Governor 2.0, Tanya Byron and the Digital Media Literacy Summit

Thursday morning and the phone goes. My kids’ secondary school. “Gawd”, I think, “I need to catch a train to London”. Don’t panic. No accident, no expulsions. It turns out I’ve been elected one of four parent governors.

I can be slow at times – because I spent the rest of the day at the Digital Media Literacy Summit before it dawned on me that perhaps one of the most useful things I could do as a school governor is encourage the school to exploit the social web. With this in mind I ask around at the conference for some advice:

Tanya Byron gave me a couple of tips which you can hear in the podcast below. She’s currently running a government review (consultation ends on the 30th November) on the balance between safety and opportunity for young people both online and in the gaming world. Adam Fahey, himself a school governor, was hugely encouraging including advice on tactics – such as getting on the best committees and finding advocates within schools.

The Age of Tactics.

Tactics stuck out for me at the summit. Chanel 4 Commissioning Editor for education and new media, Matt Locke told us that social web evangelists need to think of this as as much a time for tactics as strategy. This absolutely chimes with my experience where I know organisations can benefit from new ideas and connections generated on the social web – the real issues is how to get them deep enough into the experience to understand the potential.

He also helped us picture the geography of social networking – the combination of Secret Spaces, Group Spaces, Publishing Spaces, Performing Spaces, Participation Spaces and Watching Spaces.

Jon Gisby – the Former MD of Yahoo in the UK – gave one obvious tactical solution – access to the right people. He correctly argues that equipment is not so important, the key for improving digital media literacy is to ensure that there are enough people who understand in the right places. So can we seed places with evangelists, unleash the passions of those already there.

Ewan McIntosh was downright inspiring. He warned of the problem of education being run by 21st century illiterates and said so much more which requires some digestion.

Tim Davies brought us back to a fundamental issue of strategy.

It continues to surprise me how often different standards are uncritically applied to young people and to adults. The justification for the difference is assumed, but never articulated.

As a governor my aim must be to help educate young people to understand and negotiate risk and opportunity. My experience teaching social media (with both adults and children) is that you can only really understand/learn by doing. So, in theory, the more young people do the more literate and hence safer they should become.

For an overview of the point of the summit please watch Peter Packer.  Also there Daniel SnellGareth Morlais, Nick Reynolds, Kevin Anderson and Hilary Perkins.


  1. Nick – I forgot (till now) to congratulate you on becoming a parent governor. Join the club 🙂

    Shall we start a Facebook group for guv’nors who wish to encourage ‘their’ schools to take advantage of the social web? Trickier for me, I think, as mine is an infant school. Not sure… need to ask Ewan.

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