What next for BETT?

Well, like many others I made it to BETT and what an experience it was! I had read and inwardly digested Roger Neilson’s advice for newbies as had my companion Pooky Hesmondhalgh.
As it was our ‘first’ time we decided to take it gently and just wander. For me that proved difficult because it was very hot and completely over-powering. I felt that I should be on a mission or at least have some goal in mind with so many stands available and so much ‘you must see’ going on! Surely we should be having high powered conversations and booking demonstrations?
On Roger’s advice we had our twitter id on our identity badges so it wasn’t long before we met other twitter folk and that’s when the day took off. It was really super to talk to people who I felt I knew. I had been following their exploits and sharing the highs and lows of their days.  It was great to see them present the many TeachMeet take-overs and see why they are at the top of educational IT learning. This was definitely the highlight of the day for me and I was just sad that I was not able to meet more. The flavour of this statement is something that I have seen many times on twitter and individual blogs since BETT2011. It was the people that made the show!

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So on reflection if it is all about the people, the networking and the sharing of experiences, do we need the size and style of BETT? Should BETT change to accommodate this shift? A very interesting online discussion  took place on the ViTaL website prompted by Claire Fenwick’s  question asking who was attending BETT, what they hoped to get out of it and if they were not attending, why not.
The conversation was lively and came round to looking at the audience that would attend as compared to the audience it was possibly aimed at and the mismatch this may cause. Previously Local Authorities would attend specifically to see the latest technology and barter for their schools. Now with the budget changes facing all educational establishments and the demise of LAs in that form, that approach is not particularly viable.
If the audience is now class teachers and hands-on practitioners, perhaps the timing of the exhibition needs to be looked at so that more people could attend without the additional costs to schools for supply etc. If it is all about networking, and I include the various seminars with children presenting their work in this, perhaps  BETT 2012 should be one huge TeachMeet!
A comment from the ViTaL discussion from Roger Broadie acknowledges that things have changed:

‘The community of people who attend BETT, educators and commercial, are undoubtedly evangelical but have so far failed to convince the vested interests in education and education policy of the need to change. Thank heavens we are now seeing people like Jim Knight admitting that the existing educational (teaching) paradigm has been pushed as far as it can go and we now urgently need a new approach, that stimulates and enables young people to take personal responsibility for their learning and extend it out of the classroom’

If you are reading this you are likely to be among the evangelical! How can we ensure that when it comes to IT, the vibrancy that exists in many of schools and was exhibited at BETT is really embedded to all schools? If you attended, what did you learn? Do you need BETT to experience more of the same or is there another format that would be better?

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  • I’ve been to BETT since 1998 when i was a primary ICT coordinator as part of group called Bectans, a for-runner of any online communities of teachers and part of the BECTa laptops for teachers project. I remember getting overwhelmed on my first ever time there and yes, you do need to know why you are going! The show is now more for commercial folk to meet up and has most of its visitors from the south east. The big increase of visitors are from overseas and companies are gearing themselves up more for this.
    You will have also noticed that there were no government agencies this year due to cuts, what difference this made I don’t know but it’s unlikely they will be back until the prices drop or the economy improves!
    All the best!

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