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Thursday, 21 January 2016

BETT and London traffic

Yesterday was such a busy day! I had a full breakfast at the hotel and then headed off to the BETT show. Apart from the A13 being very busy, I got to the venue without any trouble and easily got parked. The whole day was pretty full-on! I got into all the seminars that I wanted and was particularly excited to hear Professor Sugata Mitra speak about the concept of The School in the Cloud.

For those that haven't heard of him, he was working in India and did an experiment where he put a computer with Internet access into a wall, in villages with no school, and then observed how children taught themselves and each other. He's a really engaging speaker. Yesterday, he was talking about how schools of today prepare children for work places of the past. If we want a workforce with the skills needed for today and the future, we need radical change. A couple of his more controversial ideas included being able to use a mobile phone and the Internet during exams, and more self-organised learning. 

I also attended various talks on Further Education, which feels a bit weird to me. I'm still naturally drawn towards primary discussions and resources. I have to keep reminding myself that those days have gone. There has been a lot of talk about apprenticeships, engaging with learners and employers and about the importance of learners creating their personal branding towards employment.

Today, I haven't been very well at all. Yesterday evening, my brother David came over and joined me for dinner, which was great but then when I went back to my room, I started with a really aggressive migraine. This morning, I still had the headache and I felt a bit coldy but I had a Lemsip and pressed on. 

I went in a little bit later in the hope of quieter traffic. As I joined the A13 slip road, I was a bit shocked to see stationary traffic. We didn't move for about half an hour and nothing came past in the opposite direction. It was obvious there had been an accident. I eventually found out that the air ambulance had attended and the whole road was closed. It's a shame they couldn't have closed the slip roads though, instead of letting people join the chaos. Anyway, by the time I got there, I just went straight in - no queuing.

Many companies plan major announcements to coincide with BETT. This year Microsoft have announced that they have bought MinecraftEdu and are changing it and releasing it with a new pricing structure. I was rather concerned because we've just bought it for Family Learning and the new pricing just wouldn't work for us. I spoke to them though, and we can continue using what we have bought and don't have to buy the new version. 

Today, I survived until about 2 o' clock and then I felt so rough, I gave up and came back to the hotel. I'm reluctant to call it the flu but it's certainly a bad cold and my whole body aches. I've slept for a couple of hours and then had dinner but I still feel achy. I hope it goes away soon. I really don't fancy driving home while I feel like this.

It's the first time I've been to anything like this on my own, using a wheelchair, so I wanted to reflect a little on that too. I'm amazed that I have managed to cover such huge distances, self propelling myself, without too much difficulty. The vast majority of exhibitors have been very friendly and polite. I've had so many comments about my flashing wheels! They are a really useful talking point. The only people that have bordered on the rude side have been non-English. It's funny, I feel a bit guilty for making that observation.. but it's true. Many Chinese and Korean exhibitors haven't engaged with me at all, not even returning a smile. There are a lot of Scandinavian people at the show and they are really bad for just walking into/through you. The Americans have generally been fine, except for offering to help but not listening to the answer. Like yesterday, a lady was determined to open a door for me but my thumb was caught in the handle and she nearly wrenched my thumb off. In making these observations, I don't mean to judge or generalise but maybe there are cultural issues at play. I'm guessing that certain nationalities aren't used to seeing disabled people in this kind of context. I know from when we lived in Finland that the Nordics don't have the same rules about personal space that we have and when my head is at their elbow, bag and bum height, it's a bit of a dodging game. I've discovered that if  a loud 'excuse me please' doesn't work, just barging through and running over toes gets people to move. :)

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