Having a BETTer experience

Terry Freedman, independent educational ICT consultant and publisher of the ICT in Education website, shares his tips for getting the best out of BETT.

As a BETT veteran (should that be ‘BETTeran’?), I have developed a number of strategies over the years for getting the most out of BETT.

Now, you might think that this is a bit over the top – after all, how hard can it be to just turn up, whiz round, and do everything you need to without any planning? Well, the answer is that you could do that, but you won’t necessarily benefit as much as you might have done with a little planning.

BETT is big in terms of numbers: last year there were over 30,000 visitors. BETT is big on ideas as well. There’s always a healthy crop of cutting edge technology, not all of which has immediately obvious application in education, but is valuable nonetheless in encouraging out-of-the-box thinking. The seminars and conference are also increasingly important sources of invaluable information In fact, BETT is now regarded as the biggest educational technology show in the world. All well and good, but how can you ensure getting the best out of BETT?

I’ve written over 50 top tips for BETT which will be published soon in my newsletter, Computers for Classrooms because there isn’t room here for that many! So here are seven key ones to be thinking about.

Why bother?

I think one good reason is, quite simply, the buzz. While it’s difficult to quantify it in any way, there is definitely a value in taking the opportunity to become (re)inspired by the sheer range and amount of resources available.

There’s another reason: you might find a cost-effective solution to a budget-related problem. Last year, for example, I came across at least two products I hadn’t heard of before which could potentially save a school thousands of pounds per year.

But perhaps the most important reason is that it’s an opportunity for some really good professional development, both formally, in the form of seminars, and informally, in the form of talking to people.

Before BETT

Ask permission to go! It’s an obvious statement to make, but it’s a good idea to make sure your attendance at BETT is in the school calendar and planned for. With any luck, that will make it less likely to be cancelled at the last minute because of a colleague’s absence.

Register online, free of charge. It makes it much quicker to get in than lining up when you arrive.

Get yourself some business cards. Apart from the fact that handing someone your card looks a lot more professional than writing your email address on the back of their show catalogue, there are two other benefits. First, you can drop your cards into prize draw boxes. Second, instead of carting home reams of stuff, you can ask exhibitors to contact you after the show – without having to fill out one of their contacts forms.

During BETT

If you get thirsty, look out for free water which may be provided by some exhibitors.

When you strike up a conversation with someone, or meet up with colleagues, always ask: what have you seen today that has excited you? And then follow up on their suggestions.

After BETT

Arrange a team meeting for as soon as possible after the show. Have each team member say what three things most excited them, and three new ideas they picked up, plus what needs to change in your current practice. OK, “three” is an arbitrary and artificial number, but you get the idea.

A forthcoming edition of Computers in Classrooms will include dozens more suggestions. See you at BETT!

Terry publishes the ICT in Education website at http://www.ictineducation.org and the Computers in Classrooms newsletter at http://www.ictineducation.org/nesletter.

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