Ufi at BETT 2019

Learning

by Liz Dobrée, Chief Impact Officer for Ufi Charitable Trust

The annual edtech event can be an assault on the senses for the uninitiated, with hundreds of companies selling their wares and demonstrating the latest and greatest in education technology. By comparison, the Post-16 Stage, one of three themed stages at BETT, was an oasis of calm in the far corner of world’s largest edtech trade show.  

The BETT format has evolved in recent years, with now fewer stages but better focus, and with presentations curated by and centred on practitioners sharing their experiences of using technology, rather than edtech suppliers promoting their latest features.

This year, Ufi Trustee Bob Harrison and I, hosted the Post-16 stage on Wednesday and Thursday - introducing a packed audience to a range of talks and panel discussions. Topics ranged from Arduino launching their CanSats platform, to Digital Transformation and Borderless Learning from Chichester College.

During a discussion with industry about the skills needed by businesses, a panel made up of representatives from Pearson, Ramsac, and The Commission for Sustainable Learning for Work, were asked for their views about the absence of accrediting 21st Century skills such as critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and problem solving in vocational learning. How can big businesses better identify these vital skills that industry proposes learners must attain? We believe promise technologies such as digital badging and new modes of assessment can be demonstrated to show usefulness and solutions to age-old challenges for learners and employers alike. 

Every year, it’s possible to spot the latest trend in innovation from the number of suppliers pushing similar solutions around a particular technology.  A couple of years ago, you couldn’t move for 3D printers. In 2018 it was all about the VR.  This year has introduced even more colourful robo-kits aimed at younger children, jumping on the coding/STEM band wagon, although interesting to see that there were still a few 3D printing companies that have survived, whose products are now much more sophisticated and refined as the technology has matured.

The usual suspects were there, with enormous exhibition spaces (Microsoft, Google, UAE Ministry of Education, Lenovo), but it is the side conversations and stage presentations offering snippets of advice and insights that can provide the most value and clarity for educators overwhelmed by the sales talk.

While many of the exhibition sales pitches this year focused on ease of integration into a school environment, it was refreshing to see a large and eager audience in the post-16 stage, keen to learn about the latest innovations in post-16 education. 

If you would like to know more about our innovative projects, or you have an idea you would like to try out with some funding from us, then please see our funding page. Our grant call dates have been announced for 2019 and VocTech Seed, up to £50,000 in funding, is open for applications until 8th February - other funding calls will open later on in the year.