Reflecting On BETT 09
The British Educational Training and Technology (BETT) Show is huge! Lots, actually, make that LOTS of exhibitors, all intent on making eye contact and selling something… My next thought was that it was even bigger than I’d thought as I scurried to the seminar booking desk to get a ticket for Miles Berry and Terry Freedman’s seminar on “What Your Children Are Learning …”
After a quick coffee, I started wandering the aisles looking for… well, I had no idea what to look for. From the limited time I had there, I spotted three main themes coming through (certainly as far as software is concerned):
1) Creativity is all – to the extent that many vendors have developed software that can be creative for you so you don’t have to be… er, why? (No links… you’re just going to have to go and be creative by yourselves…)
2) VLEs ROOL! I was slightly surprised at the number of ‘Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Solutions’ on offer until I remembered that there is something about English schools needing to have their own VLE. This is one area that I’d have liked to have spent some time investigating further, especially with GlowLearn just round the corner.
Having said that, I wonder how many schools will have woken up this morning to find out that they’ve bought/signed up to some generic tests that have little or no real educational value. VLEs are a really new area for schols and we still have much to learn about how (or indeed if) they add real value to education. I’d rather talk through the benefits with someone like Drew Buddie who has been leading the way than a sales rep who needs to sell…
3) Filtering/Blocking/Censoring/Internet Killing software… Everywhere. Upstairs, downstairs, left, right and centre… There are countless companies offering the ‘Ultimate solution’ to prevent pupils accessing anything interesting or worthwhile online. One question: Why?
We desperately need to agree a worthwhile Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that allows schools to use the internet rather than block it at every turn. Otherwise, why bother.
On the hardware front, the Netbook reigns supreme. Hard to argue against these powerful little beasties. They are not perfect, but for most of the activities carried out in school, they are the perfect balance between power and price.
One thing that I realised very early on was the profound difference between BETT and the SLF. BETT is a very big trade show with a few seminars added. The SLF is a lot of seminars with a trade show added on. This is NOT a criticism. There is a definite need for both formats. BETT has much more to see by way of hardware and software ‘solutions’. The SLF has much more classroom practice on display.
As a final thought, there was only one thing I found very disappointing at BETT and that was the lack of pupils showing off the work they are doing. Stephen Heppell had a central position and loads of kids showing evidence of some great learning and teaching… but that was about it that I saw. The SLF on the other hand has lots of pupils wandering about, taking part and showing the fruits of their learning. For me, this is the most important aspect of any Education show, after all, without the pupils none of the rest really matters.
I hope to return to BETT, but for me it’s only going to be worthwhile if I have more time to spend looking at all the wares on offer… and if I can get more time to go to the TeachMeet!