Opening World Summit on Media for Children and Youth
Karlstad June 14th 2010 Opening Speech by Dr Patricia Edgar AM
The Summit movement began 15 years ago in Melbourne Australia in 1995.
Our aim was to protect and promote quality children's television programs.
Technologically we have travelled light years beyond our first objectives. As well
globalization has led to a focus on the international marketplace rather than
national child audiences. These issues present significant challenges for the
Only one year after the first Summit in 1996, Google emerged.
Facebook launched in February 2004 and YouTube in 2005. Twitter, born in 2006,
is the SMS of the internet.
Today more video is up-loaded to YouTube in 60 days than all three US television
networks have created in 60 years. People are adding photos to Facebook at a
rate of nearly 1 billion unique images a week. For young people, the games
industry is as important as television.
Kids have embraced new technology - its interactivity, social networking and
mobility. As a result they are no longer the audience we thought we understood.
Research shows young people in the developed economies spend an average of
10-12 hours a day interacting with media. But they are a fragmented audience,
more unpredictable and more difficult to reach than they once were. So despite
the huge global marketplace, children's media production is more competitive
than it was 15 years ago.
Kids are motivated to play, listen, create, chat, watch and respond to a constant
stream of messages about everything they encounter in life. They enter the adult
world before they are teens and their tastes and interests are often confronting.
They view television less, when they want and how they want so the conventional
television audience we used to expect is shrinking.
Children's embrace of media is not just a western phenomenon. Kids everywhere,
given access, have the same love of technology. One startling example can be
seen in the work of Professor Sugata Mitra. He found - with his Hole in the Wall
experiments in a remote Indian village, where he put a computer in a wall and left
it - within hours an 8 year old was teaching a 6 year old to browse, and 300 kids
learnt all the uses of the computer in 3 months.
Young people's immersion in media is a gift to the children's entertainment
industry, but the content we are producing lacks the excitement new technology
generates - it remains predictable, heavily commercialized and often irrelevant to
the needs of 21st century children.
You can't tell a public broadcaster from its commercial counterpart anymore.
There is sameness in their programs and an obsession with ratings. The two major
forces that have dominated children's production since television began are
struggling to find their way and missing a great opportunity.
Media are now a potent educational force in children's lives. Kids are spending
more time with media than in school and media are certainly teaching values to
the next generation more effectively than schools.
But entertainment producers have been slow to respond to the educational
challenge while they can exploit media's commercial strength. Likewise teachers
are ignoring the opportunities new media present, while they argue for smaller
and smaller classes - a teaching model which is unsustainable.
A new 21st Century global vision for children's media and education policy is
needed. For the Summit to be effective in leading the policy, research and
production debate, we must ask some fundamental questions.
What is the responsibility of producers to the education of children?
Is good programming incompatible with making profit?
How do we maintain quality and meet the challenges of new technology?
How do we best develop an integrated cross-platform approach to children's
What links are there between media and creativity and how can they be used for
I believe this is a great time for content creators. There is challenge and
opportunity like never before.
I believe we must insist education and entertainment be integrated within new
media policy. Separating these goals has allowed the media industries to escape
responsibility for children's development and education bureaucracies to ignore
the potential for learning media present. Curricula on media literacy, while an
important part of the mix, are not enough.
Innovation in education and in production is fundamental to progress, to
economic stability and global peace. Media's role is central. The relationship
between children and media has changed forever. Surely our responsibility is
greater than contributing to their amusement. This Summit provides an
opportunity to explore these issues.
Keynote Speech to World Summit on Media for Children and Youth
by Lord Puttnam of Queensgate, CBE
Delivered at: Aula Magna, Karlstads University, 65188 Karlstad, Sweden
On Friday 18 June 2010
It's a genuine pleasure to have been asked to speak to you this morning.
As you've probably gathered, I'm now well and truly retired from the movie industry.
In fact the vast majority of my work during these past dozen years has been in education and public
This audience is rather more aware than most that teaching is not the easiest job in the world -
so let me begin with a story that illustrates just how difficult it can be!
A teacher in a rural primary school here in Sweden was helping one of her five year old students to put
his boots on.
Even with her pulling, and him pushing, the little boots didn't seem to want to go on.
Finally, when the second boot was eventually on, she'd worked up quite a sweat.
So much so that she almost cried when the little boy said, 'Teacher, they're on the wrong feet.'
She looked, and sure enough, they were.
It was no easier pulling the boots off than it had been putting them on.
But she managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on, this time on the
Only for him to then announce, 'These aren't my boots.'
She bit her tongue to prevent herself from screaming - 'Why didn't you say so?'
Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet.
But no sooner had they got the boots off than he said, 'They're my brother's boots. My
Mother made me wear them.'
Now she didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
She mustered up all the grace and patience she had left, to wrestle the boots back onto his feet again.
Helping him into his coat, she asked, 'Now, where are your gloves?'
'Oh' he said, 'I stuffed them in the toes of my boots.'
As to myself, I'm particularly proud to be engaged in the development of policies around such things as
how we meet, and hopefully defeat, what may well emerge as the greatest challenge the human race
has ever faced - the one that we've rather limply come to refer to as, 'climate change'.
However, I continue to spend most of my time working on a broad range of issues relating to the future
of education, and that will be the thread running through the whole of what I have to say this morning.
But I also happen to see these twin strands of my work, on education and climate change, as inextricably
What's certain is that this extraordinarily fulfilling period of my life has offered the opportunity to
engage, not simply with climatologists, but with people who, every day of their working lives, are
attempting to mould the 'building blocks', the quality of which will, in every respect, determine the
future of our planet.
Those 'building blocks' are, for the most part, primary school children; and the people I've spent a great
deal of my time working with are their 'teachers', people just like many of you in this hall here this
But with regard to today's conference, those 'building blocks' are rather more literally the ICT
infrastructure of the world's schools and, among other things, the degree to which remains 'fit for
purpose' for the many challenges that lie ahead.
Because if, as I certainly see it, the future looks increasingly like a 'war'; then this most recent
generation of teachers, and the resources we offer them, represent the closest thing to an 'infantry'
that's available to us!
A generation of well-trained and confident teachers, comfortable with the implications of living in a
Digital Society, but also keenly aware of the huge new challenges it's likely to bring.
It is those of you as teachers, and the children you teach, who for me represent the most promising
foundation upon which can be built a sustainable society, here or anywhere else in the world.
This 'war' I'm referring to is a war between what I feel to be our largely failed present, and the
possibility of an altogether more imaginative future.
And it's not simply that I want us to enjoy a more imaginative future - it's more the case that I can't see
much of a future for any of us unless we're prepared to be a great deal more imaginative!
As ever, it's all likely to come down to a battle between our worst and our better selves.
Finding the prospect of playing to my own worst instincts deeply unattractive, I've been only too happy
to throw my energy into improving the quality, the reputation and the relevance of education.
(Introduce Film Clip - "We are the people we've been waiting for")
It's clear to me that if we truly are prepared to take on the immense challenges of the 21st century,
then we've no choice but to embrace the equally immense power of the most recent digital
And to do so in a way that makes our present rate of adoption look exactly what it is - pitifully
Let's face it; in many respects life beyond the school gates and college walls has been quite literally
transformed in the past twenty years or so.
Digital technology - whether in the form of mobile phones, the internet or video games - has
fundamentally reshaped the way in which children and young people connect with, make sense of, and
engage with society.
Rightly or wrongly, these same young people expect an entirely new form of relationship with the world
around them; one that doesn't simply rely on accessing information, but on creating new knowledge,
new products and even new resources.
Learning is no longer something that needs to happen within particular hours, in a particular place, or
with a particular group of people.
The immense power of the worldwide web offers a fantastic 'knowledge resource' that's just a click
away; in schools, colleges, homes and on the move; to the extent that anyone with an internet
connection has the power to access this extraordinary treasure trove of knowledge within, quite
As we were vividly reminded by the launch of the Apple iPad in January, the world's digital library is
Yet it's equally true that the existence of this extraordinary cornucopia of knowledge makes the need
for teachers and mentors - in essence, 'trusted learning guides' - more crucial than ever.
Young people in particular may be very smart about using the technology - a good deal smarter than
most of us I suspect.
But there are very considerable challenges around helping them to sort the 'wheat' from the 'chaff', the
good from the bad, the valuable from the useless; helping them understand the ways in which digital
images can distort at the same time as appearing to shape the world around them.
I was very struck by a passage I read recently in an article by Al Gore in The New York Times which dealt
with the way in which climate change, and politics more generally, get filtered through the media:
"Some news media organizations now present showmen masquerading as political thinkers who
package hatred and divisiveness as entertainment.
And as in times past, that has proved to be a potent drug in the veins of the body politic.
Their most consistent theme is to label as "socialist" any proposal to reform exploitive behaviour in the
From the standpoint of governance, what's at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument
of human redemption."
To which one might add - and our ability to use our education as an instrument of human
Surely all the more reason to create learning environments in which informed responses to the
challenges of the 21st century are encouraged and nurtured - this would be a world in which prejudice
and ignorance would hopefully become rather better understood for exactly what they are - dangers - to
be educated against!
And, as I suggested earlier, the crucial factor in creating this responsible learning environment is a
successful and confident educational system, comprising outstanding teachers and a world class
This new infrastructure, and the ICT which sits at the heart of it, needs to reflect the realities, and even
more importantly, the opportunities, presented by a fully digital world.
But it is the teachers, not just the technology, who account for the crucial difference between raising the
bar and it remaining in exactly the same, depressing place it has always been.
To be strictly accurate, it is the skilled teacher, adept at handling the most recent technology, who has
become society's single greatest asset.
And teachers such as these will come to matter more than ever in an advanced digital society.
In essence, that means putting learning - that's to say the acquisition of understanding - right back
where it belongs, at the very centre of all our concerns.
And if learning finds itself at the heart of the new digital world, it follows that the type of teachers I'm
describing, are its lifeblood.
In truth it doesn't take a lot of thought to acknowledge that, in reality, teachers are the key to all of our
In a world increasingly dominated by Google, Apple, Facebook, and so on, it pays to constantly remind
ourselves that no education system can ever be better than the quality of its average teacher.
Every piece of social research I've read in the past dozen years - and I've read a lot - affirms and
reaffirms that fact; so I don't think that the importance of good teaching will change one little bit.
However, our definition of what makes a good teacher is likely to change, and change quite a lot.
Of course, such attributes as leadership, knowledge and the ability to inspire and arouse curiosity will
always be fundamental.
Teachers will still need to be coaches, colleagues and friends, but in addition to that, the daily substance
of their professional skill base will alter, if for no other reason than to reflect the rapidly changing
expectations of their students - all of which, needless to say, has significant implications for classroom
and school management.
The model of 30 children in neat rows facing a single teacher is, or ought rapidly to become, an
anachronism in an era of touch-screen smart phones, tablet computers and whiteboard technology.
In a world of Skype, webcams and video conferencing, why should English children in English schools not
be helped to learn French by French children in French schools; or physics by a Nobel prize-winner?
Both are things I've been privileged to witness in innovative schools in the UK!
Why should teachers still be responsible for supervising their students' lunch hour or making sure PCs
work, when armies of volunteers and specialists could so easily support them in exactly these areas?
At this point I should pause in order to make myself crystal clear about something very important: none
of the technological developments I've touched upon in any way negates the fundamental need to focus
on those reading, writing and mathematical skills which remain at the heart of being able to present
oneself as a functioning and informed citizen, in an increasingly competitive globalised society.
But at the same time the educational establishment has to take on board a whole set of fundamental
truths about the way in which the expectations of young people have changed - certainly if we're to
have any possibility of delivering learning that, in their eyes, engages them, and remains 'fit for purpose'
over the coming decades.
The choice is not between the 3R's on the one hand, and an education in which 'screens' replace 'books'
on the other.
Surely it's about harnessing the power of technology to enable children and young people to acquire
understanding and knowledge about the world in the manner with which they have become most
familiar and comfortable - so that our education systems continue to develop informed, responsible
citizens and outstandingly creative people - just as, at its best, it has always done.
All of which inevitably challenges WHAT we teach; as well as HOW it's taught - and even, in some cases,
WHY it's taught!
Let me offer an example of what I mean in relation to both the opportunities and the challenges, by
looking through the prism of that issue I touched on earlier, an issue that affects every single person in
this room no matter where you are from - namely 'climate change'; and in particular a 'simulation game'
that's being developed in the UK.
What's been fascinating to me, but may be less surprising to many of you, is that the very first thing kids
do when they get hold of these games is destroy the planet!
Only when they've done that a couple of times, and looked hard at the repercussions, do they go back
and - maybe the third or fourth time around - begin to look at the issues involved in building an
infinitely more sustainable model.
In many respects this is little short of a revolution in the way we learn.
For a start it's a lot less didactic. Instead of saying to kids:
"This is the way to do it"; what you're in effect saying is:
"Here are the tools, and here are a whole set of options"
It's the equivalent of learning to use a flight simulator - you take off - you try to stay in the air and
eventually you land safely - and in the right place.
Assessment is immediate and utterly self evident.
Safe flight and landing - success; crash - and you've failed!
Young people don't need to be told whether they succeeded or not; and if they failed, their most likely
response is to want to try again, and again, and again until they succeed.
Uniquely, what we call 'games' allow the possibility of creating differing scenarios to illustrate severe
alterations in climate, and their likely variable impact upon ourselves and our planet.
If genuine creativity is brought into play, the possibilities, in terms of richness and breadth of content
contained in this one example alone, are almost boundless.
My most compelling experiences of environmental radicalism have tended to be among six to nine year
So there is something going on among young children on which we can usefully build.
The challenge now in the UK, and I suspect many other countries, is to transition this enthusiasm
through to secondary schools, allowing for the possibility that an entire generation of young people
leave school with a clear understanding that, unless we change the way in which we use resources, they
are unlikely to live the same kind of lives that their parents and grandparents enjoyed - whether in
developed or developing nations.
As I've already said more than once, we find ourselves in an environment literally saturated with
moving and interactive images.
They're the dominant means by which we increasingly learn about, understand, and hopefully begin to
make sense of this world of ours.
And it's in this new learning environment that mass participation in creating, sharing and reusing images
has taken hold on a quite extraordinary scale.
As I suggested earlier, surely our task is to harness these opportunities in addressing the many longer-
term challenges we now face.
And we need to embed all of this within the ICT infrastructure of, preferably connected, schools across
And in no sense am I advocating a 'one-size fits all' solution - in ICT anymore than in any other aspect of
In very many cases locally managed solutions to specific, local challenges are just as likely to provide the
best way forward.
Only through serious and determined investment in a coherent vision of this kind can we hope to start
bridging the 'disconnect' that exists between what goes on inside the school gates in most countries.
and everyday life in the world beyond.
The alternative is that gulf becoming wider and wider as technologies and digital content evolve and
become ever-more sophisticated.
And it's with these 'long-term' objectives in mind that I'd like to conclude by re-assessing what I see as
the crucial lessons we ought to have absorbed during the past thirty years; certainly if we're to think our
way through to the type of societies we want to see emerge - in an ever-more difficult world.
Firstly, like it or not, getting our education system right is not just one among a number of social and
political priorities we have to address - 'education' is far closer to being the whole ball of wax!
Secondly, and at risk of repeating myself, no education system can ever be better than the teachers it
employs, and the constantly improving standards it demands of them.
Thirdly, teacher training in a digital age has to be viewed as an entirely non-negotiable and continuing
The commitment of Governments, Businesses and individual Head Teachers to the best possible quality
of teacher training, along with regular, preferably annual, time out for professional development, must
Fourthly, there needs to be an undisputed national and global acceptance of the importance of the
education of women.
Educated women are the fulcrum around which can be built educated and healthy families - and those
families will invariably be smaller, and better cared for.
There is no magic in any of this.
The reality is that a world class education system can, over time, deliver a world class health service -
whereas the reverse can never ever be possible.
Finally - although I could go on - young people learn best and teachers teach best in environments
which respect them and what they do; environments which reflect the very best of what they see and
admire in the world around them.
The good news is that there are really excellent people across the globe who understand that
education at every level will be both the 'cause and the consequence' of any possibility of regional,
national or global renewal.
That's why I came here to Karlstad this morning; to argue that in these incredibly challenging times, the
ability of nations across the world to deliver will require not just resources but political will.
I desperately want the global economy to emerge from this present 'man-made' crisis to become the
bedrock upon which can be built a more successful and sustainable society; but we find ourselves living
in a world of cascading and intertwined threats; threats that have the potential, at any given moment, to
turn our lives upside down.
As I see, it my own post WW 2 generation has a great deal to answer for. Through their sacrifice our
fathers left us a wonderful legacy upon which to begin to build a fairer society, and a better future.
Sadly, we have squandered many of the opportunities they left to us, so much so that we're in danger of
leaving behind, not just massive levels of global indebtedness, but a seriously degraded environment
along with significantly depleted natural resources of just about every type - including water.
The only possible means by which we can reverse this situation is to be found in our nations'
classrooms; are we going to develop a generation of political leaders who have the courage and the
imagination to seriously invest in the future; are we able to draw upon our
unquestioned human potential for creativity and ingenuity in such a way as to offer the young people of
this and every other country a far better start to their lives than any generation before them?
That's to say, better informed, better equipped and better motivated.
We need to get this right, because the challenges these young people will face are colossal, and on the
outcome of their efforts depends nothing less than the future of this planet.
Thank you very much for listening to me.
Closing Remarks at Karlstad June 2010. Dr Patricia Edgar AM
Chair World Summit on Media for Children Foundation
The World Summit Movement began in Melbourne, Australia in 1995 when 670
people from 72 countries came together to discuss the changing environment for
children's television programming. Subsequently Summits have been held every
In 1999 a company was established to foster the World Summit Movement. The
World Summit on Media for Children Foundation is a not-for-profit public
company incorporated in Victoria Australia. Its board comprises directors from
Asia, Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, Colombia, Sweden, Greece and the United
States, all representatives of the principal host organizations of previous and
future World Summits.
Under the auspices of the Foundation, over the past 15 years, at least 11
international meetings have been held and thousands of people from countries
around the world have gathered in inspirational meetings to share, interrogate,
discuss, lobby and do business with one another. There have been many resulting
projects and collaborations.
The past three Summits have been decided by a tender process. The process is
outlined on the Summit's website. This time we have decided to invite a host as
no world Summit has yet been held on the important continent of Asia. With the
support and through the initiative of Dr Javad Mottaghi who is formerly the
Director of AIBD and now head of the ABU- Asian Broadcasting Union - Indonesia
will host Summit 2013 in Bali in May that year, in partnership with AIBD.
The Asian Media Summit AMS is a highly successful annual event which attracts
the major broadcasters from across this very diverse and extensive region. In
2013 the Asian Media Summit will be held back to back with the next world
summit on Media for Children ensuring the children's Summit will have a high
profile with all Asian Broadcasters and media participants.
Today is the beginning of a three year journey the World Summit Foundation is
pleased and proud to undertake with our new partners in Indonesia.