The Bett show, held at Excel in London, is one of the biggest education technology shows in the UK. It boasts an exhibition with 800 leading companies, 103 exciting new EdTech startups and over 34,000 attendees. There is also a parallel seminar programme. Here are my notes from day 1.
In the main arena the opening session was delivered by Chris Skidmore Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation jointly at the Department for Education and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Chris highlighted recent government work supporting edtech initiatives around uni choice (Think uni app), Essay mills and assisstive technology. He also mentioned Ada: the national college for digital skills the new Institutes of Technology and UCLs Educate programme.
I spent most of my day hanging around the HE and FE theatre where there some interesting talks on areas including digilearn, authentication and distance learning and coding. Sue Beckingham, Principal Lecturer in Business Information Systems and Technology, Sheffield Hallam University presented on Developing Student Engagement and Empowerment. Hallam’s Student-led Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam (SMASH) group comprises of a group of students working in partnership with academics and creating exciting, student-created content. Sue has relied heavily on the HEA (now AdvanceHE) Framework for partnership in learning and teaching for structure and guidance.
I attended a session in the Global Showcase theatre on Furthering your understanding of China EdTech market presented by Su Si, Head of Education Technology and Knowledge Transfer – Department for International Trade. The session was aimed at tech start ups interested in working with China, so not directly relevant but still of interest given the RAU’s increasing presence in China. In China the annual ICT in education spending in 2020 is estimated to reach GBP 44.2 billion driven by strong government funding support, increasing internet penetration, so there are lots of business opportunities for companies. Su started with some terminology and it is useful to know that China do not refer to edtech or learning technology and instead talk of education informatisation.
I enjoyed the session on The Importance of Creativity delivered by Erik Hanson, Senior Director of Marketing Communications at Apple. Erik talked about how creativity is often trumped by conformity, for example there are allegedly “only 7 movie posters” – 7 different poster layouts due to reluctance to experiment and risk being different. He gave some reasons for this conformity: standardized testing in schools, defunding of the humanities (it is down 70%), the rise of data (it gives instant feedback so gets rid of outliers). Unfortunately, as JFK once said, “conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth” and creativity needs a champion. Naturally Erik sees this champion as being Apple, cue trendy images of the ‘shot on an iphone campaign’.
Sticking with the film theme Cindy Rampersaud, Senior Vice President BTEC and Apprenticeships at Pearson explained how the blockbuster film Black Panther is a good example of how companies now employ less people but work with a bigger ecosystem of people. In the session Meeting the Needs of Lifelong Learners Cindy talked about a recent Global survey run by Pearson looking at how learners are changing. The survey completed by 11,000 learners across 19 countries found some interesting trends.
- academic pathways are changing – lifelong long learning and diverse career paths are now the norm
- a DIY mindset is reshaping education
- people expect digital and virtual learning to be the norm
- the shift in demographics and the aging population are a challenge, note however that this trend is not global
- generation Z are making different choices and have interest in work/life balance, social responsibility, flexibility, more fluid careers
- soft skills are increasingly important
For the closing plenary Brian Cox enthused us all by talking about cosmology and how the laws of Nature we discovered here on Earth are applicable to the entire Universe.
The rest of the day was spent avoiding robots, being impressed by the vast amount of tech out there (though not always by what it does – some ideas should stay in the incubator!) and walking a long way – Bett is a vast and seems to be getting bigger each year!