I was fortunate enough to be released from school for 1 day this year to attend BETT on Friday and Saturday. Following my invitation to the Apple Education Leadership Summit in 2014 I was excited to get back to a large scale Education event to see what developments there has been in #EdTech.
Given that this was my first visit, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I purposely didn’t go with a specific focus or plan of attack(despite everything online telling me that this was the way to go!), instead I decided to use this year as an opportunity to get a feel for the show and who/what was there; it both fell short of & surpassed all expectations at the same time.
There was a lot of cool, geeky tech on show, and not just expensive kit like 3D Printers or C-Touch Interactive Touchscreens(I’ve got 3 and I LOVE them…more to come on that topic in another post), but also lots of affordable kit such as the BBC micro:bit (free to all S1s/Year 7s), a large number of cool projects to extend the micro:bit such as this robot kit, crane kits and the pi-top which allows you to create a Desktop or Laptop computer using the RaspberryPi!
There was also this cool animated wall created using around 1000 micro:bits which I couldn’t help snapping a short video of!
Other highlights included the Microsoft and Google stands which showed the benefits of using Office 365 and Google Apps respectively in the classroom. I’ve previously expressed my interest in Office 365 to encourage a collaborative classroom and am about to embark on a pilot project using Google Apps for Education and specifically Classroom & Hangouts to assess their impact on my classes.
Many of the stands, I personally felt, had no specific education focus, but instead were high cost corporate products being pitched at the education market and sadly exhibitors who were clearly fed up or too exhausted to care by Friday afternoon(read – the majority of the Website/App development stands along with the multiple Green screen/video editing solutions that I passed).
One stand that I’d been very keen to visit, but was sadly disappointed with was Show My Homework. I’ve long been a fan of a paperless approach to things like homework. I realised very quickly after I started teaching that the majority of my students bin their homework diaries after 3 or 4 weeks of school, but carry their mobile phones and iPods with them at all times, so now ask my class to take a photo of the homework assignment or add it to their reminders app.
I was impressed with their web based system, push notifications to student’s phones and the fact it ties in with many SIMs systems, they also apparently have a SEEMiS tie in on their roadmap for 2016. Personally I found them too pushy on the sales front; I know that they have sales targets to hit, however I made it clear when I first spoke to them that I was only scoping out products to suggest to our SLT and didn’t have the authority to make a large scale IT purchase, I was asked several times “What can I do get you to agree to take our product today?” and “What would you say if I offered you a 3 year deal to match your current homework diary pricing?”. They also had no clear pricing structure, seemed to guess what prices they would offer based on my answers to their questions and had absolutely no pricing on paper that I could bring back to my senior leadership team.
BETT 2016 was a fantastic experience and I came away with lots of ideas for developing our whole school ICT strategy as well as my own classroom, however having experienced it in person I would plan my next visit more rigorously and collaborate with colleagues in our Local Authority IT team to ensure that I had a clear focus for my visit and didn’t spend as much time visiting stands that had no benefit to my school or others in the area.