diary of a BETT first-timer…

sun goes down on BETT for the last time at Olympia...

(NB this is most definitely NOT an in-depth examination of anything in particular – merely a meander through my Friday 13th at the 2012 British Educational Training and Technology Show… 😉

BETT was not really “on my radar” until a couple of years ago, to be honest. Only when I started to follow such a fantastic group of edu/tech-y people on Twitter did I start to appreciate the role technology could play in the teaching and learning taking place in “my” classroom…

And this year I made it to the show for the first time. I had read some of the advisory blogposts out there – such as this one from Ian Addison, downloaded the map of the stands from the BETT website, dusted off the magnifying glass necessary to be able to read the blinking thing, booked a couple of seminars…and shared in the buzz online as people all over the place started to build up to it!

Ian had devoted his incredible energies to creating a one-stop BETTprep site for like-minded folk to sign up for everything from a breakfast meet-up, to TeachMeet Takeover slots, to helping out before the blue riband TeachMeet proper in the evening (and the vital TeachEat afterwards)…

The trip up from Hampshire was in the company of the estimable Gideon Williams and Rob Harrison, both foolhardy enough to trust themselves to the ‘Bellars Taxi Service’… and the banter increased still further at the “William Morris” in Hammersmith over a tasty and very good-value brekkie, where we were joined by a veritable who’s who of hungry BETT bigwigs such as Dai BarnesDavid Mitchell, Dawn Hallybone, Nick Dennis and John Sutton – with apologies to others with equally large wigs who were there whom I didn’t recognise! (That’s one of the fun things about attending such events as this – you meet people you know well but have never seen in your life… a recurrent theme throughout the day!)

After the short walk to Olympia, we all headed into the cavernous interior of the venerable exhibition centre (hosting BETT for a historic final time), and all its shiny delights.

I soon worked out that I was going to become a walking monument to man’s desire to raise the brochure/flyer to a fine art, unless I honed my ability studiously yet politely to avoid making eye-contact with the myriad salespeople populating the many stands. Within about 2 minutes I already had a mug, three badges and a bagful of all sorts of other clobber…

Time for a tactical retreat to a seating area. Quite by chance, I bumped back into Rob, and together we discovered quite how ropey the Olympia wifi was… His fruit-based tablet seemed to be coping fine, whereas my ASUS Transformer was no more than an extra digital camera for much of the day (until several of us relocated to a pub at 4.30ish, all BETT-ed out, and found a wifi network in the heartiest of health!)…

My goals for the day had always revolved, to a large extent, around wandering about putting faces to twitternames, as much as actually checking out any fun kit, but opportunities to check out Scholastic, BrainPop and 2 Simple’s Purple Mash and Life from UniServity were all very welcome. I will look forward to trying to persuade those who hold the purse-strings back at school that some of these solutions might well fit our requirements. And thanks to Chris Ratcliffe at Scholastic for letting me indulge my Twitter addiction on one of his stand’s PCs, and to Susan Banister for a Life-saving* glass of fruit juice, comfy chair and chat at the UniServity stand… (*see what I did there?). Also great to see Marie O’Sullivan on the Sanako stand and Joe Dale talking about Microsoft’s newest acquisition Skype, on their stand – including a fantastic live hook-up with a class of kids in the USA…

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to cross off all the boxes on my “BETT Twitterati Bingo” sheet – but there’s always next time!

My main reason for attending BETT was the evening’s events, though. Having been introduced to the world of the TeachMeet last year, the chance to be at one with a large proportion of the Twitter-fuelled part of my PLN physically in the room was too tempting to pass up – not to mention the likes of Lisa Stevens following from afar via live stream and back-channel! I must confess to having been more than a little star-struck at times, seeing all these people in one place whose names such foot-soldiers as I often preface with a “The” with a capital T! But that’s what’s so brilliant about rubbing shoulders with such individuals on Twitter – it is by definition a very democratic network… or at least, it is if your name isn’t something like @piersmorgan or @toryeducation… 😉

A few of my personal highlights:

  • the “all hands to the pumps” attitude which saw the Apex Room transformed in a matter of minutes by a combined workforce of Olympia staff and attendees…
  • meeting a LOAD of people face-to-face whom I had been looking forward to meeting for AGES: too many to mention by name here, but you know who you all are…!
  • the usual backchannel tweckling…!
  • some great ideas – such as collaborative planning using Google Docs (thanks to Claire Lotriet, Julie Stanton and Cherise Duxbury); using My Ebook to foster pupils’ writing (Colin Hill); not being scared to use Facebook to enhance home-school communication (Alberto Garrido); a Model United Nations project (from Ian Usher); taking technology out into the world using Mission: Explore, and her own village’s version of it (by Emma Dawson)… and much more besides. I look forward to checking out some of these ideas in more depth via any follow-up blogposts which are produced in the near future, and implementing some or all of them in school myself! Please let us know if you put any such posts out there!

There was also a poignant moment of reflection as glasses were raised in memory of Tom Cooper, the recently-deceased leader of Lewisham Council’s strategy on ICT – as Dawn reminded us, someone who always encouraged us to “grasp the moment”…

A good third of the assembled throng made the short journey downstairs to Pizza Express for the final event of the day – a well-earned TeachEat buffet and a further opportunity for a bit more banter and networking – a chance to cook up future schemes, talk over the packed day, plot the downfall of the Secretary of State for Education… and so on!

With tummies pleasantly full of pizza, off we all headed into the London night and beyond; tired, but buzzing with rekindled enthusiasm for our respective roles.  For those of us still lucky enough to be in the classroom – the best job in the world…

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