This week is the BETT show. If you are involved in education in the UK and have any interest, however passing, in education technology then you will be well aware of the size and scope of this event. BETT is ostensibly a trade show, simply a large (OK, enormous) hall where manufacturers of education technology and suppliers of educational services exhibit in order to make schools, colleges and universities aware of their products. This all seems rational enough; in fact the trade show draws its roots from the medieval market where sellers came together at set dates and places to trade their wares, and of course the large scale celebrations of industry and commerce which began in the mid 19th century period, and which the Victorians, with typical bravado, labelled 'The Great Exhibition'
Rational though that description is, visitors to BETT are assailed with a totally different experience to the Victorian ideal of order, control and rationality. As you enter the hall, stands stretch as far as the eye can see, bright colours and banners crowd in on every side. And sounds emanate from each stand, sometimes music, but most often the amplified voice of someone presenting their product. This seems more like a carnival than an exhibition; more like a travelling fair than a respectable tradeshow. Eager looking stand staff with bright polo shirts and permanent grins advance towards you, keen to engage you in conversation and to get you to notice what they have to offer. After just an hour in the hall you may already have more freebies than you will ever need (or be able to carry), and you will have listened to so many messages that sorting them out into some kind of order and applying them to what you want to achieve in your schools or classroom seems a very tall order. Small wonder that many visitors to BETT have a great time but once back in their school have a hard time working out exactly what to invest in, and how to sort the products which can really make a difference from the white noise of all the other messages they were subjected to.
BETT is of course far more than this. It is also a space where people gather to talk about technology and education, it is home to the largest and highest profile TeachMeet of the year and much networking and informal learning takes place as educators throng into the hall and rub shoulders in a way which is simply not possible when everyone back in their schools. BETT is many things to many people, and at Reivo we love the event as it gives us a chance to meet our customers face to face and have some very interesting, and occasionally challenging conversations.
And if you can read it right, that is take the show in totality and decipher it like a text, interpreting the signs which the whole melee is emitting, then BETT is an important indicator of what topics and trends are current and relevant. As each BETT comes and goes, the relative importance of technologies and the ideas associated with them changes. 10 years ago all talk was of interactive whiteboards, whereas today IWBs though important are only a single theme in the rich tune which BETT plays. Last year 3D projection featured very largely and even in one year the importance of this technology appears to have dimmed a little and the cutting edge has shifted a little further. This year it may be too early to read all of the signs from BETT (this was written before the show is officialy open), but with the risk of getting it wrong, we suggest that a few themes are bubbling near to the top of the melting pot. These are cloud computing and the new computing curriculum for England which begins in September 2014. The Cloud is important as many educational services are migrating to this method of delivery. Education in this respect is simply following the path led by business where the growth in cloud services such as software as a service (where you basically rent your programs via the internet rather than installing them locally) have been happening for some time now. The change to the new ICT curriculum is real and soon to be upon us, and many BETT attendees from England will be looking for contact with providers who can help them deliver this.
So what to say about Reivo and our audience response system 'OMBEA'. How do we fit into this? What do we bring to the BETT party?
Although the most strident themes of BETT may change from year to year, certain underlying themes are constant. One such underlying theme (we would argue), is the goal of doing excellent assessment (both formative and summative) using technology where appropriate. Well designed assessments for students help them reflect on what they have learned and strengthen their grasp of material, and the data which teachers get from timely assessment can help them plan and deliver better lessons in the future. Technologies and approaches may change over the years, but time and time again we see that classrooms where teachers use assessment as an integral part of the teaching package, the quality of the teaching and learning is higher. We are confident that our assessment solution OMBEA can really help teachers achieve this and we will be delighted to explain this in more detail.
OMBEA may be a relatively new product to the UK, but the Reivo team who support it have many decades of BETT experience between them. We won't hype our product, and talk one hundred miles an hour at you about how this will 'transform learning' or fire any other buzz words at you. This is because we know that the only thing which can really transform learning is an excellent teacher. We are very sure about what OMBEA can do in the classroom, confident that our product has been designed from the ground up to deliver, and we'd welcome the chance to talk to you about this with the minimum amount of razamatazz and the maximum amount of realism. So please visit our stand and take us up on this offer.
And if we don't live up to that promise, you can at least help yourself to some of our freebies or try your luck in our competition ;-)