A few weeks ago (March 23-25), members of the Microsoft Education team took our first trip as a group in over two years, to Bett UK, the largest education conference in the world. After such a long time away from the energy and excitement of seeing colleagues, partners, and educators gathering to connect and share information, it was an incredible feeling to be together in person at the massive ExCeL center in London once more.  

There were differences, to be sure. Due to ongoing safety considerations, our team’s numbers were significantly smaller than in past years. But those in person, along with the support of many others back home worked together to present demos, keynotes, trainings, and dozens of meetings. The education community came out in large numbers as well: Bett management reports that 22,600 people attended over the course of the three days and that 30 percent of the audience were educator leaders, one of the highest representations of leaders ever at a Bett event.  

The overall theme of our content and events was focused on supporting educators in their efforts to drive equity and accelerate learning. Our many representatives and presenters shared these messages in a variety of ways from the keynote address, “What’s now, what’s next,” that packed the Bett Arena, to sixteen different sessions across eight Bett Theatres covering topics designed for teachers, education leaders, and IT professionals. These sessions were primarily presented by educators who shared real-world case studies and examples of using Microsoft Education products in their classrooms. Audience favorite topics included “Elevate your digital transformation and build community by collaborating with Microsoft,” “Learning from what works: How Microsoft Showcase Schools are preparing students for tomorrow,” and “Fostering well-being and engagement with Microsoft education solutions.“ 

Our booth was a bustling hub of activity, with opportunities to get hands-on experience with Minecraft: Education Edition, MakeCode, and the newest devices for learning. Our teams guided thousands of people through the features of our new and updated literacy tools, Reading Coach and Reading Progress, shared tips and insights for making the most of Windows 11 and Windows 11 SE for education, and introduced educators to some of the incredible professional development opportunities in the Microsoft Learn Educator Center

Higher education was represented with “Ahead," a space dedicated to higher education. Microsoft Education presented a keynote “Accelerating learning to help all learners engage, keep up, and get ahead,” and hosted several other opportunities for higher education leaders to connect, learn, and network. 

Esports was a big draw this year as well, and our Minecraft takeover tournament generated a standing-room-only crowd. And speaking of esports, I was honored to be asked to take part in a panel discussion, “Esports, the vehicle to develop future-ready skills” with some of the UK’s best-known esports personalities. It was an excellent way to introduce more educators to the promise of engaging learners with games that build skills.  

These are only a few examples of the types of experiences presented at Bett: there were also opportunities for teachers to get certified in different areas by Prodigy Learning, face-to-face meetings with school customers and product partners, and more demonstrations of devices and learning tools than you can count. 

After two years (and a postponement of 2 months), without an in-person Bett, the energy in the exhibition hall felt even more electric and the people felt even friendlier than in years past. Perhaps that’s partly because we all have been craving the opportunity to gather and connect, but it’s also because, after the challenges of those past years, the community of teachers, education leaders, and education technology providers shares a single-minded focus: to provide each learner with what they need to reach their academic and social potential inside and outside the classroom.  

To everyone who worked with us to make this event possible, and to all of the visitors who stopped by our booth and attended our sessions, a huge “THANK YOU!!” Your commitment to students and to the education industry is inspiring. I can’t wait to see you all again next year, mark your calendars for March 29-31, 2023!