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BETT 2012 - highlights and what to watch

Last week saw the return of BETT, the annual event showcasing the use of technology in education. For us, as usual, it was not just about the technology - although some of that was pretty impressive - but more about meeting teachers, and those working in education, and especially putting faces to Twitter friends.

All change from the Department for Education?

BETT4Education secretary Michael Gove, opened the event with a speech which outlined the government's proposed shake up of the way in which computer science is currently taught. He called on attendees to "Imagine the dramatic change which could be possible in just a few years, once we remove the roadblock of the existing ICT curriculum. Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word or Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations".

As several teachers were quick to point out of course much of the 'future' Mr Gove envisaged, had already come to pass - to take but one example, pupils much younger than 11 are writing 2D computer animations and using Scratch from MIT

Mr Gove claimed that this revamp would free up schools to use curricula and teaching resources that properly equip pupils for the 21st Century, adding that the inadequate grounding in computing offered by the current curriculum was in danger of damaging Britain's economic prospects.

As usual, the response to Mr Gove's words was mixed. While the notion of the 'death of ICT' (long live computer science) was welcomed among some attendees, there did seem to be some concern around the Government's attitude to the value of information technology for teaching and learning across all subjects. There were also some slightly stronger opinions circling on Twitter but you can find these yourself…

What caught your eye at BETT?

That is what we asked our colleagues attending the show…

BETT3In no particular order the following stood out: a portable interactive whiteboard, which works with existing projectors, computers and software to turn any flat surface into an interactive whiteboard; and bird boxes that come equipped with a tiny camera (colour during the day and night vision when it's dark) so that pupils can observe the activities of the birds and their eggs/offspring within the nest.  Inevitably presentations from the big technology companies drew quite a crowd - three particularly popular one were how to set up Google apps in schools; using iPads to plan and deliver teaching; and a presentation by Microsoft on playful learning.

We were surprised not to see more Games Based Learning on the stands, although a few resources such as Pora Ora stood out as being ones to watch in future - of course the fact it's free made it a big hit for us.

One step forward is that social media now seems to be more firmly accepted as a useful teaching, learning and school management tool. There seem to be two approaches - the walled garden 'bespoke' model as epitomised by Edmodo or the 'learn how to work with existing platforms' which Leon Cych and his colleagues from Social Media for Schools practise. We're keen to watch this area as we think there's a lot of potential for teachers, pupils, parents and the wider school community to communicate and share and develop ideas through these platforms in future.

Seminars, Teachmeet Takeovers, and Collaborate 4 Change

BETT 2Unfortunately we were unable to make Friday night's Teachmeet although eagerly followed the #tmbett12 tweets. We did however take full advantage of the other events at which teachers were sharing their wisdom.

A common theme at these events was the importance and impact of blogging in schools. Although many schools now do this, there are two major figures in the school blogging world - David Mitchell and John Sutton. Between them, there's nothing they don't know about how and why to do it. John Sutton's TeachMeet Takeover vividly brought the advantages of blogging to life. He talked about the engagement generated by opening up children's writing to a wider audience (in some cases getting thousands of views from across the world) and the way that it had enabled some children who had always held back to really get involved and find their voice. The emphasis was on the importance of constructive feedback - children, teachers and others giving praise but also suggesting things for the children to work on and consider in their writing.      

Blogging, and the quadblogging initiated by David Mitchell were the subject of two excellent seminars on digital leaders. Find out more here about these seminars on digital leaders and tools for enaging pupils, teachers and young people.

Collaborate 4 Change for those who haven't come across it is another format for teachers to share ideas. It includes table sessions, facilitated by presenters from the floor - be it schools, commercial providers or students, or even over video conference live from another country. There were approximately 30 topics to choose from this time including Using technology to get children reading, Social Networking for Schools, Mind mapping and Video Conferencing. It was, as usual, an insightful evening, with many dynamic discussions. As soon as we can get hold of the links/ follow up to the event we'll post them here.

Find out more about BETT - other blogs and write-ups to catch

It's now been officially announced that next year, BETT will be moving both geographically and temporally. No longer, at the start of the year, BETT 2013 is to be held from 30th Jan - 2nd Feb 2013 at ExCel London.

But if you want to find out more about BETT 2012 here are some of the best blog posts we've come across so far (well, all but the first one on the list).

My first attempt at a posterous blog from Sophie Bessemer - check out the dodgy photos

Oliver Quinlan's BETT blog - an absolute winner, and master of the photo blog art

Live blogs from seminars and teachmeet sessions - another excellent record from Oliver and highly recommended

Danny Nicholson's Whiteboard Blog BETT round up part 1 - thorough as ever

Danny Nicholson's Whiteboard Blog BETT round up part 2

BETT 2012 by Claire Lotriet - highlights benefits of personal interactions; and she brought her pupils!

Ian Addison's Day 1 write-up - another with some great stories of his pupils experiences; keep checking this blog as he'll be adding to it 

Diary of a BETT first-timer from Alex Bellars

Reflections on BETT 2012 from Mr Jones

Bee-it - 4 days of BETT from a supplier's perspective

What have we missed? Let us know if you've got a good BETT follow-up blog post that we can link to.

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