Remember in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters, when unearthly music is heard and a group of people counter all sorts of obstacles to make their rendezvous? Well it's a bit like that at the BETT educational technology show at Olympia, London, when the mystical drone of bagpipes drifts eerily over the hubbub of the throng and amplified, high-tech presentations.

"Those who know" drop whatever they are doing and make their way to the Learning and Teaching Scotland stand for a welcome close encounter with single malts and Scottish culinary delights. It's so pleasurable that Offline will not reveal which day it takes place on.

However, believe it or not, there have been moves by the organisers to curtail the event on the upsetting grounds of noise disturbance. The claymores are twitching. What an affront to celtic hospitality, and to the ethnic diversity of the UK and London in particular. While the immediate threat seems to have been withdrawn, it's clear who should be told to pipe down, and it's not our Scottish friends.

When Sonica software for primary Spanish classes was reviewed on these pages last year it was a runaway success, scoring the highest possible grades. Recently it was considered a "most innovative use of e-Learning"

and was a winner at the e-Learning Awards.

Judges of the BETT awards, however, were not given the opportunity of enjoying time with the program because it never made it to the shortlist.

Offline understands that this was because those who entered it had not made up the list of fictitious problems - and their solutions - revealed in our November issue. What a fine irony that Sonica, a winning example of public-private partnership, was funded by the Department for Education and Skills, the same paymaster as Becta, the organisation which runs the awards.

It's the kind of headache that Becta chief executive Owen Lynch will be happy to leave behind when he retires at the end of March after eight years in the hot seat. Offline wishes him well and TES Online will feature an interview with him in the next issue (March 10).

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