BectaX: the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?

Attending BectaX gave me a bit of a buzz. It was a privelege to be invited. (Thank You @tombarrett)

The agenda was to see where we need to go next to advance the use of ICT in education.

Professor Xavier took this! Click to see more.

Speakers were lined up from education, media and industry. Lots of movers and shakers present. Creative explosions were the order of the day. ‘Where might this merry dance lead us?’ I w[o]ndered lonely as a cloud (great pun? probably not) …

I have discussed the issues raised at BectaX with FutureLabs, the TDA, NAACE, the DCSF, the SSAT and more – I have thoroughly enjoyed these conversations. The conclusions were more-or-less the same: generate some kind of portal of teaching practice, the number one destination for all teachers looking for inspiration and answers. By teachers, for teachers.

A common response to such a proposal (from those more in the know than I am)  is that it has happened before with the decommissioned NGFL (, which now re-directs you to Becta Schools ( Part of the NGFL was the National Strategies. I thought these were marvellous. As an ICT teacher I was invited to work with other ICT teachers – a revolution as I started to work with teachers of my subject and I was provided with resources that had been tested and improved in the classroom and I was free to adapt them. Yippee-eye-ay! Genuinely very good. Other than that I have recollections of NGFL talking about digital brain and dragging broadband into schools and receiving credits for software. I have been in the private sector for four years and therefore lost touch with current progress on this front. I am aware of RBCs and various Grids for Learning around the country but I am not really sure what they do.

From here (national strategy stuff delivered at my local CLC) I went to FutureLab and  Moodle which took me to MirandaMod who introduced me to twitter and from there EdTechRoundUp, then TeachMeet and from there the world. There are a lot of people I have to thank so I won’t name them – suffice to say I can pinpoint five or six people whose responses to my online exploration were very very important to me. I hope they know who they are.

I share this because this is my hub of all things teaching.
Is that what BectaX was asking for? The big key that unlocked my door was building this network of educators. I forged this. I said the right thing at the right time that got me sufficient attention to keep me moving forwards – like a frontiersman racing for the land near the creek on which to stake my claim – it was mine.

If BECTA puts together a hub it will be great for some people. I need something teachers can go to and find inspiration, true enough, but they have to be able to find it easily. But, having said that, I love my network and it was not easy to build.

What I would like from BectaX?

At the end of the day I hogged the mic and said it was important that:

1. Becta produced documents that outlined the importance of open internet filtering in schools. Get rid of the porn and other stuff that offends a classroom but do not ban blogs just because they have some indecent images on them. Let the teacher and the Pupil Acceptable Use Policy handle this.

2. Petition OFSTED to make this benchmark a requirement for being an outstanding school. This way Headteachers and LAs will have to pay attention and it won’t be little old me fighting to take the risk.

3. Write a document that insists software should only be locked on a network if it is essential to the health of that network. By this I mean internet browsers. If I cannot use my plug-ins to bookmark and retrieve and search and access my tools then I am unproductive. Why is this any different to the kids. I do not need an expensive single sign-on system. I need to be able to customize my browser. The question for me is what is the best way to do this on shared computers? Roaming desktop? Virtualised desktop? I’m not in the know about this.

BectaX was fun. It is always great to meet up with the people I work with online because I am genuinely very fond of them. I hope some constructive work ensues that builds on BECTA’s already impressive collection (VLEs, technicians, leadership). I have used some of these and they are very helpful to any school. This is where the value of BECTA lies in my opinion. BECTA could, however, develop into something more (funds allowing).

My apologies for heckling Tom Barrett via twitter – imagine having everyone in the room check to see if your flies are down???

BectaX: the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?

13 thoughts on “BectaX: the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?

  1. Good summary Dai and fair points about Becta…there will be a massive void without them if they get chopped.

    I enjoyed Bectax but am not sure that it was £150K well spent?

    When all the noise and froth dies down what will be impact/legacy?

    What does Becta know now it did not know before Bectax?

  2. I have a solution, though potentially time consuming.

    If you’re looking to customise a browser and firefox is acceptable:

    1. Buy lots of low-cost, low memory* USB sticks. (Bulk purchase 😀 )
    2.x (I’ve DM’d you this on twitter as it deals with audit of sticks ).
    2.1 Label these and have a sign in/sign out system.
    3. Firefox portable 🙂

    * memory should be sufficient to hold firefox + plugins + temporary data if required.

    Students check their browser USB stick in/out at the start/end of each session. They customise their browser!

  3. In support Dai – there were aspects of the day I applauded yet others aspects that I felt wondered and were somewhat disconnected.

    I continue to respect our mutual and multiply online/offline connections, but like you feel that the privileges I now gain from my PLN have been hard earned.

    To your 3 conclusion, having now taught in a school for 2 years, I feel the frustrations and restrictions of our students online experience but take seriously my duty of care both in person and online.

    I have a hugely supportive Headteacher. He is aware of our teaching / student online access but he has minimal necessary to focus and act to improve upon it. Change must be actioned at policy level, I concur.

    I did feel let down on two fronts @ BectaX; a) BectaX unconsciously reverted to looking at the NOW senario rather than at the what could be.

    b) did we hear loud and clear from the learners? I respect the efforts made. But did were really hear them, more importantly did we listen? Review the tweets – I felt many teachers in the audience we urging for a more effective way to engage with the learners.

    Today returning to College, I am unclear which direction to go next.

    ‘When you come to a fork in the road, take it.’ Yogi Berra

  4. It’s good feedback, and the point about concentrating on the now is interesting. I think there’s definitely a concentration on the now, because that’s the thing that’s not working for the mass of teachers. They don’t want to know about what could happen in five years time – leave that to the futurists. There are real, tangible barriers to teachers doing what they want to do, and we raised those barriers in the morning so that the afternoon sessions could suggest tangible solutions to those.

    I was taken aback by the debate, and that is where the answers will be, I think, rather than the workshops’ ‘solutions’, which ended up being almost one and the same thing.

    However their solutions are highly do-able, and something that, if we adopted a ‘pass it on’ approach quite vigourously, we could manage.

    I do wonder what Terry and you want from an event: dowdy? boring? a string of anecdotes of “what worked in out school”? Other events do each of these three things very well.

    They key, though, is realising and making sure others realise that the ‘day’ is not the useful part of the process. This one day event was a kick-off for progress, not a summary of some work or a one-off consultation exercise. On a basic level, we’ve raised the stakes on how government bodies do their consultation exercises.

    For people to get that, and to move their backsides to act on some of the points that came up in their own little ways, is the most significant worry I have. I have no concerns that the event fulfilled its purpose – to highlight what the key barriers to progress are and present some actionable points to get us started, with a longer line of contacts and connections for Becta to tap in their ongoing policy building throughout this summer and autumn. For Becta, the event was useful, invaluable.

    I do worry, though, that folk seem to think the onus is on Becta (or worse still, on that one day event) to sort out the present or even the issues of five year’s time.

    It seemed pretty clear to me by the end that the onus was on every one of us in that room, and for our extended family of connections, to pull together on one or two simple “next step” actions.

  5. Thanks for all comments (especially Fauz who is an old student of mine from way back). Reading your responses makes me think I didn’t write clearly. BectaX was a good thing. More than just talk, there was an undertone of shake up to it all which is necessary. It attempted to bring media, industry and teachers together. You can see how keen the media are. Industry not so. But to have them talking with educators is a great idea. Networks will have been expanded with new relationships which might somewhere somehow make a difference.

    I think my points in the post above very much focus on the now. In fact they are necessarily now. Did you hear Nicola McNee’s excellent presentation? I have exactly the same issues at my school and I need some back-up. My conversations on twitter and EdTechRoundUp reinforce this. The onus is on Becta here IMO.

    Ewan, I do not seek dowdy or boring and do not wish for a ‘what worked in our school’ approach. You have no need to defend BectaX. Your first line is important – now. We need stuff to support the now. My picture of it all has most schools with one or two teachers switched on to ed tech. They need support to help others.

    The day for me was a positive affair. I think it is absolutely necessary to splash some cash if you want to make some motion. I agree it is the conversation that counts. But there are things that need to be done that are not being done and would have impact in many schools.

  6. It would be interesting to know what “now” steps we DIDN’T see suggested or thought about (David Muir was there with an ITE hat on, and I don’t know what we do to encourage trainee and student teachers to ‘show up’ at technology and education courses – at the moment, they don’t generally, feeling they know all this stuff already).

    Thanks for your thoughts, and I hope more splurge out in the extra bandwidth Easter should bring to our minds.

    See you the other side – have a great holiday.

  7. Ewan is right to ask, ‘well what did you want from such an event?’ (or words to that effect) – and Terry is also right to be suspicious of waves of mutual enthusiasm and.. smugness?.. and it’s always worth remembering the £££ cost – and cost in terms of time too..

    On the bright side (and we must always seek to be optimistic) – a great opportunity to meet with some thoughtful thinkers and have a day to reflect upon achievements so far and consider ways forward.

    .. and Ewan is right to stress that this is only one small day in a huge consultative, collaboration process. These blogs and reflections are of equal importance to the words spoken on the day.

    On a less bright side; fantastic to have students available all day – desperately sad for the poor souls in schools who were essentially forgotten for almost the day. We need to find a more effective way to engage with students and today’s news isn’t helpful in this challenge (

    – and I felt our pm discussion was frustrating

    I’ll probably write a reflective blog on this sometime but at this stage my thoughts are:

    we know there are some great ideas for more effective teaching and learning
    we know there are some great people capable of putting these into practice
    There needs to be greater recognition of these people’s work
    Becta has a role in this (see the learning platform area as a good example
    The National Education Network has a role in this
    The PLNs have a role in this.

    Ewan’s right. This is a process and if we don’t take a first step, we wont move at all.

  8. Your comments about open access & not having software/browser lockdown resonate strongly with me.

    I come at this from a position that I think is relatively little heard: the enthusiastic class teacher with no direct input into leadership / policy. The amount of time I waste trying to get round problems cause by tools I want to use being blocked without warning after being previously available, or kids logging onto machines some of which haven’t got an up-to date enough version of flash or whatever installed. And now, I’m increasingly nervous about trying new things in case it might be seen as contravening our safeguarding policy. We’re not supposed to interact with students using social networking sites, but that isn’t defined.

    I want to be more active than I am in promoting learning technologies, but I just know the nightmare that less tech-confident staff will have if they try in my school some of the stuff that is routine among ‘activists’ in the blogosphere.

    I want to follow Ewan’s advice “for our extended family of connections, to pull together on one or two simple “next step” actions”, but I’m not entirely sure what they should be.

    I’m cogitating on all this and hope to put together a blog post of my own to clarify my thoughts – but in the meantime, I’ve got a football match to go to!

  9. Re-reading my original comment, I feel a little embarrassed. I know I was rushed… but there are still far too many mistakes – at least I think its ‘readable.’ Ironically my race to comment highlights one of the key points raised – Time.
    Time is a hugely valuable resource. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the event but a 6:30am start, home for 8:30pm, that represents a considerably school / personal investment. As yet I am unsure whether BectaX delivered on value / time invested. Those who experienced the event remotely seem to have experienced a similar BectaX to those attending in person, (I recognise that this is a backhanded compliment as well as a personal observation).
    The speed meeting activity and small workshops, the opportunities to reinforce existing online professional connections and identifying new contacts was valuable. If just two of the four new connections bear fruit, then there was added value to BectaX. I will have to wait and see….
    As to Ewan’s point of responsibility. Steering the best use of education technology is an unwieldy task – however does Becta not shoulder a large slice of responsibility here? In my short experience in schools I have come to perceive Becta as the piano maker rather than the piano tuner?

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