A 5:15am alarm call and my first encounter with Virgin Trains since the journey from hell a couple of years ago (standing from St Pancras to Manchester via Sheffield anyone?) are not my Saturday morning activities of choice. However, the prospect of my first visit to the BETT show softened the blow somewhat.
BETT was the first show of this scale that I’ve been to since changing career about 7 years ago. Before I moved into teaching I attended the National Housing Federation conference (as an exhibitor) for several years, which is probabaly similar in scale to BETT, but was split across a number of different halls. The sheer scale of Excel and the number of exhibitors in one room was on a different scale to anything I’ve been to before.
I spent the first couple of hours getting my bearings and visiting stands of supplier we currently work with. It’s always good to see what’s in the pipeline from current partners and to see if we’re getting the best out of the kit we already have. I came away with lots of ways we can improve our current set up, so it was definitely time well spent. Thanks to Ctouch, SIMs and Lightspeed for their hospitality.
I then focussed on my specialism – computing. Around the STEAM village there were some brilliant things to see. Overall, there was a big focus on achieving tangible results with technology, through such things as remotely controlling devices and 3D printing. The rise of the pocket computer was also a real highlight, with some fantastic uses of Raspberry Pis and BBC Microbits. It really does seem like computing has turned full circle and the ‘bedroom coder’ from the 1980s is back with cheap, accessible technology at the forefront. I truly hope this will help inspire a new generation of coders.
I also got to sit in on some great sessions. An unexpected gem was a talk on the Google stand by @alicekeeler which I joined halfway through, looking at 20 ways you can use Google technology in the classroom, very much from a teacher’s perspective. You can see her slides here. There was also a great science session in the main BETT arena by BBC ‘Gasrtonaut’ Stefan Gates explaining complex concepts such as particle density through fun easy to access experiements. Finally, I sat in on Stephen Reid’s (@immersivemind) Minecraft in the classroom session, which was brilliant and inspiring in equal measure. I’ve long been convinced that Minecraft has immense potential in the classroom, now I feel I am much closer to unlocking it.
As a former exhibitor, a final word should go to them. Seeing an exhibition from a punter’s perspective was enlightening and I recommend that all suppliers try it for a day. The best exhibitors were those with an identity and a clear message. Using teaching professionals on your stand is also a very good idea. It was also abundantly clear which stands had enjoyed the previous evening a little too much!
So was it worth the early morning – absolutely. If you’ve not been to BETT start planning next year now. Even Virgin Trains didn’t let me down this time…