BETT 2015

I spent one day at BETT this year. It’s not enough!

If you’ve never been, I recommend it. It’s free to attend, but costs an absolute fortune to exhibit there, so the standard is high and a presence at BETT is proof that a company is doing something right. There are loads of freebies, too, and no shame about trying to lure you in to stands with espressos and cake.

Because I was only going to be there a day, I made a plan of who and what I wanted to see, but this went out of the window early on. It’s important to go with the flow at BETT if you really want to learn (and I’d left the plan at home).

I started out on the Google stand, which is always relatively modest compared to some other exhibitors.  It makes me think how, if they wanted to, they could put about a quarter of the educational suppliers out of business overnight if they marketed more aggressively.

Having been a massive Apple fanboy, I become more anti Apple by the day, but on my way to the next talk, I saw a performance by an iPad band, which I think was Grazebrook Primary and Bohunt schools, and there was no denying that they had put the technology to good use

(although, actually, the best bit was the two girls singing some sweet harmonies to Mr Brightside).

One of my most valuable discoveries was the FUZE stand.

Their solution solves some of the issues we have with training on Raspberry Pi.  It’s a good trade-off between ease of use and speed of set up, while still offering the real computing and electronics experience.  The kits are set up to run a version of BASIC, and after being reminded of the old

  • 10 Loop
  • 20 Print "Matt is ace"
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type programming that I grew up with in the 80s, I was convinced that this is a great stepping stone between super-friendly Scratch and hardcore modern code, like Python.

Every year I go to BETT, I am always left with a sense of emerging themes.  Last year, it was tablets, a trend I have mixed feelings about.  This year, I sensed the beginning of the much-hyped Internet of Things.  For me, this is far more interesting from an education point of view. The potential of the IoT is nicely demonstrated by this proof of concept Galileo kit, attached to two nickel nails to generate moisture level data, and allowing a pot plant to become a ‘thing’ on the Internet.

Amongst all the digital tech, it was really refreshing to see that great ideas can still be lo-tech.  This tool for drawing isometrically was one of my favourite discoveries at BETT.

There is a world of difference between lo-tech and bad-tech, and I was horrified to see that one of the main primary computing solutions is being supplied on CD-ROM.  CD-ROM? The last time I burned a CD-ROM was 1999.  The last time I used any form of disk in a computer was at least five years ago.  The only possible reason for this delivery method is hoodwinking schools into a sale, something that makes me quite cross, and further inspection of the sample units I got hold of confirmed that the quality of the information is, in my opinion, quite poor.  I can forgive the bad typography and graphics, it’s more the way that it turns something interesting, creative and empowering (computing) into something closed-off and boring.  I guess it’s the need to micro-assess, and it’s not the fault of the publisher, but it has certainly strengthened my resolve to create a more open, up-to-date and exciting subscription service with a modern business model, in which the budgets are spent on improving the content (and using the content as free marketing).

My trip wouldn’t have been complete without checking out Ray Chambers’ Minecraft presentation on the Microsoft stand, especially as Minecraft is the theme of tomorrow’s #TweachCode session.  I didn’t watch the whole thing, and I still don’t get it, but hopefully by tomorrow evening I will!