I know, I know, I’m a bit late writing this but I wanted to let the dust settle and the heat to die down before putting my thoughts about this year’s BETT show on paper (sic).
Owing to work commitments, I was only able to attend BETT on the first day this year. So what I have to say may not be fully representative of the show as a whole. My first impression of BETT is that there didn’t seem to be as many people attending as in previous years, at least not on the day I was there. Mind you I seem to recall saying the same last year … but then last year there was the snow to keep many people away. Perhaps people attending on other days may have had a different experience but I was certainly surprised by how thin the crowds were and how relatively easy it was to walk around the halls.
I have long had this theory that BETT shows come in cycles; one year there is a lot of innovation followed by a year of consolidation. Last year seemed, to me, to be a year of little innovation but a lot of consolidation. That is to say that last year there were few new products but many products that had been new the year before were now being shown as established products. So, if my theory were correct, this year should once more have been one of innovation; … but no. I saw very little innovation at the show and quite a lot on consolidation again. Well, I guess that may well be due to the current economic climate and the uncertainty that clearly pervades the ICT in education arena.
Talking to people at the show, there was still a lot of fear and uncertainty regarding jobs and the future of ICT in schools, which is very sad because I recall the same being the case the previous year. Of course, with the closure of Becta and some commercial companies, there appears to be another round of redundancies about to hit. One thing that seemed very sad to me, and somewhat worrying, is that those people facing redundancy in this round do not appear, though this is a huge generalisation, to have learned from the previous round. That is to say, they still seem to feel that they can offer the same skills they always have and that someone will offer them a job. Well, maybe they will be lucky but the clearest message I can give anyone in educational ICT who faces redundancy is that their are many many people offering the same skills as you and many of those skills are not sought after at present; if you seek employment, please, please, please seek to equip yourself with new skills.
As many of you will know, I am quite active on Twitter. I first used twitter at BETT two years ago and there were only a few of us actively doing so. Then last year, twitter seemed to dominate the show with people tweeting each other what they’d discovered, their views on new (or old) products on show and, of course, the innovative teachmeet takeover, which was spread largely by twitter. This year, the twitter stream seemed quite quiet in comparison to last year, this was a surprise to me especially considering how many more people are now using twitter. There was, though, one quite clear big change in the twitter stream; there were more commercial companies using twitter to announce their products at BETT, to announce their demos, to call people to this stand or that stand. Maybe other twitterers, like me, got fed up with this.
So was BETT 2011 worth going to? Well, as I only had the time to attend for the first day it would be difficult for me to say one way or the other. As I had to travel home, I was unable to attend any of the events that surround BETT, such as the TED talks or the Teachmeet or MirandaMods and that I regretted. As last year, it does seem in many ways that these are the best bit of BETT. Yes, seeing any new and innovative products or services is good but sharing ideas and networking with fellows is far more important.
So, for me, I guess BETT was not the important event that it once used to be. For the days beforehand I had attended the Learning Without FRontiers Event and that was a far more significant event.