I have just returned from my 17th BETT show at Excel and whilst the show has always supposed to have been aimed at schools and further education the reality is it has been dominated by schools.
Over the years I have seen the show grow from its UK base and the rather cramped home at Olympia to the spacious Excel and an international audience. This year I spoke in the main arena about “A Digital Future for FE and Skills” and the work of the UfI trust that provide financial support for the innovative use of technology in further, vocational and adult education. to a reasonable size audience for the last slot of the day. I also hosted a packed out Post 16 Theatre on the Thursday with some inspirational presentations on how technology can enhance further and vocational education. Before each session I asked the delegates for their countries of origin and roughly the audience make up was 20% from UK, 20% Nordic and Scandinavian 10% Eastern Europe and Russia, 10% Middle East, Asia and Africa and 40% European.
It must be a first however that the show was opened by Anne Milton with a focus on FE, Apprenticeships and Skills and closed day one with another input from me on FE and Skills. My presentation can be seen here.
The show itself was the usual glitzy Djeema El Fna like smorgasbord of techno goodies for every taste. Sadly it was not to the liking of Kevan Collins the Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation who was disparaging in his comments about the show suggesting that it was all “snake oil”. He wouldn’t have said that if he had popped into the 150 workshops, seminars and arena presentations where thousands of teachers and lecturers shared what was working for them in their schools and colleges. Pity he didn’t do a bit more research before making his comments.
The Post 16 Theatre was packed for all three days and unlike last year this time we had an auditorium which held over 200 delegates and it was standing room only for most days.
The usual stands were bigger, brighter and better with Google, Microsoft, Intel et al dominating and of course the stalwarts of Interactive boards SMART and Promethean. There were lots of Robotics and digital maker kits. Other notable companies making an impact in FE came from BKSB, last year’s winner of a BETT award and Canvas the learning platform that are growing in FE.
New kids on the block include Century Learning with an interesting AI dimension and lots of companies showing new products for augmented and virtual reality.
The BETT futures area is always a favourite of mine and this year the EDUCATE project was getting a lot of attention by aiming to bring together in a “golden triangle” teacher entrepreneurs with great ideas about how technology can improve teaching, learning and assessment with academic research and the technology industries.
Once again the power of BETT is not in the bright shiny gadgets and gizmos or the gimmees and freebies but the collaboration and networking between the thousands of teachers and educators from across the globe in the seminars and workshops not to mention the cafes, restaurants and bars.
A significant development this year was the reappearance of the Department for Education at the show and the BETT awards. This is a clear indication that after seven years of Ed Tech neglect Ministers are now beginning to realise that technology has potential to improve access to education and training and enhance teaching, learning and most importantly assessment.
After years of banging on to the BETT organisers to have a greater FE and Skills presence I am glad they listened. I hope they will be pleased with the response.
I certainly am and cannot wait for an even bigger platform and audience for FE at BETT 2019. Do not miss it.
Bob Harrison, Chair of Governors Northern College Barnsley and Vice Chair of Governors of a Secondary Modern school in Trafford.
About Bob Harrinson: He was a leading member of Ministerial groups FELTAG and ETAG and is a Trustee of the UfI trust a £50m charity supporting the innovative use of technology in further, vocational and adult education, He is a judge at The BETT awards, TES FE Awards and E-Assessment awards. Bob is an assessor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education Masters degree “Learning Design with Technology"