Every year in London, the Kensington Olympia Exhibition Hall hosts the BETT conference. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it is an educational technology conference and exhibition. However, why would an Irish teacher be bothered going to an event like this? Here’s a few reasons why I’m going for the third year since I found out about it.
The WOW Factor
Ireland has education conferences. It often has various technology conferences. However, nothing prepared me for the immense size of the BETT conference. I remember walking into the exhibition hall for the first time 2 years ago. I stood still. I could not get over how big the place was. I think it’s bigger than IKEA and it’s jammed full of stalls exhibiting everything you can think of in the world of edtech. Just experiencing the huge size of the place and the fact that it’s the closest feeling you’ll ever get to being a child in a chocolate factory is worth it alone!
The number of different types of exhibits is so big that BETT divide them into zones. There’s a software zone, an SEN zone and all sorts of other zones. There are massive multinational companies like Microsoft and tiny companies you’ve never heard. Dozens of countries are represented on the stalls and I would envisage that almost every country in the world is represented in the attendance. A great feeling for me was discovering a little gem of a company by accident on the way to seeing something else. One year I found an Australian stall selling PCs, that were about the size of a portable hard-drive, for €80. Another stand, the well-known Texas Instruments, were showing off a projector that doubled up as an announcement generator, replacing the need for intercoms. Whatever you want, there will be someone selling it.
All Your Favourites
Anseo.net spent a long time reviewing the various Interactive Whiteboards for about a year and a half and at BETT, almost all the companies were represented. BETT gave me the opportunity to talk to the heads of these companies and see what plans they had for the year. This year, I’ll be trying to talk to some of them again to see where they think the future of IWBs is. However, if you’re interested in some other aspect of edtech, they’ll be there.
If you want to know what the next big thing is going to be, BETT is where it’s going to be launched. The last couple of years focused a lot on 3D learning and games-based learning. This year, I imagine the games-based learning will have developed and there will be a lot of focus on it. From a hardware point of view, I’d be surprised if I didn’t see a number of tablet computers.
The Irish Connection
It’s not just me that goes to BETT. Some well known Irish teachers head over to London and it’s great to hook up. It’s a good place to meet up with colleagues and meet some new ones. As well as this, a number of Irish companies exhibit at BETT. I know that Edware, Prim-Ed and a number of others will be there so I try and say hello.
The English are an inventive bunch. Aside from the exhibition and the talks that go on at BETT, a few UK educationalists have come up with some great concepts. For example, last year I was walking past a stand where I bumped into someone I vaguely knew on Twitter. I didn’t realise that he was about to give a talk at the stand. I also didn’t realise this was part of a concept called Teachmeet Takeover where companies “give up” their stand for 30 minutes to allow someone to present a talk! Ian Addison is one of the main perpetrators of these surprises and you can read more on this wiki.
There are loads of workshops running at BETT. This year I aim to go and check out at least one or two. There are topics that are relevant to Irish teachers about leadership, about technology and about best education practice. I haven’t decided exactly what I’m going to see so will report back when I do.
BETT is the biggest educational technology conference and it can be daunting. The biggest tip I was given was to plan ahead. I guess I can only pass on the same advice.