Last week, delegates from all corners of the globe descended upon ExCeL in London for its three day annual celebration of all things EdTech. If you’ve never been to Bett (the British Educational Training and Technology Show) before, then picture this: Imagine Winter Wonderland, but instead of riding rollercoasters, you get hands on experience with cutting-edge VR, AR, and immersive education tools. Instead of Coconut Shy’s and games stalls there’s hundreds of stands where EdTech providers show off their latest wares. And instead of music halls and Bavarian bands, there’s the Arena and multiple Theatres, with talks and workshops from the likes of Louis Theroux, Loyle Carner, and Darcey Bussell. If you’re in the world of education, and you use tech, then Bett is a must-go-to, and if you haven’t been, then you might wanna have words with yourself.
Bett is vast, and to see everything that’s on offer you’ll need at least two of those three days to get round the epic urban hike that is Bett. On day one I racked up 24,000 steps and I’d only visited two thirds of the show. But by the end of day two, I’d managed to visit every stall, take in multiple keynotes, and get hands-on experience in one of the many group learning sessions. If you weren’t able to make it, or were there but didn’t manage to see it all, here’s some of the best bits you may have missed.
Best Artificial Intelligence: Microsoft Copilot
This year’s Bett might as well have been rebranded ‘Bett 2024 (the AI edition)’ because this year, AI was EVERYWHERE! But of the many AI implementations that I came across, it was Microsoft’s Copilot that seemed to be the most fully formed. Hiding in the corner of your Bing browser window, Copilot gives you free access to ChatGPT-4, unlocking some of the most powerful generative text AI available to the general public. Before Bett, I was somewhat aware of Copilot’s capability with text generation, but seeing what it can do with images was the killer application that got me to fire up Bing and start putting Copilot through its paces.
Best for Students: HP Fortis x360 G3
As ChromeOS continues its transition into a fully-fledged PC operating system, the hardware needed to run it is getting more and more powerful. And while you could opt for the super specced out HP Dragonfly Pro to tame Chrome’s increasing power needs, if you’re looking for something a little more wallet friendly that can stand up to the rigours of student life, then the HP Fortis x360 G3 might be a good shout. Although not the prettiest of laptops, its rubberised outer and crack-resistant* screen mean you won’t have to cradle it like a newborn, fearful that any bump or jolt will leave unsightly scars on its outer shell. Its dual camera setup is also a nice touch, meaning you’ll have access to a front-facing camera when using the Fortis in tablet mode.
*The Fortis’ wide bezels mean if your screen does crack it will crack along the bezel rather than the screen.
Best for Adults: Orbit Note
As an adult with dyslexia, whenever I’m sent a PDF, I assume I’m in for a bad time. PDFs usually mean I’m being sent a lengthy contract or a document full of terms, conditions, difficult words, and perplexing legalese. My go-to app to help me deal with these documents has always been ClaroPDF on my iPad, but at Bett this year I discovered Orbit Note. Obit Note shares much of its functionality with ClaroPDF, but with the addition of support for non-accessible PDFs, advanced note taking, and organisational tools. Orbit Note is also a web based app, allowing you to use it on a variety of devices.
Best for Writing: Goodnotes
Goodnotes is an AI-enhanced digital notepad app. As with many apps of this kind, you’ll find the usual palette of brushes and shaping tools, as well as the ability to search handwriting, and to convert handwriting into digital text etc. However, for me, Goodnotes’ standout feature was its ability to spell check and generate handwritten text. Just as with digital text, when you spell a word incorrectly, you get the usual redline error notification and correction suggestions, but it’s when you make the correction that the magic happens. With Goodnotes, your spelling is not only corrected, but through the use of Generative AI, the correction replicates your own handwriting!
Best Productivity: Easy Switch and Flow by Logitech
Ok, so I’m pretty late to the party on this one, as Easy-Switch and Flow have been around for years. But if, like me, you have multiple laptops connected to one monitor, these two protocols may be a game changer. For me, having my personal and work laptops connected to one workstation saves space and aids productivity. However, the downside is I have to juggle two wireless keyboards and mice. Easy-Switch allows you to connect one keyboard and mouse to up to three devices, so you can keep your desktop minimal, or drawers free of surplus peripherals.
Flow, on the other hand, allows you to move files between your devices with the swipe of a mouse. Gone are the days of emailing yourself, using file transfer services, or downloading and uploading from a thumb drive. As long as you’ve downloaded the Flow app, have both devices connected to the same network, and have a Flow enabled mouse, file transfer headaches should be a thing of the past.
Best Wellbeing: Microsoft Reflect
Even though wellbeing is a subject we now talk about more openly, it can still be something we keep our personal experiences of close to our chests. With one in five 8 to 25 years olds having a probable mental disorder in 2023, tackling mental health in the classroom is more important than ever.
Microsoft Reflect is designed to encourage and normalise mental health conversations within the classroom environment. Reflect allows you to send exploratory questions to your class like, ‘How are you feeling today?’ or ‘What are your emotions after today’s exam?’. Students can answer the questions individually and anonymously, allowing you to gauge the mood of your class, so you can work the feedback you’ve been given into group conversations or lesson plans.
Best for STEM: Tech She Can
Tech She Can is a charity that puts together free educational resources to inspire more girls into Technology careers. Rather than facilitating the teaching of coding and engineering, Tech She Can is focused on inspiring the next generation of female technology professionals.
Through virtual assemblies, downloadable lesson plans, on-demand animated videos, and inspiring keynotes from industry role models, you’ll have all you need to inform and inspire the budding tech professionals in your classroom.
Despite being named Tech She Can, the content is designed to inspire children of all genders. Nonetheless, with only 3% of women seeing tech as a first career choice, the woman-skewed nature of Tech She Can’s resources may increase visibility, and help normalise the concept of STEM as a career choice for a much wider demographic of Primary and Secondary pupils.
Best for Reading: Classoos
Classoos could be described as an Amazon Kindle store and app for textbooks. Just like in the Kindle Store, there is an extensive range of books on offer, but with Classoos, titles are restricted to those used for Secondary and Higher Education curriculums. Classoos allows you to search books by name, curriculum, exam board, subject, and language. Each book also gives you a ten page preview, so you can try before you buy.
For neurodivergent readers, digital textbooks do offer some advantages over physical books. You get the support of text-to-speech, pinned notes, and annotations that can easily be deleted or amended. Also, having all your books stored on the desktop or mobile app means there should be less chance of forgetting textbooks.
Digital textbooks purchased via Classoos are often cheaper than the paper version, but one thing to bear in mind is that on Classoos you are buying for the duration of study rather than outright ownership. So if you think you may want to keep the edition of the text book you’ve brought for an extended period of time, you may want to weigh up the pros and cons of physical vs digital textbooks.
Best Accessibility: Readspeaker/Text Aid
ReadSpeaker and TextAid are text-to-speech and accessible toolbars that have been around for a while. But it wasn’t until my on-stand demonstration that I realised that all of their text-to-speech voices are recorded in-house specifically for the task. With more than 30 languages and dialects on offer, this is a nice touch, as it gives a consistent, warm, and human quality across the whole roster of voices and accents.
Best ‘I wish I had this when I was a kid!’ Product: Matatalab MC1 Digital Microscope
Bett was filled with STEM tech as far as the eye could see, but it was when I stumbled across the Matata Studio stand that I was taken back to being a nine-year-old playing with my (what now seems primitive) science kit. Of the many toys, tools, and kits on offer, it was the MC1 Digital Microscope that got most of my attention. The MC1 is a digital, portable, pocket microscope that uses a mobile phone or laptop as its viewing screen. This allows you to see the world, in up to 400x magnification, whenever the desire takes you.
The model on display at Bett had an attached screen, which, for me, is the perfect form factor for run-and-gun scientific exploration. But whichever version of this microscope you get, kids (and adults) are guaranteed hours of miniature fun.
Best for R ‘n’ R: The Food Court
Attending Bett can be intense. Juggling talks, workshops, keynotes, networking, and catching up with old colleagues, especially across such a large venue, can leave you feeling a little out of puff. Finding a place to sit and grab some nosh can be tough, especially on the main thoroughfare, where perfectly positioning yourself to pounce as soon as a table becomes available can feel a little like a military operation.
However, if you take just a few steps off the ‘main strip’, the Food Hall offers a more relaxing ambiance.
The seating in the food hall consists of picnic benches, which are generously spaced around the hall, giving you some respite from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the show. This lack of density does still mean empty tables can be hard to find, but the Food Hall’s hipster vibe and casual seating make it feel more acceptable to join an already occupied table. In my experience, rocking up at a table already filled with fellow EdTech enthusiasts created a lovely impromptu networking opportunity.
This year the Food Hall was scattered with food trucks offering British, Al-Andalus Moorish, and South East Asian street food. If you do end up in the Food Hall next time you’re at Bett, my advice is to get yourself one of @bian_danguk’s Taiwanese rice boxes: they’re spectacular!
So these were my highlights of Bett 2024, if there’s anything you think I missed let me know in the comments, and if you missed out on Bett this year, make sure you’re first in line for tickets for the event in 2015: https://uk.bettshow.com/register-interest