Back from BETT 2014

The end of January always means one thing for me as Digital Publisher at Richmond: BETT! As three weeks have passed since New Year’s Eve, I will probably have had a glass of wine, a cream cake and a sneaky cigarette but I do stick to my resolution of getting to this amazing conference and finding out about what’s new in educational technology.

I have been going to BETT for about five years now and the thing that never fails to impress me is its sheer size, it really is massive. Last year BETT relocated from the enormous halls of Olympia to the equally gigantic space of EdExcel, in London’s docklands, an area that has enjoyed a rejuvenation thanks to the 2012 London Olympics (didn’t Team GB do well!!).

Over the years that I have been attending, BETT has become increasingly dominated by the corporate giants, such as HP, Microsoft, Intel, which reflects their increasing influence in the EdTech world. They have enormous stands manned by shiny people in coloured t-shirts and incredible products to show. However much of what they have on offer tends to be their traditional product range but given an educational twist to fit the market. So I saw Office365 “for Education” and Google “for Education” but I could not see anything in either of these that seemed genuinely designed for education beyond the branding.

It is the smaller stands that I find fascinating – a mother and daughter who have set up a whole pre-primary learning platform from scratch or someone who has built a programmable robot to teach kids to programme. It is great to meet people who have a real passion for education and their role within it.

There are always interesting things related to language learning. Over the past couple of years, we have seen the return of the language lab; run over personal devices rather than with the heavy equipment these once needed.  Now that everyone has a device with “record and play” in their pockets that can be connected to a teacher’s device this kind of work becomes so much more practical.

I was very much looking forward to seeing how much of an impact gaming is having. I have noticed it becoming very prevalent in other subject areas, particularly maths, but I haven’t yet seen too many great language games that are genuinely fun. My feeling is that there are social games already out there that rely on participants communicating which could be adapted for language learning and practice. To be completely honest I still did not find the Holy Grail: something that is genuinely fun while at the same time really helping students to learn and practise English.

This year, the School Leaders Summit 2014 looked interesting. Miguel Brechner Frey, who is the CEO of Centro Ceibal, spoke about the Plan Ceibal in Uruguay. This initiative, along the lines of the One Laptop Per Child campaign, aims to make technology available to all levels of society. Claudia Costin, the Municipal Secretary of Education in Sāo Paulo, was down to speak about Educopedia, but she seemed to have been removed from the list of speakers. Unfortunately you had to be a school leader to attend and the doors were heavily guarded, so my attempts to creep in failed.

BETT has gone international and the organisers are following up last year’s Latin American Event with BETT Brasil 21-24 May, so if you like the sound of the London event, you should try to get along.

BETT Brasil:


Luke Baxter

Luke Baxter is the Digital Publisher at Richmond in Oxford. He taught English in Argentina and then Madrid, where he founded a Business English academy. He joined OUP as an Editor before going to Richmond in 2010. Luke has an MA in Latin American Literature from Warwick University.

  • Carla Arena
    Carla Arena
    Posted at 17:19h, 29 janeiro Responder

    I was planning to attend BETT last year here in Brazil, Luke, but then I realized it was totally inaccessible for educators in general with the cost going up to thousands of dollars. It is a pity that a forum to talk about education has such high prices that the ones that should be part of the debate are totally excluded because of financial issues. Well, at least we have you to report about it! 🙂 I feel exactly the same about you in relation to games and gamification in the language classroom. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

    • Luke
      Posted at 16:22h, 30 janeiro Responder

      Hi Carla,
      I think that last year it was just the Leadership Summit, this is exclusive and was the area I could not access. They had 559 attendees last year. This year, they are having a full BETT show in Brazil, with 15,000 visitors expected. I imagine that this should be free.

      • Carla Arena
        Carla Arena
        Posted at 14:17h, 31 janeiro Responder

        This is great news, Luke. I´ll check the info about it. So, are you planning to visit Brazil then?!

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