The off-exhibition events for London's BETT Week have quickly taken shape, and those who like their learning spiced with participation and fun should quickly sign up to whichever of the four educator-moderated evening events that takes their fancy.
The week kicks off early on the Sunday night (January 9) at the Learning Without Frontiers TeachMeet at The Brewery. Over at Olympia on the Wednesday (January 12) there's a repeat of last year's popular TEDxOrenda, from Drew Buddie and friends, while Thursday brings fresh innovation at Collabor8 4 Change, where ICT leaders – including Lord Jim Knight – will demonstrate what works, and how, before the classic, rousing Friday TeachMeet organised by Ian Usher and Ian Addison.
Learning Without Frontiers, at The Brewery, alongside London's Barbican, might be a new event but it has a considerable following from its previous iterations as Handheld Learning and Games-based Learning, both of which have been integrated into the new offering. So expect its TeachMeet to be a lively affair, particularly if the festive spirits linger and its participants turn up in fancy dress as the organisers have suggested.
This is what it says on the VITAL site: "This is a fancy dress event! Although there is no obligation to attend the event in fancy dress, it would be great to have the world's first fancy dress teachmeet. So do please try – even if it is only to wear a hat!"
TEDx Orenda , organised by Drew Buddie, will build on its successful debut at BETT 2010 with a beguiling range of contributors led by tech-friendly MP Tom Watson on the Wednesday night (January 12) at Olympia. Other speakers include the doyen of technology journalists Jack Schofield, who will be sharing the insights he has culled over a 25-year career, innovator Alex Fleetwood, inventor of the Boardgame Remix Kit that is breathing new life into favourite board games and has attracted more than 5,000 downloads a day, and Sydney Padua, who, in her 2D Goggles comic strips, reinvented Ada Lovelace as an engaging graphic novel celebrating the birth of Brit geekdom. Check here for tickets.
Collabor8 4 Change keeps its focus on change and 'what works'
ICT might appear to be absent from the Coalition Government's agenda and its White Paper, but Havering ICT consultant Dave Smith, one of the Collabor8 4 Change organisers, says: "We are looking forward to an excellent evening of collaboration that will provide ample evidence of the impact of ICT. Let's make it a full-house and show that ICT truly is having impact.
"We have an opportunity for ICT leaders and teachers to work together and enjoy themselves, with insights (non-commercial) from some of the people who provide the ICT tools and services they make such good use of in classrooms."
Lord Knight: 'don't frighten the horses'
Lord Jim Knight has already signed up for the event and he shared his concerns about the future of ICT for learning in an online interview with Russell Prue. Interestingly, he warns about over-reaction – "frightening the horses" as he tactfully puts it – and calls for close attention to the current government agenda.
The purpose of Collabor8 4 Change is to provide an opportunity to share effective ICT practice, and to demonstrate the impact of ICT investment on teaching and learning at a time when this is being questioned. Organisers want to keep the pace snappy with five sessions of 20-minute table-based presentations on offer throughout the evening, Each session will have up to 15 tables to choose from at any one time, offering a wide choice of topics for participants to choose from.
There will also be 10-minute ‘mininotes' presentations from ICT leaders like Hannah Jones, the former National College special projects director whose brief included BSF and PCP leadership programmes and the Strategic Leadership of ICT (SLICT) scheme, BSF headteacher Steve Gater, from Walker Technology College, Newcastle, as well as Steve Bunce, ICT CPD leader with VITAL and e-learning and games consultant at Northumberland County Council. And one of ICT's most forthright presenters and tweeters, Bob Harrison, will be running through an updated and extended edition of his challenging and funny 21st Century Learning Quiz.
BETT Week rounds off with classic TeachMeet
The week's TeachMeet events conclude with the classic Friday night BETT TeachMeet, again in the Apex Room, and like the other BETT events it is using Eventbrite as a user-friendly way to organise the free tickets. (The Eventbrite page for TeachMeet@BETT2011 is here.) This is the regular format where presenters get seven minutes and any dallying can prompt the flying camel (a fluffy one!) as an inducement to wrap up.
Visit the wiki page to see who is on the list for presentations and you'll see a range of excellent educators you may have already come across on Twitter – like Bev Evans, Kevin McLaughlin, Ian Addison, and Jan Webb (follow them if you don't already) – addressing a range of issues from "'Pump up the lesson' Using sound and music in teaching and learning" and "Tools that support collaboration" to "Fun with sound: using Audacity in the classroom" and "Engaging Girls in Technology", and even "Getting the Prime Minister to take notice"!
There's also more about it on the blog of one of the organisers, Ian Usher, at Changing the Game? The event promises, like all the other TeachMeets, to be a lively, creative and unpredictable evening. One thing is certain – it's a great place to learn, not just for teachers but anyone else interested in teaching and learning.
And if that's not enough, it's worth keeping an eye on TeachMeet Takeover. This is where altruistic companies give space on their stands to educators giving presentations of free software and online services for other teachers. It came to life in 2010 and looks like growing in 2011. Presenters to look out for include Tom Barrett (see video below), Bev Evans and Dan Roberts and you can check out the full list – and volunteer – on the TeachMeet Takeover wiki.
Finally, there's another new event for BETT week, unfortunately pitched alongside the event itself. Be Bettr takes place at Holborn's Conway Hall on the Friday (January 14) and bills itself as a "conference about hacking education". Organised by Matt Jukes, it is inspired by events like Playful and FOTE and registration is £20. The intention is to bridge spaces between learning and start-up organisations. Speakers include Paul Miller (School of Everything), Mohit Midha (MangaHigh) and Edward Upton (Teachable.net).
BETT 2011, January 12-15