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January 22nd arrived and I became like a child at Christmas. For several years I had wanted to go to the Bett Show in London and see all the new technology available but had never made it. This year was to be my year! Tickets purchased by school for myself and my TA and we were definitely going. How jolly exciting!

We set off from Blackpool North at 8 in the morning on a Virgin Train in first class. Now before anyone starts complaining about this being a waste of tax payer’s money we have Sir Richard Branson to thank for that one. It is the same price to travel first class as second class at that time of day for some reason. First class is rather luxurious as you may know. The breakfast menu is delicious and there is ample choice. The waiter wandered past myself and my TA and said ‘Would you like a bacon butty girls?’ Certainly would thought I. I decided that stocks of the other menu choices must be depleted so a bacon butty would be most acceptable. As we were eating our food, the same waiter wandered past with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for our fellow passengers. I can only deduce that my TA and I must look like ‘bacon butty’ types. No offence taken!

We arrived in London at 11 15 and negotiated our way across London to the ExCeL Exhibition Centre. I say ‘we’ but I was fabulously useless. My TA did all the hard work concerning the tubes and routes. Well done to her! Left to myself I’d still be lost in the Underground.

Once inside I was totally overawed. Where to start? What to do? So much to see. We wandered around looking at all the new tech and trying some new things out. We listened to a couple of lectures and met some lovely people on the stands. Eventually we reached the SEN area. Our remit was to check out the tech for our brand new sensory room. No bubble tubes or hammocks or anything even slightly dated. We happened across the perfect stand very quickly. A complete immersive, interactive sensory system for our special children. It isn’t just aimed at 3 year olds, it can be adapted to our older students too. It uses high technology to provide the immersive system. There is a choice of floor or ceiling projection that responds to body movement which is detected by a camera. Even children with very limited movement will be able to cause a change in the floor pad. There is a control for mood room lighting which allows even the poorliest and least physically able of our children to have some control over their environment. Sound and video can be added and it can be set up for individual learners as well as whole groups. Staff can design a program for a specific need and target certain objectives. The device is also mobile for ease of movement to other areas of the school. Many different images and themes are available as are colourful games. At the moment my class are studying France. With this system they would be able to listen to French music while standing on top of the Eiffel Tower virtually. The walls could have images of French people and well known French artefacts. You are only limited by imagination. I was assured that anyone with a little training could upload a new theme from a flash drive. Marvellous! To be honest I’ve never seen anything quite like this. I could picture some of our children using it, learning from it, hitting their objectives and having great fun while doing so.

Having witnessed this device in action we were now spoilt. The price is relatively favourable too. For walls and floor it comes in at around £15 000. Not too bad considering what we would be getting.

Moving further on we also looked at an interactive touch display with plasma screen which can be rotated from horizontal to vertical. It will adjust to any height or will adapt to being used as a table. This allows more users than ever before. Children who have never been able to access a touch screen would now be able to. There are many themes and images available to enhance the learning of my special children. Once again I could picture our children using them and could see the benefits gained.

Moving on we looked with interest at Audience Response Systems. This is too advanced for most of our children but it might be viable for some of our older ones. Children are given a wireless handset or tablet and can answer pre created questions as the lesson progresses. Results are gathered instantly and data is produced so that children can see their class results immediately. All very high brow I thought.

We wandered around the exhibition and looked at short throw projectors, a particular interest for our new school. We looked at wireless presenting and the next generation of Promethean Boards. If I’d had money to spend and I worked in a mainstream school I think I’d now be bankrupt. The kit available for mainstream is out of this world. I must say, even though I found exactly what I wanted for our school the SEN area remains under represented. I was a little disappointed with that. I would like to see more specialised equipment for our most delicate children in the future if possible. Although I do realise that this is something of a tall order as this type of tech is very expensive.

By now 3 hours had passed and my TA and I had to begin to make our way back up North. Before we went I had one more mission. I had made a note of the stands of @TeamTait and @DeputyMitchell and had promised myself that I would seek them out. Both of these 2 men are supremely helpful and supportive and have taught me a great deal in the past. I wanted to say hello. I was very disappointed that I couldn’t locate either of the men. Possibly they were on their lunch break. Next year I’ll find you boys!

So there we have it. Bett 14 was on my Nurture post and I’ve achieved it. I enjoyed every minute of it. I arrived home at 8 30 in the evening totally exhausted but with my head buzzing with all the new technology I’d seen. If you get a chance to go make sure you do. The long trip is well worth it. Be sure you can find your way around on the Underground though because I’m not loaning out my fabulous TA!

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