Introduction of the ‘FE & Skills Zone’ at the BETT 2016 Jan16 Paul Warren

The introduction of the ‘FE & Skills Zone’ at the BETT 2016 Technology Show enticed me to make the trip to the London exhibition after an absence of a number of years. I remember going to BETT over two consecutive years during my teacher training back in 2006/7 and thinking how little representation for, and from, the FE sector there was. I was delighted, then, to return in 2016 to find that FE was well represented on all four days by a range of speakers and presentations. I attended on the Thursday (January, 21) – here’s a summary of the highlights of my day.

Deb Millar from Blackburn College presented an excellent overview of her highly innovative Learning Wheel.  Deb explained how the Learning Wheel supports Teaching and Learning by using a Google Doc to collaboratively crowdsource a range of pedagogic ideas for a specific topic or subject area. The ideas are then collated and arranged in a highly visual ‘wheel’.  The result is a tangible resource which adds to the body of knowledge for that subject area. Collaborators are referenced for their contribution and have the opportunity to get involved in the creation of further wheels. Deb showcased the ease by which a Learning Wheel can be created by inviting attendees to participate in a “live” BETT 2016 wheel in which delegates shared their knowledge about how they use technology to engage learners. Here’s the result:

debmiller mindmap


Stewart Segal from the Association of Employers and Learning Providers (AELP) discussed the importance of training providers building effective employer engagement by seeking opportunities to create strong links and greater collaboration. Stewart highlighted the need to ensure that learners develop the relevant knowledge and skills which are essential to enable them to join the thriving digital workforce.



Ash Merchant and Danny Arati from Fujitsu shared how their Education Ambassadors have been helping young people to succeed by supporting students in FE institutions to exceed expectations in a new era of challenges. They emphasised how Fujitsu’s passion for Education can help people to become empowered to achieve what they want to achieve by means of using technology. Learning with technology was cited as a catalyst for helping learners to develop creativity and attempt projects which they may have previously lacked the confidence to achieve.

Scott Hayden from Basingstoke College of Technology gave a superb presentation on using social media to engage students in teaching and learning.  Entitled ‘The 10 Commandments of Using Social Media’, Scott shared his innovative and creative ideas with a packed room of enthusiastic attendees who were interested in hearing about ways in which to make the best use of this modern phenomenon. View Scott’s presentation here.


Regular Times Educational Supplement (TES) contributor Sarah Simons gave a lively and endearing introduction to the wonderful community that is #UKFECHAT. The community is made up of a Twitter group of FE people who meet online to share good practice and experiences about a wide range of topics which affect the FE sector. They also organise social events, teach meets and have an annual conference which brings together professionals from across FE. You can get involved with the power of community and connect with them every Thursday evening between 2100 and 2200. If you’re shy or not sure how to get involved, drop me a line and I’ll lend you a hand!


Although not an officially listed presenter for the Thursday programme, it was great to see FELTAG member Bob Harrison supporting the day’s proceedings, offering his usual blend of informative comments and personal experience.


The day concluded with a panel made up of regular #UKFECHAT contributors (right to left: Patrice Miller, Nicky Hawkins, Carolyn O’Connor and David Patterson) leading a discussion about staying motivated amidst the various challenges that FE staff face in everyday working life such as dealing with learners who are disengaged, managing workloads and navigating the ever-changing FE policy landscape. It was both refreshing and motivating to hear the panel and the audience talk about the value of a positive mindset and share the love they have for the sector and the work they do.


All in all, an excellent day which was well worth making the trip to London for. Interestingly, it wasn’t the focus on technology that struck the strongest chord with me. I think that my main learning point and greatest area of enjoyment came from seeing FE get both a “home” and a focus in the exhibition that enabled it to showcase some of the great work that is being done across the sector. I look forward to seeing this become a growing feature of future exhibitions.


James Kieft

I started working in Further Education in 1996, initially teaching photography and graphic design, I have taught across a range of different levels from entry level to up to degree level and have always used technology as an integral part of my delivery. In 2011, I took on the role of Learning Technology Manager, where I oversaw the move away from a traditional VLE to using Google plus communities, Google sites and other web ­based apps, which I promote via my blog. I was joint runner ­up in the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award in September 2014. In December 2015 took on the role of Group Learning and Development Manager at Activate Learning.

One comment

  1. Wonderful writeup Paul.

    Like you I had a break from attending BETT … even though it was less than 10 minutes walk from where I worked I stopped going in 1994 – it was when Windows for Workgroups came out – I had the T-shirt until a few years ago when I used it as a rag with some plumbing I was doing. I went to BETT 2013 and 2014 to present on the Google stand but decided not to bother going again.

    My reasons for not going to BETT is that there was nothing it told me I already knew or could find from the trade during the year or on-line at any time. I came to despise BETT as the worst case big industry solutionism. As an IT manager I used to dread the week after when teachers had been to BETT and then would put their requests in for the latest “shiny” thing that would solve all their problems.

    In 2013 the show next to BETT was some form of gambling machine show – it was full of one arm bandits – I took a photo of this and added it to my presentation at BETT .. along with a slide showing cows being milked … I though these two images perfectly represented BETT.

    LOL – last year I thought of putting on an anti-BETT show – a colleague (Miles Metcalf) named it BETTA … we were thinking of an unconference .. we had also thought about trying to set up a sort of BETT fringe event 🙂

    Now ….. I think these trade shows (lets remember that BETT is a trade show) are changing – after decades of solutionism (where they present the solution and we buy it) are changing – this is the case with IT trade shows as well. 15 years on from Web 2,0 and a decade on from social media these shows (and education) are starting to appreciate that providing a platform for interaction is a better way to operate – just like so much on the Net at the moment as well – platforms are hot.

    Thank you for your post about BETT and the FE & Skills Zone – while I didn’t go to BETT I’ve read a few accounts of it and I think yours is the best so far – from what you say it seems like BETT will hopefully become more interactive in the future …. and therefore more interesting and useful.

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