Graham Brown-MartinGraham Brown-Martin: no more Handheld LearningDelegates to Handheld Learning 2010 (HHL), the London-based conference normally held in the autumn, will get plenty of time to familiarise themselves with their free Apple iPads before bringing them out for conference use.

Organiser Graham Brown-Martin has hitched his digital wagon to BETT 2011 and switched dates to January 9-11, immediately before the beginning of the annual world-renowned BETT educational ICT exhibition at Olympia, London. He has incorporated HHL as a "major component" in a brand new event, Learning Without Frontiers.

It's a surprise move as Learning Without Frontiers (LWF) was said to have been given £30,000 worth of funding by Becta for supporting its dabble in social networking with its £200,000 BectaX conference in London in March. LWF hosted a post-BectaX dinner at London's prestigious Ivy restaurant (video below) that was also part of RebootEducation, "a series of private networking dinner and meetings between leading educators, technologists, politicians, entrepreneurs, futurists and creatives to consider the future of education".

Learning Without Frontiers, which describes itself as "a disruptive think tank that connects over 30,000 global thought leaders and innovators", clearly intends occupying the space formerly occupied by the international shop window for UK PLC's ICT wares, the Learning and Technology World Forum (LATWF). This event, run by Becta for the Government, with support from the British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa), attracted government ministers from all over the world, most of whom then went on to the BETT show to see the latest in products and services.

However, a question mark now hangs over its future as it is understood that Becta does not have funds to run the event. Becta probably faces heavy cancellation penalties for the venue, the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, so there is potential for someone else to step in – or another organisation to persuade the Government and industry to continue the LATWF as the showpiece for UK PLC, particularly important for business in a time of recession.

LATWF was important for trade. For example, at BETT 2010 the government of Malaysia fielded 50 representatives who then went on to scour BETT for suitable ICT for their schools. However, Becta failed to harmonise LATWF with the BETT show to maximise its impact. At LATWF 2010 the prime minister and key ministers turned out to deliver important messages on national issues like Home Access but these got no further than the Becta-invited audience – and completely eluded the 30,000 ICT professionals and teachers who attended BETT over the next four days.

Learning Without Frontiers also intends following up its new London event – at a venue yet to be announced – with "large-scale events in the US, Africa and the Asia Pacific region". It's an attempt by the organisation to pull together a range of its existing activities – including games, e-safety and young entrepreneur events – into one, overarching brand.

Options for delegates unable to switch dates

A set of FAQs (frequently asked questions) attached to the announcement indicates two options for attendees who have problems with the switch: transfer the original registration for free; cancel within 30 days for a full refund less an administration charge of £25. It advises those who may already have made travel arrangments to "send relevant details of any cancellation or rebooking fees and we will look into the merits of each case. Unfortunately we are unable to accept liability but will assist where we can."

The press release from LWF states: "We will combine this [HHL] with our other important communities of interest and events to present an unrivalled, truly impressive conference programme that will span the diverse range of disruptive thinking, practice and technology solutions that are now required. We believe that this is ever more relevant and timely during a time of unprecedented change where creativity, ingenuity and innovation are absolutely essential yet where budgets are more challenged than at any time in recent history."

Event organiser Graham Brown-Martin commented: "Our organisation has always been community driven, by that I mean we started in 2004 not as an organiser of conferences but a community of individuals passionate about using new, often disruptive, technologies to really improve learning not just by a little bit guided by conservative or controlling agencies but in radical leaps while maintaining a vision of accessibility for all...

"The political landscape has changed dramatically over the past months and the world itself is going through seismic transformational change with unprecedented public sector cuts, many of which will bite hard into the learning sector. We can throw our hands up in horror, write petitions, protest in the street or we can view this situation as an opportunity for a serious reboot of the way that we educate and the manner in which we accept and deploy affordable ubiquitous technology platforms to affect massive cost savings whilst making step/leap change improvements in learning.

He said that changing the dates was "not an easy decision to take and has not been done for trivial reasons". He added: We realised that this was an important opportunity for our community to take centre stage at a time where creativity, ingenuity and innovation are absolutely essential yet budgets more challenged than at any time we can remember. We feel that this places our delegates in a special and vital place for international exposure to both government and industry...

"We are genuinely sorry for those who have been inconvenienced by our rescheduling but we are completely confident that what we deliver in January will more than make up for it."

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