Skibbereen to the world: Lord Puttnam lectures to go global

8 Jun 2012

Lord David Puttnam

In what he describes as ‘conceptually relaunching the potential of what videoconferencing is’ Oscar and BAFTA award-winning director Lord David Puttnam is to deliver lectures to university students around the world from his home in Skibbereen, Co Cork, via a joint venture with BT and Cisco.

Puttnam will be making use of a Cisco TelePresence high-definition videoconferencing system with high-speed internet access provided by BT to provide HD lectures to various universities in Australia, Asia, the UK and the US.

Puttnam, the producer of popular films like Chariots of Fire, The Duellists, Bugsy Malone, Memphis Belle and The Mission, has 10 Oscars, 26 BAFTAs and a Palm D’Or to his name.

He is also an avid promoter of digital education. As well as sitting on the board of education technology firm Promethean, he founded the National Teaching Awards in the UK, chaired NESTA and is chancellor of the Open University.

Last week at a special event at Bridge 21 at Trinity College in Dublin, Puttnam urged Ireland to consider an awards scheme like the National Teaching Awards to publicly acknowledge good teaching practices and achievements. He also said the media in Ireland should be more supportive of the need to reinvigorate Ireland’s education system and push for the deployment of 21st-century technology and learning practices in schools.

Speaking with today, Puttnam said of the BT and Cisco collaboration: “Basically, we are putting together a network of universities to prove exactly what’s possible and to try and conceptually relaunch what the potential of videoconferencing is.”

The state-of-the-art connectivity allows for high-speed uncontended internet access using BT fibre and BT managed radio network. This effectively extends the BT network into rural areas such as Skibbereen.

The model will be rolled out in late August and Puttnam is already in advanced discussions with universities in Australia, Asia, the UK and US to deliver film, moving images and production modules to students.

Topics covered will include the development of creativity, the impact of technological change in a digital age, globalisation and film, and the specific role of the creative producer.

Puttnam will also be exploring the potential for live streaming of interactive workshops into cinemas and other public venues in different territories around the world.

A world without boundaries

He said that delivering lectures in this manner to universities around the world reinforces his belief that education, when coupled with advanced technology, knows no boundaries.

“I intend to use streaming video and to use films to illustrate ideas – actually use the whole panoply of audio visual media if I can – to stimulate discussions in a way that hadn’t been thought possible in the past.”

BT Ireland CEO Colm O’Neill said it is important to distinguish between obvious online services like Skype or Google Hangouts and the impact of a full, high-definition, high-quality videoconferencing experience.

“When people talk about videoconferencing they often get confused between low-quality services that often break down and don’t think about the impact of delivering a lecture in high quality, high speed.

“What David has managed to do from his base in Skibbereen is utilise a high-quality, immersive videoconferencing system based on Cisco technology delivered over a high-quality 10Mbps link that will connect him to key locations around the world, including Dublin, Cork, Denver, Belfast and the Open University headquarters in Milton Keynes,” O’Neill said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years