Bett 2020: 'Keep an open mind'

Written by: Dominic Savage | Published:
Informed minds: Dominic Savage is director of the Education World Forum, former director general of BESA, and co-founder of Bett

Thirty-five years ago, Dominic Savage co-founded what is now known as the Bett Show. Here, he looks ahead to Bett 2020, how teachers should prepare to attend the show, and what the future of technology means for education and teachers

It was back in 1985 that I realised my dream for an event where educators could come together to network, share ideas and see all the latest digital resources to support learning.

Back then the show was called the “High-Technology and Computers in Education Exhibition”, but over the years it soon transitioned to what we know it as today, Bett.

The success of Bett over the years is based on its constant evolution in line with the education sector’s ever-changing needs; helping teachers, school leaders, governors, parents and the wider school and college community to raise standards, reduce workload and, hopefully, look at their teaching in a slightly different way.

For most people, Bett serves as the annual tonic they need to re-ignite their passion for teaching, providing them with new ideas and a refreshed perspective to learning and education.

So, how can you ensure you make the most of your visit to Bett 2020?

First, it is good to note that the layout of Bett 2020 has changed to make your visit easier and more effective. It will now be structured in zones. This means you will find all suppliers of one type of resource together which will facilitate comparisons between similar products (you can find out more about what will be on show in each zone on pages 8 and 18 of this supplement).

My top line advice to everyone in the education sector is to come to Bett with an open but informed mind.

Schools will normally do this as part of their development planning but, if not, in the weeks before you arrive, spend time with colleagues analysing what your problems and aspirations really are, even if you do not think technology is the answer.

If you can articulate what your issues are, and the problems that you would like to address, then you can have a constructive conversation with a range of suppliers, industry experts and other teachers who may be able to help you look at the problems in a new way.

When you look at emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality, they all have the potential to support teachers in all sorts of areas from improving engagement with students to supporting the administrative requirements for relevant data and record-keeping.

Let me take the incredible power of image processing as one example. Imagine a classroom with a video camera mounted on the front wall, looking at the students. When used with one particular piece of video software that can analyse the eye movements of all the students, teachers can have feedback on a screen about which students are engaged with the activity and which ones have switched off.

Looking at the application of such software more broadly, it not only provides teachers with immediate feedback on the lesson and its delivery, but also provides them with the potential feedback for their professional development.

But the value of this is only going to be realised if teachers are open to developing ways of working.
Traditionally, classrooms were the fiefdom of the class teacher, encouraging the dreading of inspections and associating the people coming into their class with assessment and criticism. Now is the time to change this “closed door” approach to teaching.

Once classrooms evolve to an environment where people flow in and out and thoughts and ideas are shared as in other professions, we will start to see professional development happening naturally. I have watched this transition here and in other countries, where it is the fastest way of developing teachers.

Sharing and learning from each other also helps break down resistance to new uses of technology or, put the way round it should be, seeing others having success with a technology intervention encourages enthusiasm to follow and benefit in the same way.

WB Yeats is quoted as saying that “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”.

Teaching should no longer be about filling a bucket with endless drops of knowledge and feeling that education has been accomplished, it is about exploration and taking risks to ignite a child’s own passion for learning.

This brings into question our whole approach to assessment: what we are assessing and why? The impact of AI and the Fourth Industrial Revolution on society and employment will make it ever-clearer that our thinking on the objectives of education must change.

Increasingly, we will need to be clear about what separates humans from AI: creativity, social skills and team-work/collaboration, perceptiveness, to name just a few differentiations.

So, as you are looking at the incredible array of technologies on show at Bett that will open young minds, join with everyone in the sector to fuel the debate about how education needs to look in the coming decades.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Dominic Savage is director of the Education World Forum, former director general of BESA, and co-founder of Bett.

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