I'm very excited to be travelling down to the BETT show tonight; I'll be working for 3 days (Wed-Fri) with my friends from Lightbox on the RM stand so if you are attending, please drop by and say, "Hello." I am also taking part in one of the Teachmeet events on the Thursday evening called Collabor8 4 Change. I'm talking about how blogging engages learners through a series of talks called "Tales from the Blogface" in which I'll be joined by one of the best blogging teachers that I know, Jack Sloan from Ferrylane Primary School in Haringey.
BETT 2011 is, I think, going to be a watershed year for the event. For the first time in a long time the educational ICT community (and I include service providers, LAs, software companies and schools in that broad term) are facing a future with no direct funding from Government. We had NOF training, NGfL grants, Harnessing Technology grants and so on. Now it's all gone, and whatever the spin, it's clear that school budgets are going to be under severe pressure for the next few years. Actually, in many ways, I think this will be a good thing as I think all 3 of the funding streams I mentioned above distorted the market in various ways:
- NOF was just an opportunity for big service companies to grab chunks of money and provide rubbish training: I vividly recall being given an opportunity by Stockport to act as an online mentor for one big service provider who were suggesting that year 3 use Microsoft Encarta as a tool. When I pointed out that the product wasn't suitable for year 3 I was just ignored - I didn't do the mentoring;
- NGfL funding, especially the ring fenced bit for buying content simply enabled software companies to churn out huge numbers of CDs, many of which simply sit in drawers;
- The Harnessing Technology grant allowed Local Authorities to build little empires around a small group of Becta approved learning platforms, many of which weren't ever designed for use in primary schools.
All of these have gone, and the agency tasked with co-ordinating it all, Becta has gone with it and the result will be an industry that is exposed to the white heat of competition. This is a good thing. It will drive innovation; force schools to collaborate in new ways; make companies respond to the needs of their customers. No longer will there be any diktat from above that says you have to subscribe to this or that service. I see evidence of this starting to happen already: the mushrooming community of educators on Twitter (I'm @hgjohn); the increasing number of Teachmeets; the seedling development of new networks such as the Northants BLT group, and so on. What I don't see yet are the large scale changes in the commercial sector and I will be looking for evidence of these at the show this year.
I have a feeling that BETT 2012 will be a very different event.