I am currently in London attending conferences and conducting school and university visits as part of my project to investigate best practice in Games-Based Learning in Education. I attended the BETT 2012 Show and Collabor8 4 Change (a BETT Unconference) on Thursday and attended the BETT Teachmeet on Friday at Olympia London, on Hammersmith Road.
BETT Show 2012
The Bett Show was absolutely huge, as it was last year. Hundreds of people attend the show over the four days from January 11th – 14th, and this year over 650 exhibitors set up booths to show and sell their products, ranging from Learning Management Systems, Interactive Whiteboards and online security systems to 3D televisions, 3D printers and Learning Spaces Designs. In regards to Games-Based Learning, there was nothing to see. No Nintendo or Sony displays showing the use of their products in schools, and while Microsoft had a rather large booth staffed by about 30 people there was not an XBox360 in sight. One exhibitor caught my eye with a banner saying “immersive gaming environment”. When is was shown the game, it consisted of 4 worlds where students could click on things and be presented with a question that could be set by the teacher in any subject, which they had to answer. This, to me, was nothing new, not an immersive gaming environment and not what I was looking for. The graphics were very nice though.
There were approximately 120 educators, consultants and presenters at the Thursday night teachmeet, and sessions were run at tables for groups of around 10 at a time on a variety of topics. The atmosphere was one of buzzing enthusiasm as people chatted away as they arrived and found their first session. My Australian accent attracted a bit of attention (there aren’t many Aussies at these conferences!), and people were interested to hear what is happening in Victorian schools. As the night wore on and as I visited more sessions, it became clear that the presenters worked for companies and were promoting their products, asking for feedback on their products, or sharing about a project in schools using their product. One company asked us for ideas to include in their next publication for teachers. So, for me, the Thursday night teachmeet was not really a professional development opportunity for attendees.
The Teachmeet on Friday night was a different story. Hosted by Dawn Hallybone, the event was a lively one. It seemed that most of the people there knew each other. It was just the same as the Victorian educational technology community when we see each other at events and conferences, with people recognising each other from their Twitter avatars or blog photos, or having an ‘aha’ moment when they realise they are talking to someone they have been in contact with on Twitter for years. Presenters were chosen at random to speak for 7 minutes at a time, and were not allowed to try to sell any product during their time on stage, or they would be “camelled” off (I wish someone had tried a sales pitch, I wanted to see what “camelling” was).
There were some really interesting projects shared with the audience during this Teachmeet. Paul Hutson (@nightzookeeper) started the evening by talking about Studentsmeet UK, a global online presentation event for secondary school students.
Next, Sylvia Martinez (@smartinez) shared a great video with the audience highlighting what students are capable of when given leadership in their learning. Have a look at this website for more about Student Leadership in the Digital Age.
Simon Lewis (@simonmlewis) is a head teacher of a school in Ireland that has developed an iPhone/Android App for parents, which includes a calendar of important dates and events, a newsletter and a Google Form to parents to report their child as absent from school.
Gary Stager (@garystager) was as entertaining as always, and shared some great stories of powerful learning. See some of his stuff here.
Colin Hill (@ChilledTeaching) shared a fantastic looking resource which publishes eBooks for free. I’ll definitely be having a very good look at this when I get home and the Wi-Fi is more reliable.
Emma Taylorson (@emmtaylorson) and Amy Parkin (@amyparkinbed), two 2nd year education students, gave excellent presentations in only 2 minutes. Emma’s presentation focussed on collaboration in the classroom, and Amy’s was about students programming games in the classroom using a tool called Kodu and an XBox360. This was what I had been waiting for! GBL!!! Another thing to investigate when I return to Melbourne.
There were more presentations than the ones mentioned here – I will try to locate a list of all the presenters and their websites and post it here.
Friday night’s Teachmeet was, by far, the most relevant and informative event that I attended during BETT 2012. Tomorrow we are going to visit the school where Dawn Hallybone implements GBL with her students using Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii.