Having a BETTer Experience

It’s unlikely that more than a handful of people remember what the acronym ‘BETT’ stands for exactly, but all technology co-ordinators in the UK, and many from other countries, will have heard of it. Having started life as a trade show, BETT is probably the largest educational technology event of its kind in the world.

BETT is big in terms of numbers: last year there were over 30,000 visitors. BETT is big in terms of importance. Let’s put it this way: last year I met up with the President of ISTE at BETT, who was visiting for a day on her way to a UNESCO meeting. Presidents of international societies don’t stop off at any old conference when travelling from America to Paris.

So what exactly is BETT? Its trade show roots are still there to be seen in the vast number of exhibitors’ stands covering two floors of two gigantic halls plus an annex along the street (in fact, BETT is moving in 2013 to a much larger arena) – but it’s so much more.

The four days of BETT are filled with keynote talks and seminars on a wide variety of topics concerning education and technology. The seminars are inexpensive: just over $23 for a 45 minute session by an expert in the field.
There are also fringe events, which are free. For example, on the Thursday evening there’s an event called Collaborate for Change, in which various people are hosting 20 minute discussions on topics ranging from using iPads in the classroom to keeping your laptop safe. You can attend up to five of these discussions, making it a very rewarding experience from a professional development point of view. (I have to declare an interest here: I’m involved in organising this event).

There’s also a Leadership strand, because it has long been recognised that to make lasting progress as far as technology adoption in schools is concerned, you simply must have the “buy-in” of the school’s Principal and her administration team.

The best thing about BETT from my own perspective is the networking and casual conversations to be had. When you stop off at one of the many cafés to rest your weary bones, make a point of introducing yourself to someone at the next table and asking if they’ve seen anything exciting. The show is far too big for you to see it all, even if because of some masochistic streak you decided to spend all day every day walking around, so this is a good way of exchanging useful information quickly.

And whilst on the subject of walking, be nice to your feet: comfortable shoes are essential. On that note, is there a dress code? Not at all.

Booking online in advance is a good idea, because it means that you can skip the long, snaking line which characterises the opening of the show each day.

I hope you are able to attend the show this coming January. And if someone at a café asks you if you have come across anything interesting, be nice to them – it could be me!

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant. He publishes the ICT in Education website at http://www.ictineducation.org and the Computers in Classrooms newsletter at http://www.ictineducation.org/nesletter. A forthcoming edition of Computers in Classrooms will include dozens of suggestions for getting the best out of BETT.