2013 represents a landmark year for the British Educational Training and Technology Show, now simply known as Bett. The event’s continued rise in prominence has seen it outgrow the Olympia Exhibition Centre and move from West London to East, with this week’s show being the first Bett to be held at the giant ExCel centre in Newham.
Now in its 29th year, the four day event will be kicked off by Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Lib Dem Cable will no doubt be joined by a strong political presence as government ministers eye up the innovation that could soon be transforming education both inside and outside the classroom.
"The Bett education technology event is one of the most important of its kind and I was delighted to be asked to open it,” Cable said.
“The UK has a strong tradition of educational excellence. Developments in modern technology offer huge opportunities for students, institutions and business alike – through its ability to enhance the learning experience and allow access to knowledge for those unable to attend study through the traditional classroom approach.”
Once Cable has set the tone for the public sector side of Bett, Microsoft will take centre stage for the private, as the software giant revels in its status as the official “knowledge partner” for this year’s event. Under an umbrella theme of a 'New Era for Digital Learning,' the software giant will be pushing Windows 8 to the fore once again to show what the platform is capable of in the educational sphere.
Microsoft's top six apps for interactive learning in the classroom will be available for trial at the company’s stand, with a selection of the newest Windows 8 devices on hand to show them off – including the Surface tablet. Kodu, the firm’s visual programming tool on Xbox and PC that enables children to build games, will also be on display, while we’re sure to hear more about Microsoft’s Shape the Future digital inclusion programme, which aims to bring 1:1 device learning to children all over the world.
Microsoft is by no means the only tech heavyweight flexing its muscles at Bett however, and we'll be keeping close tabs on the stands of Google, Intel, Acer, HP, Adobe – and of course all the smaller companies at the ExCel centre. In particular, (though unsurprisingly given the staple industry trends of the moment) educational applications utilising cloud and mobile technology are expected to feature heavily.
The outcome of the Bett Awards 2013 on Wednesday night will also be intriguing, with the full range of organisations - from large corporations to two-person startups - featuring on the carefully compiled nominations list recognising the very best offerings in educational tech.
“Despite schools now realising that they do have strong available budgets, teachers are becoming more shrewd in assessing the aptness of products for their specific needs,” says Caroline Wright, director of BESA and chair of judging for the Bett Awards.
“Products therefore need to be of the highest standard to ensure that, aside from the initial purchase price, the total cost of ownership is low. This is what the judges have identified; products that offer the highest quality and are fit for purpose. These Bett Award finalists are certainly companies that schools can safely consider to be amongst the best available,” Wright adds.
A range of high profile speakers will be addressing the assembled hordes throughout the week, but perhaps the most eye-catching keynote belongs to Professor Brian Cox on Friday. Now Professor of Particle Physics at Manchester University and one of the leaders of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Cox will be drawing from first hand experiences at the peak of technological education when he takes to the stage in London.
ITProPortal will be at the Excel for that and much more, so stay tuned for the big news from Bett 2013.