BETT 2016 – The new kid at school

Bett Introduction – Part 1

I had heard good things about BETT from colleagues, both in and out of schools, before I made the trip there last Wednesday, but I was completely blown away by the size and scale of the show when I arrived at 9am.

Wondering why so many people were queuing up for Costa and the likes, I strolled in to the main hall, oblivious to the fact that only exhibitors were allowed in before 10am.  As I passed many of the stands making their final tweaks and preparations, one of the most interesting things to witness were the pep talks taking place on various stands – teams of exhibitors being motivated for the day ahead in huddles and groups as you would imagine a dressing room before a cup match– novices being prepped with the Do’s and Don’ts of manning a Trade Show stall!


I had spent considerable time the night before planning my day at BETT, which talks I wanted to hear, companies I wanted to visit and people I wanted to speak with.  I started in the main arena, with an inspiring keynote address by Sugata Mitra on SOLE (self organised learning environments); how modern education is still training people to work in the office environment of 100 years ago; and the shift of importance from the 3 R’s (Reading, Writing & Arithmetic) to the 3 C’s (Comprehension, Communication and Computation) – these being the new basic requirements from education in his opinion.  He gave a convincing argument.

Wednesday’s lessons:

Moving on to hear the @DigitalSisters at Bett futures speak about an extremely important topic, e-safety, they pointed out Mark Martin, aka @urbanteacher in the audience, literally standing next to me!  I guess I just didn’t recognise him without the orange backdrop!  Mark is such a friendly guy, he had some great advice and was a pleasure to spend time talking to – he even posed for a selfie – once I got my phone camera operating properly!

Bett futures

I ended up spending a lot of my day at Bett futures (an area full of start-up companies with many exciting, new ideas) – the range of topics, the interactive nature of the panel discussions, the skillful chairing by @Ty_goddard from the Education Foundation and the general buzz in the area made it virtually impossible to leave.  When I did draw myself away, I came across some great learning opportunities in the Primary Learn Live area, the TES stand (unfortunately at the far end of the hall!) and some more great speakers in the Main Arena.

The undoubted highlights for me were at Bett futures – there was an excellent discussion with great panellists – Nick Corston (Steam Co), Bethany Koby (Tech Will Save Us), Alice Lacey (Now>Press>Play) and Mark Londesborough (OCR) – on the shift from STEM to STEAM.  It seems obvious, but this relates to the role the arts have to play in innovation, along with science, tech, engineering & maths.  How could the ‘creative’ subjects not be considered to play an integral role in a constructive, imaginative process like inventing and innovating?


As the home-time bell loomed, the discussions continued at a rapid pace!  Falling into the same category somewhat, the panel was full of inspiring teachers, sharing top tips and stories on their journey to becoming a ‘Teacherpreneur’.  Not all of the panellists (Mark Martin aka @urban_teacher, Summer Turner @ragazza_inglese, Laura Kirsop @laurakirsop, Louise Kwa and Russ Kavanagh) were comfortable with this label however; at the end of the day, this new-fangled term sums up the vast majority of teachers; whether they are in/out of the classroom.  Most teachers are innovators; solving problems to the challenges posed on a daily basis in the classroom.

Last up was the London EduGames Group discussion with panellists Richard Taylor, Erika Brodnock, Joe Dytrych and Edd Stockwell.  They also shared tips and stories on everything from marketing to company culture, which for me was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Extracurricular learning:

As you would expect at an EdTech event, there were technical glitches at a few of the exhibits, I won’t name any here as we all know how frustrating wifi can be at times – and in fairness, they were all wifi related!  It was almost reassuring to see that it is not just classrooms and schools that have dodgy wifi connections – even the biggest EdTech show in the world suffers from this problem!

Bett Part 2: Friday’s lessons

Having been duly impressed (read blown-away!) by my first day at BETT, it really felt like I was treating myself to come back for a second day on Friday.  Arriving in the afternoon this time, I was just in time to see Mark Anderson, aka @ICTEvangelist, share his ten tips for getting impact in schools through technology.  Although he said that the simplest ideas often have the biggest impact, I spent my time writing furiously, trying to capture every utterance, from which app to use for which purpose, and how it can be creatively implemented in a variety of learning environments.

One of the biggest take-aways from this session was a point every teacher should remember; YOU are the heartbeat of the classroom; step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself…but not so far that things end up in chaos (although I love the saying @dawnhallybone has on her twitter profile – Before the beginning of great brilliance, there must be chaos)!  I firmly believe we lead by example, so Mark’s idea of challenging yourself resonated strongly with me.  Making mistakes in front of a class is healthy, and how you react to it is an extremely important lesson in itself for the students.  If things go pear-shaped, do you give up and redirect on to something else, or do you show some resilience and try again to get things moving in the right direction?

Resilience – why it matters

Which is a nice segway to Friday’s keynote speaker – Angela Lee Duckworth and her inspiring talk ‘True Grit’.  A very comforting nugget I learnt here is that grit, or what we more commonly refer to in this country as resilience, is a characteristic that improves with age!  Her background in mathematics was evident throughout the presentation, and one simple formula I loved was:

Talent x Effort = Achievement

And we all know that anything multiplied by zero = zero, so with zero effort, it doesn’t matter how great your talent is, you will achieve nothing.  Linking this to a growth mindset, the idea of not being able to do something yet, but knowing that with practice you will improve, is really important, and every child should learn this from as early an age as possible.  A concept Angela referred to as deliberate practice is what is required to become a world-class expert in your field; whether that be sustained focus on quantum theory or spending an extra hour every day training on the football pitch or the dance studio; it can take up to 10 years for this to even start to pay-off.  This is hard, frustrating and not much fun, as deep practice intrinsically involves failure (which, as humans, we do not like!)

Another piece of research Angela mentioned that is absolutely conclusive is the positive outcomes of mixed age groupings.  We are obsessed with ability groups here; I have heard many disagreements between educators on the merits of high/low and mixed ability groups, but it is really only in small rural schools that mixed age groups occur.  Some schools have digital leaders too (check it out!); although whole-scale adoption of this is far from a reality at the moment, the signs are good.  Again this is something I have very little experience of, but would love to delve further into this aspect of learning pedagogy.

My First TeachMeet – why I loved it!

Sandwiched between TeachMeet Bett and The Power of Passion and Perseverance, we were treated to a spoken-word performance – I cannot begin to imagine the talent required, but more importantly the grit Beyonder possesses (@dcosmic), to write so eloquently and perform so fluidly and fluently – a more fitting close to the day could not have been possible.

Except this wasn’t the end of the day for me – I was going to after-school club!  TeachMeet has been around for 10 years, but I have only heard of it recently, and this was my first one to attend – a virgin by all accounts!  The idea behind it is for teachers to get together in an informal environment and share thoughts, issues, good practice and generally help each other out.  Four 7-minute presentations kicked things off.  Indefatigably positive, @Nataliehscott talked of her experiences working in #thejungle, aka Calais, and Dunkirk.  To say the children are lucky with the provision in our schools here is an understatement; it is hard to fathom that children on our doorstep attend school in a tent, in a mud-bath, where they don’t even have enough white paint to complete the alphabet on the canvas walls.  If you would like to find out more about how you can help, click the link:   All the proceeds from the sale of the upcoming book celebrating 10 years of TeachMeets will go to this worthy cause.

TeachMeet main acts:

With emotions quite raw, Natalie was an extremely hard act to follow.  But Nic Hughes (@duckstar) was the perfect candidate – complete with flashing LEDs donning his jacket, I never knew Robotics in class could evoke such passion! Next up was Serena Davies (@serenadavies1) on her experience of flipped learning with her class in Wales – another great example of resilience; followed by the whirlwind that is Alan O’Donohue (@teknoteacher) on a fantastic concept he calls ‘Sabotage’, in coding.

Not understanding the scale of the event, I put my name (@dylan_dmc & @steppingintobiz) down for a nano-presentation of 2 minutes on ‘Giving the curriculum relevancy through the medium of enterprise’ and with the luck of the Irish my name was first out of the hat!  Not so lucky was the fact that my small presentation could not be located on the server, so I gave a brief talk on how harnessing entrepreneurial spirit in school is a win-win situation for all involved – the school can raise money, engage stakeholders and most importantly, present children with a real-life opportunity to solve problems that are important to them through innovative and creative thinking.  The importance of teamwork also becomes extremely evident through project-based learning such as this; the need to surround yourself with people of a different perspective and different skillsets.  There are many more lifeskills that come to the fore too, but I won’t elaborate here as I only had 2 minutes…which seemed like an eternity on the stage!

DMC @Bett

Check these Tweeters out for more teaching inspiration:

As the night progressed, the presentations came thick and fast…here is a round-up of the ones I managed to make some notes on! (Did I mention the free bar?!)

@ICTMagic shared some technical know-how, gems in fact, and also kept everything running smoothly on the night.

@MissBsResources shared her thoughts and ideas on ‘mathitude’, which is another topic close to my heart – why is it OK for people to say they are rubbish at maths?  We never hear anyone say the same about reading!

@JMSDMND (James Diamond without the vowels!) on the power of video games as a legitimate medium for engaging kids was brilliant – he is someone I’d love to talk to in more detail.

@simcloughlin shared his experiences on skype calls with his Y2 class to a range of people from staff in Buckingham palace to authors on holiday in Spain  – aptly titled “Shy Bairns Get Nowt”  – which translates to Don’t ask, don’t get!

A real highlight was @joannapnorton who shared insights on re-imagining education and her work on innovation models around the world – from the world’s smallest airport in Rwanda, to the eco-evolution in Paris by 2050.  Unimaginable stuff – or not, in this case!

@amazingict showed us a space project from his school using green screen technology, which I can imagine every child in primary school loving, especially with it being so topical at the moment.

@MrHeadComputing’s nano-presentation links this concept and mine – as with his guidance, the children in his school created customisable keyrings, also using green screen technology, which they sold at the Christmas fair.

@Jackcabnory wrapped things up; talking about his life in transition from that of a London cabbie with an abnormally large hippocampus, to training to be a teacher! #inspiring

However, despite not being the last to present, I have saved what was undoubtedly the best, for last.  @mrlockyer was brilliant – and although his presentation didn’t go as planned – it was by far the best 7 minutes – I couldn’t stop laughing throughout! :’)  Unfortunately I’m still not sure what he was supposed to talk about!  But his twitter page is full of good stuff!

With TeachMeet coming to a close, we moved across the bridge to the bar for #TeachEat where the fun and frolics continued, but I won’t go into that now. Let’s leave it at:

I’m no longer a Bett or TeachMeet virgin, and I recommend you lose your so-called virginity as soon as you can!  You have to wait a year for Bett – but there will be a TeachMeet near you somewhere soon!  Most are listed here:

Get yourself there! 🙂


Published by: Dylan McCarthy

Primary school teacher for 10+ years; I am always looking for ways to engage children in their learning and encourage independent, self-motivated learners. Giving lessons context by making them relevant to students, regardless of age, is the key to unlocking even the most reluctant learners potential and enthusiasm; ultimately helping them find their own route to happiness in life. A big believer in building up resilience and promoting teamwork! Talent X Effort = Achievement

Categories BETT, Education, Learning opportunities, TeachMeetTags, , , , Leave a comment

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