BETT 2024 – It was all about AI

The world is slowly returning to normal after Covid-19, with BETT moving back to a January date for the first time since 2020. The event was attended, as always, by a large contingent of Irish teachers, principals, management bodies, support agencies and commercial companies. Last year BETT was in March and even though ChatGPT had taken the world by storm in November 2023, four months previously, there was little or no mention of Artificial Intelligence at the show. This year it dominated every talk and stand with specific focus on how it can empower personalised learning. The tone was set immediately on Wednesday morning when the UK Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, “encouraged the sector to innovate and explore the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to transform teaching and learning”. (Education Secretary gives opening address at Bett show)

Microsoft Education banner for Bett 2024 with three students on laptops

The Microsoft Stand had a major focus on AI and specifically the embedding of Generative AI into many of their existing tools. The presentations introduced people to Microsoft CoPilot, which is free to use on your phone or device, on all Microsoft license plans to Microsoft 365 CoPilot, which is being embedded in all applications. While the licensing can be a little complicated the potential of some of these tools to ‘transform’ how teachers prepare materials for class and how they design their lessons, was clear for all to see. The message was that teachers and students should start using these tools, preferably in safe and supported ways, in their classrooms. Using these tools will allow teachers to help their students understand their potential and limitations, while also providing a space to discuss how they can be used ethically and legally in their learning. The reality is that these tools are here to stay, and they are now part of all Microsoft Office applications, so there is a need to prepare our young people to use them ‘effectively’ in their lives.

Some of the big-ticket items unveiled at stand SH20 included…

  • Reading Coach App (Previously only available to teachers and students using Teams) provides personalised, engaging, and independent reading fluency practice complete with AI-generated stories and analytics. Reading Coach Preview
  • Microsoft Teams for Education updates including AI powered rubric generation, assignment instructions, classwork module generation, Admin controls and Reflect in Assignments. Unlocking productivity and personalizing learning with AI
  • Microsoft Loop –  AI-powered collaboration app to help you think, plan, and create collaboratively.
  • Copilot – GPT-4 Turbo powered AI chat and image generation now available with data protection for faculty and students 18+, on Android and iOS with new apps, fully integrated into the latest Windows 11 build and Copilot for Microsoft 365 availability for Faculty and staff. Expanding Microsoft Copilot access in education | Microsoft EDU

Of course, it wasn’t just Microsoft heralding the arrival of Gen AI powered educational tools, every second stand, theatre talk, event and workshop appeared to reference AI in some way. We don’t have the space here to go into the details but from Google to AWS and Adobe to Meta (And lots in between), all were showcasing how AI is enhancing their tools for educators..

So to finish this joint roundup of BETT 2024 I’ll briefly mention some other tools that really caught my eye, mostly prefixed with the buzzword ‘Magic’.

  • Canva with Magic Write, Magic Design, Magic Draw, AI Video Editing with Beat Sync and Image Magic -more at New Canva Features – Design School
  • Edpuzzle’s (The brilliant video lesson maker) Teacher Assist tool that can auto grade open-ended questions using AI can scan videos uploaded/linked by the teacher and generate comprehension questions automatically (which are auto graded on student submission)
  • And finally ‘I can’t draw’ and Magic Padlet, the latter which is still in Beta can provide you with multimedia lesson starters and information walls in under a minute, see prompt and padlet below, the time saving and creative possibilities are huge.
Magic Padlet prompt window
AI generated padlet wall

As Michael alluded to in his introduction, at BETT 2023 there was barely a whisper of Gen AI and yet only 10 months later it’s ubiquitous. highlighting how the technology and tools appear to be evolving at light speed. I firmly believe that the Genie is well and truly out of the bottle and instead of putting up road blocks in our schools we need to embrace AI and explore these tools with our students, ensuring the necessary guard rails are in place so we can ultimately prepare them for a generative AI powered society and workplace. Brave New World🤔

Michael Hallissy & Pat Brennan

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