interestingly, proposed the development of a special student terminal to meet educational requirements.

At an international seminar in 1969 called to discuss these proposals he described the broad background to educational research which provides an interesting snapshot of the landscape at that time:

“The central Deperartment for Education and Science undertakes virtually no innovative research itself and directly commissions little more. It affects to stand back from influencing both curriculum and method, concerning itself with general policies and plans, but often does not make the wherewithal available to carry them out. At the user end authority is fragmented into units too small to sponsor useful developments. The Local Authorities do contribute to the NFER, but its work is mainly post-hoc evaluation. They do now support the Schools Council, whose committees are responsible for new curriculum design and the need for which arose out of the pioneering work of the Nuffield Foundation. The Schools Council only covers the primary and secondary sectors, it has no concerns with the further education field. At universitites the effect of their educational research on teaching has been infinitessimal.” (Annett and Duke, 1970)

NCET had acted quickly and provided clear advice to government. The Government, following much discussion amongst the interested departments and an intervening general election, announced the approval of Mrs Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education and Science to a ‘national development programme in computer assisted learning’ in a DES press release dated 23 May 1972. (See “NDPCAL”)


Many of the Council were from higher education and one of the key roles they saw for it was in sponsoring academic research. The British Journal of Educational Technology published its first issue in January 1970. Professor Norman Mackenzie was its first editor and was the prime mover behind its creation (Hubbard, 1980). It was sponsored by NCET, and then its successor organisations CET, NCET and Becta but it always kept a strong, peer-reviewed, academic approach to its work – as it said in its “Auspices” at the front of each volume.

Whilst the British Journal of Educational Technology is supported by the Council for Educational Technology for the United Kingdom, it nevertheless reflects an independent, and not official view, of developments or opinions on educational technology.

This suited both parties, Hubbard (1980) was clear that NCET and subsequently CET should not be a reseach funding agency but recognised that independent research was vital to the organisation’s developmental role. BJET continued through the decades and is now published by Blackwell and continues to publish academic articles on educational technology. Importantly its back numbers chronicle much of the history of educational technology in the UK and elsewhere.

The Transition to CET

Having set up the NCET, government realised, not least with the increasing importance of computer technology, that a stronger, less advisory, approach was needed. It needed the commitment of the key players in education through a representative body. It set up in 1970 a working party chaired by JH Hudson of the DES, which published a report “Central Arrangements for promoting Educational Technology in the United Kingdom “(HMSO, 1972) and from this the Council for Educational Technology was created on 1 October 1973.

The 1970s – A Decade of Development

The 1970s saw NCET evolve into CET under the stewardship of Geoffrey Hubbard and survive the transition to the Thatcher government. It helped the formulation and implementation of government’s first major educational technology development programme – NDPCAL responding to the increased power and ubiquity of computers and their use in education. By the end of the decade, government was again running to catch up with technological change with the impact of microelectronics on society at large and education in particular.

A Decade of Transition and Development

Politically, educationally and technologically the seventies was a decade of transition. There was a real change in style and approach from the governements of Wilson, Heath and Callaghan, via the “winter of discontent” to the Thatcher governement of 1979. Educationally it was a time of change as government began to question the ‘progressive’ approaches that many educators were advocating and began to build constraints into the system. Technologically, it was a decade of change from the large, room-sized mainframe computers via the development of microelectronic devices to small personal computers suitable for classrooms. The development programme NDPCAL did some sterling work in exploring the early use of computer aided learning but by the end of the decade the government realised that the ‘microelectronic age’ had arrived and had rewritten the agenda for all areas of life, not least education.

NCET becomes CET

Chris Humphries, formerly Information Technology Programme Manager at the Council for Educational Technology takes up the post of Assistant Director of CET on 1 March 1985. Vincent Thompson is leaving CET to be senior consultant at Butler .