Bittersweet Bett……

This is quite a long post. Skip to the end if you just want the main learning points!

What an epic Wednesday evening – Thursday! However, after some reflection, I have mixed feelings. The majisty and razamataz of BETT, while overwhelming, just hammered home the huge gap between what is available to learners and what learners are actually using. Of course, that statement has been molded by my own experiences (all we can ever do is speak from what we know). It is tempting to generalize. I’m angry and sad and optimistic all at the same time. How can there be such a gap? What is the point of lots of great gizmos? I feel like I am failing young people.

But, is it really all that bad? Over the time there, I went to four different events. What sturck me, is that the same messages were coming across. What seems to be lacking is some joined up thinking between them.

On Wednesday, I attended the TEDxOrenda event after the main exhibition had closed. This was an inspiring event. There were four stand out presentations:

1. @Alfie spoke about Geoglyphs and creating London Pong. Some fantastic ideas that could be translated into the classroom. For example, the Britglyph project could be use to create’naughty’, hidden artwork around schools. The Bus.Tops project also has some potential in getting young people to explore their landscapes.

2. @dougald told a fascinating story of his jounrey from a squat to spearheading an empty shops project. Struck a chord with me from my own involvement in empty shops projects in Worthing. Also, it struck me that young people should be encouraged to engage in this sort of activity in their communities. There is a role for Doorstep Geography here.

3. @jackcabnory a London cab driver who spoke about the journey to gaining the Knowledge. All summed up in one statement ‘ One driver I know with a degree said that gaining The Knowedge was the hardest thing he’s ever done.’

From this I need to ensure that I encourage appropriate assessment techniques.

4. @jamesproud , the 18 year old creator behind Gig Locator. He spoke with surprising wisdom. What stuck me is a story he told about a homework task. He had worked hard on a computer all night to produce a piece of work that was branded cheating by his teacher. It was clear that his experience of formal learning in school hadn’t helped him in his chosen line of work. The gap between primary and secondary school phases is often talked about, but what about the gap between learning and 21st Century jobs? How can this gap be closed?

From this I need to ensure that the people I come into contact with allow learners to use their creativity in their own way.

The next event was the Apple Education Series. This was a great event. I have ;ots of ideas to use and try, but I will blog about those as I use them in the classroom. The highlight for me was listening to Don Collins, the Principal of Coburg Senior High School in Melbourne, Australia. He has branded the school as a workplace of learning. There is technology everywhere, and it is not used as a selling point – it’s just a given that technology is needed for learning – there it is not about 1:1 laptops but 1:1 learning. All subjects have the same curriculum allocation, the spaces created force teachers to learn alongside their young people. All staff and students have blogs that are part of the assessment process. I was very inspired by this, although more reflection is needed, I like the ‘radicalness.’ It also emphasises the role of Space on learning – in Coburg High School the spaces (such as open plan) mean that teachers have to be creative. I also liked the fact that all young people wanting to join the school have to apply online. This allows the school to find out about them before they arrive – meaning that learning can truly be personalised.

Another highlight was a conversation with a delegate. ‘Are we in this for our classroom learners or are we in this for learning.’ Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate 😉

Thursday morning was all about heading over to BETT very early in the morning! I gave a progress report about the 21st Century project, which is going very well. More to come on this soon. I left this event feeling very inspired by the other 7 Fellowship projects – all teacher-researchers.
I only spent a short time at BETT. There was lots of exciting technology on display, however, I felt that there were little real case studies of how the technology could be used. I don’t find these sorts of events hugely useful. BETT for me has been overtaken by the people I am connected through via Twitter. This was illustrated by the fact that all of the software and hardware that I think would make the greatest impact I knew about already.

What also struck me was that there were very few examples of practice being used in the classroom. There were some exceptions, notably from Microsoft and Brainpop. This may be because I wasn’t looking hard enough, and yes, although I was aware of the TeachMeet Takeovers, I managed to miss them all! Doh.

Also, I think that software is the way forward and that the use of handheld hardware and the hardware of pupils need to be used in schools. Just think how much this could wipe off school budgets. I have all the kit already, I just need to use it better – this includes mobile phones.

All in all, I found that my Twitter network was far more effective than a visit to BETT in gathering ideas for improving learning.

One of the highlight for me of BETT was getting my hands on John Davitt’s Learning Score, however I came across this excellent resource through someone else’s Tweet! Again demonstrating the power of CPD.

So, what were the threads linking these events together?

  1. Creativity is key.
  2. Our education system values academic over creative subjects. This needs to change.
  3. There is a huge gap between what is available and what is being used.
  4. A visit to BETT often means time and money, Twitter, for me, seems a far more effective CPD tool. For example, I was gutted to miss TeachMeet, but I didn’t need to be there in order to benefit.
  5. People inspire me, not stuff. I gained the most from the people that I met at the various events. I left fired up and feeling positive about the road ahead. A big thank you to you all! This includes the many face-to-face chats and keynote speakers.

I’m going to end there. Reading back, this post seems quite negative. I’m not feeling negative. There were a lot of positives, and I will blog about these as I use the new ideas and resources in class.

I’m now going to start reading all of the other BETT posts out there to see if I’m missing the point!

3 Responses

  1. I don't think you are missing the point, for me I sense we are in a seminal phase where all sorts of new ways of doing things are emerging, and twitter is a key to them. I only made the TedXOrenda at BETT but have a sense thast the other teacher initiated events were what was really the important part of the event. All of those could happen without BETT in theory, but yet BETT gave the location and the marketplace (see my blog for the idea) for them to happen. there's a massive irony there I feel.

  2. If you think this is negative, wait 'til you see my BETT post 😉

    Some good thoughts here, and the Learning Score is great isn't it.. Saw John using last year.

    A real pity you couldn't make Teachmeet as it would have raised the evening above mediocre… oh, giving away my blog post now…

  3. I sympathise with your conflicted views about BETT as it is a complex affair. It has always been largely dominated by B2B purposes: big players and the chancers. I was particularly aware of the foreign component so the 'B' is more like International sales fair.

    I waited for 40 minutes while AmplifiED should have started while a few people fussed about and the cliques, I guess, had their snouts in various corporate troughs.

    I left which meant that I was home to see Kevin McLoud part two.

    Ever been to the Education Show to see primary teachers grasping at 'free' highlighters?

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