To kick off the new decade, our EdTech team went along to Bett 2020, the 'leading education technology show’. We spent a whirlwind three days discovering innovative new products, learning more about the potential for technology to support teachers and students and catching up with colleagues in the sector.
In December, we shared our hopes for our visit, so what did we make of one of the biggest Betts yet?
This was the first year that the Education show was integrated with Bett, and it was promising to see and hear talks and discussions aimed at teachers and lecturers.
We came across lots of talks giving advice to schools about the potential uses of technology, things to look for when choosing products to invest in and key areas to think about when developing their school’s EdTech strategy. The most useful talks shared practical tips and suggestions for educators to take away and action in their own classrooms.
Although this was valuable information to provide, we would encourage an even greater focus on getting teachers to attend Bett as we found it difficult to identify and connect with teachers at the show.
It was encouraging to see a real focus on using, and asking for, more evidence about the impact of tools for schools, teachers and students. We delivered a well-attended panel discussion exploring evidence in EdTech, and other talks on evidence drew large crowds, with attendees queuing out the door for Alison Clark-Wilson’s session: The billion-dollar EdTech question: Can we prove it works?
This increasing appetite for evidence was also on show at the stands populating the arena, such as the launch of the EdTech Evidence Group, with founding EdTech members signing a pledge committing to increasing the prominence of evidence in their organisations.
This momentum should be built on and Bett 2021 could bring a stronger focus to this with a dedicated 'Evidence in EdTech' stage.
This year’s Bett was the first opportunity we had to see some of our EdTech Innovation grantees in action at their stands, talking about their products and meeting partners. Meeting with our grantees and DfE partners, we felt a great sense of community with the wider EdTech sector.
Our EdTech Innovation programme is focused on supporting innovation in four challenge areas in England. Bett was a refreshing opportunity to see and hear from other education sectors, countries and areas of technology to help contextualise our work in the wider EdTech environment.
As we walked into the venue, we were really excited. Bett can be quite overwhelming with such a huge range of technology on offer, from VR headsets and robot classroom dogs to big tech companies and management software. One of our colleagues was even offered a self-assessment eye test from a machine designed to provide all the necessary support that a qualified optician would give! We are always on the lookout for products which facilitate good teaching and learning and address the real needs of schools. With the huge range of tech on offer, sometimes these priorities can get lost.
Although Bett is a hub of new and innovative tech, it can be challenging to get a clear sense of how a product works. For example, we joined a presentation in a demo classroom about software created to help students with maths. It was an engaging presentation but too short to fully understand and get the gist of the innovation behind it, and with similar products on offer, it can be hard to differentiate between them.
It’s always good to find tools that have a clear link to teaching and learning. There will always be an element of tech for tech’s sake in the sector, but we would encourage both EdTech providers and users to seek out products which link robust evidence and pedagogy and are designed to tackle specific challenges experienced in classrooms.
With these reflections in mind, at Bett 2021 we would like to see a dedicated evidence stage, with the opportunity to discuss some of the big questions about the real value of tech and its role in classrooms.
We’ll also be looking for a greater focus on technology specifically designed to address the needs of Further Education colleges.
Our final piece of advice for anyone considering heading to Bett for the first time is to be prepared and have a clear picture in mind of what it is that you’re looking to get out of the exhibitions to really make the most of the show.