BETT 2018

Want to make a difference? Then visit Bett Futures because EdTech needs you


his month, in our first look at Bett 2018, Education Today is delighted to hear from Nina Iles, EdTech Consultant and Head of EdTech at education suppliers’ association BESA.

As we focus on diary planning for the year ahead, those of us working in the education sector, particularly those involved with, or interested in educational technology, are looking forward to the Bett show at the end of January. Since its launch by the British Educational Suppliers Association, BESA, back in 1985, Bett has played host to an ever-growing global education community. Connecting around 35,000 visitors with 850 exhibitors in 2017, this year’s Bett will celebrate and showcase the achievements and aspirations of those supplying educational products, technology and services to the UK education and beyond.

Taking place at ExCel London from 24-27 January, the Bett Show is certainly a firm fixture in the BESA events calendar. Its mission: to bring together people, ideas, practices and technologies so that educators and learners can fulfil their potential.

In the run-up to and for the duration of the 2017 edition of the Bett Show, on behalf of BESA, I worked closely with over 70 of the start- up and SME companies exhibiting in the Bett Futures area of the show, which is delivered in association with BESA. It was a beautiful task and one I loved doing because at its heart it involved getting to know the people behind the products. I spent a lot of time talking to the class of 2017 Futures exhibitors in the months before the show to properly understand what educational need they felt they are addressing, and to know more about how they were planning to deliver

meaningful – and assessable – educational outcomes for students, parents, teachers and schools. I wanted to know why they felt their products or services would make a difference and why they believed that would actually be the case – how would they measure success? What made them different to other companies offering, to all intents and purposes, products that looked very similar? If I were a teacher, how would I know which product to choose, if either would make a difference? How effective would it be and how easy to use? Would it be possible to use given my school’s current IT infrastructure? Had an educator informed the design of their product? Although, to be fair, a number of the start-up founders were teachers or ex-teachers themselves, so the answer to that last question was very often a resounding ‘yes’. It’s of course not unreasonable for teachers and school leaders to ask questions of EdTech: what is it? EdTech can mean different things to different people. And how do they know it will work? The question of efficacy is one we all care about and rightly so. Indeed, BESA has hosted two debates on the subject in recent months, which you can listen to on the EdTech Podcast (episodes #36 and #81).

At the heart of what we do, BESA seeks to serve and support its membership, not least by helping members to find routes to market and to help them explore ways in which to scale up and/or export their products when those routes prove fruitful and multiply. We apply that same methodology to Bett Futures exhibitors, providing them with temporary free access to the BESA Launchpad offering while they prepare to exhibit. We host networking opportunities to help them get to know each other and members of the wider eco-system and we invite them to the

26 January 2018

annual BESA Launchpad conference. Beyond that, Bett Futures Launchpads have access to our onsite support, training seminars and insights. It’s a support network that is wrapped around the Bett show and builds relationships that often last beyond it. For my part, and in addition to working with our suppliers, I’m also trying to attend more Teachmeets to help me better understand the teacher perspective when it comes to them sourcing and using EdTech in the classroom. There are many challenges faced by both educators and EdTech suppliers when it comes to marrying the two to enhance teaching and learning experiences. BESA works closely with the Department for Education’s EdTech Team and others across the educational landscape, to better understand these issues – and to explore solutions to best address them.

The Bett Show and its Futures area affords school leaders, teachers, and ICT managers the opportunity to find out exactly what’s currently

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