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A Lot Going On, But How Much Is Changing?

January is best known as BETT month, in most countries with the ironical exception of the US. First run in 1985 as the British Education Training and Teaching exhibition, this year it attracted more than 40,000 attendees from more than 100 countries. I actually attended the first three in the early 80’s and since then it has grown from a simple education technology show to what has become a week of conferences starting with the Education World Forum attracting more than 70 Ministers of Education.

All in all, it is now an exceptional opportunity to network with people from across the globe, and learn what is happening in schools around the world.

So what is happening? Well given the scale of the week’s events, and the sheer numbers and positions of people attending, this is a unique opportunity to get a snapshot of policy priorities and technology trends around education across diverse cultures.

Well I’d love to report that with such a unique gathering, I saw amazing possibilities; I’d love to report that after nearly 30 years BETT week has become a showcase of the sort of transformations that we hope for each year at ISTE, but never see; but I can’t.

You see, as we wander well into the clichéd 21st century, we are letting opportunities slip through our fingers. As I wander through this year’s BETT Show, I wondered just how much we are spending, have spent, on technology for education, for what?

Am I having nightmares when I see masses of non-brand trivial sub $100 tablets that are poor substitutes for what you can do with even a pen and paper, and ask, is this the best we can do?

Am I seeing things when I wander through masses of software on display that mimics much of the worst of the ‘80’s CML-ware, and am not impressed just because we now call them ‘apps’?...and am I delusionary if I end up walking out of the biggest education technology exhibition on the planet and ask why can’t we do better?

What I’ve learnt is that none of this really matters; and in 2014 it’s time we faced up to the reality, that for all the tens of billions we have spent on technology in education, for all the years of investment millions have made of their time, we have only just begun to realize the possibilities.

You see, what I did see during BETT week this year, were glimmers of hope. People in countries that we often pay too little attention to, showing courage that is too often lacking in countries such as the US, Australia and the United Kingdom. These are countries we should learn more about, because there is much to learn from them. In my next column I’ll share a little more about some of the countries that I think are showing the way about what might now be possible.

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.
February 11th, 2014 @ 11:27AM

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