My take on the annual BETT (British Education and Training Technology) exhibition:
BETT is the UK's annual exhibition for technology in education. This year was its first at a new venue, the ExCel Centre in London's docklands. Previously it has always been at Olympia.
The new exhibition space is much more spacious and better airconditioned. Olympia could become very stuffy, but I missed the absence of an upper gallery and being able to look down on the main exhibitors below. Also to be found in the upper gallery (and indeed some of the peripheral areas) at Olympia used to be a multiplicity of small stalls from independent exhibitors and entrepreneurs. I suspect the move to the new venue and the cost of floorspace has eliminated such people from making the show. I can remember Crick software's first Bett - a tiny little stand offering the first iteration of Clicker. Now Crick is one of the major exhibitors. But I wonder... If John and Anne Crick were starting out today, would they have been able to invest in a Bett presence, as they were able to do in the early 1990s.
Now all the stands are fairly plush. Yes, there were a handful of small startout stands, but nowhere near as many as in the past.
To tell the truth, ExCel is a little soulless, and the floorplan makes it difficult to be sure you are not missing anything. Indeed, the only way to be sure of seeing it all is to follow a zigzagging route with much backtracking.
One of the pleasures of Bett in the days of Macromedia was watching the demonstrations of software in action. Adobe doesn't even have its own presence at Bett this year (and didn't have last year either) which I find surprising, given the way it has been hardselling the education discount on its Creative Cloud subscription (and fantastic value it was on its pre-Christmas offer).
The only demonstrations I sat in on yesterday that impressed at all were iPad based. Although Apple does not have its own stand at Bett, there are plenty of outfits offering iPad 'solutions' to schools - e.g. Toucan Computing.
No one seemed terribly interested in the learning platform (VLE) stands. Compare that with 2-3 years ago!
There were some 'promote your school on the web' stands, including one company that will design your school a mobile friendly website for, wait for it, £3000 (£2900 to be exact) - and then charge hosting fees. But I expected more emphasis on this (reaching parents via mobile devices) and more competition. I'm sure it's out there, but not at Bett.
To me the biggest mystery of my visit yesterday was the complete absence of any Kindle/ereader 'solutions'. There were stands that mentioned ebooks on their backing boards, including one fronted up by a brightly-clad glamour girl. And maybe Bett will be like this in years to come. Swathes of printer companies, display board companies, tablet companies and fashionable creatures pulling in the punters.
As I reported on this blog last October, the US education system is beginning to use Kindles for the bulk distribution of books to banks of ereaders. I made enquiries at the time, and there were then no current plans to bring Whispercast to the UK. But we urgently need some such system to use with ereaders in schools and I couldn't find an exhibitor offering anything like what is required.
Here are some of the exhibitors that did catch my eye:
If there was any 2013 'thread' running through Bett this year it was the emphasis on teaching and learning via video.
Mediacore is a platfrom to share video or audio within your organization. "It makes media management and delivery with a learning-centric focus a breeze."
I'm very impressed by what I've seen so far.
Easy online app creation.
Nothing revolutionary here, just some attractively designed online learning resources, from a company that originates in Poland.
A straightforward tool to manage students' workflow. There's an iPad app that works well for the teacher but students do not have to have Macs. As well as useful in school settings, this would be a great tool for a home tutor who likes to set assignments between home visits.
Perhaps the simplest but the niftiest find of all. Free (till April). Beautifully simple wordprocessor for early writers or dyslexic students with predictive word bank as you type. Also has a very handy built in text scanner (OCR) with really accurate performance, making this a useful app for everyone.
I was aware of Lynda.com before, having watched a few of their videos online. For those who learn well from videos the indepth training on a wealth of applications is well worth checking out. Choose a period when you have some time to dedicate and a monthly subscription will be well-spent.