Things I learnt @ #BETT2013

This is a record of my first visit to BETT2013, or indeed any Edtech event, so if you like you can skip right to the end for the quiz!

BETT09MSStand3I was recently given the opportunity to escape for a day to visit BETT2013 which is advertised as ‘the learning technology event’ in the UK. It is primarily an opportunity for leading edtech companies to show off their shiny new wares. However, as anybody who know me will testify, this type of ‘shopping’ event scares me. But I was interested in attending some of the many talks that were also taking place. and I wanted to keep a record of it, so here goes…

Communities of Practice Leon CychCommunities of Practice – Leon Cych, Learn4Life

The doors opened at 10:00 am and I headed straight over to Learning Zone D for a presentation by Leon Cych from Learn 4 Life. Leon talked passionately about a subject very close to my heart: Communities of Practice. I am researching this topic for my Masters development project and I have also been involved in setting up and facilitating a teacher learning community to look at how we can practically embed technology into teaching practice. I would like to develop this into Teachmeet sessions for educators from my local area. So, whilst for the most part Leon was preaching to me as one of the converted (Twitter, Twitter Chats, blogs, etc.), I was particularly interested to hear about Teachmeet Bolton. It could be very useful for me and my TLC colleagues to go to an event like this, and I have tweeted the organisers to make a connection. [This is how Twitter works]

Towards the end of his presentation, Leon mentioned that MirandaNet had a room at the exhibition. I have come across MirandaNet in my research into Communities of Practice and although I had just dipped in to take what I needed (referenced, of course!) for my paper, I wanted to find out more about this organisation. So, off I went to try and find where they were hiding.

Before visiting the event I had spent some time on the website and downloaded the BETT app on my iPad but had not seen anything about MirandaNet being there. Leon said they were on the 2nd floor……


and I’m supposed to be able to find my way around places…..

The World is Calling – Sir Bob Geldof (via MirandaNet)

As I walked along the corridor (at he top of the diagram above) I started to notice small A5 posters displaying MirandaNet’s programme for the next 3 days. I was disappointed to be missing Friday’s, “An Agenda for Professional Communities: Building and Sharing Resources” but delighted to see that the programme was to be launched by Sir Bob Geldof, “The World is Calling“. When I finally arrived at Room 19 the very kind people at MirandaNet had laid on coffee and biscuits. Perfect! There were not many people in the room but @eyebeams spotted me and he introduced me to @TheoKuechel and @cyberbrikkie. We were soon chatting about the hordes of teachers coming to BETT2013 to pick up brochures and freebies. My mission was set: see end of this post.

At 12.00pm precisely, Sir Bob Geldof entered the room and he and Christina Preston (Founder and Chair of MirandaNet) had a wonderful chat. This is my video which will be replaced by Mirandanet’s when it becomes available:

Sir Bob had recently co-opened the Education World Forum and in this discussion with Christina Preston he re-itereated his belief that mobile technologies can have a positive effect in levelling the playing field for people in disadvantaged or less developed areas. He also talked about Teachers TV which was produced by his production company, Ten Alps. This was since been axed by the Coalition Government but Sir Bob still thinks that the concept is valid, ie. that is good practice for good practice to be demonstrated by teachers. Christina Preston mentioned that Mirandanet have archived all the programmes that were produced. She also said that their current focus is on collaborative teaching and learning. Another reason for me to learn more about what it is that they are doing… All too soon, Sir Bob had to leave us, and I went off to find the next talk…….

Raising awareness of what you’ve implemented – Prof. Susannah Quinsee, City University, London

photo (3)After battling my way back through the exhibition hall, I found the Platinum Suite and Professor Susannah Quinsee of City University giving a presentation on “Raising awareness of what you’ve implemented“. Unfortunately, I only caught the last 15 minutes or so, but the gist of it was how to support teaching staff during change. Professor Quinsee has been very successful in implementing and managing change so her ABC of strategies is well founded in practice;

Associate – make changes relevant to teachers’ own practice; Ban – the ‘T’echnology word; C – it say’s Create on the slide, but in her presentation Prof. Quinsee suggested it was important to Celebrate; both the demise of the old, and the implementation of the new. She also stressed the importance of communication; be it hand-holding and/or listening to people’s concerns. In the City University project they had invited one of the main detractors onto the planning committee and that had helped with implementation. However, I am currently reading David Weinberger’s “Too Big to Know” and he points out that, yes, it is important to have a diversity of opinions, however once all voices are heard and a committee is at the planning stage, they need to get on with the job in hand, without being delayed by conflicts, so I do think that has to be given careful consideration. I was sorry I had missed the first part of this talk, Professor Susannah Quinsee was a very engaging presenter.


Collaborative best practices in HE – How do you measure up against peers, find out how to maximise technology investment – Jeff Lowe, SMART Technologies

I decided to stay where I was for the next talk, given by Jeff Lowe from Smart Technologies. He showed the results of research carried out on collaboration best practice. In the report a global study carried out found that CEOs ranked collaboration as the number one trait that they seek in new employees. Creating a 21st century learning environment is therefore seen by thought leaders as essential to preparing students for future success. I’ve also lifted this from the research document (Page 7):

“Flexible or blended learning environment are facilitated by the effective implementation of interactive whiteboards and personal devices. the combination of interactive whiteboards and personal devices drives more value than either in isolation.”

And whilst they would say that wouldn’t they (Smarttech is one of the proprietary IWB producers), I do feel that we do not utilize IWBs nearly enough in my college. For instance, the software is not installed on any of the PCs available for students yet it is called ‘SMART Collaborative Learning Software. We barely scratch the surface of this powerful teaching/learning medium. Jeff also suggested that a sound teacher and student support system, training, high-quality content were necessary to get the best value from technology. He shared 4 best practices for ‘achieving inspired collaboration’

  • Investment in strategy should precede technology.
  • An inclusive view of the users of collaboration tools and a deep understanding or their … requirements drives adoption and value
  • Providing appropriate spaces for collaboration and enabling technology in informal settings is important in innovation and creativity
  • Rich technology integration coupled with best practices is important to achieving advanced collaboration maturity and maximizing the value of investment

Jeff Lowe mentioned an online assessment which can be taken to assess technology implementation strategies. When I find the link I will put it here. [And here it is, thank you Marina! and this is how blogs work]

Effectively linking learning, CPD and technology – Dave Weston, Teacher Development Trust

TEN-principlesNext up, another schlep across the exhibition hall and back to Room 19 where David Weston, the Chief Executive from Teacher Development Trust was giving a talk on ‘effectively linking learning, CPD and technology’. I arrived (late again) at the point that he was saying that, in a class of 30 students: “1 tech pain minute – 30 wasted learning minutes”: ie technology needs to be reliable, and be able to be relied upon, otherwise teachers won’t use it. He went on to say that it needs to give value for money, ie be multipurpose and flexible. Nevertheless, whatever technology is implemented it won’t implement itself. A variety of challenges needs to be overcome: breaking habits of teaching practice (if it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it); lack of experience; fear; and installation problems.

David then went on to talk about ‘worst’ CPD: sending individuals on one off generic courses; teachers go on a course which does not directly relate to their teaching practice, then do not have (or are not given) the time to practice or implement the new ideas. Another ‘worst practice’ strategy is for the whole staff to be given lectures by either external trainers or enthusiastic insiders. In either case, the training is not specific enough to each teacher’s needs. The final ‘worst practice’ CPD example was for staff to be given printed guides.

On the other hand, best CPD is:

  • Learner focused – What can individual teachers do to help their specific learners?
  • Enhanced learning – Not just to ensure competency, but to improve the whole learning experience, ie engagement, interactivity, etc.
  • Technology – when used to enhance assessment.

In addition, CPD should be sustained and cycled, for example the same idea or practice repeated for at least two terms. And then, importantly, the CPD should be evaluated. Did it have an affect on student learning? As David pointed out, this is very rarely (if at all?) evaluated.

Finally, teachers should be challenged to show how technology improves learning, through better questioning and better assessment.

The Teacher Development Trust is “dedicated to improving educational outcomes of learners by ensuring they experience the most effective learning”. They are raising the awareness of the importance of professional development to help teachers transform their practice. David Weston spoke passionately about the importance of effective CPD. I was impressed.


Lunch and a Tweet

I then headed back to the Platinum Suite – first to the wrong room (a talk on BYOD), and then to the right room to find..

How social media can enhance workforce development – Lucian Tarnowske, BraveNewTalent

Lucian Tarnowski of BraveNewTalent delivering a session on ‘How you can use social media to enhance workforce development’. He was basically promoting his own company which seems to be a cross between Linkedin and Yammer. It maybe worth investigating, but for now I’m social media’d up. The main takeaway from this session was Lucian’s message: ‘The social media war has been won, get over it” (sic)

How can eLearning best support your organisation – NIck Shackleton-Jones, BP

The next presenter was a gem. Nick Shackleton-Jones gave the first part of his presentation in verse. This is worth listening to (from 1:20 in) However, notice the empty seats this was the same in all the talks, as I noted at the time:


Anyway, back to this presentation. Nick is Group Head of eLearning, Leadership Development & Talent at BP. He shared some of the induction resources that he has developed for BP and they were impressive.

However, perhaps the most interesting aspect was that in order to choose the type of induction material to develop, his team set up focus groups with new employees to find out what they wanted from induction. They found that people wanted a developmental check list; they wanted to understand the culture of the organisation; and they wanted very clear guidance on how to solve day to day problems, for example technical issues. Therefore, a variety of resources were developed including videos from peers, and from the leaders of the organisations.

The resources that Nick showed were very impressive, and obviously expensive. However, it was also clear that, once again, meeting the needs of the users was paramount to successful implementation. I’ll let Nick talk through some of his ideas around elearning here:

and here on social learning


Learning futures: Innovation and creativity in a digital world – Steve Wheeler, Plymouth University

Finally(!), the last speaker I saw on the day was Steve Wheeler. Now this was a bit of a cop out on my part, I have seen several of Steve’s videos and subscribe to his blog so I pretty much knew what was coming. As expected, it was a nice finish to the day, as he was the only speaker to introduce some audience interactivity. Thankfully, not with me!

photo (5)photo (4)

These activities demonstrate the need for creativity and innovation in a digital world. Steve ended his presentation with a lovely quote, “Knowledge is like love. You can give it away as much as you wish, but you still get to keep it”. Nice.


So that was BETT2013 for me. Oh, except for one thing, I really couldn’t leave with picking up at least one freebie, and here it is. I have been using Zondle in my teaching practice as a whole class activity and as an assessment tool. So I felt it was an appropriate souvenir.

For your chance to win your own souvenir (or in the true spirit of online learning, your digital badge) click on the link to play the quiz.

JOIN FOR FREE and enter this Class Code: 15219-27553

photo (2)


4 thoughts on “Things I learnt @ #BETT2013

    1. To be honest, the small attendances worked well for me. I was surprised, but then again this was my first visit to any edtech event and it was fairly obvious that BETT2013 was primarily for exhibitors, although there were so many excellent presentations also taking place. I wish I could have attended more.

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