7 Things I learned at BETT 2016

For the last several years I’ve tried and failed to attend BETT, between being on the opposite end of the planet and then never being in London when It was on, I missed them all. This year, everything seemed to align and I was lucky enough to make it. I’m glad I did as BETT 2016 did not disappoint. There’s something genuinely inspiring about having not just hordes of people trying to sell you stuff, but also the educator community that comes out in droves to meet, talk, share and support each other.

While I had constant meetings and booth hours to fill, I still took time to soak it all in, in addition to being lucky enough to attend the TeachMeet. Here’s some things I picked up over the last few days.

Every man, woman child and animal has a platform to sell.
Nearly every second booth I visited, someone was spruiking some sort of platform, Homework, attendance, learning. It seems that having a “Platform” is in this year.

No one really knows what a Platform is.
While listening to the 18th pitch on another generic SIMS compatible learning platform, it became obvious no one actually knew what a platform is. “Platform” has become a blanket term for a product or service that can do more than one thing.

I think from a technical and product understanding of what a “platform” really is, we would agree it’s similar to this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_catalyst. But suffice to say, saving homework for a student isn’t going to make your web app a platform, any more than strapping feathers to my arms makes me a bird.

Productivity and Organisation tools are out.
I once thought there was a gap in the market for tools that allowed teachers to work more efficiently, and abstract away some of the “administrative” tasks of running a classroom to facilitate real learning. I think that space is packed for now. That’s not to say there isn’t a market for apps that do it better, but demonstrating that is going to be hard.

There’s plenty of companies using BETT as a testing ground for products that may or may not even exist yet
Take a minute to think back to any demos you were given which were obviously heavily scripted (I counted 3), then think back at how they looked. Did any of it look like this?

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Quizzing these people, asking to click around “off script” or asking about which schools are currently using their “revolutionary product” was usually all it took for them to move on. I can’t say for 100% certain, but all of that Is classic fishing to see if there’s any actual point in building the real version.

Testing and validation is important for any product, but I was completely surprised to see it at BETT.

The Raspberry Pi / Microbit isn’t as popular as I thought it would be.
I thought the Raspberry Pi was going to be the next Minecraft, or the next Tablet, but looking at the Lesson Plans, and queues to see Pi based booths, I’m a little surprised. Pedagogically the Pi is a solid tool, but looking at it from a wider context I can see how there would be a limit to their potential classroom use.

Virtual / Augmented Reality isn’t there yet.
I had a great play with some of the HP / Intel VR equipment and was completely and utterly blown away, but that’s it. Google cardboard is progressing but those were the only ones present in a real capacity. There are several VR / AR apps demonstrated, but with the technology currently not even in the mainstream, their adoption will be slow and expensive.

No stand out winner
I was on the look out for the “Next Thing” and just didn’t find it. I’ve been to EdTech conferences previously where the next thing felt blaringly obvious, but I left BETT asking myself, what is next?

Perhaps this was just a year of refinement, where we finally get the time to refine how we implement programs like Minecraft in the classroom, or how we can better use Tablets / mobile devices. I’m not really sure what’s next but I don’t think we’ve found it yet.

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