Massive British Ed-Tech Show Gears Up for 36,000 Visitors

Associate Editor

The Bett Show, the world’s largest technology conference and exhibition focused on education, launches in London on Wednesday, and EdWeek Market Brief will be there to bring you news and impressions from the massive four-day event. 

Bett — formerly called the British Educational Training and Technology Show — is so big that associations representing entire countries make presentations there, and ed-tech companies, organizations or educators from more than 110 countries are represented as attendees, exhibitors, and presenters.

Take Brazil, for example. Softex, which is the Association for Brazilian Software Excellence Promotion, announced that it plans to participate by sponsoring business gatherings with potential partners, rather than focusing on the traditional exhibit, according to a statement.

More interested in the customary trade show display? Six countries and Singapore will have their own pavilions at the show, including representatives of France, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Spain, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. A roundtable about the future of education in Russia will also be held.

The Singapore ed-tech scene, in particular, is being heralded for the high rate of technology adoption: 85 percent of the population in the city-state owns smartphones, and, on average, Singaporeans own three devices.

Students in Singapore typically are among the top performers on tests developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that measure and compare academic achievement by country.

The Education Technology Network of the Washington-based Software & Information Industry Association will be hosting a breakfast at Bett as well.

Comparison to ISTE

ISTE, the largest ed-tech conference in the United States., last year drew about 18,000 educators, vendors, and advocates. By comparison, Bett attracts about twice as many attendees.

The organization that sponsors ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education, a teacher-based nonprofit based in Washington that has about 100,000 professional members worldwide. This year the conference — which will be held in Denver — is expected to draw 16,000 educators, 500 companies, and offer 1,000 sessions. ISTE focuses primarily on its mission of helping K-12 classroom teachers and administrators.

Bett will have 600 learning technology companies exhibiting, and covers education sectors from primary school through workplace training.

Founded in 1985, the show began with more of a focus on technology and business opportunities. Today, educators can receive continuing education credits and hear speakers like Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy; Angela Lee Duckworth from the University of Pennsylvania, who’s speaking about grit; Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist on the study of science, mathematics, engineering and technology, and Sugata Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, on his research around child-driven education, and his work to build a “school in the cloud.”

A U.K. Perspective

In advance of the big show, companies release products, and surveys — such as one from Canvas, the learning management system created by Instructure, which found in a poll the organization conducted that personal tech devices (a.k.a. mobile technology) are banned in one-third of U.K. classrooms “due to teachers’ fears that they will cause distraction.” In fact, 62 percent of teachers believe such technology distracts students from learning.

At the same time, the study by the Salt Lake City-based company reports that 74 percent of teachers surveyed agreed “that when integrated effectively and used as an education tool rather than a leisure device, such technology can make their job easier.”

The survey offered other insights on teachers’ technology use. While 23 percent of teachers in the United States say mobile phones and tablets are banned in their schools, the number is higher, 34 percent, in the United Kingdom.

In the meantime, the United Kingdom is making a major commitment to computer education, and has invested £3 million to get 400 master teachers to lead the computing curriculum change for a second year running, but has fallen short of the goal by more than 100 teachers, according to Schools Week, a British publication covering education.

We’ll share information and insights from the ed-tech conference, including lessons that could be relevant to U.S. companies and their market, throughout the week. Look for our #bettshow tweets.


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