Phew, what a day. 6 months of planning, 90 people to co-ordinate with, and suddenly, it arrived. The first day of BETT. As I mentioned earlier in the week, we had a number of exciting things at the show, including a demonstration of the Surface, and a netbook Wall of Cool. I’ll have a few pictures to share tomorrow, but for now a quick run down of how the day went!

As usual Schools’ Minister Jim Knight opened the event with a reflection on where we’ve got to with ICT and learning, and where we’re going next:

  • He chose to show three of the videos that we created last summer as part of the Innovative Schools deep case studies (read more about them in this earlier blog post). The videos are all stories of change, in the words of parents, learners and school staff – sharing their journeys of change, the lessons learnt, and the impact on their school community. The stories of parental and student engagement at Broadclyst Primary School, Bowring School and Shireland Academy are all good examples will illustrate the benefits of using ICT to widen the learning community, and especially to get parents more engaged with their children’s learning.
  • A little later he announced the launch of a new independent foundation, in partnership between Becta and Microsoft, to support the Home Access Programme. The full details of this are on the Becta news website, but here’s a couple of clips from the announcement:

"Becta, the education technology agency, will work closely with industry and other interested parties to create an independent foundation, which will administer and distribute industry funds in support of the government's Home Access programme. The idea was proposed by Microsoft in response to the government announcement made in September 2008 and the foundation is open to other organisations who wish to get involved.

Stephen Crowne, Chief Executive of Becta, said:

"We need to ensure that every learner has an equal chance to tap into the benefits of the internet to enhance their learning – and the Home Access programme seeks to do just that, by offering this opportunity to all learners.
"Getting parents and teachers on board is clearly vital to the success of the programme, so we are really excited about this opportunity to support them, in partnership with the industry. I welcome the leadership Microsoft has shown and am now calling for more leading companies to join us in the drive to support parents and teachers."

  • Over the next few months there will be more detail on the foundation and it’s activity plans, and hopefully more IT companies will join in. But for now it’s a sign that we’re working in partnership with Becta on areas where there’s a clear common goal.

And then the day really took off – thousands of people coming through our stand, and wanting demonstrations. The theatre was busy as usual, but what I hadn’t expected was the near crush that formed around the demonstration of the Microsoft Surface. It was non-stop almost until the show had finished, and we got the chance to get Jim Knight to try out a Key Stage 2 Literacy Challenge on it (relief – passed with flying colours).

 BBC at BETT  

We had a visit from Rory Cellan-Jones from the BBC News 24, and Teachers TV filmed Jim Knight using the Surface too. At some points it was difficult to see where the the stand ends and the walkways begin, as people crowded round the Surface and the presentation theatres and spilled into the gangways, but it was fun for everybody (although the presenters are likely to need some TLC for their feet and throats this year)

And finally the Wall of Cool attracted lots of attention, because it was the place to be able to see lots of different netbooks together, rather than having to trawl the hall finding them on individual stands. We had about 10 out of them out to look at, and a few more in the hands of staff to talk about. I think some people were surprised by the similarities in some (we worked out that four different ones appeared to be exactly the same netbook underneath the paint), and also by the differences they hadn’t expected – like weight, and different perceptions of how robust they appeared. But more on that in my next post.

So if you’re coming up to BETT later in the week, definitely put the Surface and the netbook Wall of Cool onto your schedule.

And do say Hi, because as my kids are keen on saying “I’m here all week folks…”