10 reasons to attend BETT

BETT2013It’s that time of year again. No, I don’t mean the Christmas lights and shopping, but starting to think about BETT in January. If you’re serious about educational technology you really must try to get there, even if you can only manage a day: you’re bound to see something that you find interesting and useful.
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Review of BETT 2013

BETT2013The BETT Show is, I’m reliably informed, the biggest education technology show in the world. It takes place in London, England, every January. This year it was slightly later, but I’ll come to that in a moment. The first thing I’ll say is that even if you didn’t attend you may find this article interesting, as I suspect that several comments will apply to any education technology conference.

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Getting the most from the BETT show

Eleven years ago I wrote an 8-point guide to BETT, in my newsletter, and have reproduced it below. I think the points still stack up, especially the one about having a good breakfast! I hope you enjoy reading this blast from the past (9th January 2001 to be exact). And when you have done so, why not download the up-to-date bumper edition – 125 stupendous tips, and completely free? The URL is at the end of the article.

At the time this was written, the web was still relatively new to a lot of teachers, and Google had been on the scene for about three years. At that time it was still only a search engine. The newsletter was sent in text format from my own email address using my personal email client, which at that time was Eudora. Ah, such days of innocence!

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Education Technology and ICT at BETT: Big changes for 2013

Education Technology BETT 2013Er, excuse me. Um, I just wondered…, er could I just squeeze past…, oops, sorry…

How many times have you found yourself stuck behind a couple of people walking at such a snail-like pace that one suspects they started out the day before? That’s just one of the problems experienced at BETT at Olympia: so much squeezed into a space which has long been too small, resulting in aisles that are far too narrow for the volume of traffic and a stand numbering systems which seems to owe more to random number generation than logic. Well, hopefully this is all now a thing of the past, a soon-to-be distant memory of a venue we can reminisce about but not miss.

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BETT Highlights #3: When Advice Paid Off

#BETT2010 Oscar Wilde once said that good advice is something to be passed on to others, as it is never any good to oneself. Fortunately, the Australian chap I met at BETT recently didn't take Wilde's advice. Here's what happened.

At the end of my 'Amazing Web 2.0 Projects' seminar presentation, several people wanted to talk to me. One of them was an Australian man.

Australian man: Hi, Terry, I'm from Australia.

Me: Really? I'd never have guessed.

AM: I emailed you a couple of months ago.

Me: Oh, and I didn't reply?

AM: Yes, you did. I told you I'd won a bursary, and asked your advice for which international conference I should attend, paid for by that money.

Me: Oh yes, I remember now.

AM: And you advised me to come to BETT.

Me: Ah. And now you want me to give you your money back?

AM: No, on the contrary. I've been walking around with my mouth open. This has been a fantastic experience, so I just wanted to thank you for your excellent advice.

I think that proves several things. Firstly, it shows that although some Brits might have become a bit jaded over the past 26 years of the BETT Show, it's probably a case of familiarity breeding contempt. It's still as vibrant and as important as it always has been, perhaps more so.

Secondly, it shows that when I give advice, I know what I'm talking about. There are are lots of conferences I could have recommended, but (a) I don't know what AM was really interested in and (b) none of the others are on anything like the same scale as the BETT Show. I felt he would be completely bowled over with excitement by it.

But lastly, it shows that I am a lousy businessman: I should have charged him!

BETT Highlights #2: Serendipity Rules OK

#BETT2010 One of the things I love about the BETT Show is meeting people by accident. On the second day (I think) I was standing in an aisle trying to (a) get my bearings and (b) identify which branch of Vedic Mathematics the organisers had used when planning the location of the stands, when I noticed another gentleman standing nearby.

"I recognise that glazed expression," I thought to myself. "You look as geographically-challenged as I am", I said.

Anyway, to cut a long story short (well, it's not that long, but this is meant to be a 'highlight' after all), he turned out to be Gerald Haigh.

Gerald is a journalist whose articles I used to read in the Times Education Supplement, and who still contributes to the website of Merlin John, erstwhile ICT editor of the TES.

BETT is great for meeting people you already know. It's good for making new contacts too. But nothing quite beats the frisson of finding yourself talking to someone you've read, known about and communicated with for a long time.

After BETT, the Deluge

I am surprised. I am really surprised. Despite a gruelling 4 days at the BETT Show (doing 7 am to 1 am days), a terrible journey home, a looming chest infection and a blister, I am feeling incredibly creative. Perhaps it's true that writers give of their best when they are pain- and angst-ridden.

Or it could be that my fitness levels are up (I've been a good boy, working out in the gym; it's supposed to be boring, but I use the time to write articles in my head!), or staying over for the first time ever. I think I will add that to my list of pre-BETT tips. Not having a journey (door-to-door) of about 1.5 hours twice each day really helped. As my wife never seems to tire of pointing out: I'm not getting any younger. (My mum always used to say that too, about herself. It kind of implies that there some people who are getting younger....)

Or it could be that I came away from BETT feeling exhuberant. That happens to me sometimes, although I don't think it did last year. I came away buzzing. I'll be writing about why in the next issue of Computers in Classrooms, which I hope to bring out this week (I'm setting myself the deadline of Wednesday: I like a challenge.)

But for now, as someone in the twitterstream said, 'back to the day job', which for me is encapsulated in a list of 95 things which I must try to get done this week.

Why do I insist on writing these lists?

7 Things To Do After the BETT Show

There is always a danger that no matter how good an event is, it will turn out to have very little impact in the longer term, as you forget what you saw and more pressing concerns vie for your attention. Here are 7 suggestions for preventing that from happening.
 
  • Arrange a team meeting for as soon as possible after the show. Have each team member say what three things most excited them, and three new ideas they picked up, plus what needs to change in your current practice. OK, “three” is an arbitrary and artificial number, but you get the idea.
  • Draw up an action plan for following up. That may take the form of arranging visits to other schools, or demonstrations from suppliers, or introducing some new ideas into your lesson plans.
  • Arrange a meeting with the Headteacher or other senior manager as soon as possible after your team meeting. The aim is to discuss with them what you learnt at the show that may impact what you are doing, or the school’s plans. If you discover that you are ahead of the game and don’t need to change anything at all for the time being, that is in itself an outcome that needs to be conveyed to your boss.

Make sure that you are well-prepared for the meeting, especially if you will be suggesting changes in what the school does, or you wish to ask for extra funding.

Also take into consideration whether your boss is a shoot-the-messenger type, if you need to report back on a new – and unwelcome – Government direction.
 
  • Give feedback to the rest of the staff on any key messages you picked up from the show. This is as much for diplomatic reasons as anything else: for some reason, there are people who believe that spending 12 hours travelling and walking around all day along with thousands of other people is the equivalent of a day off.
  • Allow at least a week after the show to hear from any suppliers to whom you gave your business card.
  • Find out what others thought about products and events seen at the show. Use the tags  BETT2010 and #bett2010.
  • Check the ICT in Education website and the Computers in Classrooms newsletter for news and reviews about the show.

What Is The Meaning Of 'Good'?

Transport for London clearly uses a very different sort of dictionary to the rest of us. Take, for example, its use of the word 'planned', as in 'Planned engineering works'. This is the term used to justify and explain the fact that public transport, by tube at least, becomes an endurance, intelligence and orienteering test worthy of the Duke of Edinburgh Award at the weekends.

A photo of a train in serviceTake this weekend, for example. What should have been a simple and straightforward journey home after the BETT Show turned out to be a task akin to one of Hercules' Labours. My plan was to get on the Circle Line at Gloucester Road, sit there and cogitate, meditate or sleep until I arrived at Liverpool Street, and then take the National Express train home.

Unfortunately, TfL had other ideas.

Because of so-called 'planned engineering works', the Circle Line was completely suspended, the District Line was also suspended, no Piccadilly Line trains were stopping at Kings Cross, and even if they had been it would have made no difference because the Hammersmith and City Line was partially suspended.

The result was that, after spending a bit of time deciding which of the possible routes home was the least arduous, I spent the next two hours on a long, circuitous journey, standing virtually all the way.

Before I get on to the bit that relates to the title of this article, let me just say something about this 'planning'. To use an Americanism (which I don't often do but in this case the expression fits), it sucks. Any 15 year old with a rudimentary knowledge of Excel could devise a better plan that this. How come other countries are able to upgrade their metro systems without all the disruption that we Londoners have to suffer, every single weekend?

But this time TfL surpassed itself.

This was the weekend in which the BETT Show finished.

The BETT Show is the biggest show of its kind in Britain.

The BETT Show is the biggest show of its kind in the world.

This year the BETT Show had 700 exhibitors and attracted 30,000 visitors.

Surely someone at TfL might have looked at a calendar of events and thought that perhaps Saturday 16th January 2010 was not a great time to suspend half of the tube?

When I was project managing a major school refurbishment, which at one stage involved closing one of the entrances,  I consulted with all the stakeholders I could think of -- even including local residents who would be affected by all the kids going past their houses because their usual route to school would no longer be any good.

As it happens, I upset the patrons of the local church, because nobody had thought to tell me that they used that school entrance every Sunday in order to park their cars in the playground. But that only goes to illustrate the importance of consulting with as many people as possible before taking major actions.

Anyway, here we have possibly 30,000 people rattling around trying to find their way home or to the airport or to their hotels, and someone announces that, apart from the fact that half the network doesn't work (making it a 'notwork'), there is a good service.

A good service!!

That's like a teacher saying to an inspector: 'Twenty percent of my class will fail the course; a further 30% will get a lower grade that they should. Apart from that, I'm providing a good service.'

If walking for miles from one line to another at one interchange, standing most of the way for two hours, being crowded along with all the people who would have taken other routes, at the end of a very long week is considered a 'good' service, all I can say is let's hope and pray we never have a bad one.