Tag Archives: community

The changing nature of BETT

Tony Parkin, an educational consultant and former Head of ICT Development at SSAT (and, as he describes himself, a disruptive nostalgist), ponders the many reasons why people go to BETT.

So we are into the autumn term, with weather to match, and thoughts turn towards Christmas, and its immediate follower… the BETT show. Which means time for the annual debate about this show, its role, purpose and value to school leaders and practitioners. In fact Ray Barker’s first entry on this blog was undoubtedly the starting pistol for this discussion, as he extolls BETT’s virtues as free CPD… one of its many dimensions.

I have been going to BETT since its inception… one of the exhibitors erecting a stand in that first year, bumping his head on the amazingly low roof of the original Barbican exhibition space (only amazing until you realised it was originally designed to be a car park). I have been almost every year since – and admit to welcoming each opportunity and seeing it as a high point of the education technology year. I even attended when not working in education, and met others doing exactly the same!

Current BETT attendees who see it as an ICT showcase would be surprised at the number of furniture and fittings suppliers, training providers, stationery manufacturers and book publishers that were there at the early events. BETT has been changing and developing annually since those early days, and these changes have invariably been accompanied by a background mix of approving and disapproving comments. The BETT show represents so many different things to many different people. For every teacher seeking free CPD there is a supplier seeing BETT as their opportunity to get a carefully-nurtured educational product in front of the eyes of potential purchasers. For every politician and government agency keen to get an opportunity to extol and promote their current policy, there has been a practitioner keen to meet up with and exchange ideas with other practitioners without having their ears bent or wallet raided. Given these different expectations and needs it is hardly surprising that there is this annual debate.

Trade show? National conference with an exhibition attached? International showcase and exhibition with a conference attached? BETT is expected to be all these things and more – and problems only arise when people expect it to be focussed solely upon one, rather than catering to all. The debate, often heated, is nonetheless often useful and constructive… and can be a useful catalyst for new developments. Everyone now welcomes and benefits from the new season of practitioner events, such as Teachmeet BETT, Teachmeet Takeovers and Collabor8te4Change that grew out of practitioner criticisms.

For me BETT is a wonderful opportunity for an annual coming together of a wider community, where teacher meets manufacturer, supplier meets consultant, and bureaucrat actually gets to see some (albeit sadly too few) children using technology. Our shared faith in the value of learning technologies is reinforced. Old friendships are renewed and new ones made. New technologies are encountered for the first time – even during one of those apocryphal ‘nothing new at BETT this year’ years. Perhaps most importantly, UK plc gets to show the world it is a leader in the development and use of learning technologies, and an amazingly large number of international leaders and practitioners come to learn, admire and buy into that vision. And the buying matters…

You can follow Tony Parkin on Twitter @tonyparkin

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Facebook is good, Facebook is bad – should Facebook be banned in schools?

Dan Roberts, Deputy Headteacher at Saltash.net Community School in Cornwall, provides an insight into the use of social media in schools.

Sir Ken Robinson said recently ‘that the advances in technology are opening up a complete new set of possibilities for education.’ I completely agree with this statement. One of these new possibilities is the use of social networking in schools. Some schools are actively embracing this technology while others are banning and blocking it – it is very much a current debate facing education around the world. I attempt to unpack some of this in this blog post.

First of all here is a satirical look on the hot debate, I apologise now for the quality of the rap:

The latest negative media release about Facebook appeared in newspapers last month claiming one in three teachers within the UK have been victim to online bullying through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. You can read the full article here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2026450/One-teachers-bullied-online-parents-pupils.html 

This is obviously a serious potential issue but perhaps if we educate our children and their parents in the acceptable use of this media it would minimize this type of misuse.

We have used Facebook in our school for some time now; we are experiencing more of a positive impact than a negative one. This is what our students say about using social networking in school:

“Enhances our learning”

“Makes learning more interesting and fun”

“Learning skills to prepare for our future”

“Free, quick and simple to use”

“Accessible in school, at home, anytime & anywhere”

“They can be used in any subject”

“Help connect school to home – our parents and teachers can talk”

In the last year I have seen Facebook used effectively in school in the following ways: as part of the main learning activity of the lesson, for groups of students to collaborate on learning projects across different subjects, to raise money for charity, for teachers to share good practice and plan together, to connect and communicate to parents and the community and even live streaming revision lessons when the students were on study leave.

As a school we have openly been using social networking as a way of making a marked contribution to the quality of the learning that takes place inside and outside the classroom. To do this though schools must invest time and support in educating children, teachers and parents how to use these tools responsibly and safely then trust them to do so. This article featuring Professor Stephen Heppell and myself highlights this argument:

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6068079 

If you are looking for more classroom based research in to how to help implement social networking within your school then check out this free publication titled ‘Facebook as a Tool for Improving Student Outcomes’. It has been produced by Cornwall College and Cornwall Learning on behalf of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) for the Improving Teaching and Learning through Technology Project, my school features as the fourth case study; it can be viewed and downloaded here:

http://www.slideshare.net/rscsw/facing-up-to-facebook-issues-for-the-uses-of-facebook-with-1619-year-old-learnersa-research-based-exploration

A new website that will be going live from the 17th September 2011 aimed at young people, teachers, Headteachers and Governors into helping them open up, unblock, and unfilter in their schools will aim to provide free support and guidance in doing this. You can visit and register for free at http://www.unblockedu.com.

The education system faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap with the use of social networking.  Students are more aware of the world and eager to embrace new ideas and try new technologies and it is our obligation to the generation of children in education and those about to enter it to ensure they have the opportunities to learn in this type of way.

Dan Roberts is Deputy Headteacher at Saltash.net Community School in Cornwall, and a regular attendee of BETT. You can follow him on Twitter @chickensaltash or check out his blog: http://chickensaltash.edublogs.org.

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