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Bett 2016, full STEAM ahead for edtech

ET Editor Rebecca Paddick returns to the ExCel London for Bett 2016, the leading learning technology conference and exhibition

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | January 25, 2016 | Technology

I always seem to be rushing around the ExCel’s exhibition hall when I arrive at Bett every year, and 2016 was no different. But this January, the hordes gathered around the stands, arena and speaker areas made it even more difficult to race to my next interview. I’m not complaining, the crowds gave this year’s Bett a real buzz of excitement. This was my third visit to the annual learning technology conference and exhibition, and in my opinion, it was the best by far. Not only did it seem busier (official visitor numbers yet to be released) but, this year the edtech industry had plenty to talk about.

Safety first 

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan once again put in an appearance this year, speaking in the Bett Arena on the opening day of the show. As well as discussing computing in the curriculum she talked about the new Educate Against Hate website, which was launched just a day before the show opened. The site offers advice based on the governments own resources and the work of charities who seek to protect young people from the influence of radicalism.

“In Britain cyber security contributes over £17 billion to the economy with a 39% increase in the years 2013 to 2014,” explained Morgan. 

Teachers – our greatest resource

The Education Secretary also went on to say that teachers are our greatest resource because “you can’t have an excellent education system without the highest quality teachers at its frontline”.

She then detailed how the Computing At School Network of Excellence has provided over 56,000 instances of professional development to teachers since the autumn of 2012, in part due to DfE funding and with thanks to funding from partners in the private sector, such as Microsoft.

This includes formal training events, mentoring, coaching, peer observation, and peer partnering to develop resources and co-teaching.

 Edtech favourites

Bett favourite Sugata Mitra also spoke on the opening day. Mitra is Professor of Educational Technology, and director of the interdisciplinary research centre, SOLE Central. Mitra is a TED speaker and is best known for his ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiment, and widely cited in works on literacy and education.

During his speaking slot, Mitra said that rather than teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, schools must focus on teaching children about "comprehension, communication and computation.”

He claimed schools still have an environment that produces workers fit for the offices of 100 years ago where most people worked in isolation from each other. “Old teaching methods are obsolete and everyone accepts it is a problem,” he said, adding that children can even learn by themselves, without needing a teacher to direct their efforts. 

A look into the future 

One of my favourite features of last year’s show was the introduction of Bett Futures, the platform designed to nurture innovative edtech start-up companies. Futures offers developing new businesses an opportunity to benefit from all that Bett has to offer, but with heavily subsidised exhibition rates.

It was great to see the founders of now>press>play again this year, the educational resource company uses sound, story and movement to engage children. They’re clearly on to a winner with this one – the group of kids sprawled across the floor wearing the pink headphones was a positive sign.

Full STEAM ahead 

The STEAM Village was a new addition this year, and provided a platform for educators to join the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) revolution. Through a series of panel sessions and live demos the section presented the latest initiatives and projects shaping STEAM education for students and teachers.

The star of the STEAM Village was the BBC micro:bit, a pocket-sized, codeable computer that will be given free to every 11 or 12 year old child in year 7 across the UK, later this year. 

Year-on-year, Bett provides an environment for educators to keep up to date with the latest learning innovations. Now in its 32nd year, the four-day event is once again provided education professionals with an opportunity to see, touch and test the latest and most groundbreaking technologies, providing them with a taste of how these can be used to revolutionise learning. 

We have a lot more to say about Bett – new products, opinion pieces and the latest edtech news is on its way!

In the meantime, tell us what you thought of Bett 2016. Email the editor: rebecca.paddick@wildfirecomm.co.uk

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