BETT 2015

Another BETT and another review from Learning Light of one of the world’s largest exhibitions for educators.

BETT 2015 was as big and as busy at Dockland Excel centre as ever, but in our view slightly less ostentatious. Stands were if anything a little smaller amongst the big players in the industry, with fewer ‘castles in the sky’.

The vendors were the usual vibrant mix of hardware (tablets, PCs, whiteboards, digital display monitors and ancillary products) along with lots of software vendors offering rich interactive materials for teachers and learners. There were fewer learning platforms than in previous years, a wide number of ICT support and hosting vendors and a plethora of other services from 3D printers, robotics, lathes and milling machines and more. I find the Boxford machines almost hypnotic in their movement.

BETT was busy from the outset with a range of visitors from many parts of the world creating a real buzz about the event.

While stands were less exuberant than in previous years the event key note speeches proved as popular as ever. BETT seems to have dispensed with a focus on Business this year. The clearly identified Futures and SEN sections have however remained.

So what were this year’s BETT vibes and surprises:

Both Microsoft and Google had significant presence but it was Intel’s brand which appeared to be most prominent as it seeks to raise profile in education. While Apple had no formal representation, the Apple Eco-system was certainly very well evolved for iPads to continue their domination in tablets for education. The number of similar tablets on offer is growing rapidly, especially from the significant number of Chinese vendors attending BETT.

Microsoft made some interesting announcements building upon the integration of Office 365 integration with Moodle (with Remote Learner), the arrival of Office Mix as a PowerPoint conversion tool allowing for interactive presentations to be created with audio, video and analytics.

Microsoft also took the opportunity to promote Sway, a new tool to create and curate stories with obvious application for learning. Finally Microsoft was keen to promote SharePoint for education as a cloud hosted solution as well as Skype for schools.

While Apple were themselves maintaining a tradition of not exhibiting at BETT, the preponderance of Apple devices and the evolution of the Apple ecosystem of vendors was marked.

In my view Google were a little less prominent at this event than in previous years, but the global war for education amongst the three big vendors continues, each with their own ecosystem. However, it is beginning to be recognised that collaboration will be increasingly important across the range of platforms and services they and other vendors offer if teachers are truly to benefit (or indeed keep up) with the acceleration of technical change.

Staying with Apple, but not as we know it, the Steve Jobs School attracted a lot of attention indeed, but Apple devices played only a minor part in this new Dutch primary schooling approach. The Steve Jobs School seeks to break with traditional teaching methods and foster a methodology of learning which includes creativity and parental interaction facilitated by technology (iPads naturally) and the child’s natural curiosity to learn.

We noted the arrival of Augmented Reality with several vendors bringing solutions to BETT this year, which seemed to attract considerable interest from visitors. Blippar and Imaginality solutions from Mind Space both looked very interesting.

The other much heralded and regular BETT theme is around personalisation and we expected this to be translated increasingly towards adaptive learning. However Adaptive Learning was not that easy to identify at BETT this year. None the less we noted Knewton were now represented at BETT unlike previous years, and they are building a strong presence in the UK. The Norwegian vendor Conexus with the VOKAL product looked to be making Adaptive Learning work in a significant way in Scandinavia from an interesting perspective and is deserving of considerable attention.

We were surprised that Badges, in particular Mozilla Open Badges were not really prevalent at BETT this year.

While we felt that the number of learning platforms (LMS or VLE) offers were reduced in number this year. Webanywhere reported very significant interest in their Moodle offer. Moodle is still a massive player in education and Webanywhere appear to be the market leading Moodle provider as far as BETT is concerned. This was a popular stand.

We noted Canvas from the US vendor Instructure debuting at BETT this year and attracting considerable interest from delegates with some neat presentations of the platform. With the noted absence of Blackboard from the event, Canvas and Moodle were in demand.

We are always impressed with well thought-through e-schools platform, especially with how it embeds the Inspire curriculum (from Cornwall Learning) and is exceptionally feature rich with parental engagement and governor integration as well. This platform offers a holistic solution for schools.

We noted that there were a variety of Maths platforms and interactive courses on offer from big names such as Oxford University Press and OCR. Two that stood out from the crowd were the Mathletics product from 3P Learning, a digital teaching and maths learning resource which was a BETT Awards 2015 Finalist, and Dynamo Maths from Jelly James Publishing, a maths resource which helps overcome dyscalculia in children, also a BETT Awards 2015 Finalist.
These products, in particular Dynamo Maths, provide an interesting view on the Equs project which we here at Learning Light are involved with. This project aims to help learners, including those with disabilities, use Spreadsheet programs. By enabling learners to pre-visualise the calculations which take place in Spreadsheets, we hope to help people who struggle with complex calculations successfully use Spreadsheet programs. You can read about EQUS on this blog.