BETT 2023 – Highlights from the CENMAC team
Making learning personal at BETT 2023!
The BETT show is an annual event showcasing the lastest advances and innovations in education technology. It’s a great opportunity for the CENMAC team to see what’s new and how these new technologies can help the children and young people that we support get access to the curriculum and communicate. Here are our team highlights!
Mary Long, Deputy Team Leader
I had a wonderful time at this year’s BETT exhibition, exploring all the stands, attending some interesting and thought-provoking talks and talking to some of the exhibitors who will also be at our event Communication Works in May. BETT seems to have grown again this year, with an overwhelming number of companies and attendees, and at times it was difficult to navigate, with a slightly panicked feeling that I would not get to see everything on offer. However, I made sure that I planned in advance the talks and stands that were my must-visits, so that I had a clear idea of what to see.
Google’s Future of Education Research
Amongst my highlights from the day was a talk from John Solomon (VP Chrome OS and Education) and Andria Zafirakou MBE (Art Teacher and CEO of Artists in Residence) who shared key trends from Google’s Future of Education research. One significant take-away from their presentation was to ‘make learning personal’ – something which we at CENMAC strive to do for all our learners.
Neurodivergent minds with Ayo Sokale
I also particularly enjoyed the talk from Ayo Sokale (Civil Engineer and Broadcaster) on neurodivergent minds and how a neurodiverse population will be key to solving future challenges and addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. If you haven’t heard Ayo talk before, I would highly recommend – she is an inspiring member of the autistic community.
Writing to cope with life’s ups and downs
My final highlight was hearing author Michael Rosen speak on the topic of using writing to cope with life’s ups and downs. Michael put forward that writing can help everyone to deal with hurt, despair, joy or anger and that there is a particular style of writing that helps children (and adults) to process such emotions, without actually using the words to describe the emotions. He talked about describing a scene in detail without using characters or feelings, simply describing what was happening to something. For ideas on how to support children with doing this, take a look at Rosen’s book ‘Writing to Feel Right’.
James Dewar-Hassan, Specialist Teaching Assistant
My first BETT!
As I am very much a BETT novice, my first ever experience at this convention was enjoyable and intriguing to me for a whole host of reasons. Initially, I was struck by the sheer scale of it. I had formed some idea as to how big it would be, knowing that it was taking place at the ExCeL centre. What really struck me was the number of teachers flooding in and out of the venue. This was expected, but still, the volume of both British and international teachers bustling around the place was overwhelming. There are a lot of teachers and this is a good thing!
Microsoft’s no-cost Learning Accelerators
I started at the Microsoft Learn Educator Theatre for a talk called ‘Keep up, catch up and get ahead: Introducing no-cost Learning Accelerators’. The speaker, Samantha Fisher, worked through each cost-free feature, that has, and will be installed into Microsoft 365 devices including Reading Coach, Immersive Reader and Search Coach, that support the learning and development of children and young people. Some of these features we already utilise with our CENMAC students, and some new features such as the Math Coach, will be making their way to all Microsoft systems soon!
So many exhibitors to see and products to sample
After this talk, my colleague Mary Long and I made our way around the venue, speaking with companies and sampling their products. In the photo, I can be seen trialling interactive games on the iSportswall, delivered through a projector, which uses a ball to encourage primary level students to engage in a range of topics in fun way.
Writing to feel right
We then went to a talk delivered by the poet and author, Michael Rosen. Michael spoke openly and honestly about the grief and trauma that he has faced during his life. He used this to explain why it’s important to encourage children to write proactively about their feelings. The methods he spoke about can be found in his new book ‘Writing to Feel Right’. After the talk, we managed to get a photo with Mr Rosen!
After more wondering around, and pocketing various bits of paraphernalia, I called it a day. It was a very fun and interesting experience. I was able to pick up lots of useful information, and discover lots of brilliant companies. A novice no more!
Maureen De Longhi, Advisory Teacher
Microsoft Accessibility – PowerPoint Live Presentations
A busy day at BETT – so much to see in a day! I spent some at the Microsoft stand talking to them about new accessibility features. I found out that PowerPoint has a new feature called Live Presentations, which provides real-time captions and translations during a presentation. This can be especially helpful for audiences who speak different languages or who have hearing impairments. I can think of a number of schools who will find this useful.
Also, I discussed with one of the developers how their dictation tools are brilliant but require an internet connection, therefore making it inadmissible in exams. She said they are looking at creating an offline dictation tool with similar accuracy rates than cloud-based tool. That would be a really useful tool for so many of my students!
Wayne McCullough, Advisory Teacher
Some of my highlights included seeing the new OrCam Learn pen which includes features such as Reading Pal and the quiz features to support comprehension skills. The cloud-based app provides helpful and useful analytics about the individuals needs and what support is needed. The pen is also easier to use which can help support many users.
It was interesting to see Magma Math which makes math digital. Students are able to insert/draw mathematical shapes and write equations in a digital format helping to make it more accessible. Students can clearly present their work within the app and receive instant feedback and teachers can identify if students need extra support or consolidation.
Victoria Annan, Advisory Teacher
It was my first time attending BETT with my colleagues. I spent the majority of my time in the ‘Teaching and Learning Tech’ zone and visited a variety of different stands including; Scuolab, Amazing Interactives, Magma Math, Codable, Hey Kanga, LGfL and many more.
I loved the iSportsWall at Amazing Interactives and thought it was a really engaging way to get pupils into learning. You could answer questions linked to learning in maths, literacy, phonics, science, history and geography. We discussed how it could be made accessible for pupils with a physical disability.
Finding out more about OrCam Learn
We also met with Lauren from OrCam who showed us the incredible new OrCam Learn. Some of the fantastic features included Reading Pal where a pupil can improve their reading fluency by reading any text to OrCam and receiving immediate feedback about it, and an online portal which enables parents and educators to gain insight on a pupils’ progress. The OrCam Learn also uses AI to generate comprehension questions linked to a text that has just been read by a pupil. The OrCam Learn has been developed to support students with learning challenges such as dyslexia. This would be a really useful tool for many pupils.
I also got to meet a pretty cool robot companion called the Unitree Go1.
My colleague Maureen also got stuck in to dance and exercises with Tanzu TV at the LGfL stand. That was definitely an entertaining part of my day!
Missing BETT? Come to Communication Works!
CENMAC’s annual event Communication Works is taking place again at the Charlton Athletic Football Club on Thursday 18th May 2023. If you missed BETT or it gave you a taste to learn more about assistive technology in education, then this is a great opportunity to see some of the assistive technologies in action. You will get to see some of our CENMAC students demonstrate how these technologies help them to access the curriculum and/or to communicate alongside our team of Advisory teachers, Speech and Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists and specialist product managers.