• 20.01.2010

    We firmly believe there’s no one better than someone who uses your product, day in, day out, to show it at its best.

    We’ve just returned from attending the largest educational technology show in the world: BETT 2010. It’s an astonishing experience, where educational suppliers and teachers from all around the globe mingle for 4 days, looking at products, networking and attending CPD.

    But teachers often mention the tension between commercial and classroom interests. Donald Clark, an educator from Brighton, describes a paradox of BETT, and more generally of technology in schools:

    On the whole, schools, and the teaching profession, have more than a whiff of anti-corporate attitudes. Teaching is often explicitly (not always) anti-private sector. This makes the market rather awkward, as there’s a lack of trust between sellers and buyers.

    Hedge your BETTs – the 7 paradoxes of technology in education – Donald Clark

    That’s a pretty fair assessment. Sales people and Teachers don’t tend to mix, hence the “suspicion”.

    Partly this is down to the way educational suppliers have directed elearning products towards schools over the years, partly due to the fact that “Schools often make bad, expensive choices and struggle to support the things they buy, leading to further suspicion” (Donald, again).

    We know this. Every educational supplier knows this, deep down. Teachers are a tough crowd – and rightly so. You can also see tangential thoughts on Terry Freedman’s ICT in Education blog “7 things to do after the BETT show” and Tom Barrett’s post: “My Reflection on TeachMeet Takeover

    Can this divide be fixed? We know there are some extremely high quality pay and free tools, schemes and content out there. We know we have an amazing product in BrainPOP UK but how to convince “suspicious” teachers?

    1. Build a trusted community. A “tribe” of BrainPOPpers. This takes time, authenticity and persistence. This is what we’ve been doing. This, hopefully, means you can move to…
    2. Invite your community to participate.

    We asked if a few BrainPOP UK Educators wouldn’t mind volunteering a sliver of their time to help show how they used BrainPOP  UK resources effectively in their classrooms on our stand at BETT 2010.

    We knew their up to the minute experience of BrainPOP UK far outweighed any marketing messages or freebies we could provide.

    As our VIBs arrived we kitted them out with their own Tshirts, as much orientation as we could fit into 5 minutes and got them talking to other teachers as soon as we could.

    The effect was electric.

    Once we’d introduced the VIBs they were away, excitedly telling classroom stories, explaining why their school bought BrainPOP UK and offering hints and tips we’d never thought of (ever considered using the letter that starts each movie as a lesson topic?).

    At one point Tom Sale, a year 6 teacher and ICT Subject Leader from Blackpool, was demoing BrainPOP UK on the plasma TV to about 7 teachers at once, like he’d been talking about BrainPOP all his life. They knew he was the real deal and loved him for it.

    But that’s the trick – you can’t substitute style (us, maybe) for substance (our VIBs, definitely). It’s also worth remembering that teachers are natural presenters. They spend their professional lives in front of a crowd. It’s called a classroom of kids.

    The feedback from our VIBs was universally positive. We think they enjoyed seeing BETT from another point of view (and meeting Moby of course!) and, hopefully, went away richer for the experience.

    “It was an honor to testify to the effectiveness of BrainPOP in the classroom at your booth. The positive energy and professionalism the team at BrainPOP UK projected were clear indicators of present and future success. It was a privilege to have been associated with you! Meeting the shiny Moby was also a highlight and am glad to have the pictures from this encounter :)

    Thank you SO much for including me in this experience! It was awesome!!!”

    Adina Popa, Technology Resource Teacher, Loudoun County Public Schools

    Wouldn’t it be great if visitors to BETT could speak to teachers who love the product, not just sales people? The barriers would melt away. And if you can’t find your own VIBs then make better products and look after your community.

    “Another highlight for me – was meeting Moby – I think the picture says it all. I was on the Brain Pop as a VIB – a Very Important Brainpopper! We use Brain Pop at school and in my class Tim and Moby are like another two pupils, I even went to the stand with a list of questions that my children wanted to ask! It was a great experience to meet other teachers and talk about a tool I use in my classroom”

    Dawn Hallybone, BETT 2010

    We’d invite them back to do it again like a shot. So thank you Ollie, Dawn, Thomas, Adina, Vickie and Annette VIB. You were stars.

    We’ll leave the last word to the original VIB – Ollie Bray,  a deputy head from Scotland and LTS Advisor:

    “I continue to be impressed by BrainPOP UK and its commitment to engage with the teaching profession. Not only do they make great movies but they listen to real feedback from real teachers so that they can constantly improve their products and services.

    I was delighted to see the time and effort that the company has spent developing a detailed curriculum matching tool to link their movies to the Scottish Curriculum – You just don’t get this UK wide care and attention with some other companies.

    It was an absolute pleasure to stand in for Tim (while he was on his lunch break) and be a VIB at BETT 2010”

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