Bruises and Blisters: My First Time at BETT

It took a bit of coercion but this year I managed to convince my headteacher to let me attend BETT, not just for a day but for three days (he caved on the second work day when I said I’d happily give up my Saturday as well – I don’t think he realised I would have done this anyway!). I was so determined to make it down to London that I dug my car out of the snow and slipped and skidded my way down the valley, when really I could/should have been at home indulging in a snow day.

Even though I had spent a great deal of time going through the list of exhibitors and preparing a schedule of sessions I wanted to attend, nothing actually prepared me for the enormity of the show. It’s one thing to know that there are hundreds and hundreds of exhibits, plus theatre after theatre and a large arena for the sessions, but it’s quite another to walk in and simply be bombarded by people.

Thanks to my new role at school, my badge had ‘School Leader’ on it – something I’ve not had at any event before. There were certainly exhibitors who targeted me because of this. In fact, just as I was thinking about it on Thursday, I had one guy literally jump in front of me, telling me that as a school leader I’d be most interested in his product (and OK, I was a *little* interested, but not enough for his liking I think).

I saw, tried and did so many great things over the three days, as well as attended so many fab sessions and caught up with many great people, that I can’t put it all down here – even if I’m writing this on the train back up North and I still have two hours to go. Some of my Bett highlights were:

* #TMBett15 – somehow only the second TeachMeet I’ve ever attended, but one that makes me immediately want to go back again. Not only was it an opportunity to be in the same room as people I tweet with nearly every day (even if I can’t bring myself to go and say hello to them in person as I become suddenly socially awkward), it was a really fun night and I have taken away several new things to to try. I did get to speak to Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist) and some of the Staffrm crew, but I also missed speaking to people like Julian Wood (@Ideas_Factory), Ross Morrison McGill (@TeacherToolkit), Tim Rylands (@TimRylands) and many, many more.

* Catching up with the guys from Realsmart, who we’ve been working with for several years. These days I seem to see them at random places around the country – last time it was just over a year ago in Newcastle. It was also nice to finally put some faces to names in meeting both Emma and Adam, who I’ve spoken to on the phone but not actually met before.

* Looking at a lot of the things that are potentially in our future. From the touchscreens which may replace IWBs, to Lego and 3D printers, a lot of the tech on display is not completely out of the realms of either reality or our budget.

* Some of my favourite sessions were from Dominic Norrish (@domnorrish) on what we want out of our technology leaders; Oliver Quinlan (@oliverquinlan) on evidencing the impact of technology; Kevin Brennan (@KevinBrennanMP) at his keynote and Fran Scott (@Frans_facts) at her session mixing up coding and explosions. I also really enjoyed hearing from Tim Handley (@tomhenzley) and his students from Woodlands Primary Academy about how they use tech every day.

I’m definitely going to have to bribe/beg/blackmail my way into coming again next year. I’ve also learnt a few tricks – not only wear comfortable shoes, but comfortable socks, as I have blisters (I don’t even know how I managed to get one between the bottom of my big toe and the ball of my foot, but it’s possible and they hurt), and even if not walking and tweeting at the same time, watch where you’re going. One of the few times I had my phone in my pocket and was watching where I was going, I slipped on a drink someone had spilt and face planted onto the concourse outside the hall. Consequently, my knee is now black with bruises. If you saw it, yep – that was me! Even though two staff were just in front of me when it happened and wanted me to sit down to make sure I was OK, I did the ‘nobody saw that’ and walked away quickly. I’m a mature adult that way.

Now that I’ve sorted through the huge stack of leaflets and brochures I took, I’ve got some work to do moving forward. Some of the ideas I’ll just keep in the back of my mind in case opportunity arises at a later date, and some of them I’m going to start pushing ahead with fairly immediately. And of course, I need to start working on my headteacher to get him to let me go again next year.

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