In the first part of his two-section BETT survival guide, Pete Roythorne looks at how teachers can ensure they get what they need from the show and don’t come away confused and disappointed, or with a foul headache!
BETT 2010 gives teachers the opportunity to see a huge range of ICT products and to meet the various companies vying for their schools' budgets. It also features more teacher events than ever before so it is a show not to be missed… but it's too big be left solely to turning up. We’ve asked teachers with first-hand experience of the event to pass on their wisdom to help others to help them survive and prosper in the BETT experience.
“Planning is essential as the numbers of exhibitors in the comparatively small and congested space can initially be overwhelming,” says David Stephenson headteacher at Plume secondary school in Maldon, Essex. “Crucially, you need to build in time for refreshments (it's tiring), presentations (they can be excellent) and seeing things you had not planned to see. You also need reflection time – leaders have a lounge.”
Liz Steele, headteacher at Glemsford Community Primary school in Glemsford, Suffolk, agrees that careful planning can be the difference between success and failure at BETT. “Not having an idea of what you hope to achieve can leave you roaming around and finding nothing of interest,” she warns. “It is very tiring if you need to go from one side to another and then back again because you missed seeing a supplier. I have tried various approaches over the years, but now I always have a very good idea of what I want to see.”
Dave Tyler headteacher at St Thomas Community Primary School in Swansea is a BETT 'old hand' who adds further weight to the need to think ahead. "Without a plan a considerable amount of time will be lost in what will be a tiring day,” he opines.
Dave is also a believer in not going it alone. “If there are more than one of you, you can pre-arrange to divide up the aspects of the exhibition that you are going to look at in the morning before perhaps meeting to discuss things over lunch and perhaps reconsidering possible purchases/priorities,” he says. In previous years, he and colleagues have investigated potential wish-lists of products and services they were considering for their school.
But, of course that doesn’t work for everyone. Liz Steele prefers to work alone. “For me, the biggest mistake I’ve made was taking someone else,” she says. “I find it much better to go around the show alone.”
BETT is a very big and crowded show, with (in 2009) more than 30,000 people walking the halls over the course of the four-day event, so visiting for the first time can be a daunting experience. And there are certain practicalities to consider.
“Make sure you wear sensible shoes and clothing,” says Liz. “It gets very hot in the show, so try to leave coats in the cloakroom – but beware there might be a large queue.”
She continues: “Be careful not to pick up too many booklets and brochures [they can be overwhelmingly heavy when it comes to the journey home], and make sure you visit the smaller trade stands as they often have very good equipment and could be missed if you spend too long on the larger exhibitors.”
A bottle of water and a snack should feature high in your survival kit. “One year I suffered from dehydration because I didn’t drink enough,” says Liz. “This resulted in a blinding headache and the longest journey home I have ever made.”
Prebooking is also essential, according to Dave, particularly when it comes to the seminars which can easily get oversubscribed. “If you intend entering at the beginning of the day, remember a lot of other people will have the same idea,” he says. “Prebooking means you can avoid some of the queues, failure to do so could leave you standing outside for some time. This is fine unless it’s raining. Wet clothing will certainly not aid your BETT experience.”
And make sure you do your research beforehand. “All homework carried out before the show will pay off on arrival as long as you have prepared a route,” says Dave. “The TES used to publish a fantastic break-down of BETT(TES Online magazine), which could be used to help plan a route and last year we used the Guardian supplement. The key to the day is looking at the floor layouts of the vast space and planning a route… oh, and try and get a decent free bag from someone early on to carry around everything you collect.”
With lots of people handing information out there might be the temptation to take everything, but Dave advises to only take what is absolutely necessary, and to remember that there is only so much free software packages you can trial in one go.
David agrees adding: “Trying to see too much and expecting to take it all in is a big mistakes – you might need to take more than one day. And beware of being sidetracked by pushy sales people.”
And if you think lunchtime is going to provide you with a welcome rest, think again. “You can buy food but don’t expect to get a seat,” warns Dave. “Planning breaks at less obvious times can be helpful. People’s daily routines seem to kick in at twelve and for an hour and a half you may struggle to get a seat and a proper break.”
Teacher-led events coming into their own over three nights at BETT 2010
If you are London based, or are staying over, you should check out what is happening in the evenings too, particularly this year. BETT 2010 will see unprecedented creative teacher activity, with teacher-moderated events every evening in the Apex Room (Seminar Room A), culminating in a full TeachMeet on the final Friday night (check out the line-up, with free registration, here).
You are promised just as much teacher creativity and entertainment on the Wednesday and Thursday evenings at two highly innovative events being organised by teacher Drew Buddie. The first is a TEDx event (TEDx Orenda), a get-together with a specific format 'franchised' by the people behind the excellent TED Talks (if you haven't come across them, check out Sir Ken Robinson's classic, and hilarious, presentation below).
Whether BETT's TEDx Orenda (Orenda being a Huron Indian word which apparently means the opposite of ‘fate’) hits the Ken Robinson benchmark remains to be seen but it's likely to be a lively, creative event organised by teachers for teachers, and it's being compered by BBC technology writer Bill Thompson. Tickets are already going quickly so watch out for more on tickets/registration here and on TEDx Orenda's own web space here. Apparently Howard Rheingold will be dropping in by videolink.
An announcement is expected any time about the Thursday evening which has been inspired by Nesta's 'Amplified' concept of networks of networks (it's also a good idea to keep up on Twitter by following @digitalmaverick).
Finally, watch out for the teachers involved the BETT TeachMeet demonstrating free digital tools on the stands of suppliers on the floors of BETT. It's a development called TeachMeet Takeover and you can find out more about it on the blog space of its inspiration and organiser, deputy headteacher Tom Barrett (watch out for full coverage elsewhere on this site as more information comes in).
So there is plenty for even the most jaded teacher at BETT 2010. And one way to plan it might be by trying the organisers' online interactive show planner, MyBETT. Despite the fact that it can sound like an endurance test, be sure that BETT can be a rewarding experience for anyone involved with ICT and learning. And as the old saying goes: forewarned is forearmed!
January 13-16, Olympia, London
Top BETT 2010 Teacher Tips
1. Go in a group of staff (preferably use a training day for all staff) and work out in advance what each of you is going to cover. Meet up during the day to check progress.
2. Plan, plan, plan
3. Allow time for poor tube connection, crowds and other stoppages.
4. Register online
5. Don't just wander about
6. Don’t be pressurised into decisions – it's research unless you have already checked other options in advance
1. Wear sensible shoes and don’t get overheated.
2. Work out who you want to see and do make yourself known to the exhibitors. I am short and once found that I was being ignored in favour of men – this should not happen now I had words!!
3. Don’t go unprepared.
4. Have breaks and sit down where and when you can.
5. Drink plenty.
6. Be prepared for the fact that the underground can be challenging, so allow yourself plenty of time at both the start and end of the day.
7. Finally, try and enjoy it.
2. Ensure that you are aware of any technical limitations of your own systems. Are you bound by any agreements with the local authority that restrict what you can add to your existing provision.
3. Only go to seminars if you really think it is going to add something to your day – going to more than one will rip into your time to look at the exhibitors.
4. Plan a route carefully based on your priorities.
5. If two of you are goin,g try to preplan routes and meeting times
6. Ensure you know what authority you have to spend?
7. Consult with relevant staff within your organisation before visiting. Feeling involved in the process is more likely to engender a good reception for new packages and trials.
8. If you are travelling to London try and book in advance to get cheaper travel.
9. If you are able to go for more than day this will enable you to give more time to everything.
10. Don’t leave any of the above to the day.
Pete Roythorne is a freelance journalist and digital communications/content specialist (www.three-sixty.co.uk)