Digital champion Lord Puttnam calls on teachers to be ‘adventurous experimenters’ (video)

20 Jun 2013

Ireland's digital champion Lord David Puttnam

Irish schoolteachers who have access to broadband and digital tools should not wait for permission to incorporate platforms like YouTube and Skype into their lessons, Ireland’s digital champion and Oscar-winning producer Lord David Puttnam believes.

Ireland’s digital champion – a title given to Puttnam by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, last year – has 10 Oscars, 26 BAFTAs and a Palm D’Or to his name and lives in Skibbereen, Co Cork.

Puttnam, who is on the board of education technology firm Promethean, as well as having served as producer of movies like The Mission, Memphis Belle and Chariots of Fire, founded the National Teaching Awards in the UK, chaired NESTA and is chancellor of the Open University body in the UK.

Speaking with at the Digital Agenda Assembly in Dublin Castle this week, Puttnam said the one result he would love to see in the near-term is to get teachers in Ireland to be more digital.

“My son does homework with his daughter who lives in London via Skype every night. When people see this they see the reality is exciting,” he said, adding that the work CoderDojo is doing in getting kids to code should be a beacon to the world and, in particular, to education reformers across the world.

Lingua franca of the 21st-century world

Paraphrasing Finland’s digital champion Linda Liukas, Puttnam said: “There are three languages in the world today: English, Chinese and Java.”

He encourages teachers themselves to embrace the digital tools that are freely available and be pioneers or “adventurous experimenters” as he calls them.

“We need to get it across to teachers that they don’t have to sit around and wait for permission to incorporate YouTube in their lessons, for example, they can do this stuff now.

“They should be doing it, their pupils deserve it, the world of education deserves it. I think if I can genuinely create an atmosphere that is exciting, that’s innovative and that is permissive in the best sense of the world, I’d say yeah, let’s get on and do it and find out afterwards what doesn’t work. But let’s do it.”

* Check back for a longer interview with Lord David Puttnam, which will go live on on Tuesday

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