#bett2014

I’m on a delayed train in the middle of the Wiltshire countryside, so what better time to write a blog?

I know what you’re probably thinking. I was supposed to be doing a blog a day for 10 days on different computing apps? I did 5 and then stopped? This is true, but there is a very good reason for that. For the past few days I have been away in London attending and speaking at BETT!

For anyone who hasn’t heard of BETT (and I hadn’t before starting this course) it is basically one of the biggest learning technology conferences in the world. It’s held at the ExCeL Arena in the London Docklands, so that should give an indication to how big an event this is! There are hundreds of stalls for different companies and organisations to can pitch their products and ideas. You can go along and try out their products, collect information and buy discounted items for your school or learning facility. There are talks going on constantly on different stalls, giving advice and demonstrating how their products work, as well as giving the opportunity to try them out right there and then.

There are also talks and speeches going on throughout the day in separate arenas. Some are massive, others a little smaller, called “pods”. The pods can still hold up to 60+ people though, and it was in one of these said pods that I gave my first ever talk as a student!

My university had arranged a slot to talk in the Higher Education Learn Live theatre and asked for volunteers. The subject was on “becoming a digitally literate student.” As soon as we were told in a seminar about this opportunity, I knew it was something I absolutely had to do. It was never an option not to do it. Obviously, the prospect was absolutely terrifying and I had no idea what I would say, or how I would even approach it, but I said yes straight away.

The slot was 45 minutes and our seminar leader felt it would be better to have a few of us speak together. No one else volunteered straight away, and I ended up pretty much forcing two of my course mates into doing it with me (because I’m such a kind hearted friend.) They, like me, were so nervous about the idea and were unsure, but I just said how great an opportunity it would be and they reluctantly agreed at first, but once we started getting into it they became more excited than me!

We only had a few days to prepare really, each writing our own pieces about various social media sites and software we’ve used since becoming students and then piecing them together into a coherent speech later on. Going to BETT was extremely exciting for a Cornish girl like me, because going to London is like a real treat! I have family in London so have visited lots of times, but I’d always gone in the car with my parents and rarely get to go on the train. It’s safe to say I’ve never been to speak at an event like BETT either, so this heightened the excitement!

We travelled up on the Thursday on the train, and despite my concerns about navigating our way across London, the tubes were really easy and we made it to our hotel with no problems. You could tell I was such a West Country girl though…constantly pointing at buildings and signs that were familiar and declaring I knew what they were. I think at one point I may have been quoted as saying “I feel like I’m on The Apprentice!” Despite all the excitement, we were all very nervous, and stayed up until very late Thursday night going over and over our speech.

Friday morning saw us up early again rehearsing our speech and we were soon on the tube on our way to the arena. We were speaking at half 12, so after getting there only had about an hour to wait. We had a little browse of the stalls, but couldn’t properly focus on anything because all we had going round in our heads was the prospect of our speech. When we had a look to see where we would be speaking it all became a bit more real. At around 12 we went to the pod to set up and we were hooked up to microphones. Our pod was filling up with more and more people the closer it came to half 12. I had expected the people who would attend to just drop in as they were passing, but I could see people coming up to the entrance of our pod, with their BETT schedule in hand, checking if they were in the right place and sitting down, like they had actually planned and wanted to come and see us!

Our speech was around the different forms of social media we had started using differently since beginning University. We spoke about Twitter and how much of an impact it can have in terms of networking and creating a professional online presence for yourself. This was reflected in us choosing to add a “hashtag” to our speech so people watching could get involved and ask us any questions or add comment to what we were saying. We also discussed how we’re starting to use Facebook in a professional way, by creating a group for our Digital Literacy cohort, allowing to share and pass on information in an easy and reliable way. I discussed this blog and how it has allowed me to really consolidate my knowledge and share my experiences to a wide audience, and how much I love getting comments and responses from people, whatever the capacity.

I think we all felt a bit shaky at first but we soon got into the swing of things, and time went really fast! It was the best run through we had done so we were really pleased. By the end we had some questions to answer from people in the audience who had used our hashtag. I was so happy that people had chosen to engage with our talk and seemed to have enjoyed it; we had a tweet from someone saying it was the best talk they had been to since being at BETT, which was lovely to hear!

After our talk we had people coming up to us to ask questions, ask our opinion on new apps they were creating and generally just chat about what we’d said. We were even approached by someone who wanted us to speak at an event he was holding and for us that was a massive compliment. Hopefully that will be something that develops because I think I could quite easily get the “speaking” bug!

After spending a while basking in the glow of our achievement we spent the rest of the day browsing the exhibits. Some particular stand outs had to be the 3D printing which I really cannot get my head around, and listening to Doug Belshaw speak about digital literacy. We use his work so much in our seminars, so to go and see him was really exciting. After popping back to the hotel for some dinner we returned in the evening to attend the TeachMeet, which was the largest in the world with over 650 people there! It was great to collect some ideas I could potentially use in the classroom and I’ll be exploring them once I get home to Wifi!

And now, only the day after, I’m on the train coming home. It was absolutely incredible to go to BETT, let alone speak at it! I feel very proud of our achievements and hopefully will be able to do it again!

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