The exciting event in the world of education and EdTech, the Bett London 2024 conference, has just concluded. This event was organised to the highest standards and on a grand scale. It is not without reason that Bett is the most significant event of its kind in Europe and one of the most important globally for the education industry. It connects the community for education technology, presents top notch EdTech Tools.
It is the best opportunity to meet the European EdTech community in a year.
What caught my attention the most at Bett Global
Here are a few interesting points that I took special note of:
As expected, the conference was dominated by artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications, although the uses are generally "generic" and rarely revolutionary. Companies presented countless online tools that is poised to shape the future of learning.
There is a global shortage of approximately 44 million teachers, with some areas having 77 students per teacher. Making it challenging to get the student engagement in the learning process. We are talking about physical classroom, but that would be difficult even in a virtual classroom.
There is a significant focus on the fact that AI can be a game-changing tool for teachers, simply by freeing up some of their time. This, in turn, allows them to: dedicate time to personal development and learning new things, provide one-on-one support to students, or teach more of them without compromising on quality. This could be a very interesting effect of introducing AI tools for students.
Education for people up to 18 years old is (physically) back to school. On the other hand remote learning has dominated higher education and is clearly the future for adults learning and a key to lifelong learning.
From my perspective the best (and the most of) cutting-edge EdTech content is coming from big technological corporations like Microsoft, Google, Meta, etc. Seeing those big players in the education and skills world may be more significant than you think. They have budgets with which they can of course outpace any small company, but I believe that their focus on education proves how important and well-recognised are the challenges that education is facing today. This means that the post covid inflow of money was not the end, and rather a beginning. Bringing hope for significant new funding in the next 2 years. I still believe that the best new solutions will be coming from a innovation communities and them be adopted by the corporations (as you need piles of money for scaling).
In addition, I had the opportunity to see many very modern educational solutions - mainly for K-12 education, with not many aimed at higher education (which is my personal area of interest).
It was my first time trying an augmented reality solution from Meta in practice, and it's truly impressive. It certainly has enormous potential, but I also see that the Metaverse will not dominate our public space… just yet. Interestingly, there were surprisingly many AR and VR vendors, with no one seeming to have a decisive edge or a distinct and distinguished unique value proposition (UVP). It won't be a silver bullet solution for remote learning, as currently you cannot spend a long time in this kind of headset without getting dizzy. You have to take them off after like 15 minutes time. However it surely enriches an educational experience and can be a strong help in learning all the physical activities like e.g. performing an open heart surgery for the first time.
Generative AI seems to be mostly used as:
a support in lesson planning (lesson plan relevant and derived from your country's curriculum)
creating new content for lessons (like personalised quizzes or AI-generated images stimulus)
assessing learning outcomes (formative assessment tools)
Numerous programming and robotics learning solutions, including programmable robots and cutting machines - a great way for more interactive lessons. I don't believe though that such interactive elements change the lives of teachers nor students.
A few motion tracking solutions - I don't quite understand who would use this in education. I get that it can enrich a classroom experience, but is it worth the expense?
A substantial area dedicated to e-sports - it is clearly a wonderful idea to combine fun with education. I guess it is the best learning experiences you can get, hope to see this trend strengthens.
What might also be interesting is what I didn't see:
Very few solutions were tailored for higher education, and even fewer address the management problems at universities. This confirms the need for AGH DSI.Portal in my view. If you are feeling similar I encourage you to read the article about this university management tool on our blog.
Many educational issues boil down to the teacher deficit or low-quality of teaching (burnout, tiredness, etc.). In order to solve this, teachers need to be better compensated, not just given more gadgets for the classroom - this issue seems to be overlooked.
No one seems to care a lot about the fact that not so many schools and students are able to afford such innovative tools, thus I look at them rather as a gadgets than real game-changers.
I did not detect teachers' fear of artificial intelligence or concern that students would use it to cheat; I see no desire to ban ChatGPT, which I kind of anticipated. Instead they are open to experiment and teach how to harness it to our best.
Teachers I have spoke with view ChatGPT simply as a new tool that can help them in their work, in becoming a better mentor. Once again, I am convinced that teaching is a great profession requiring immense passion and commitment. Wonderful people.
The TableTalks format is a brilliant idea. A few people receive a topic to discuss and sit together at a round table to share experiences.
Participating in two such discussions, I had the opportunity to discuss about:
Going green: what are the main challenges schools face when trying to meet carbon goals? (Sustainable Development Goals - SDGs)
How will generative AI shape the future of assessment in Further and Higher Education?
During the TableTalks discussions, it became apparent that schools face numerous challenges when trying to meet their carbon goals. From limited budgets to lack of awareness and infrastructure, going green remains a complex task. It is clear that many schools have this on their roadmap, however they don't have clear vision nor guidance on how to become carbon-zero until 2050. It seems that it is not technology in education that will help to achieve reduction in emission in education sector. It will rather be a knowledge and consciousness that we will induce in the future generations that will be transforming the world.
As for the future of assessment in further and Higher Education, generative AI is expected to play a significant role. The potential for AI-powered assessment tools to provide personalised and efficient evaluation methods is promising, but considerations around ethics and bias will need to be addressed. Universities are experimenting with various way of using AI for formative assessment, but again without a single, concrete consensus on how to use it best. They are used to be using methods that are science or evidence based... and this nothing but uncertainty. Nonetheless, they are brave and one of the most progressive in their experiments among all schooling levels.
I suppose that one can assume that rather sooner than later universities will come out with a comprehensive framework or research results on the best ways to use ChatGPT in education and assessment.
Prompt engineering - serious change on the job market
There was also a very strong conclusion among my conversers during Bett London 2024 - the concept of prompt engineering and AI's potential impact on the job market.
We all agreed that one of the educations tasks is to prepare future generations for the job market of the future - and it the dawn of the generative AI it is obvious that it is creating a new job titles. One of these will probably be a prompt engineer.
However, we had a problem defining what such person should exactly do. Prompt engineering refers to the process of crafting specific instructions or prompts for AI models to generate desired outputs. And it is easier said than done.
Especially because results of the artificial intelligence models are non-deterministic - meaning that the answear that models gives may differ between runs. As this may be a feature - for example when you are looking for a creative help overcoming you writers block - it becomes a serious obstacle when you are try to design a tool to assists in medical reasoning...
And the icing on cake
On the last day of my visit to the United Kingdom, I also had an interesting conversation with representatives of the Polish GovTech agency and EdTech Poland association about the development of Polish products for higher education and how we can collectively influence their evolution.
I look forward to the year 2024 with great interest - we face exciting challenges.
Overall, my experience at Bett Global in 2024 was enlightening. It was clear that artificial intelligence (AI) was the focal point of the conference, with discussions centred around its potential applications in education. The shortage of teachers globally was also highlighted, underscoring the importance of AI as a support tool for educators. The event showcased various educational technology tools, such as augmented reality and robotics learning, yet there were missed opportunities in addressing higher education and the challenges faced by universities. Nonetheless, the future of education looks promising with the continuous evolution of technology.
I feel empowered being a part of this revolution. Everyone agrees that AI is a revolution similar to when Internet was popularised and that it is here to stay. Artificial Intelligence will pervade every aspect of our live, thus it is so important to education our population about how to harness it.