16 Tips For Getting The Best Out Of BETT

Here are 16 suggestions for getting the most out of the experience.

Wear shoes with cushioned soles: the floor is concrete and therefore very tiring to walk on for a whole day.

Put your phone on vibrate if you can: in my experience, you can't hear your phone ringing above the noise.

As soon as you have passed through the entrance, find somewhere to sit, and look through the bag you will have been given. Get rid of any unwanted paper, and then look to see if there are any last-minute exhibitor entries, in case there are one or two that you ought to visit. Then get your bearings.

Aim to visit the most important exhibitors on your list first, in case you get waylaid or get too tired to continue.

If you attend BETT on the Wednesday, ie on the first day of the show, it may be worth finding the Department for Children, Schools and Families ( DCSF) stand soon after the opening of the show. As a rule, the show is officially opened by a Government minister, who may announce new funding or a new development.The DCSF stand may have an area where you can listen to the announcement live (the hall in which the announcement is made is usually difficult to get into without an official invitation).

Do not collect loads of information: it weighs a ton after a while. That’s where your business cards come in: give them to exhibitors you are interested in, and ask them to send you stuff after the show.

Don’t collect loads of information on behalf of other teachers. I did that for years and as far as I know not one person did anything different as a result. In fact, it was probably counter-productive because it conveys the impression that you are just a glorified mailman.

If you get thirsty, look out for free water which may be provided by some stands.

When you strike up a conversation with someone, or meet up with colleagues, always ask: what have you see today that has excited you? And then follow up on their suggestions.

At some point in the day, forget your careful planning and wander around. You will be surprised at what you come across that hasn’t been listed in any brochure. For example, good prices on some items, new publications, and companies you have never heard of.

Head on over to the Times Education Supplement stand, to pick up a free copy of the periodical.

Pick up free copies of other educational technology magazines – but bear in mind that some are little more than collections of advertisements.

As well as the usual sorts of freebies like mugs and sets of pens, mouse mats and notepads, there are often more useful ones. For example, one year the QDCA was giving away miniature versions of the ICT Programme of Study, which you could keep on you for quick reference. Some stands may have useful documentation on data sticks.

If you are staying to the bitter end, and you have deposited a coat in the cloakroom, collect it about an hour before the end of the show, to avoid a long wait. That means around 5pm Wednesday to Friday, and 3pm on the Saturday.

The next two points are  especially relevant if you are attending for more than one day, or have team members attending on different days to yourself.

Find out what others thought about products and events seen at the show. Use the tag #BETT2010 in Twitter and  BETT2010 in Technorati and elsewhere. (Not sure what a tag is? See this article.)

Check the ICT in Education website for news and reviews about the show.

Driving Your ICT Vision: The Seminar

Believe it or not, there are a lot of parallels between ICT planning and driving. The journey can be long, so planning is necessary, but hazards seem to keep appearing that can really throw you off course. But notice that I didn’t use the phrase ‘unexpected hazards’. You don’t have to be a Nostradamus to make educated guesses about possible future scenarios, if you’re managing to keep yourself informed in the right kind of way.

Similarly, a key aspect of advanced driving is to anticipate hazards based on the information to hand, and avoid any trouble before it arises. Interestingly, the most commonly-used expression when a car accident occurs is ‘suddenly’:

I was driving along and all of a sudden this child ran in front of me out of nowhere.

As a matter of fact, things like this tend to happen less suddenly than you might think.

So, with this kind of thing in mind I successfully proposed a seminar at BETT called ‘Driving your ICT vision: what can advanced motoring techniques teach us about achieving our goals?’, which I (partially) described as follows:

The ideas covered include:

  • The limitations of target-based strategic planning.
  • What is the advanced motoring system?
  • Being prepared: how to spot hazards.
  • The system in more detail, with practical examples: using the principles of the System to address short, intermediate, and long-term goals.
  • Using the system flexibly.
  • The value of commentary.


Looking at that, you might wonder if it’s going to be some theoretical, but impractical, exposition of a pet theory. Not so. My intention is to absolutely whizz through the bit about SMART targets, spend slightly more time on describing what the advanced driving system is, but spend the greatest proportion of the time going through the phases of the ‘system’ and identifying some applications that could be used during each one.

I can see clearly now...I’ve identified 90 tools, organisations, and information sources, many of which are free, which I think will be of interest to the ICT leader. Actually, I’ve looked at and tried out several more, but these are the ones which I think are worth exploring. And within that lot, I’ll be pointing out the two or three in each section which I think are the best. I hope it will be especially useful to recently-appointed ICT leaders: you know, the ones who are starting to wonder what possessed them to ever take such a job in the first place!

I’m a bit nervous about doing the presentation, just in case someone complains that they didn’t learn enough about driving! Also, let’s be honest: any analogy can only be taken so far, and this is no exception. I don’t want to stretch it beyond credibility. Nevertheless, the motoring angle does give us some nice conceptual hooks on which to hang the various tools I’ll be recommending. I didn’t want to just come up with a ‘Top 50’ (or whatever) set of tools without providing a context for each. I think that Top 50 lists are fine, by the way; it’s just that I didn’t want to  create one.

As I doubt that I’ll be able to cover all of the tools in detail, or possibly even at all, I will be providing attendees with a URL from which they can download the entire list.

If this sounds interesting to you, you can book for the seminar on the BETT website. Perhaps I will see you there.

Preparing For BETT: 13 Things To Do

Here are 13 things to do before you go to BETT.

Although I've written the following with BETT in mind, most of the points will apply to getting ready to go to any conference.

  • Register online at http://www.bettshow.com. Doing so will save you time because there are two entrances: one for ticket-holders and one for non-ticket-holders. The latter line moves much more slowly than the former.
  • While you’re on the site, pre-book seminar sessions (where you can). This will cost a bit of money, but will help you avoid disappointment.
  • If you are coming from abroad, go to the International Visitors section of the website in order to find out which exhibitors there are active in your own country, so you can follow up afterwards.
  • Also, try out the planning tool. It’s quite impressive: you tick a number of boxes to say which areas you are interested in, and then it gives you a PDF file containing a floor plan, a list of stands you should visit, and a list of seminars. The only thing is, it does not seem to list the stands in a very efficient order. Therefore…
  • … Plan the most efficient route around the show. The aim is to minimise the amount of unnecessary traipsing around you have to do.
  • Print (or buy) a set of business cards. These are essential for entering competitions and, more importantly, for having information sent to you after the show. Also, of course, for exchanging details with any new acquaintanceships you make at the show. You can create a simple business card in Word (or similar), and you can buy perforated business card printer paper at a very reasonable price.
  • Buy a small stapler. This is useful for stapling your business cards to various forms on stands, such as the ones they provide for entering competitions. For some reason, exhibitors never seem to have a stapler themselves. Completing the same contact information over and over again is tedious and time-consuming.
  • Prepare lists of questions to ask the suppliers of particular products, if you are looking to purchase something. Different members of your team may have different questions, as suggested earlier.
  • With your team, decide on who is going to do what (if others are going as well). It is a good idea to avoid the temptation to fill every waking moment. I have found that you need to allow for serendipity, especially as some exhibitors are not listed until the last minute. I have also found that every so often you need to find a place to have coffee, think about what you have seen, plan ahead, and get rid of any unwanted paper you may have acquired on your travels.
  • Organise cover lessons if necessary.
  • If technicians will be attending as well, try and select a day when the school’s computer facilities tend not to be in high demand, just in case something goes wrong.
  • Prepare a list of phone numbers that the school secretary or someone else can contact for help if something dreadful happens.
  • On the way to the show, buy a bottle of water, because show prices tend to be higher than outside. 

More tomorrow. Look at all the articles about BETT 2010.

All About BETT: What it is, 9 Reasons to Attend,4 Reasons You Should Be Allowed to Attend, and 4 Other Colleagues Who Should Go Too

Next week sees the annual, and ever-expanding, BETT Show in London. It has been going for more than 20 years, and shows no signs of being irrelevant in the near future.  So what exactly is BETT, and should you go?

The BETT Show 2009BETT is a huge exhibition, with seminars and presentations playing a supporting role. That is the theory, anyway. In practice, it would be very easy indeed to visit BETT and see almost nothing of the exhibition stands. All it requires is attendance at two or three seminars, a couple of snack breaks, and a meeting or two, and the time has gone. For that very reason, I tend to visit on at least two of the four days. It’s exhausting, but it’s the only way I can get to see things!

Unlike the case with a normal conference, especially one that is residential, people don’t so much visit one event, BETT, for several days, but several events, BETT, each lasting for one day. It therefore lacks the sense of cohesion of a conference, even a huge one such as the National Educational Computing Conference in the USA.

On the other hand, comparing these single days with other one-day events would also be misleading. A one day conference usually caters for a relatively small number of people (perhaps 100 or so at the most), and has a restricted number of alternative options – if any.

Is any of this relevant? I think it is, because if you have never been before the vastness of it could come as a shock. Planning is, I think, essential, even if it’s a fairly loose plan like “Morning: seminar; afternoon: exhibition”.  I’ll be covering that side of things tomorrow.

Furthermore, the nature of BETT does, as far as I am concerned, provide justification for asking for two or more days out of school (or wherever you happen to work).

Why attend?

There are at least 9 good reasons to attend, these being to:

  • See what’s new or coming soon;
  • See products demonstrated;
  • Attend training sessions, eg on how  use a particular aspect of a program;
  • Attend a seminar, eg on personalised learning, given by experts in their fields;
  • Arrange one-on-one meetings with (potential) suppliers;
  • Have opportunities for networking;
  • Pick up the latest Government or other official publications;
  • Pick up new ideas, using the overview of what’s on to help you decide what to visit. Incidentally, you may wish to check out the three ‘unconference’ events taking place from 6pm on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. These are Tedx, Amplified and  Teachmeet respectively. The first two have been organised by ICT veteran Drew Buddie, whilst Teachmeet has been organised  by Tom Barrett. Ian Usher has written about these and other aspects of BETT so you might like to check that out (after you’ve finished reading this, of course :-p!)
  • Become (re-)energised and stimulated from the “buzz”.

Good reasons to attend: the ones to put to senior management

All of the reasons to attend given in so far are valid, but they are personal, in a sense. That is to say, it is not obvious from looking at the list how your school will benefit from your attendance at BETT. So here are 4 suggested arguments in your favour:

  • Best value. If you are considering major new purchases, such as Learning Platforms or interactive whiteboards, you really ought to look at all the options available.
  • Show prices. Exhibitors at BETT often have special show prices, which are lower than their usual rates. It may be worth attending the show to take advantage of such discounts.
  • Professional development. By attending seminars and talking to people on the stands, you will find out ways of improving what you do, which can only benefit the workplace.
  • News update. If you decide to attend on the first day, you will be first in line to hear whatever new initiative or (with luck) new funding the Education Secretary has up his sleeve, which will put you in a prime position to advise the school in a hot-off-the-press way. I hope to be publishing an article about his talk.

You can bolster your case by ensuring, as far as possible, that any potential inconvenience to others is minimised, eg by attending on a day or days when you have fewer teaching commitments, if possible.

One is a lonely number

If you work in an ICT team, there’s a good case for the school allowing others in your team to attend:

Other teachers. The more who go, the more scope you have for dividing BETT between you. For example, one could look at Learning Platforms, whilst another looks at software. Similarly, more seminars can be covered between you.

It may be better for the school if different people attended on different days. However, an advantage of everyone going on the same day is that people tend to talk on the way home about what they have learnt. In other words, they usually end up doing more work than they might otherwise have done – that should please the Headteacher or Principal!

Technicians and other support staff. If you are to have a shared vision for educational ICT in your school, it is essential for support staff to be included in professional development opportunities, especially BETT.

Take the earlier example, ie let’s assume that you are in the market for a Learning Platform. Technical staff can ask the sorts of questions that affect the underlying robustness of the hardware. For example, is it easy to create resources, is it easy to back them up? What about the transition from your current VLE (if you have one) to the new Learning Platform? Is it easy to give different people different levels of access?

Similarly, classroom assistants can ask the sort of practical questions that you may not think of. For example, is it easy to change the cartridges in this new printer – especially when there is a class full of kids milling around?

Senior teachers. Again, taking the example of looking for a new Learning Platform, they can ask questions which concern them, such as “How easy is it to get reports on individual students’ progress across a range of subjects?”

I hope you found this useful, because there's even more to come!

Tomorrow: Preparing for BETT. I’ll be sharing at least 13 ‘secrets’ about what to do even before you get to BETT.

Friday: Getting the Most Out of BETT. I’ll be suggesting at least 15 things to do while you’re at the show.

Monday: After the Show. Here you’ll find at least 7 ways to capitalise on your attendance.

Why do I keep saying ‘at least’? Because I might think of more!

To find all of these articles (and other relevant ones) once they've been published, use the BETT2010 tag on this website.



My BETT 2010 Seminars

I have been invited to give some talks. Two of them will be at the BETT Show in January 2010. Here are the details of the presentations I will be giving, in case you would like to book for them online at the BETT Show:

Amazing Web 2.0 Projects

What are ordinary teachers doing in ordinary classrooms with ordinary kids to raise their achievement in and with ICT? This presentation will give an overview of projects which have used Web 2.0 tools to bring excitement back into the classroom!

Date: Saturday 16 January 2009

Time: 12:30

Duration (mins): 45

Room: Club

Venue: London Olympia

Session Code: CL43

Click here for details of how to book this seminar.

Driving Your ICT Vision: what can advanced motoring techniques teach us about achieving our goals?

People talk about vision and strategy in relation to ICT, but how do you go about achieving what you want to? Ideas developed in the field of advanced motoring can provide a practical way to lead ICT in today’s schools.

Date: Friday 15 January 2009

Time: 13:15

Duration (mins): 45

Room: Club

Venue: London Olympia

Session Code: CL33


Click here to see how to book this one, and here’s a challenge. A large part of advanced motoring is being able to spot and anticipate hazards. A hazard is defined as anything that is actually or potentially dangerous. Have a look at this photo, and see how many hazards you can spot.


Now check your answers against the annotated version of this photo.


The Online Information Conference and other news

In this video I talk about the Online Information Conference. If you're in London and you see this in time (it finishes on 4th December 2009) you might like to get along, for reasons I describe.

If you can't get there, it's worth checking out the website for information and podcasts.

I've also included a short video I shot with a pocket video recorder called the Kodak Zi8, which I'm quite impressed with.

Other items mentioned include the next issue of Computers in Classrooms, which includes several book reviews, two reviews of the same website, current legislation in the works, elevator speeches and coping with inspection. That will be out very soon.

Plus information about the Web 2.0 Projects Book I'm working on, and my two presentations at BETT, which are:

Driving Your ICT Vision: how might advanced motoring techniques help us achieve our ICT goals?

Amazing Web 2.0 Projects: Real projects in real classrooms with real kids!