This time last week I was at Olympia attending the British Educational, Technology and Training Show. Traditionally it has the reputation of being the IT geek show for IT geeks.With a title like that it would never get any takers so they use the acronym of BETT.
I had spent most of the week getting ready and my excitement was palpable! Why on earth should that be because I am in no way a geek and especially not an IT one! I was going to do what a lot of other folks were doing – selling something and making contacts.
That seems quite cold, calculated and clinical but it was anything but. I had the chance to share the details of the 100 Word Challenge on two stands. Many thanks to Chris Ratcliffe at Scholastic and the BrainPop team for letting me loose and being so supportive.
I also had a list of people I wanted to meet. Many were members of my Personal Learning Network that I ‘know’ through Twitter and blogging but I wanted to see them in the flesh to cement our relationships.
There is no doubt that the BETT Show is about sales. There are multi-million dollar firms touting their wares, trying to entice visitors, many of whom were representing schools and some local authorities with permission to buy hardware and software. In the past this was its main purpose together with launching new gadgets and gizmos.
In the present climate there is now another element that is gaining influence and getting folks like me to go along. That is the idea of networking to share ideas and good practice. The evolution of the TeachMeet ‘brand’ came to the fore throughout the four days of the exhibition. Various exhibitors (as mentioned above) gave space to teachers, children and educationalists to ‘Take Over’ for a few minutes to present activities that had gone well. The children were able to present how they use IT in all aspects of their learning.
My time was eaten up with talking! Talking to those I knew, talking to those I recognised the names of (thank goodness for twitter ids!) and making new friends. Many were practising teachers and a good percentage were IT co-ordinators or managers. As you would expect, they had a great deal of energy and excitement for the event and what they wanted to get out of it.
I found it quite sad and very telling that most of them had adopted an approach with their colleagues at school of ‘eking out’ new initiatives. One told me that they did not dare mention the 100 Word Challenge yet because ‘they had just had to take on gaming’. This surely is a problem for moving forward with IT being used as another tool in the children’s tool box rather than an additional subject taught by that geek at the beginning of this piece. Is there a need for senior leaders to get some of that enthusiasm?
However, getting back to BETT – there was a tweet that asked if the TeachMeet held on the Friday evening needed to come from the BETT event. Did we need to all gather in London in order to share ideas. Obviously the answer is no because these events are held across the country throughout the year. However, I have to say that the glitz and glamour that is BETT does add to the experience of meeting people. It does present a brave new world and when you are there it fuels your enthusiasm and passion.
The key is what happens next! What are those individual co-ordinators going to take back to persuade colleagues to take a step not into the unknown but something new? Does the appearance and people like the Secretary of State, Michael Gove help or hinder the cause? I have not read the speech yet so cannot comment. There is one thing though – I will be booking a ticket next year!