#BETT 2018; Overwhelmed by size, underwhelmed by quality.

A review of EdTech’s largest show, BETT 2018.

My students giving a presentation for the Crown Prince of Norway,

I recently read this article by Junaid Mubeen, and it meets with my earlier comments about this conference. I decided not to participate this year, even if I had been offered the trip with all expenses paid by an organization. This is a conference I have decided not to attend anymore. Might be because I have been there many times, and that was where BBC came to listen to the talk I had with two students, and where my students got to meet our Crown Prince, see the picture.  My objections are that the venue hall is the main attraction there and selling products seem to be the most important part of the conference. The theaters where the workshops, lectures are being held are in the middle of the sales area and the sound is awful. Here are some of the points from the article I read that I think worth mentioning:

  1. Virtual reality has crept up in recent years and now enjoys a prominence that almost places it in league with those interactive whiteboards. I was offered my most immersive virtual experiences yet, including both a safari and a look inside the trenches of World War I. In speaking with the exhibitors (mostly salespeople), I got a clear sense that the pedagogical aims of VR providers is barely even an afterthought.
  2. The robots seem to rise each year at BETT. There was an impressive selection of robotics, each couched in the vague promise of boosting students’ STEM skills. not all robots can do all things, and I was left unimpressed at the suggestion (not by Sphero) that basic programming tasks support deeper understanding across all of STEM.
  3. Kismet, a robot with rudimentary social skills
    Kismet, a robot with rudimentary social skills (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Personalised learning is an idea whose time has certainly arrived at BETT. The glorification of artificial intelligence was splashed on product banners all across the arena. Exhibitors would have us believe that personalized learning is a natural by-product of data collection and some notion of intelligent algorithms. When pressed on the nature of those algorithms, the exhibitors became noticeably subdued. They fell utterly silent when pushed on pedagogy. The learning content is often the most neglected part of a product demonstration because it exposes the absence of pedagogical intent.

The article ends up with 4 questions we need answers to before buying these products. I totally agree and hope more have these in mind, both Edtech innovators and those in the position to buy. It all makes sense to me.

  • What is your pedagogy? At the very least, can you list your educational goals?
  • What does it mean for your solution to work and how will this be measured in a way that is meaningful and reliable?
  • How are your users supported to achieve their educational goals after the point of sale
  • How do your solutions interact with other offerings in the marketplace?

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