–Catching glimpses of sleek and shiny objects gleam in every direction between the ever surging mass of heads moving in all directions. The noise of echoing incomprehensible chatter is broken only by electronic beeps and the sound of mobiles. The BETT show can be both a delight and an assault on the senses.
Getting the best out of the BETT show for the sun-shy, classroom bound educator, especially if you can only visit for one day, can be tricky and it is easy to adopt a passive ‘art gallery’ mentality, browsing the stands while never breaking step. It is important to have some clear aims in mind for your time at BETT. Are you responsible for purchasing and have a budget? If yes, congratulations! BETT is a great place to browse, and more importantly, try out the latest kit and talk directly to companies. Have a clear idea of the sort of products you are after and talk to colleagues at your school and other attendees about what they plan to look at. Make sure you ask those difficult questions and handle the products you are thinking of purchasing. Companies want and expect you to try out their products, so jump to it and play. You may also ask for information to be sent to your school with a simple scan of your name badge.
Attendees often overlook the SEN section of BETT, but I believe this is a mistake. Many of the ideas there could be applied to many situations and may spark some ideas to use in your class.
Are you a tech tourist who wants to look at the latest gadgets, perhaps looking to buy something for yourself or for your own classroom? Over the years I have found that many of the big companies have developed very similar products and it is important to compare features and prices carefully. However, if you are looking for innovative ideas and a few balmy ones too, you need to explore the outside ‘fringe’ stalls from small startups. This is where you will find the greatest diversity of products and perhaps the next big thing in EdTech.
The final type of BETT educator is the networker and CPD seeker. The exhibition is one of the best events to meet new people and meet up with educators you know online. On Friday at 6.30pm, the BETT Arena is playing host to the largest TeachMeet ever held with over 700 participates expected to attend. A TeachMeet is an informal gathering of educators who present and listen to short CPD presentations from other educators. For me it has always been the highlight of any BETT show. Once again, @UKedchat will be tweeting live from the event, so watch the TeachMeet BETT hashtag #TMBETT14 to follow what is happening and get involved yourself.
There are also an array of speakers and workshops happening all over the exhibition, including some ‘TeachMeet TakeOver’ presentations where companies host an educator to make a CPD presentation. Many more events can be found on the BETT website and watch the BETT Show official hashtag #BETT2014 to stay in the loop.
Small freebies will be abound and should be treasured as tokens of prowess and stamina. From Google jelly beans to Lapsafe pens, the greatest respect always goes to the magpie teacher with the most cumbersome number of goodie bags.
A couple of practical points to conclude. Firstly, if you are planning to meet up with people or you don’t really know anybody, the traditional meeting place has been the BrainPop stall on the hour, every hour. Firstly, because the stall is usually bright orange and stands out well, but more importantly because you can get your obligatory photo and hug from Moby the robot at the same time.
Food stalls get very busy around meal times and there is not much outside the ExCeL. You may want to plan ahead for what you want to do about lunch and dinner, especially if you are staying for the TeachMeet. School packed lunch anyone?
However you decide to spend your time, the BETT show is an experience to behold. It truly is a showcase of the UK edtech world and beyond. There is something for everyone there, but forward planning and asking the right questions is key to having a BETTer experience.
Follow the live tweets and blogging at BETT from Wednesday, including instant reaction to Michael Gove’s speech, interesting finds, tips and photos.