Innovation lies behind the fresh crop of BETT Awards. Maureen McTaggart had some surprises in store
2012 BETT AwardsA virtual dental chair and a web service featuring everyday gestures for communicating with babies and young children using British Sign Language were among the winners at the 2012 BETT Awards held in the London Hilton Park Lane Hotel.  

But this was no celebration of new trends in baby communication, or, unfortunately, the end of visits to the dentist. The 2012 BETT Awards are a reflection that “ICT in the UK is still innovative and world-beating”, says awards organiser Ray Barker. And this website was honoured too.

'ICT in the UK is still world-beating'

“The BETT Awards allow companies of all sizes to highlight their most innovative products and because they are judged by education professionals then it is clear that they must work to improve teaching and learning,” said Ray Barker chair of the BETT Awards judges and director of BESA (British Educational Suppliers Association) which organises the awards with EMAP Connect.

Ray BarkerRay Barker“This year, the winners are a mix of big and the small organisations, of well known brands and completely new ones. Such a mix, a result of a robust process, gives the end-user and the industry confidence that ICT in the UK is still world-beating.”

The BETT Awards were introduced in 1998 to celebrate outstanding educational hardware and software products but since then have moved with the times to also reward industry and personal ICT excellence and are regarded as the “Oscars” of the educational ICT sector.

Teams of judges, ranging from classroom practitioners to advisory teachers and education consultants, rigorously test entries in the 15 categories, which included four new ones for 2012 – ICT Company of the Year with less than £1 million turnover, ICT Company of the Year with £1-3 million turnover, ICT Company of the Year with more than £3 million turnover and Innovation in ICT.

Comedian Patrick Monaghan, like a hyperactive, disruptive student with deep charm implants, kept his edgy schtick active through to the end of the presentations with an innovative style that even brought in the signers as active props. It was an evening that confirmed the continuing innovation of the schools ICT market and the final recognition by the Coalition Government, courtesy of education secretary Michael Gove MP, that technology has a crucial role for learning and teaching.

A rich vein of innovation

While the winner of the Innovation Award, the HapTEL Virtual Dental Chair, from King’s College London's The Dental Institute, breaks new bounds (except the pain barrier), there was a rich vein of innovation running through the others too. Twig Science, on the face of it, is a curriculum content service based on fantastic video and multimedia content. But if you look under the bonnet there's a sophisticated tagging system that allows teachers and learners to follow the learning wherever it goes, across subjects if needs be. For a newish product it has an impressive long-term, strategic view.

VOICEYE, which won the Special Educational Needs Award for Forcentenco, is a combination of Word add-on and Android/Apple app that lets teachers create codes (like QR codes) that represent whole pages of text. Learners simply point their mobile phone cameras at the codes to upload the text to their phones where it can be manipulated by size and colour to make it more friendly for the specific needs of the user.

There was recognition for bigger outfits, like Northgate Managed Services (ICT Company of the Year – over £3 million turnover) and Oxford University Press (Digital Collections Award for Oxford Owl, a free website with reading advice from Ruth Miskin) and for smaller ones like Radiowaves (ICT Company of the Year – under £1 million turnover) with its superb safe social networking and music services, Just2Easy (ICT Tools for Learning and Teaching award for its intuitive J2Webby online software), ParentMail (ICT Leadership and Management) which has a new service that can run a primary school's communication services and school dinners for just £100 a month (including iPad).

Many of the winners were still relatively new, like the Lumens DC 120 Wireless Visualiser (Digital devices award), the Oddizzi 'online world tour' and the ITV Baby Sign – ITV SignPost service to teach infants British Sign Language (Early Years Digital content award).

It was such a wide range of products and services that you had to wonder about the challenge of judging, and this was the response from one of them: “Like all judges, I am always looking for something new at the BETT Awards. Something innovative and exciting that provides new opportunities either for teaching and learning, or that improves access for individuals.  

“Being a judge can mean that you get to have a good look at products that are only just becoming available, or that are significant upgrades on those that you already know. Although we work quite fast, we try to be as fair as possible, reading the background information, visiting websites, and making sure we have a good idea of the potential of each entry.”

Merlin John, BETT awardL-R BESA's Dominic Savage, Merlin John and Patrick MonaghanWhat this website didn't know until the announcement was made was that editor Merlin John would be given the Outstanding Achievement in ICT Education award for coverage of this area of education. It was a tremendous endorsement for this website, and for the opportunities that came from working with a talented team of writers, designers and educationists over 18 years at The Times Educational Supplement.

"For someone who learnt to read and write on a slate in Black Lane Primary School in Wales, how could I not be fascinated in seeing the slate go digital?" said Merlin John. "And writing about how teachers are enriching and changing children's lives by innovative use of technology is an absolute pleasure. Being recognised for that by my peers at BETT, the most vibrant technology show in the world, has to be the icing on the cake. But you know what they say in this game – 'Never start  taking your own press releases too seriously!"

2012 BETT Awards results

Early Years Digital Content

Winner: ITV BabySign, ITV SignPost 

Finalists: Bim! Bam! Boogaloo!, Lugo Learning;, Q&D Multimedia;  i-Theatre, EduTech Srl; Talking Phonics 1, Mantra Lingua

Primary Digital Content

Winner: Oddizzi, Oddizzi

Finalists: Authors Live, BBC Scotland; Learn English,; Playing History: Plague, Serious Games Interactive; Purple Mash, 2Simple Software; Read & Respond Engage, Scholastic; Spellodrome, 3P Learning

Secondary Digital Content

Winner: Twig Science, Twig World Ltd

Finalists: DigitalWorlds, ESRI; Hip Hop Coach, Charanga Music; MYLO, RM; MyUK, Parliament's Education Service; Operation Smoke Storm, Live Well; Supporter to Reporter (S2R), DigitalMe

ICT Tools for Learning and Teaching

Winner: J2Webby, Just2easy

Finalists: ePace, Dynevor; LiveCode, RunRev; Livemocha, Livemocha; StrataLogica, Herff Jones | Nystrom; Lumens DC120 WIRELESS Visualiser (DC-A11), Lumens Digital Optics Inc

Digital Collections and Resource Banks

Winner: Oxford Owl, Oxford University Press

Finalists: Britannica Image Quest, Encyclopædia Britannica; Power Discovery Zone, John Brown; Shelter Classroom Kit, Shelter; The Gallery, National Education Network & E2BN; WWII - The Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Churchill (1933-45), Digitorial

ICT Special Educational Needs Solutions

Winner: VOICEYE, Forcentenco

Finalists: Boardmaker Studio, Mayer-Johnson; Matrix Maker, Inclusive Technology; Signed Stories, ITV SignPost; Smooth Talker, Inclusive Technology; Something Special - Out and About, BBC; Soundbeam, The Soundbeam Project

Digital Devices
Winner: Lumens DC120 WIRELESS Visualiser (DC-A11), Lumens Digital Optics Inc

Finalists: Dino-Lite Digital Microscope, Absolute Data Services/IDCP B.V.; Easi-Ears, TTS Group; Fizzbook Spin, Steljes; NP01Wi Interactive Wall Mount Solution, NEC Display Solutions; ONELAN Data Collection Engine, ONELAN; RoomView, Crestron

ICT Leadership and Management Solutions 

Winner: ParentMail, ParentMail

Finalists: 4Matrix, New Media Learning; KACE Systems Management Appliance, Dell; Fund Manager, Pebble; GO 4 Schools, Hyperspheric Solutions; ResultsPlus, Pearson; SIMS Discover, Capita SIMS; Tomorrow's Heads, RM Lightbox / National College for School Leadership

ICT Company of the Year - less than £1million turnover

Winner: Radiowaves Schools Ltd

Finalists: Alfiesoft

ICT Company of the Year - £1million to £3million turnover

Winner: Groupcall

Finalists:  3P Learning, Osborne Technologies, Schoolcomms, Vivo Rewards, Whizz Education

ICT Company of the Year – over £3million turnover 

Winner: Northgate Managed Services

Finalists:, Frog, itslearning, Promethean, TAP•it®, Stone Computers, SmartEd Services

Innovation in ICT 

Winner: HapTEL Virtual Dental Chair, King’s College London - The Dental Institute

Finalists: GCSEPod, Soundbitelearning, RM Media Tools, RM Education; SmileyTalk, SmileyTalk; Switched on ICT, Rising Stars, Talking Pegs, TTS Group; The Periodic Table of Videos, University of Nottingham

ICT Exporter of the Year 


Finalists: 3P Learning; Espresso Education; Manic Monkey TM and Little Bridge; Sunflower Learning; Whizz Education

ICT Service and Support 

Winner: Joskos Solutions

Finalists: East Sussex County Council; Ergo Computing; Hsis - Havering School Improvement Services; Learning Possibilities; Northgate Managed Services; Promethean Academy; Ty Gwynn Special School, Cardiff

Outstanding Achievement Award
Winner: Merlin John

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