BETT is the annual “pop-up department store” for education professionals and decision makers and the European edition is organized in London every January. An immense crowd and a large number of companies gather in the exhibit halls of Olympia to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Does BETT deliver?
The quality of the conference program, the lectures and presentations, varies greatly. There were a few interesting panel discussions at the Education Leaders conference, which is a parallel event that takes place alongside BETT. Unfortunately these discussions were not well attended this year.
BETT is very international and it has always been a popular destination especially for Nordic participants. This year many companies catered to visitors from the Nordic countries with Swedish or Norwegian speaking staff or even a separate stand to accommodate their needs. A few Nordic companies, with no clients in the UK, had even set up a stand only because their most important Nordic clients were all at BETT.
As usual there was a lot of software and hardware for life sciences and languages, the biggest manufacturers of interactive whiteboards and content providers. Many companies had come with new and improved school management software, assessment tools and behavior follow-up tools and were ready to corner the market created by the budding free schools and academies. A newcomer was Singapore with a few firms demonstrating games and learning materials.
BETT is about meetings, networking, negotiations, product launches and product demonstrations, but it is also about making decisions about technology purchasing. “Shopping” at BETT is the easy part. For many IT managers and head teachers the toughest part of the job starts at home when the school tries to make the most of the new technology.
BETTer education results if the technology is reliable, easy to use and actually un-complicates the every day life at school. Technology alone does not result in improved learning or bring joy to the process of learning. The investment will be at least partially wasted if the users’ needs are ignored at any stage of the purchasing or the implementation process.
On my wish list for next year is workshops and seminars about the use of social media and using mobile devices in learning. Students have a lot of good quality technology in their pockets. Let’s put it to good use, create open source software to go with it and share it with our networks. It saves money and empowers the users and equals better learning – without BETT.