BETT 2019

bett1Am sat on the train as I write this returning home from BETT 2019.   Last year I didn’t manage to attend however this year I made an effort and decided to make my way down to the London ExCel on the Saturday.   So what were my impressions and thoughts?

Firstly, I must note it was a bit of a whistle stop tour due to a cancelled train which apparently had sustained damage to its windscreen leading to it being cancelled.   As such I had to wait for a later train and re-plan my journey.   Secondly, I was on this occasion travelling directly to the event via train, the underground and the DLR.   This was the first time I had taken this travel route to BETT and I sadly underestimated the amount of time it would take to make my way from Paddington station over to the Excel, leading to things being a bit rushed as I tried to make my way back for my return train ride home.

As to the conference itself the highlight was a discussion with people at Microsoft in relation to the Surface line of devices.    It was good to sit down and chat about the products and their potential for use in education.    The device I write this post on is my Surface Go which I continue to use as my main device in testing how it might stand up in prolonged use.   So far so good is my view but I hope to know more as we trial with a number of enthusiastic teachers as part of a pilot.    During the meeting with Microsoft I was introduced to their new stylus which is designed specifically for education, apparently being more robust as well as cheaper.    The reduction in cost when compared with the main stylus is a welcome one as it will make the overall Surface Go platform including keyboard and stylus more affordable for schools.   Personally, I think you need the full package of stylus and keyboard/case to make best use of the device.   This new stylus comes with a loop attachment at the end so it can be hung from your neck to prevent loss.   The loop means the eraser option is no longer at the back of the stylus but is now a button on the body.    I liked having erase as a button on the back of the stylus as it fitted my mental model of HB pencils with an eraser on the end, however I am unsure the children we currently teach have the same exposure to HB pencils and therefore although this worked well for me the change to a button on the body may make no difference to them.   I didn’t ask if it was still magnetic like its more expensive brother, however I suspect the answer will be no.  That said I don’t think this would be a deal breaker.     Overall it was a useful meeting to discuss thoughts around Microsoft, the surface and office 365 in particular.

It was nice upon arriving to bump briefly into Mark Anderson just outside the ExCel along with Al Kinglsey.    Due to being in a bit of rush to make my Microsoft meeting I was unable to spend any real time with Mark and Al, which is a pity given I hadn’t actually met Al previously in real life, knowing him only via twitter.    Hopefully I will have time to catch up with both of them properly in the near future.

I am going to jump once more on the number of interactive panel vendors again as again there were lots of them.   Now I know someone previously commented that BETT is an educational technology show so it should be expected to see panels on show, however given the increasing pace of technology I just keep hoping to see more new and interesting technologies and less IWBs or equivalents.     I will however acknowledge that I found myself looking at interactive panels on this occasion as we seek to review our classroom technologies, so if I was looking at IWB equivalents, others must be doing the same so there clearly is a market and therefore an opportunity for those vendors showing of interactive projectors and panels.  I will also acknowledge I continue to have a bit of an issue with IWBs and therefore I am primed and more sensitive to spotting them wherever they are.    I will this time say I did see some interesting stands, beyond IWBs however with the rushed nature of things I didn’t have sufficient time to really explore them.   Will need to bear this in mind for next year.

Cyber security was a little bit of a discussion I had with a school management system vendor which plan to move towards forcing Multi-Factor Authentication on their users.   On one hand this will be a bit of a shock for some and will be met with cries of inconvenience however on another hand I can see exactly where they are coming from.   Schools are being actively targeted due to the large amounts of student and parent data they hold, combined with the busy nature of teachers daily lives, which often lead to simple passwords.     In addition, we have breaches of the likes of Edmodo resulting in significant sets of teacher credentials being available online.   I myself tried a schools name against the HaveIBeenPwned password checker and found hundreds of instances of the use of this as a password, which was subsequently involved in a data breach.   I suspect similarly easily predicted passwords will be in use in schools the world over.

My visit to Bett also saw me visit the ANME stand and catch up with Rick who I had worked with some years ago.    It was good to catch up and I will definitely be getting my team involved in ANME.   I was particularly interested by the start up of a group focusing on the data management side of things.   This fits with our current exploration of PowerBI as a solution to making data more accessible and easily analysed and presented such that school leaders and teachers can make informed and data driven decisions.   As such we will definitely looking to get involved in discussion and sharing of ideas around data management.

I also had a brief discussion with Adobe in relation to licensing following some worried posts I picked up on an Educational IT forum.    The worries lay around a move by Adobe from device licensing towards user based licensing.   This would for some result in significant cost implications.   Thankfully the rep I spoke to told me that licensing would remain the same, but would be a shared device licensing scheme meaning login details would need to be set up for all students using the Adobe applications.    Apparently Adobe are looking at the provisioning side of this including single sign on to try and make the end user experience in this changed model work more seamlessly with this due to be addressed around April this year.   We also had some discussion as to how schools might be offered more flexibility to have some shared device licensing and some user based licensing.   This might be useful for students studying A-Level or BTec Art subjects in that the license would allow the students to install the software on home machines.

bett2020

And so BETT 2019 has come and gone.    It was an early start to get to BETT by train but worthwhile.    Here’s looking forward to BETT 2020 and hopefully making it a less rushed experience.

See you all in a years time!!!

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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