Exploring Innovation and Insights at Bett 2024

Exploring Innovation and Insights at Bett 2024

Unfortunately I only managed a fleeting visit to day 1 of this year’s Bett conference held at the ExCeL London. As the largest education technology exhibition in the world, Bett brings together educators (from school, to FE and HE) and ‘over 600 innovative EdTech and resource solution providers’ to showcase cutting-edge products and services. It’s fun event and usually includes some top speakers on key topic areas.

The day kicked off early with a powerful message from Dame Darcey Bussell DBE, Founder of DDMIX Trust, emphasising the importance of movement for both children and adults. Bussell highlighted how staying active is crucial for overall health and wellbeing and had us up and dancing – perfect for getting us ready to go!

Darcey Bussell
Darcey Bussell shares some moves!

Official Opening

Louisa Hunter, the Bett Director (Hyve Group), officially opened Bett 2024 with a brief keynote from Gillian Keegan MP, Secretary of State for Education for the UK since 2022  (a position that has changed hands a considerable amount of late!) Keegan opened with how Artificial Intelligence is leading to a notable shift in education, mentioning work by the Khan Academy’s personalised tutoring and the UK’s commitment to leading the way in AI safety through the AI Safety Summit and the AI Safety Institute. She explained how we need skilled people in this area and the government have set up 21 institutes of technology and supported degree apprenticeships with a focus on cyber security. Keegan also touched on how the UK has been working closely with countries around world on AI including Estonia where they are using AI to deliver bespoke learning paths including personalised feedback and the Japanese government where they are using state of the art technology. Julia Garvey, Deputy Director General at British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) then introduced the main keynote.

Louis Theroux in Conversation with Loyle Carner

A real highlight was Louis Theroux engaging in a conversation with hip-hop star Loyle Carner. The discussion revolved around Carner’s ADHD diagnosis, and his early school years, along with the role of his mother, a SEND teacher. His mother used to referred to him as a ‘scribble of a boy’, describing how he used to watch TV upside down while bouncing a ball at the same time, activities that he now recognises as part of the hyperfocus of ADHD. He discussed how over time he has turned his ADHD into a ‘superpower,’ and how various activities (his music, cooking, kickboxing) have helped him deal with the challenges of the condition. There were some great anecdotes and reflections . For example he talked about how parents at the cooking school he has set up for kids with ADHD often ask “when will my child grow out of it?” To which Carner responds that it’s not about growing out of ADHD, it’s about growing in to it – like a big coat.

Louis Theroux engaging in a conversation with hip-hop star Loyle Carner
Louis Theroux in conversation with Loyle Carner

AI sessions

I managed to catch two sessions on Generative AI. Firstly Microsoft’s Chief Scientist and Technical Fellow, Jaime Teevan, delved into ‘collective thinking through complex times’. Teevan emphasised the need to think differently about AI and computers to enhance productivity and offered some good advice on how Generative AI can help. Secondly Donald Clark, CEO of PlanB Learning, and Carla Aerts, Futures of Education Consultant were in conversation in a packed out session called ‘AI Changes everything’. They discussed the transformative impact of AI on how we work and learn. Both reflected on the need to revaluate traditional teaching methods such as the lecture: “lecturing is easy, teaching is hard”. The discussion touched on ethical considerations, engaging students, and the evolving nature of learning environments. Clark expressed concerns over how we are trying to regulate and moralise AI in Europe saying that in the US they aren’t as concerned about ethics and so are leaping ahead. Personally I believe some regulation is not only useful but absolutely necessary. He also talked about how students need to be involved in these conversations and are way ahead of us in aspects of AI (“they should be teaching the prompt courses”). This may be the case for some but definitely not all, ensuing AI equity and building AI capabilities is of key importance for Higher Education institutions.

The Bett exhibition offered its usual collection of exciting new education technology products, with some gimmicks thrown. It’s always great to see what the future will bring.