2 Sore Feet, 200+ CDs, 400+ Teachers: BETT 2009
After having a bit of lay-in this morning (but not as long as I’d hoped for), I thought I should mention what we got up to at BETT last week.
Along with our friends at the OpenForum Europe and helpers from a few other Free Software or Open Source related organisations, we exhibited much of what it is best about FOSS to the international education community.
We had a couple of shiny new Samsung 2343BW widescreen monitors showing off Edubuntu/Ubuntu to full effect. There were a variety of sub-notebook class devices demonstrating various Free OSs and just what £99 can get you if you care to look.
We discussed – sometimes at great length – philosophical, financial, technical, security and educational benefits that can be had from using FOSS solutions in an education context. (Why would anyone in their right mind use proprietary software if they had a choice or a clean sheet to start from?)
We met up with colleagues old and new from various places such as: Elonex, Sirius and Alpha Plus. We found some new and interesting products. For me the most exciting was seeing first cross-platform interactive whiteboard solution being demonstrated on Windows, Mac OSX and Ubuntu live by Mimio.
As a comparison to last year, we made contact with nearly 200% more individuals, and gave away around 200 more Ubuntu Desktop CDs (and quite a few Server CDs too).
My personal take on this year’s BETT was pretty encouraging.
- I had many fewer conversations this year that started with me having to explain what FOSS is. And many schools and education authorities are familiar with and already using FOSS successfully.
- There was considerable interest in finding out more and in looking for ways to introduce FOSS into what is a very closed-shop (MS) environment currently.
- There was a really good throughput all week of teachers, ICT staff and Heads/Governors who expressed a passion for FOSS and its use in their schools and colleges.
- There was a great deal of criticism for the lack of leadership from Government regarding FOSS and the way in which the education sector is very largely tied to MS, especially with the SIMS product from Capita. This was a very frequent discussion; how to integrate non-Microsoft products such as OpenOffice.org with the almost ubiquitous Schools MIS platform.
- A healthy dose of scepticism from other visitors made us the educator for a while and hopefully we helped to open some eyes to the possibilities that FOSS can deliver.
- And I met a FAN! After looking at my business card and seeing our logo, the visitor I was talking too grabbed my hand, shook it passionately and declared with some gusto – “You are The Open Sourcerer!”. Fame at last eh. Thanks Phil, it was a pleasure to meet you.
Now the show is over, the stands are torn down, and everyone has left. This is when the real work starts. Following up with all those hundreds of educators who want our help to introduce FOSS into their environment.
My feet are still sore (and this is more than 24hrs after getting home) but it was bloody well worth it. I met some great people and feel as though we have achived a great deal more this year. All being well, next year’s BETT will be even bigger and bolder for us – the planning is already underway.