7 Highlights from BETT 2018
The 4 days of madness in January that is the BETT Show are now over. We all deserve a break but with 1 month of 2018 now gone, there is no rest for the wicked! We have been dazzled by clever robots, smart touchscreens and musical Edtech wizardry and now is a quick chance to review and reflect.
Here are the 7 best things we saw at BETT:
1. School leaders, teachers and kids from across the UK were discovering and understanding new technologies
One of the reasons that companies invest so heavily into BETT is because there is a huge dearth of information for schools and teachers about what technologies are available to them in the classroom. I spoke to teachers who hadn’t heard the term ‘Edtech’, some who thought it was the best thing since sliced bread and some who are waiting to see. Having all of these people in one room is great for everyone. It educates those who need it and keeps the feet of those running ahead, on the ground.
2. Suppliers speaking to educators as humans (even when they were talking about robots)
One thing that everyone agreed on is that suppliers rarely know how to speak to the education community. Those who do it best use translators. These are normally ex-teachers ‘gone rogue’ either as entrepreneurs or into advisory roles in business. There was some debate about the ‘ethics’ of this. Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit) led a great discussion about this. He reminded us that those who dedicate their lives to public service in education shouldn’t be peer pressured into how they use the knowledge they have gained. They should be free to share this with others, as we see in the US with examples such as Teachers Pay Teachers. The UK is still a fledgeling market in this area but Ross predicted that in 5 years time the main stage will be walked by teacher-bloggers, in the same way that the fashion industry has encouraged the fashion-blogger.
3. A focus on efficacy instead of spin
Sir Kevan Collins stole the headlines with his ‘wonders and snake oil’ comment. He makes the valid point that there is little to no regulation into what is sold in schools as education technology. The biggest risk with some products is wasted teaching time and learning opportunity but there are some products that might have a detrimental effect or even put a child at risk through for example poor adherence to online or digital security.
We saw more case studies than ever this year but still far fewer of these than we saw salespeople. Edtech is seen as a booming market so for some, it means sell first and prove later. Perhaps it is time for us to tap the brakes, talk to each other about what works and listen to experts such as those at the Education Endowment Foundation, UCL – Educate and then let teachers tell teacher what works
4. A global discussion about what it means to use technology in the classroom
From a personal perspective, I was delighted to meet delegates from around the globe. The Qatar Foundation was excited by the prospect of being able to discover the best tools out there to bring into their classrooms. Ministers from around the world had the opportunity to find and approach us to discover what we are up to.
I know at least one company struck a huge export agreement with a foreign minister. This has been in the pipeline for a few months and BETT was the perfect time to seal a deal which means their technology will help many thousands more children learn to code.
5. The UK is still the education standard for the world
Lastly, I think that BETT shows that, whatever else is happening with the UK in international politics, it still leads the world in education. As one Scandinavian delegate said to me,
“If it works in a British classroom, then we want to see it in ours”
Maybe this is the lesson that BETT shows us. With the right investment into the right sectors, maybe the UK really can continue to lead the world in innovation. I was certainly encouraged by some of the conversations that I had with our own government that shows perhaps there will be a change in the wind forthcoming.
6. Teachers are desperate to have their voices heard
The biggest positive outcome for me was to speak with teachers face to face and have them explain the multitude of ways that WonderHub.co.uk could help save them time and money. Both as teachers, and for many as parents, they feel lost in a world of gadgets and gizmos. Terminology changes month-by-month and there is often very little indication of what really works. they see WonderHub as a place where they can share their experience of what technology they have tried in the classroom, how they used it and how effective it was. For many, they didn’t want to spend their time reading efficacy studies or marketing spiel. They just want to hear from each other.
Suppliers too were ecstatic in their support for something that could make their lives so much easier and vastly improve their relationships with their teacher community. Some had zero feedback from educators as to how they even use their technology in the classroom. One teacher-preneur had an incredibly effective tool but just lacked the knowledge and marketing reach to tell teachers the good news. Many just wanted a neutral space to host their positive reviews so that they can use word-of-mouth marketing to reach even more teachers.
Hopefully, with WonderHub’s Edtech discovery portal for schools and families, the days of email marketing, sales calls and banging heads against walls is soon going to be over!
Lastly, I fell in love with these cute animal-AI robots which seem to be a mix of dog, donkey, rabbit, bat and squid! If that’s not enough, then they are programmed to act like pets, so they respond to being stroked and were a welcome holiday from the chaos of BETT for many an exhibitor, delegate and child. Their role in SEN seems quite obvious here but I think it intriguing to think how else these can help the holistic development of all children.
Written by Jonathan Page, Managing Director UK of WonderHub
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