Typing on the train down from Sheffield after the fantastic Children’s Media Conference (#tcmc). An inspiring and wonderful conference over the last few days and very pleased to have been able to attend. One of the fantastic Aardman Digital team said that of all the conferences they attend this was the one that they would keep if they were only allowed to keep one. After my first attendance it is hard to argue with that.
Lots of people asked what the British Council were doing at a conference like CMC. The conference was hugely relevant and had a large focus on education. I suppose that is no surprise, education and children’s content are intertwined and to not talk about education alongside media content and habits would be wrong.
There was also a very strong mobile focus and it was relieving to hear about the challenges that the established media companies are facing with mobile as well as inspiring to see so many great app ideas and educational opportunities. The challenges that I face around commercialisation were the same challenges that others face, more than one person including Moshi Monster’s Acton Smith saying they had tried every monetisation possible and still hadn’t nailed the best way to make money. It was clear that although his company had never seen the returns of the Moshi web property in mobile, there was a steely determination to continue in mobile and find a way to crack that nut.
Afternoon spent at the Collaborating with Kids workshop. A little strange – five mini workshops going on at the one time; some raucous, some quiet. The one thing that seemed important was that they had real live kids there. I had heard criticisms of this conference before that although it was about children, not a child was ever to be seen. The arrival of 30+ kids from a drama club changed that. The first mini workshop was with Jeff Norton (http://jeffnorton.com/), author of the Metawars series. He had provided full manuscripts of a book he is working on and elicited feedback from the kids who had read it. The children were wonderfully articulate, insightful, honest and intelligence. It was clear they loved books, physical books – shunning kindles and reading on iPads. They seemed to be suitably impressed with Jeff’s story.
The second session saw a bunch of kids designing their own badge in the context of Mozilla Open Badges. I thought that had died tbh having heard of it a few years ago and nothing since. They kids seemed into it. I remained sceptical about the open badge system, particularly around validation; even if the badge was validated by a bona fide company with the authority for such validation, there would still be loads of weak awards amongst the value.
The session seemed to be a bit “no shit Sherlock”. A lot of people seemed excited at the realisation that they really needed to speak to kids as part of their creative processes and get feedback during the development focus. I imagine this was really already known by everyone.
The evening keynote was the charismatic Dylan Collins. I like technology, I’m into investing in technology companies, I like working with children’s content. And I like cheese. And Dylan ticked all those boxes with some thoughtful stats, stories from the money world, case studies of how kids are using media and the digital world (it’s all about constructing things: YouTube, Lego and Minecraft) and some classic cheesy one-liners. He was one of the many preaching the scary but exciting world of change that mobile is bringing. Not sure it’s that scary. Sure, there are some amazing stories of young people doing great stuff with code – but I was coding at a young age and many people like me thanks to the Spectrum magazines I used to get with code you could copy and play around with. Only BASIC and we couldn’t share but kids creating their own digital content is decades old.
Thankfully Stuart Dredge wrote up his session so I don’t have to – http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jul/03/youtube-apps-minecraft-digital-kids
The Learning Landscape was the key theme of sessions into Thursday. Think this can be summed up by a brilliant quote by Julian Wood.
— Neil Ballantyne (@neilrballantyne) July 3, 2014
The rest of the sessions were interesting – good Ofsted study on children’s media usage. Interestingly mobile phone ownership is going down amongst kids but this is driven by a big drop in feature phone ownership. Amongst 12-15 year olds though it would be there mobile that they miss the most out of all digital devices including games devices and TVs. Good to see television in bedrooms getting less popular though, although of course internet in the bedroom is getting bigger. Another stat that jumped out was that only 63% of 12-15 year olds are confident of creating online content.
Some amazing innovations going on in the digital world. Shame there was no time to go into their creative processes more. The things that were on display were the results of months of work, there must have been so many assumptions that were proven wrong and it would be great to hear what mistakes went into these products. Nothing more to add than what’s at http://www.thechildrensmediaconference.com/blog/2014/07/04/innovation-forum-report/
— Neil Ballantyne (@neilrballantyne) July 4, 2014