I was packed and ready to experience all the amazing things that Bett has to offer – meeting up with colleagues and friends, delivering a keynote, and watching others, and learning in the exhibit hall…when I started to feel feverish. Uh oh. You guessed it: right before I was due to fly out, I came down with COVID-19. The FOMO (Fear of Missing Out, in case anyone’s wondering) kicked in immediately. I would miss out on seeing all the amazing work our team has done, and wouldn’t get to listen and learn about advancements across the industry. But fear not! Friends and colleagues around the world sent texts, emails and pictures to keep me up to date on the amazing things happening at the event. So below is my view of Bett from afar - it was a great event, even living vicariously as I did, and I can’t wait to get to go back next year!
When we announced Learning Accelerators in February at our digital event “Reimagine Education”, we were already looking forward to bringing them to Bett UK and inviting the global education community to try them out in person. Bett is the largest education technology conference in the world, and every year it seems to grow. You’ve probably heard the popular saying, “If you know, you know.” Or “IYKYK” for the social media savvy. Well, if you’ve been to Bett, you know that it’s packed with somewhere around 40 thousand educators, education leaders, and edtech providers, all of whom want to find new and innovative ways to help students get the most out of learning. That’s where Reimagining Education, and the Learning Accelerators come in.
Learning Accelerators are a new category of inclusive tools powered by AI and built into Microsoft 365 for Education. They help to streamline the creation, review, and analysis of practice assignments and provide real-time coaching for students that can help them catch up, keep up, and get ahead, and unlock their full potential.
At Bett, our bustling booth area had a section dedicated to the Learning Accelerators where you could get a hands-on look at them, and for those who wanted more information, there were educator-led sessions in our Microsoft Learn Theatre, and even deeper-dives in our filled-to-capacity Teachers Academy Workshops. Over the course of the conference, thousands of educators stopped by to check them out, and joined the theatre sessions to hear first-hand how teachers are using these tools in the classroom.
Another high point of the week was the keynote in the fabulous Bett Arena. The topic was “Reimagine: Esports, Education, Employability”, and it was presented by several impressive and inspiring people who represented some of the different aspects of the gaming and Esports world. James Fraser-Murison, a teacher and Director of Learning for Esports at Queen Mary’s College, Basingstoke shared his experience of starting the esports program at his school. James brought along three of his students who talked about how they’ve grown and developed skills like confidence, strategic thinking, leadership, and entrepreneurship since joining the esports program. Next, India, a professional esports competitor and member of the Rocket League Women’s Team, reigning Commonwealth champions, stepped up. She talked about how competing and being part of a team has helped her overcome challenges, and develop a strong sense of responsibility. Finally, Apurva, a software engineer on the Minecraft team at Microsoft shared via video how she discovered gaming at a very young age, and now has turned her love of games and storytelling through code into a career! And one of the best parts, they all got their own Minecraft characters!
Speaking of Minecraft, the Minecraft team took over the Esports @ Bett area on Friday, and hosted a fun competition where students raced to build innovative and sustainable solutions for the city of London to combat climate-related issues. It was incredible to see all of the new ideas and energy they brought to the challenge, and truly illustrated the power of engaging young people in activities that stimulate their creativity, increase their empathy, and expose them to the concepts and tools that will help them live productive and fulfilling lives.
Some of the special events and activities that attendees really seemed to appreciate were the Teachers Academy Workshops, where they could get in-depth info about using Learning Accelerators, creating an inclusive classroom with Microsoft Accessibility tools, and fostering well-being with Reflect. Another popular area was the Microsoft Certifications Testing lab, in partnership with Prodigy Learning. Here, teachers could get in some professional development, and take as many Microsoft Certifications Fundamentals exams as they wished.
Ahead by Bett was a special higher education section, designed for the higher education community to gather and tackle challenges that face that sector. Microsoft presented several sessions, including “Bringing the student experience together with Viva Connections for Education.” This was the first time Viva Connections, a powerful experience platform within M365 that brings together many functions and tasks has had functionality for education. The education applications of this tool include enhancing Teams assignments and classes, as well as bringing functions like tuition, payments, profiles, and more together in one platform. Learn more about Viva Connections for education in the Tech Community blog.
All together, the many events and sessions at Bett were an invitation to explore and innovate with tools like the Learning Accelerators, Minecraft Education, and many more. Thank you to the organizers and staff of Bett, and to all of those who visited our Microsoft area, and attended our sessions. I hope you’ve returned to your classrooms and schools with new ideas to make the most of your edtech, and look forward to seeing you all in London next year.