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Posts Tagged ‘bett

Why did the author of this blog entry, Joshua Perry, suggest that we boycott a large education conference? It is linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He explained that BETT is operated by the Hyve Group which also happens to organise Russian-based events. He cited a Reuters article and claimed that 27% of their revenue comes from the latter events. The company also did not seem to strongly condemn the invasion by describing it merely as a “conflict”.

I have no stake in BETT as the last and only time I attended was as a guest speaker in 2015 [my presentation, Righting the Wrong Flipping Ideas] [my reflections] [someone else’s reflections]. 

Back then I spoke to other attendees who gave me a brief but critical history of the conference. Long story made short: It was heavy on the tech and light on the ed for an edtech conference. But it had improved somewhat by 2015.

That description (sans improvement) could fit just about any edtech conference or even education conferences, particularly the ones held here. How do I know? I have been consulted on their design and invites. 

All those conference are also funded largely by the usual suspects of edtech companies. You need only look at the list of platinum and gold sponsors at the conference websites to see what I mean.

Money talks because it determines who gets invited to speak. I recall being invited to a small conference overseas and I warned the organiser that I was critical of a sponsor’s platform. The organiser was brave (or perhaps foolhardy) and put me and the sponsor’s spokesperson in the same session. We probably gave the participants mental indigestion!

But I digress. Like Perry, I support the boycott of most conferences. I do not wish to support powerful companies by giving them a platform, voice, and one more to their attendance numbers. I am against tech that has little or no ed, or is driven by profit instead of pedagogy.

I would rather be part of something I used to attend and organise — unconferences [example]. I miss those days of meeting up informally with like-minded folk who had a passion for progressive education and a curiosity to learn more.

As is my modus operandi when planning presentations, I also prepare backchannels. My latest integration of TodaysMeet was during my presentation on flipping at the BETT2015 conference on 23 January.

I did a rough poll of my 700-strong audience. Judging from the the hands that shot up when I asked how many liked passive talks, at least half were traditionalists.

My third slide included a QR code and URL to the backchannel. I was relieved that people actually stood up or stretched out to capture the QR code. Most others just typed in the URL I provided. At least one took the trouble to tweet the URL.

Here is the normal view of the backchannel and this is the transcript view.

I had hoped to use the backchannel a bit differently. I wanted to collect responses by sharing the backchannel URL at my BETT presentation page. I wanted to know if there were issues about flipping that I could address. I asked that question two weeks before my presentation, but there was no activity prior to my talk.

I removed that question shortly before the talk as there was little interest, fear of an unknown tool and strategy, or insufficient knowledge of content to ask questions. I replaced it with a generic “introduce yourself” statement.

When I went on stage, I discovered that I could not get ANY wifi connection. The place was so crowded that even the default access points that I had previously logged on to were either gone or unable to accommodate me. The 3G signal was so weak that it was pointless for me to tether with my jailbroken iPhone.

As a result, I could not quickly demonstrate how to use a backchannel.

But I did not need to. TodaysMeet was simple enough for the audience members to participate in the backchannel.

And participate they did. They asked questions and posted comments. They conversed with one another. They provided feedback even though I did not ask for it.

I kept my promise of answering all their questions and addressing their comments after I was done with my talk. Not immediately after as I had offline social engagements to manage first. But as soon as my last chat was over, I rushed to the speakers’ suite and let my fingers to the talking.

I cannot see any return to a traditional one-way talk. Practically all of the larger scale talks I have featured here and done since 2012 included a backchannel of some sort.

Backchannels keep me and my audience on our toes. They extend conversations beyond the time and scope of the presentation. Most importantly, they provide opportunities for more meaningful learning.

I had a delayed reaction to Sir Ken Robinson’s keynote last Friday’s at the BETT 2015 conference. It was sparked by something I read when I returned home.

Video source

SKR shared this video of technology being used to enable the physically disabled to create art. It was a wonderful example of combining technology-enabled creativity which was a theme of SKR’s keynote.

But I wonder about an unintended message that this example sends: That technology is used for the extreme or the exceptional instead of the everyday. The fact that SKR wondered how “social” social media was underlined that point.

We do not need both those messages to be broadcast. They are already prominent and do not add much value or change to education.


My reflection was prompted by a notification from my son’s school about their e-learning portal (excerpt above). One of the lines in the letter was “The e-learning portal has been enhanced with commercially produced simulated lessons and worksheets…” [emphasis mine].

The language is telling. The lessons are simulated. Does that imply that they are not as real or as good? Why was there a need to reassure parents that real lessons happened in classrooms?

The letter also mentioned the two purposes of e-learning: 1) promoting independent learning, and 2) emergency learning (“should there by a national crisis resulting in school closure, pupils will have access to online assignments”).

How are students learning independently if they have to wait for teachers to tell them to do online homework? Are they not already learning independently by watching YouTube videos whether their teachers and parents are aware or not?

Why is the “e” in e-learning still associated with emergency or extra?

I will tell you why. Very few people challenge the conventions that in integration of educational technology must be special. Not many thought leaders take advantage of the stages they are put on to push those buttons hard.

This is not a slight on SKR’s talk. I enjoyed it immensely. But he pushes the let-our-children-create-and-be-creative agenda. He was not the person to illustrate how to do this with technology transparently.

The technology does not have to be on a grand scale like the one in the video. It does not have to simulate lessons. It is already in the hands of learners even as they walk around with heads bowed while doing the Blackberry prayer.

Most people cannot look beyond the surface and creatively take advantage of the wonderfully ordinary. I would like to show them how.

Like most people who attended the Bett 2015 conference in the UK, I looked forward to Sir Ken Robinson’s (SKR) talk on Friday, 23 Jan. 

Even though he rehashed much of what he said before about unleashing the creativity of kids, I was not disappointed. His charisma and humour are hard to beat. 

Using the #bettarena hashtag, I ‘live’ tweeted what I thought were interesting points. Here is something I drafted during the talk and forgot to tweet until later.

SKR made a withering comment on social media with the photo. It seemed to say: You can this behaviour social? However, he seemed to do this in the overall context that we cannot always predict the way people will use technology. 

I am reminded a quote by Marshall McLuhan: We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. 

That is how technology and creative endeavors are intertwined. If we allow educators and learners to explore possibilities, we will find problems and we might create new problems, but we will also solve them. 

During the Q and A session, SKR was asked about how the affordances of things like Google Glass affected privacy. The example the facilitator brought up was what might happen at men’s urinals. SKR replied that such a privacy issue pre-dated Glass.

Men could compare and contrast with or without Glass. The problem was not new nor was it due to the introduction of technology. Most lay folk, teachers, and school leaders need to realize that and I was glad that SKR was the mouthpiece for this message.

However, I was rather disappointed that SKR chose to support Prensky’s “digital natives” (DN) even though it has been largely debunked by thought leaders in education almost four years ago [example]. I am guessing SKR did so because Prensky’s concept was aligned to his own ideas about the innate potential of kids.

The DN model is unnecessarily divisive (them and us), defeatist (e.g., it is difficult to learn how to use technology because I am an immigrant), and innaccurate (e.g., adults might be more native to Facebook than kids are).

I throw my support behind David White’s digital resident-visitor continuum. It is far more relevant than Prensky’s dichotomy. But a continuum is harder to understand than an either-or dichotomy.

Good communicators understand that simple ideas float and hook fast. Then they reel their audiences in with little struggle because there is little cognitive dissonance.

It is tempting to fish like this and I tried that in my own talk by sharing the simplest wrongs about flipping. But it did not sit quite right with me in the end because I like creating lots of dissonance and questions.

Today I deliver my talk at Bett 2015 on righting the wrongs of flipping. Not all the wrongs because there are way too many.

I focus on just three and these are the themes I shared on Twitter before I left Singapore.

    The tweets were a shorter version of what I need to say in less than 15 minutes after a more than 15-hour flight.

  • There is no point in flipping if teachers do not change their mindsets and practices.
  • It is not fair or logical to push kids into a curricular race they are not prepared for or do not need to run AND insist that they sacrifice their own time to keep running in.
  • Requiring learners to consume videos outside of class might just be changing the nature of homework instead of asking if homework is necessary and well-designed in the first place.

If I was allocated more time, we could explore how some teachers make the mistake of equating flipping only with video-based instruction, not focusing on better classroom interactions, or not actually changing anything by not requiring learners to create and teach.

E-ticket for flight to London. Check.

E-reservation for accommodation. Check.

Winter clothing retrieved from storage, washed, and packed. Check.

Psyched and ready to do my bit for the flipped learning movement and enjoy a bit of jolly old England. Check.

Scheduled blog entries to last about a week. Check.

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