Reflecting on Bett UK 2023 – and some of the education trends I spotted
This year, I was pleased to join my first ever Bett (The biggest Education Technology exhibition in the world) in my new role at International Schools Partnership (ISP). It was great timing, just a few weeks into the role, when I still have a lot to understand but plenty of space and time to think about what I can be doing to make the greatest impact. What BETTer setting than three days and about 25 exhibition halls full of innovation and inspiration to keep the wheels turning?
I’m no good at maths, but I reckon with the amount of content on offer, every attendee could have a completely different Bett experience and have hugely varying takeaways.
For me, these were the top themes from the sessions and discussions I participated in:
Personalised is key
Gone are the days of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to learning, as has been much discussed over the past few years. I saw crossovers in sessions relating to accessibility, equity and inclusion, and neurodiversity about how changing mindsets and new technologies can make learning experiences better for everyone.
Customising the learning experience, inclusion by design, always-on accessibility and ensuring a top experience for all from the beginning came through for me as recurrent themes. Dr Louise Karwowski, Cognassist, shared one finding at a session on leading a DEI strategy at scale, ‘we are all cognitively unique. The way we talk and accommodate each other needs to be different for all’.
As someone who bangs the accessibility drum at every opportunity, it was refreshing to see this focus across many sessions, and it was encouraging to see some accessible features incorporated into the event, such as the option to access live captions. As discussed in a session with Hector Minto, Microsoft; Annamarie Hassall MBE, Nasen; and Dr. Stella Scharinger, The Stour Academy Trust, I too hope we can get to a place where accessibility tools are de-stigmatised and learning experiences are designed with accessibility and inclusion in mind.
At International Schools Partnership, I see commitment to personalised learning by putting learners and their learning first. I’m keen to dive deeper into how this helps break down barriers for students.
Wellbeing before everything
From teacher recruitment and retention to the purpose of education as a whole, wellbeing seemed to be the kick-off point for many discussions.
In a session on recruitment, retention and staff wellbeing at international schools, the latest TES School Wellbeing Report (UK) was referenced which found that ‘a good work-life balance and manageable workload was the most important consideration in current and prospective roles.’
As Cat Scutt, Chartered College of Teaching, said in a session around professional culture for teachers, wouldn’t we rather keep teachers in the profession for longer working fewer hours and being supported, rather than having a teacher work around the clock then leave teaching for good after a couple of years due to being burned out? This is especially pertinent given the estimates drawn up by UNESCO that worldwide, 69 million teachers are needed to reach universal basic education by 2030.
This raises the question – without teachers looking after themselves and being looked after, how can they think about supporting students? It’s a case of putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs also got a few shout outs in different sessions. If teachers’ and students’ basic needs around food, sleep, security and safety aren’t being met, how can they be expected to be confident and find their purpose?
The purpose and shelf-life of education is changing
This one came up a few times – most evidently in a session about the OECD Human Flourishing Project, where Michael Stevenson, OECD, said it was time to reconsider the purpose of learning, especially in light of emerging technology. How can humans find their place in the world through learning? What won’t be done by robots in the future? These were some of the questions Michael posed, drawing on areas such as ethics, decision-making and problem-solving as some of the spaces we can focus our efforts. One thing that stuck with me is the reframing of teaching as not handing on the knowledge of the past but building students up for the future.
Similar themes arose in a session about K-12 careers education where Liv Pennie, BECOME Education Australia, talked about student success and students ‘putting their own ‘why’ into what they’re learning’. In a session on neurodiverse minds: the key to the future and UN SDGs, Ayo Sokale, Civil Engineer and Broadcaster, echoed this sentiment on purpose sharing the quote ‘if you know why you can live any how’ (Friedrich Nietzsche).
The life-long learning piece came through strongly too – with Tom Hall, LEGO, sharing how the LEGO Learning System ‘future-proof[s] students’ skills to make them confident, life-long learners’. Attendees also heard and saw in real time how Esports develop students’ skills for life. From students at Queen Mary’s College sharing their first-hand experience of how participating in Esports has benefitted them, to seeing students from Wycliffe College build their visions of sustainable solutions for a city using Minecraft Education.
This all brought home to me that education is no longer about preparing a generation for the world of work. That is still part of it, and for many people it may remain that way. But is the purpose of education changing, to build skills for life and empower students to find their purpose in the world? Is it more about building a society that is ready to address the world’s challenges?
With my background in student mobility, I’m delighted to be working with colleagues on ISP’s International Learning Opportunities for Students programmes which help ISP students develop skills for life.
I’ll leave you with one final quote that Tom Hall from LEGO shared from a Forbes article ‘education will need to support children to develop the skillset and mindset to do anything in their future rather than a particular “something.”
Danielle is Global Communication and Content Manager at International Schools Partnership
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