There have been over 30 annual Bett shows, and the event has grown substantially since its humble beginnings.
In fact, while chatting to one IT solutions exhibitor at this year’s show, I was told it was his 28th year at Bett. “I remember when it was basically a few blokes sitting behind a table in a room,” Captia’s education director of learning Steven Smith told me.
So when a show has been going as long as this one, you have to wonder what’s left to shout about.
“This year’s show is absolutely huge and incredibly busy,” Smith informed me. Talking about how the market has changed, he said: “There’s been a consumer revolution in technology.” It’s clear to see this while wandering around the huge exhibition floor, with Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Dell, Lenovo and the likes showcasing consumer tablets, laptops, desktops and more being modified and used for educational purposes.
There were some examples of impressive, brand spanking new tech at the show too. I managed to get some time playing about on HP’s Sprout and I have to say, I was surprised at just how fluid and intuitive the computer/3D scanner/projector/ collaboration tool was.
While its £1,700 price tag may feel steep, I can see devices like this become a staple in tech classrooms in the future. “It’s especially good for collaboration and helps teachers include various students with different ways of working on the same projects,” said a HP representative at the show.
Overclockers was also at the show for the very first time to show off its educational products.
“The Bett Show provides a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase our products and solutions for the educational sector and it is a great way for us to reach out to new customers,” said Steven Levitt, Overclockers UK’s PR manager.
Retro tech was a big thing this year. At every turn there was a gizmo that I remember owning as a kid, but with a new ‘tech-ed’ spin.
I had an awful lot of K’NEX when I was younger, so I was quite excited when I saw a giant ferris wheel made out of the stuff. As well as helping kids to be creative when it comes to building and engineering, now K’NEX can connect to a PC and be used to teach students STEM principals through robotics design and programming.
LEGO was also showcasing its educational solutions, which ‘deliver curriculum objectives in science, computing, maths and literacy’.
Just before the show, Microsoft announced Minecraft: Education Edition and had a huge area dedicated to hands-on workshops for educators. While not quite as retro as LEGO and K’NEX, the game has been around for seven years. With its potential for use within education having been discussed for some time now, Minecraft has already been used in classrooms to teach subjects ranging from core STEM topics to poetry. Minecraft: Education Edition is designed specifically for classroom use and providers new tools to teachers.
Raspberry Pi and BBC Micro:Bit were both out in force at the show, taking up a large portion of the floor space. Designed to bring back the computer coding that students were more familiar with in the 1980s, both mini PC chips were demonstrated in a variety of fun and educational gadgets.
While it was very clear walking around the show that retro gadgets and ‘old school’ games infused with new and powerful tech were very much the star of Bett 2016, I also noticed environmental awareness and saving money were at the forefront of a lot of exhibitors’ minds.
I chatted with Epson UK’s business imaging manager Peter Silcock at the show, who demonstrated some of the firm’s printers which hold ‘ink bags’ instead of cartridges. “These bags can print up to 75,000 pages before they need replacing, which could mean a year of two of printing without interruption,” he said.
“Being aware of the environment is very important in schools. At the moment we’re being told to turn lights off and not waste paper, but in the near future schools will HAVE to do those things, it won’t be a choice. Epson is showing solutions that will help schools do that in the future.”