East Side Storys – teaching tech to mums in Stepney

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Guest post from #techmums trainer Jemima Gibbons

After three days pretty much non-stop rain it was a nice surprise to wake up yesterday morning with sunshine streaming through the window – and the early commute across London to Stepney Green suddenly didn’t seem so bad.

Yesterday morning was my first ever #techmums training course: I’d been teamed up with fellow #techmum Judith Scammell to run a one-off session on social media and online security at Stepney Green Maths & Computing College, East London.

I had many burning questions: What would the mums be like? How difficult would it be to get them talking? How would we run the session without full social media access? Would anyone actually turn up? What sort of place was Stepney Green Maths & Computing College? Did they really name it Ben Johnson Road after the disgraced Canadian athlete and…most importantly…can you buy a decent skinny latte that side of Hoxton?

Luckily, all my fears were laid to rest as soon as Judith and I met the friendly, smiling Ayesha (IT manager) and the fifteen mums who’d signed up for the session. The mums were keen, sharp and full of questions. Most of them had one or more teenage children and were familiar with new technology. One of the mums even told us about a new app, Telegram Messenger, which we’d never heard of (so thanks for the tip)!

As we’d expected, the mums’ main concerns were around online security – especially dodgy pop-ups, and children viewing material they shouldn’t be. This was just what Judith and I had imagined – and in fact we were a little worried about starting the session with an evangelical talk about the wonders of social media.

But the mums also talked about how they loved to share photos and reconnect with old friends on Facebook. And they seemed genuinely inspired and excited by the social media stories we told – from Lauren Luke becoming a hit on YouTube and setting up her own make-up empire, to Sue Black saving Bletchley Park through a humble Twitter campaign.

All in all, it was a great way to spend two hours. I’m off to check my Twitter – who knows, I may have a tweet from one of the Stepney Green mums! That was their homework – mine is to download the Telegram Messenger app (obv).

What’s the use of social media? – Guest blogpost

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“What’s the use of social media?” That wasn’t a sarcastic question, that I pondered this morning, it was a real one. Sue (@Dr_Black) had sent a message from her sickbed asking if any of her friends would be able to run her social media class that morning, in East London, to local mums wanting to improve their tech skills.

Given that I live 20 minutes walk from the venue (Bishop Challoner Catholic School on Commercial Road), I thought about saying yes, as I sipped my coffee, but not before I asked myself “what’s the use of social media?” and “what’s the use of social media to this group of East End mums?” Clearly, there are numerous answers to the first question and I could only guess at how these women might answer the second. But what did strike me, a few minutes after saying: “yes, I’ll do it, Sue”, is that they are all already clued up on social networks. These women make all sorts of magic happen in their homes, at work and in their local community because, by enlarge, that’s what women all over the world do – they keep it all going.

With such short notice, I started the class with this in mind and gave the example of how my siblings and I had bought my mum a computer and got her on Facebook (she’s in her 80s). We all thought, ignorantly, that mum would struggle to grasp social media. How daft of us; mum had grown up in Liverpool in the 1930s, one of a large Irish family. She’d watched her mum make things work by negotiating, bartering, helping, charming, sharing and discovering all she needed through her daily chats across the back yard washing lines, or in the street, the church or at the corner shop. So had my mum when she brought up me and my four siblings and so were all of these women – on a daily basis. Mum grasped social media, it was innate and all of the women in front of me grasped it too.

We moved on to how they might use social media to gather more voices to join their causes, or help in their community. Most used Facebook a little and one had tried Twitter. Ann Marie (one of the mums) brought up the breast cancer awareness drive on Facebook and how women were taking make-up free ‘selfies’ to promote the cause. Suddenly the room buzzed with ideas of other causes and how using social media might help them bring issues and ideas to the fore.

While I talked with the women, we had Sue’s Twitter account projected on a wall at the front of the classroom. Everyone laughed at how Sue was “at home sick” yet still busy Tweeting away with everyone, including me and also Alison Moyet. I pointed out that I had no doubt that Sue would manage to tweet from her own coffin. Having all met Sue, they promptly agreed. [You all know me too well 😉 – Sue]

We all played a little, taking an Ellen DeGeneres Oscar selfie and Tweeting it. The power of this network was quickly revealed when the image was re-Tweeted eight or so times in under a minute, to an audience exceeding thousands.

The concept of social media was straightforward to everyone in the room, the only thing they really lacked was some of the language and a little of the working detail; what’s that sign (hashtag), how is it used, what are characters, what’s a direct message and so on.

The hour was too short and probably taught me much more than it taught the participants: more often than not, the barrier to entry is feeling that we don’t understand, when in actual fact we do, it’s just that the language is a little different.

Vic Roberts is a business consultant and @vertical_cat on Twitter

Mary’s trains her first #techmums class


Team #techmums: Sue, Mary and Emma outside Bishop Challoner Girls School this morning


Hi, I’m Mary,

Today was my first delivery of the #techmums course to 13 mums.

What a great morning! I have to say that I went in not really knowing what to expect. The mums arrived looking a bit apprehensive, and I am guessing they were feeling much the same way as me.

We needn’t have worried. As the tea and coffee was poured everyone started to relax. Sue gave an uplifting intro and we were off setting up Google accounts.

It was good to see how keen everyone was to get started. By the end of the session the atmosphere was buzzing. No matter what their level each mum had accomplished something and learnt something new. The smiles and shouts of “see you next week” as the mums were leaving was good to see.

Bring on the next module.

Baroness Martha Lane-Fox to be #techmums patron

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Exciting news hot off the press today is that Baroness Martha Lane-Fox of Soho CBE is to be our #techmums patron. We have long been fans of Baroness Lane-Fox and her support for women and digital skills so are absolutely *delighted* to have her as our patron.

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Baroness Lane-Fox said of #techmums

“Digital skills are fundamental in every day life and so I am delighted to support this inspiring initiative – more women empowered to do more – what’s not to love?”

We look forward to doing some fantastic things together. Watch this space.

Could you be a #techmums trainer?

I just got this laptop at such a deal!

We had a great meeting this week with some fabulous experts who are working with us to put together a groundbreaking train the #techmums trainers program. #techmums is all about helping mums to get over their fears of technology, taking them by the hand and leading them gently to a place where they can see what opportunities there are in tech for them and for their families. It’s also about having a lot of fun during that process and meeting some like minded mums to have good chat to as well.

With that in mind, we were really keen to get some help from some experts in areas like change management, coaching and confidence building. The tech in #techmums is of course important, but in fact, building mums’ confidence and making sure that they are enjoying what they are doing is important too.

Thanks to the wonderful Gill Crowther at Nominet we have got to know some really great people in this space who are helping us to put together a cutting edge #techmums train the trainer program. Asher, Kurshed and Mandy from Relume plus Aly King-Smith from Clearworks coaching and our own Dr Sue Black came together this week to start work on putting the program together.

The result was a great meeting of minds and huge excitement around what they came up with together. We will be training our first set of six lucky trainers in February 2014. They are in for a very exciting couple of days training and then the opportunity to really change lots of mums and their families lives.

Are you up for the challenge? Do you have what it takes to be a #techmums trainer? We are looking for six enthusiastic and caring people with a passion for technology *and* a passion for training and developing mums, to be our pioneer trainers. Attitude is more important than technical expertise as full training will be given. Does that sound like you? Click here for more details:

Tech trainers wanted for pioneering social startup

Or get in touch if you have any questions: