#BETT2019 in Four Stages

This time last week my head was full of the many positive takeaways of the (now an annual highlight of winter) trip to the BETT show in the east end of London. It actually takes a full week for the city / exhibition hall induced tinnitus to subside. Visiting the BETT Show itself is like a giant circus showground with crowded booths full of everything to do with technology in educational. My interest in it is all about being with “BETTers” – people I meet, spend time with, travel with. (Reading others’ reactions, I am not alone in this: Ben Hall, Steve Wheeler).


This year’s trip had four stages, each different and memorable.

No.1 avant-BETT – Although I got there late and missed much (sob, missed our own expat rock star @lmcunderwood) of the event, the teachmeet style Creative Tech in Education meet organised by @HelenLeigh, was a heartwarmingly good start to the weekend. The suggestion to expand it next year was enthusiastically applauded by all present. One delight was meeting again with Josh Lowe, the 14 year old creator of EduBlocks (for the first of three encounters with him and his Dad of the weekend).

No.2 the BETT Show – The show itself was the huge assault on the senses that it always has been, but disappointingly was missing the Steam Village of recent times. But as ever, there were areas with pockets of brilliance and fun, mostly made such by the people involved in creating and curating them …

  • the loveliest idea highlighting that tech will only ever as good as the creativity that leads its use was at the Atomwide booth, next door to my hero @dawnhallybone at the London Grid for Learning booth.

    I’d seen Dawn show off a caricature she’d had drawn there the day before (above left), so I made a point of getting in line early in the day. Watching the artist Luisa Calvo from wickedcaricatures.com was a singular treat, as was chatting with her as she sketched us all (that’s Lisa Stevens above right, and Pamela O’Brien below left and centre) with her digital pen and palette:

  • the bright yellow Fab Lib bus (from Flanders, Belgium) full of maker equipment caught our collective Irish eyes, but my favourite moment was the delight of discovering they were using familiar Turtlestitch designs with their embroidery machine:IMG_20190125_111107
  • the “escape room” booth was good fun to try out, we were genially hosted by the lovely Simon Johnson – in room 1 we had to use minecraft in @breakoutEDU style, in room 2 we had to program and drive floorbots thru a maze, and in room 3 we worked with a mixture of AR and VR to answer questions and break a code. Most importantly, we had to work in pairs or teams, and with timely interventions from the ‘teacher’ in order to succeed.  There was much food for thought and discussion here, congratulations to those who conceived, built, and presented this challenge

  • finding the micro:bit booth allowed time to stand and watching the genial genius David Whale at work, meet the happy loons from Pimoroni, and meet up again with EduBlocks Josh and his Dad again – and best of all persuading them to sign up to participate in the TeachMeet. It felt good to be there, in a space where the most creative ideas were using probably the cheapest piece of tech on show at BETT
  • a chance encounter meeting the @digiladies young students from Newcastle with their amazing teachers – AND getting a badge – as well as seeing them win the Pi-top competition using the truest hashtag as far as they are concerned: #wearethefutureIMG_20190126_010913
  • the pitstops at the Acer booth were most welcome, thanks to Eugene McDonough introducing us to Adam Gibbs, who gave us time, space, and caffeine enough to allow us the luxury of moving in and making ourselves at home sitting for a while comparing notes and discussing what we’d seen so far. It was typical teacher talk – how would we adapt / amend / exploit / enhance the various ideas when we got home to our various classroom, conferences, community meets?

No.3 unBETT The main focus of a trip to BETT for me has to be the TeachMeet. This year there was a change of venue to outside BETT, across the way in Tapa Tapa – an inspired choice. We all owe  huge gratitude to Drew Buddie, Ian Usher and Dawn Hallybone for spending untold hours and using their combined strategic and persuasive superpowers to overcome huge challenges on our behalf and succeeding in making this event massively enjoyable and wonderful for all of us there. Their combined capacity is astonishing, and all delivered gracefully with good humour.
{Teachers – they get the job done!}
It is worth reminding that THIS IS ALL DONE VOLUNTARILY, pardon me using my rusty teacher voice there for a moment.
For details, go to ian usher’s thread logging all the speakers, topics, and links to their presentation begins at that there link – in itself this showcases a very neat way to archive what was shared at #tmBETT19, and I am totally adopting this idea, thank you Ian. As well as the chance for an annual hello with the fantastic teachers of the UK, an added treat was meeting some US folk I have long admired: Kyle Calderwood, Richard Byrne.
And I was proud as punch of the three Irish presenters (we claim Richard now) from Richard Millwood, Pamela O’Brien and Stephen Howell – maith sibhse go léir!! And the end of the evening we had a lovely moment when the house stood to applaud Josh Lowe presenting his EduBlocks software:

No.4 après-BETT As ever, this trip has a social aspect. This year’s “Fellowship” sharing food, chats and fun was comprised of me, Richard, Pamela, two Stephens (Howell and Eustace), two Johns (Hegarty and Heffernan), Gloria Enrique and Eugene and Dee McDonough. Thank you all for your conversation, company, and care.
This year’s theatre outing was to Hamilton. It is no exaggeration to say that all three of us – Pamela, John, and me – were very very happy with the decision to go. If it is still there next year, I’d happily go again.

Collage 2019-01-28 22_25_02







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