It’s been a few years now since I had the Bett show on my “I must go this year” list, but I never quite managed to find the time to go, until this year, I finally had my first Bett experience and it was quite an exhausting one, both physically and mentally. In a good way I must state!
There was certainly a lot to see, the reason why the same ticket, which was free by the way, allowed admission for the whole 4 days. If I was kitting up a department or a school with a bottomless budget, then I would have most definitely found my heavens.
Having said that, I also felt a strong sense of despair as I was heading home. Like any other trade show, the big International companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Adobe, BenQ, Lenovo and just about any and every big name you could think of, all got their prime spots with an army of staff trying to convince you they are the best hardware and software you and your students absolutely couldn’t do without. Well, but I knew that already! Or rather we are made to acknowledge it:
At UAL, we are a Microsoft house with an enterprise Adobe licence for all staff, a free Autodesk licence for all and we mostly use Apple Mac. We use this stuff and they rarely go wrong (There is a huge difference between this and they are good!), so our students follow suit. End of story! So what was the point of people like me going to a show like Bett? I did wonder that for a good couple of hours, there was nothing in the show that I couldn’t learn or play with at Oxford Street and on the Internet… Until I decided to ignore the big boys and go explore the smaller and completely unattractive little stands, that was when my eyes lit up! I found my heaven!
There were loads of small brands and developers with really interesting stuff, with my own passion and belief that assistive technology can truly benefit any and all students, I went on an assistive technology treasure hunt. Oh my GOD! How behind is my knowledge! I was ashamed. So here are some things that I discovered:
I had a good play on some directional headphones that block out the surrounding sound to help students to concentrate in lectures. I had a chat with some ladies selling some eye tracking software that analyses how children with and without learning difficulties read, though I didn’t understand half the things they were telling me, but it didn’t matter a bit, it sounded awesome if a bit scary. I tried some VR experiences on how learning and playing can truly be the same thing. There is nothing wrong with learning through play, is there? Even the emphasis is on play?
Most importantly, I got myself a free text to speech / speech to text all in one licence when I couldn’t decide whether or not to renew my own text to speech licence and speech to text licence at home that have cost me a fortune. It wasn’t just the free license that excited me, it was also the fact that finally, someone has combined these two bits of technologies into a single thing. Finally!
The Bett is full of little gems if you are willing to spend the time to talk to the real people who actually believe in what they are selling.
Aside from discovering new products, I also targeted a couple of talks, which I found quite interesting.
Bearing in mind we are trying to encourage more uptake with using Microsoft Teams as a communication tool at LCC, I went to a case study talk by Newcastle University to see how they have been using Teams not only as an instant messaging tool, but also as a collaboration / group project tool. It was really interesting to see how they have managed to encourage their course teams and students to use Teams exclusively for almost every aspect of their projects from initial discussions to file sharing and peer reviews all the way to post project feedback analysis. According to their data, 68% of their students have used Teams throughout their group projects and as much as 78% of their students would have used it on all of their projects if they had known about it from day 1. Not a bad result for the new kid (Teams) on the block, isn’t it!
This talk has helped me to see Teams in a totally different light. It has also helped me start imagining how we might be able to develop the use of Teams as a multi purpose project tool in gearing up our students for the industry.
Overall, it was an interesting afternoon spent, but would I go back there again next year in a hurry? Perhaps not, I think a lot of the new products I saw, I could have seen in shops or discovered online. The talks that I went to and could have gone to, could all be attended online through various channels. I am a glass half empty kind of a person, so shows like this would have to have much better USPs to make me feel truly excited about.