Hopefully the BETT Show, usually just know as BETT, needs no introduction but for anyone not familiar with the Exhibition, suffice it to say that it is the longest running and prime exhibition in UK and Europe in the field of Education Technology. It is an exhibition which has grown in size year upon year and has often been used as a showcase for new technologies and new ideas. It is not just an exhibition but also a series of seminars or workshops and a social gathering for edtech professionals.
In my time, I have attended most of the annual BETT shows and have found them useful in several ways. As a teacher and an ICT co-ordinator, it was not always easy/possible to get the time off school to attend the show, so I had to travel at my own expense on a Saturday. This was frustrating, not just because I had to dig into my own pocket but also because many people and activities were taking place on the other days and I felt I was missing out.
So for anyone else who is having difficulty getting time out of school to attend this year’s BETT, I have tried to put together this post on reasons why BETT can help your school, maybe you can use this to help persuade your Head or Budget holder to allow you to attend?
The heart of the BETT show is the exhibition arena(s). Here you will see a whole gamut of firms, big and small, exhibiting their latest products and services. Touring the exhibitors can help your school in three ways;
- 1) Purchasing. If you know you want to make purchases of new technology, touring the exhibition will enable you to meet and compare companies and products side by side. If this is what you want to do, I’d suggest you plan your visit, identify what products, services and companies you want to visit and map out your day accordingly. Maybe, you could even visit the stands and make an appointment to meet representatives at particular times. You might also get the chance to see similar companies or products you had not heard of before. By all means also use the opportunity to make appointments for companies to visit you at school after the show, this will give you time to reflect and feedback to colleagues, rather than make quick decisions while at the show. The key here is to use the show to help inform you purchasing decisions.
- 2) Relationships. If you are not in the process of making purchases, it cannot do any harm to build up relationships with suppliers and companies. Make a point of visiting the stands of companies/suppliers you already use and meet people from them. It always helps to have a name and a human face to speak to when dealing with companies, so make yourself known as a customer and try to create a contact at the company whom you can deal with later. Should you see new products/services which interest you while at the show, do make contact with the company showing them. Let them know you are interested or would like to know more and take their contact details. Contact them after the show to remind them of your interest and, if appropriate, arrange further contact/meetings with them. The key here is to build up and maintain your relationship with people and suppliers who may be able to help and support your school now or in the future.
- 3) Technology. It is difficult to get away from it, BETT is about educational technology; about showing it, about selling it and about using it. Sometimes you might just see a new piece of kit or an entirely new technology which makes you think, ‘that looks jolly interesting, I wonder how I can use it in school.’ I do strongly advise not buying directly at the show, even if you are offered a heavily discounted price, but do make a note of, a physical one not a mental one, of the new technology and who is offering it. When back at school, talk about it with colleagues, discuss how you might use it, put together a possible project proposal and, if you can get the ‘go ahead’, contact the company to let them know of your interest. The key here is to use the kit of show to generate new learning possibilities for your school.
Seminars and Workshops
Alongside the exhibitions, BETT provides visitors with the opportunity to attend an array of seminars and workshops being run by leading practitioners. Many visitors have found these to be of more use than the exhibition itself, especially if their school feels it has enough ‘kit’ and is looking to making better or more use of it. Some visitors see the seminar programme as a means of providing themselves with effective and cheap CPD which can be included in their performance assessment. In previous years, there would seem to have been an increasing emphasis upon the seminar programme at BETT. This year’s BETT, 2013, seems to follow that trend by placing great emphasis upon the programme, topics and speakers available. It also seems that, for the first time, the seminars are free to attend (in previous years there was a registration fee and booking service). So even if you are not interested in attending BETT for the showcase of exhibitors, there is sure to be something in the seminars for you. It has been my experience that the seminar sessions can help schools in three ways;
- 4) New Ideas. Some of the seminars may present new ideas for using education technology. Of course, not all of these will be relevant to you or your school but, equally, some may be. You could find it worth your time attending at least one of these and then taking the idea(s) presented back to your school and sharing with colleagues. The Key here is to use BETT seminars to provide new ideas for using existing technology or new technology in school.
- 5) Experiences of Others. Some of the seminars will be given by people sharing their experiences of using particular technologies or working with particular subjects or particular groups of learners. This affords visitors the opportunity to gain knowledge and to compare their own experiences with those of colleagues in other establishments. I can also provide visitors with an opportunity to make contact with new colleagues and new ideas which can help strengthen teaching in their school. The key here is the sharing of experiences of using technology in education.
- 6) Insights. Okay, there’s a little bit of overlap with the previous point above but some of the seminars as well as being accounts of peoples’ experiences will also give an account of what they’ve learned from that experience, not just the process and the implementation but also the effects of their work. These ‘insights’ can often be of greatest value to a school, especially in helping to determine whether or not to implement a particular technology or particular approach to teaching. These ‘insights’ can help a visitor establish potential ‘goals’ and purposes for new projects and technology implementations. The key here is to use other people’s experiences and findings to support and justify your own work.
The BETT show provides a fantastic opportunity to physically meet your colleagues involved in the edtech field. Some of whom you may know by name or by reputation, some of whom you may have met via social networks. BETT provides an opportunity to meet face to face, either by design (i.e. by agreeing to meet up) or by accident (simply by bumping into them … both physically and metaphorically; it can get very crowded at BETT!). Three ways this can help your school may be;
- 7) Networking. BETT is great for extending your network of colleagues. The more extensive your network is, the better it may be able to support your work should you need a helping hand. Most teachers realise the benefit of the support shared among colleagues when it comes to solving problems and sharing ideas. However, many teachers often work in isolation, social networking and physical networking can help overcome the feeling of isolation in your work. Attending BETT can be a great way of extending your professional network. The key is to use BETT to meet people, new people and those you already know, to extend your professional network.
- 8) Foreign Links. Although the B in BETT stand for British, in recent years BETT has established itself as the leading exhibition of its type across Europe and beyond. The result is that increasingly more and more visitors are attending from other countries. BETT gives visitors the opportunity to meet colleagues from across the world, to establish links with individuals, companies and schools abroad. This could not only strengthen and widen your own network but may also be of use in creating contact with foreign schools and students for your own school. The key is to use BETT as a possible means to start international contacts
- 9) New Ideas. Ideas are not just generated by seeing new items of tech on display, they are not just generated by attending seminars, they are also generated and shared by meeting your colleagues. The key is to use the colleagues you meet at BETT to generate and share new ideas which you can implement back at school.
I’m not sure if the BETT organisers will like me mentioning this but there are also various fringe events which happen at BETT. These are unofficial events often organised by attendees themselves specifically for the benefit of other attendees. In previous years, these fringe events have included teachmeets, takeovers, Collaborate for Change and TEDx events. I’m not sure what events are being organised for BETT 2013, perhaps people could add them in the comments, but do look out for them as these can be of immense value.
- 10) Teachmeet. Teachmeets are a fantastic opportunity for teachers to get up and briefly present to attendees how they have been using some aspect of education technology. It is a platform for sharing and disseminating ideas and practice among colleagues. If you’ve never attended a teachmeet, then the teachmeet at BETT is a great place to start. The key here is the sharing of ideas, experience and practice among colleagues.
- 11) Takeovers. In recent years, some exhibitors have allowe3d teachers and students to ‘takeover’ their stand for brief presentations. This allows practitioners and their learners to demonstrate to visitors how they have been using technology in their school. It is a great way of sharing, particularly the work of learners. The key here is to use BETT to see how other learners have utilised education technology
- 12) Pub Lunches/evening meals. BETT can get very hectic and crowded, so it can be a great relief at times to get away from the hustle and bustle to meet with colleagues over a drink and a bite. The Key here is to relax, enjoy and get to know colleagues a bit better.
So there you are, 12 ways from my experience in which attending BETT can help improve schools and benefit you as a teacher. If you are attending BETT this year, do enjoy it, I hope these tips may help and I hope perhaps to meet you there. If you still are having trouble justifying your attendance at BETT this year, maybe you can use these points to help your case.
Links to Fringe Events
(Thanks to Ian Addison for these)
Tips for Beginners – Some useful tips if you haven’t been to BETT before
Teachmeet Takeover - Share ideas throughout the show!
Kidsmeet Takeover - Children presenting throughout the BETT Show
Teachmeet Helpers - Can you help with a few tasks on the day?
If you want to arrange to meet colleagues, this online spreadsheet could help;
Are you going to BETT? – Fill in this spreadsheet and see who else is going on the same day as you.
- Pedagogy, Technology and the Search for Inspiration (dougwoods.co.uk)
- Doga flies flag for schools and business at BETT 2013 (agent4change.net)
- Spoilt for CPD choice with Learn Live at BETT 2013 (agent4change.net)
- Teachmeet Takeover at Bett 2013 (whiteboardblog.co.uk)
- BETT : The Changing use of Technology in Schools (chrisleach78.wordpress.com)
- Parkin picks gems for Stone’s BETT 2013 display (agent4change.net)
- Will 2013 see a Continued Decline in Education Technology? (dougwoods.co.uk)
- Caroline’s journey from ‘Yes Minister’ to BETT 2013 (agent4change.net)