Sunday 26 January 2014

BETT Technology in Higher Education Summit

On Friday I attended BETT for the first time. BETT or the BETT Show was formally known as the British Educational Training and Technology Show. It is held at the huge Excel in London and is targeted at anyone interested in using technology for learning. The programme you are given on arrival is like an A5 version of Yellow Pages, crammed with information about the wide variety of sessions and exhibitors present at the event.
A jam-packed Arena programme, 3 bespoke CPD accredited Summits, 6 Learn Live theatres and a whole host of networking and fringe activity, Bett is the must-attend event for education and learning professionals.

Speaking invitation

I was invited to speak at BETT for the Technology in Higher Education Summit alongside Helen Keegan and Stuart Miller. It seems we were picked for our use of social media and asked to be part of panel discussion on 'Incorporating social media into the learning place'. The panel was chaired by Juliet Morris, Journalist and Broadcaster. The session was billed as: 

A group of educators will discuss how content creation from different social platforms has impacted on student learning. Looking at how these institutions have exploited social media to enhance collaboration between students and other universities.
Our introductions prior to the event started via email and we quickly aligned our thoughts on the topic. However what was most enjoyable was the opportunity to meet up at the event in the Speakers Lounge. This gave us a chance to discuss the key areas we felt would be useful to share in our panel discussion but what was most enjoyable was simply sharing our teaching experiences and ideas. 

It made me think about how scarce these opportunities are when we are actually at work. Gone are the days when there was actually a staff room you could meet up in; a space to share ideas and ask questions. This for the most part now happens by chance as you pass in the corridor. Granted there are opportunities to attend staff development events at my own university and whilst a big advocate of these I tend to see the same people there. Attending external events widens the possibility of meeting others outside of your own institution. Indeed because we were speakers, Helen, Stuart and myself were in the speakers lounge. As I sipped my coffee and browsed the programme I said out loud to Helen "John Traxler is speaking. I'd like to go to this session. I've never met him but know of his work" - just at that moment John having just come into the room looked over to us! John knew Helen and came over to talk to us. We had a fascinating conversation and later went to hear his talk about the impact of integrating mobile phones into the learning environment.

If you have ever been to Excel you will know it is a huge place. The chances of bumping into people who may share your interests are therefore much reduced. It tends to be during sessions that you get chatting to whoever is sat close by. However because we now have Twitter there was an opportunity to reach out to others by following the conference hashtag. For this event it was #bett2014. You can also look through the programme and reach out via Twitter to speakers you'd like to meet. One of these was Doug Belshaw (who I have known for some years now but you get the point) A couple of tweets later and Doug came and found us and in turn John had the opportunity to catch up with him too. 

The event

I was only there for the day sadly, but I did get chance to also take in Doug Belshaw's session: A Masterclass on improving digital literacy among staff and students
Our panel session was the last of the day. We'd anticipated quite a low attendance but was surprised by how many had stayed on. Graham Attwell was one of these and it was great to finally meet him in person, having connected via Twitter for some time. I learnt about an exciting new community project he is leading using QR codes. 
All in all it was a great day and well worth getting up at 5:30am to make the journey down from Sheffield. It was a privilege being on a panel with Helen and great to meet Stuart and hear about his innovative approaches to teaching too. It was a reminder though that it is the people that make a difference and it was though the many conversations I had that made the day so special. I came away inspired.

In life it is not where you go 
but who you travel with 

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