In the third week of January 2009, the BETT educational ICT show brought in 30,000 visitors, while the government's first Learning and Technology World Forum attracted 15,000. It would have been a 'mother of all learning festivals' if only the events could have been harmonised. Now Becta and the DCSF are planning for 2010. Will they be ambitious and inventive enough?
The big gap that needs filling, according to experts and a straw poll on Twitter, is simple - teaching and learning, CPD. And teacher and consultant Tim Rylands says he'd love to run a creative classroom involving up to 60 learners if the organisers can come up with the space. Can they? You can read the full story on the Futurelab site.
What would it take to build up the BETT keynotes, currently constrained by an audience capacity of 400, and the curriculum seminars to world class like the Scottish Learning Festival or the NECC event in Washington, USA later this month? And how should it segue with the LATWF?
Freelance consultant Eileen Devonshire also has extensive experience of events for learning, having worked on the BETT show with BESA, EMAP and the DCSF. She was also involved in the SSAT's prestigious Achievement Show at the Emirates Stadium last week. Her view for moving things forward is simple: "When you reach a wall you should ask the teachers. Some are exceptional at sharing their good practice - and that is extremely important in a time of change, such as now. Teacher-led presentations, available on a significant scale can prevent a gap opening up between the confident, high achieving schools and others that are still facing substantial challenges on their way forward.
“'Conference or exhibition-led?' has been the question for me in any event I have supported over the years. In the past those distinctions sat easily with the concept of selling products/services OR selling a vision for where next when teachers themselves have been pondering the changes in learner expectations, or yet another new policy slant which radically changes the demands on the teaching chalkface.
"The speed at which technology continues to evolve means no one person or solution can suffice. I have always believed the secret for continued learner and teacher success with ICT lies in the skills required for effective collaboration and communication. Successful learning environments are established when ethos and activity manifest in the widespread sharing of ideas, and when pupils are active contributors to any changes that impact on their own future - namely the very things that the education community has excelled at over the years. This needs to be shared with the community in an accessible forum. And it needs to be well funded with built-in sustainability to support learners and teachers for the future."
Martin Jack has been at the heart of the Scottish Learning Festival since its inception and now runs the seminar streams at BETT as well. He has first-hand experience of the effectiveness of top ranking keynote presentations and teacher and learner-led seminar and spotlight sessions.
He has no doubt that the London events could be developed to their full potential with the right nurture and investment. And they could make an enormous contribution to continuing professional development for teachers.
"Any development to a 'learning festival' would involve building on a current successful model with an audience already in place," he says. "While the infrastructure may need to be looked at carefully, the substance is there for further successful development. A Learning Festival approach would take BETT and the Learning and Technology World Forum forward, building a high-profile conference that looks to a world-class exhibition to provide essential added value.
"The need from educationists is there; the willingness of organisations and individuals to contribute to its development is there. With fulsome government support, the birth of the Learning Festival is within reach. It's an opportunity that should be seriously discussed."
Read Futurelab's full online article "Just a few lessons short of a BETT learning festival"
Learning With Technology World Forum
BETT 2010 Twitter @bett2010
Tim Rylands’ blog Twitter @timrylands