Another year, another BETT Show begins and I'm going to be travelling up to Excel London tomorrow (Friday) to attend. I first visited as a classroom teacher and ICT coordinator in about 1999. An early morning Friday start, on a coach arranged by the local authority, full of excited teachers, happy to have escaped their school for the day. A four hour trip (if we were lucky and there were no hold ups) down the M4 to Olympia, London. Since then I think I've attended every single BETT event, first at Olympia and more recently at its new home at the Excel in London's Docklands. In about 2009 I even gave a presentation at BETT on the use of the CBBC Bamzooki software in classroom to support ICT modelling. However, I've noticed that over the last couple of years I don't get the same sense of excitement about attending. During the last couple of days I've been thinking about why I feel like this. I am actually looking forward to meeting some colleagues that I work with there, and I have a couple of other meetings with friends, but not necessarily about seeing the event itself. To me, since the move to the Excel it's become 'corporate'. Corporate is the only word I can think of to describe it. The Excel is certainly a modern, purpose built facility for this type of exhibition, one can even find a chair to sit down and eat at the many and varied food outlets! But to me, it just doesn't have the same 'buzz' that Olympia had. I also think that the move to Excel has put off many teachers from my part of the UK attending. Travelling in a coach across London is probably going to add at least another 45 mins onto the journey, likewise my journey on the underground and DLR from London Paddington. It can be a long, tiring day of travelling. Perhaps it's the travelling I'm not looking forward to?
So, what is point am I trying to make here? Well if you ignore my whinge about it being 'corporate' ("Get over it Gareth and move with the times!"), I am concerned about the number of classroom teachers and more so the strategic leads for ICT in a school who get to visit. Those first couple of years that I attended, really helped to enthuse me in my subject and provided me with lots of ideas about where I wanted to take ICT in my school. But all around Wales those LA teams who may have organised buses for teachers have gone. I personally believe that going to an exhibition like BETT helps to keep you 'fresh' as the lead person for technology in your school. It's an excellent place to see first hand many of the latest technologies for learning and teaching, and also going into seminars and listening to what practitioners from around the country are doing in their classes. If you are looking to develop your 'vision' for how technologies are going to be used across your school over the next couple of years, it's an excellent place to begin to shape your thoughts.........even if it is all a bit too 'corporate' ;-)