BETT(er?) – Tweeps this is your fault!

I went to BETT on Saturday with my little sister (Squeak). Aside from the chance to see a ton of undiscovered (to me) edTech resources, investigate some companies, find out what some tech was like to use, it was cool to spend a ‘professional’ day with my awesome kid sis.

So, here’s the pile o’stuff I bought back with me:
Not forgetting the free pens and other junk you get:

We planned to attend a bunch of presentations and seminars, but some were longer than expected, we missed one because of lunch, as @eduKatescom says:

so we only saw 3.
10:30 Tim Rylands (@timrylands) Back to Their Future Bett3

What to say about this. Tim is a superb and inspirational speaker. I am slightly embarrassed I had not heard of him before, or seen anything he has done. He gave us a 1 hour, thoroughly entertaining rundown of 88 (And if you didn’t know why he chose 88, shame on you!) almost exclusively free online resources for classroom use. Though his focus was on language, I saw a bunch of stuff I figured I may be able to use in Maths, and hey, if we as Maths teachers can’t use communication tools for the good of our students, I think something is wrong. Plus Tim was introduced by the voice of UK Siri, and had dancing robots.


We didn’t realise Tim’s talk was gonna go on so long, so we missed a couple of presentations about Literacy in Primary ed (for Squeak) and about Twitter (Chosen by me, to try to show how cool it is to Squeak) and about BYOD from Microsoft, but honestly WORTH IT. 12:15 Alternatives to death by Powerpoint: Making students’ presentations come alive Ironically (maybe) given in a dodgy powerpoint presentation, I was not that impressed with this speaker (Who’s name I did not catch). I felt that she did not deliver in an engaging fashion, and her presentation itself was pretty rough. I know entertainment isn’t the core of a presentation, but something beyond the monotone (voice and slides) would have been nice. I tweeted the point in the talk that was a deal breaker for me:

Which got a predictable response:

The only useful thing (imho) was the slide of powerpoint alternatives:

13:15 Kate Cheal (@eduKatescom) Flipping the Classroom with Google – a flipped model that promotes active learning
I went to this session purely to see what a UK teacher had to say on Google and the flip classroom, after hearing about a bunch of ideas from #GlobalMath peeps in different conferences. Fact is, Kate did something else with it, combining presentations, media and forms for feedback to make homework engaging and useful:
It is something I am tempted to try – particularly as you can use Geogebra and Google forms together! I don’t think Squeak was convinced as she was super concerned about parental pressures at her school, which is fine, shes only an NQT so rocking the boat might not be the best thing! We didn’t hang around for Q&A because Subway (mmmm sandwiches) was calling but I tweet Kate later about different Google stuff and had (for em anyway) a useful discussion on methods and ideas. Totally Food for thought.

So that was the Seminars – time for the products. I am not going to do this in any semblance of order as I really can’t remember, and I am only going to do the stuff that stuck with me for better of for worse. If I listed everyone who tried to hand me a leaflet I would be here for hours. Lots of stuff went straight in the bag of ‘Things I don’t care about’


Best Viral Marketing I have seen for a long time. Lots of logos and colours everywhere and a hugely busy stand because They didn’t tell you what they did until you asked them Turns out they are a developing VLE/Learning Platform for schools that integrates pages and widgets nicely, with fully optimized code for tablets etc. Full HTML5 set up and a slick interface. Unfortunately they haven’t rolled out FE yet, but it’s definitely something to keep on the radar. Oh and they gave me the Space hopper and bunch of pens.

Game of Life – given to us as we came in.

Not really useful for me, but hopefully Squeak or my Mum can make use of the fact we have 2 between us.

Looked interesting in the Exhibitor listing – turned out to be one guy in a tiny stand who had an aura of ‘Don’t speak to me’ o.0 I grabbed a leaflet and had a look over it – basically stuff that Geogebra/Desmos do better imho.

I’m gonna be harsh here, because I was distinctly unimpressed by this. And it’s all @Trianglemancsd @mathhombre and @jacehans fault. In fact, a lot of my comments here can be extended in part or wholey to almost every ‘maths’ game I saw on Saturday.

We will come back to idea of whether it is a reasonable ‘game’ later, first of all lets talk a bit about some pedagogy:
The obvious answer to a Math’s teacher is 30 + 20 = 50. But why is 3 + 2 = 5 wrong? Why is 300 + 200 = 500 wrong? etc.

And if we get it wrong, we aren’t told what we did wrong.

And now the game side of it. How is this a game? All I am doing is answering questions. This is quiz with a nice background. Is it because it has monkeys? does that suddenly make it fun?

The only saving grace for this was that it records what students have done but and lets the teacher view it from a dashboard. But I’m not going to pay for that when I can get it as a section of something like MangaHigh for free!

Monkey Tales by die Keure
These guys also make Math’s ‘games’ They’ve built a lucrative games series out of it – and I will admit, at least in this there was an element of playing. Moving objects to complete answers and the like, controlling a monkey while competing against the computer etc. But this had no way for the teacher to structure it, no central record, nothing. So how is that useful to a professional? I don’t know what the students have done wrong. Hell, I don’t even know if they’ve even done it.

Microsoft and Ergo
I classed the two together because I visited their stands one after the other to play with their tech, an dboth ahd the same issue. NO INTERNET. I couldn’t test if key software, like Desmos and Geogebra interacted well with Windows 8, or if their kit was nice to use. Bit of a fail there I think. Take aways from the Microsoft Surface however were 1) Not revolutionary 2) The keyboard SUCKS 3) Windows 8 didn’t feel like anything special, in fact the in app navigation was pretty dire for my tastes.

I didn’t get a chance to sit in on any of their demo’s because they were all about the Chromebooks and I really wanted to play with a Nexus 10 and a Nexus 7. =(

Big Hair Learning
I’m gonna be harsh again here. Not Impressed. We were collared on our final walk around by a guy offering sweets, so we dutifully took them while he gave us his spiel. I’m paraphasing here, but it basically boiled down to:

‘You’re a Maths teacher, so you’ll know about Khan Academy, what we want to do is build a platform for something just like that for all subjects!’

I asked about how this was going to work and he enthusiastically told me that ‘Teachers would submit their videos and students can watch them’ I followed up by asking about vetting and quality control which I was told would come from community up/down voting.

Alright, what about checking understanding, giving students feedback, any sort of task for the students to do once they’ve watched the videos? ‘That’s a long way in the future, right now we just see this as a platform for people to upload their videos and search for them using tags and things – YouTube already has a lot of videos on it, but a lot are bad and hard to find, we want to make that easier’ (I found it hard to hide my incredulity here – how is a hosting site where the community decides what is popular really much different!? and you think you have a better search engine that something Google made? Wow).

I must have managed to hide my horror because the guy asked me about whether I had made any videos for my classes. I told him I hadn’t and he pressed me on why not, perhaps hoping I would tell him I wanted his product? I told him because honestly, I haven’t had a reason to yet, I don’t see the point in lecturing to a camera, because that is already out there, and I don’t have the tech to make a video of sufficient quality for my tastes.

I tried to wrap it up by asking about whether students or teachers had to pay for this. Apparently it’s free, because they have financial backers. In fact, if you upload a video you get some sort of royalty for watches!? (Who wants to upload some vids and they upvote us all and get cash?) At this point I wrapped up the conversation and we made our escape.

The whole encounter left a really bad taste in my mouth (could you tell?) Basically this guy was selling a significantly worse, cross curricular version of Khan. And they had a massive stand. I don’t even want to know who is backing them.

LearnPad (Avantis Systems)
Not originally on my list of things to see, because my Mum has a sample of their Tech and I’ve played on it. I felt like it was a really poor first attempt into the tablet market, clunky OS on top of android, poor hardware (thought
the website wouldn’t tell me what it was) and low level apps. When I saw them I decided that I would like to give them feedback on things, because even if they don’t like it, surely that’s worth it?

So I spoke to the guy and he explained that they have a new range with some severely buffed hardware and a variety of sizes, which was interesting. I had a nice discussion with a rep about pushing apps to class sets, teacher administrators, the Android OS underneath and the hardware. However when we got down to the nitty gritty about supported features and why Geogebra wouldn’t run, he passed me off to their Tech Director. He was really enthusiastic about my concerns and trying to get full compatibility going. Before I had finished talking about Geogebra he already suggested Desmos, and basically was keen to fix any barriers to us buying tablets. He gave me his card so we could talk it over after the show, and so I can give him feedback. I think I may buy one for me, even if we don’t invest in a class set right now, to see if it is useful. I really hope they buff their tech again, because they still weren’t as slick as other tablets on the market at the same price point.

On reflection it was totally a useful day. I will go next year, hopefully for more than one day. Though I felt a lot of frustration with many exhibitors, I learned a TON and more than anything, my critique of a lot of resources shows how much I have learned in the last few months.

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8 Responses to BETT(er?) – Tweeps this is your fault!

  1. Bruno Reddy says:


    Thanks for sharing this. I went to Bett on Friday and because I had 9 students with me I didn’t get to see all the things I wanted to. One of the ones on my list was bighairlearning because they emailed me out of the blue asking if I wanted to put my videos on their platform. You’ll be pleased to know that didn’t go any further.

    As it happens, I was speaking on the Google stand about flipped and blended learning using Google (and also about using Chromebooks but that was a separate talk). If you want to see the slides you can find them here:

    I also wanted to mention a community of UK teachers and schools who are doing some blended learning (or maybe just thinking about it). It’s called

    I’m going to get in touch with Kate. We did our Google Certified thing together. Didn’t realise she was doing this great stuff.

    Thanks again for giving the lowdown on all those things. Did you see the Lego Mindstorms, by the way? The guy told me they’d created lesson resources using the Mindstorm robots to cover half the GCSE course. A bold claim but awesome if true.



    • nik_d_maths says:

      Hi Bruno!

      I’m glad you liked the post and had a good time at BETT. I will definitely check out your Google bits and pieces, I really need to get my act together on using things. Do you have experience with the Tablets they produce? I wanted to see the Mindstorms, but the Lego stand was heaving. If that claim is true I am impressed. Maybe I can convince my HoD that I need to go to Legoland?

      In terms of Big Hair, I just couldn’t believe what they were telling me. Never mind.

      Thanks for the link the community, something else to check out! Where are you based?


      • Bruno Reddy says:

        I work at King Solomon Academy in NW1, London. And you?

        I don’t have experience with the tablets but I’m very happy with the Chromebooks. They’ve completely changed the way I teach and hopefully the way my pupils are learning.

  2. nik_d_maths says:

    I work in a 6th Form College in North Hampshire. Are you 1-2-1 across the school?

  3. Lib says:

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy my presentation on alternatives to PowerPoint ….but you obviously stayed long enough to see the slide of alternatives. I did explain at the beginning that I was told by BETT at the last minute that presenters had to embed videos into PPT as there was no direct streaming internet available – this was a bit of a logistical nightmare with the IT facilities I had available. Then I was coping with a laptop that kept losing the mouse cursor and not playing the videos correctly. Still I had a good reponse from a lot of people and have been invited to speak elsewhere. Well you can’t please everyone !

    • nik_d_maths says:

      Thanks for the response, I did hang around to the end because I was interested in the alternatives you posed. I am sorry to hear you had technical difficulties with the presentation. I hope your future talks go well and don’t have those issues!

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