EdTech 10: BETT Special

BETT  (formerly the British Educational Training and Technology Show) is the world’s biggest trade show for education technology, from elementary through tertiary and beyond.  Bett attempts to embrace “innovative solutions that inspire, in order to shape and improve the way people learn from classroom to boardroom.”
The Getting Smart team visited London this week to tour schools, attend the Education Leaders Briefing and Innovative Schools Forum (see blogs on these events below), and walk the cavernous halls of BETT 2013.
Walking into ExCel London (owned by Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company), we were in awe of a space so large that it could host the world’s biggest edtech conference and Cisco Live! simultaneously.  A free event, BETT was rumored to receive more than 20,000 visitors over the course of the four days. It’s like a triple ISTE with an Educause thrown in.  Some of the exhibits are gigantic, unlike anything at some of the biggest education conferences in the U.S. The outside ring is packed with closet sized booths featuring anything and everything related to education.  Here’s a roundup of what we saw and learned.
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Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Education at Microsoft Corporation, spoke at the opening ceremony about innovations happening around the globe in his exploration of “Daily Adventures” to seek out new and exciting happenings worldwide (see the TVA edition). His adventures led to a few major conclusions about today’s learning world:

  • Collaboration is a major aspect that has changed learning
  • Learning today is about sifting through the mass amounts of resources to find the ones of most value; and
  • While our lives and workplaces have largely changed, our schools have not.

Salcito encouraged anywhere, anytime learning, thoughtful integration of technology, and a push to leverage technology’s benefits to the classroom with personalized learning, access to better resources and teachers, and more.
Enough introduction, let the show begin!  Following are 10 things we saw at BETT:
1. Big exhibitors: BETT included some of the giants you would expect: Pearson, Lenovo, Intel, and Microsoft. But there are also companies you’ve never heard of like RM and CORE ECS, big “ICT” vendor happy to provision your 1:1 initiative.

2. More Microsoft: The big ICT are all Microsoft partners.  The SIS (called MIS) and LMS (called learning platforms, including Learning Possibilities and Firefly Solutions) are predominantly based on Microsoft code. Microsoft inked a big Saudi deal at the conference opening.

3. Big categories: Content fell into several predictable big categories:

  • Tablet content
  • Mobile devices and mobile management
  • Network management
  • Big, flat, smart and interactive displays
  • Language development
  • Learning and school management platforms
  • Consultants, lots of consultants

4. Most ridiculous: If you can’t decide what to waste money on next, there were actually several vendors offering several styles of tech-retracting furniture.

5. Big buzzwords: Many of the buzzwords in the U.K. are similar to the U.S. including BYOD and flipped classroom.  There was some buzz about online assessment (but more about the governments plan to replace high school GCSE tests).  Other than Tom, there wasn’t much talk about blended learning.
6. Surprisingly robust: Active science was a huge focus at the conference. Rubins had a beautifully color coordinated suite of active science tools. LEGO Education featured some crazy amazing robots.

7. Surprisingly small: We thought we’d see a stronger presence for:

  • DIY and Maker experiences
  • Adaptive learning
  • Online learning

8. Strange: Polo may not be high on your 21st century skills list or even your list for exercise — unless you’re English.

9. Startups: Like Launch Edu and other events, BETT had featured PitchFest, which was sponsored by Pearson and other big players in the edtech market. This gave startups an opportunity to receive increased exposure. Getting Smart favorites included Code Club and Beluga.  Alas, the edtech startup culture and activity in London is weak.
10. Best in Show. Tom geeked out over Labdisc from GlobiSens, a cool pack of mobile sensors linked to iPad software, the perfect toolset for active mobile science.

Other London highlights captured by our team:

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We can’t say that BETT is worth a special trip, but if you thrown in school visits, a day with innovative school heads, a show and a trip to Borough Market–it’s the trip of a lifetime.
Here’s a recap blogs about the week’s events:

Pearson is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.  Tom received an honorarium for speaking at a Microsoft event.  

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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1 Comment

Richard Taylor

Interesting article although but I disagree with your analysis of the health of London’s edtech start up scene. This was the first time BETT has had any sort of start up event and so to judge the whole city by edmix is jumping to conclusions. Maybe you should have been at Start Up Weekend Education London the weekend before. Held at Google, we had 90 people pitch 47 ideas and then form 15 teams to work on them over 54 hours. We deliberately decided to build a wider community of sponsors who included The Technology Strategy Board, OCR, Macmillan, MediaCore and several others. The event was organised by the Night Zookeeper team, who not only won the first Start Up Weekend Education (held in 2011) but after 54 hours of non stop work then had to then get ready for the Wayra demo/investor day (held two days later) and KidsMeet @ BETT (a highlight of the show you seem to have missed).

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