In this week's missed-because-I-was-doing-too-much-Moodle-training Education Guardian supplement John Davitt gives a considered reflection on BETT and asks more than a few probing questions. His description of a learning platform monoculture hits right to the core of the issues around technology in education at the moment, with perhaps the most cutting observation at the start of the piece:
The heavy-handed compulsion for all schools to have a learning platform by the end of the year has removed the chance for schools to try some different approaches to find what suits them best. This policy has also ensured that the bigger business community would turn up and, by default if nothing else, start squeezing out the small, the fresh or the free from the market.The article mentions TeachMeet, Ode, and others - and interestingly refers to the Help Us Get To BETT campaign as being one of the high points of the show in recent years - ironic, as it was
necessitated by the way in which it's prohibitively expensive for anyone without a huge marketing budget to maintain a presence at BETT. Ironically, one of the smaller companies cited by Davitt at being in tune with the educational ICT zeigeist (is there one? what does it look like (other than TeachMeet I mean)?) has said that they won't be at BETT in 2009, along with the BBC and (I would guess) a significant number of companies, both large and small.
Particularly revealing in John Davitt's article is EMAP's response - which doesn't quote any teachers as saying "this BETT was better than ever". Of course, some people will go there for the first time and say "Wow! It was amazing" - but it reminds me of going to your first gig as a young teenager - it sounds brilliant, you can't believe the atmosphere, the experience, etc. - until, with a few more gigs under your belt (quite possibly from more significant and less embarrassing artists), you realise that your judgement of that first one wasn't as accurate as you thought at the time. Emap's response is interesting - the comment from the folk at Ode was that they seemed to give the impression that they'd dreamed up the concept of TeachMeet. Now, I'm not sure that's true - Ewan McIntosh's recent post about the next TeachMeet at BETT implies both that Emap will be heavily involved (a necessity I guess) and that the event will be sponsored in more of a micro way than the huge wads of cash it might take to buy everyone present a couple of drinks on the night. Still, all being well I continue to hope that we could do something similar, on a smaller scale, in Bucks next term.
Talking to teachers both during and after BETT it was clear that no-one was completely captivated by anything they'd seen; it seemed to feel a bit like the John Lewis clearance sale - you felt you had to go just in case you missed something, but came away no better off than when you went in-indeed, most people seemed to feel simply a day poorer. Maybe the acid test for BETT won't be when the big vendors don't come, but when those involved in teaching don't.
On a personal note, I'm about to be whisked off to Oxford to spend a day in the Nuffield hospital, and so will be partially out of action for a little while. In the couple of weeks which I've been told that I'll be signed off for, I hope to get much catching up done, including a couple of posts which have been gestating for a fair while now, so watch this space. It'll all be typed with my one good hand. Oh, and I acquired a Stone UMPC for about a week and a half today, so I'll be testing how that works with our Moodles and Connect.