The #techmums course at ACL has completely changed my life!

Blog post by new #techmum Lisa

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I saw the #techmums course advertised on Essex County Council newsletter. I was instantly intrigued to see what it had to offer. I have been a mum for many years with no work experience for a long period of time. This has led me to be lacking confidence in some situations. With the prospect of my youngest child off to start school full time I thought now was the time to think about myself as a person, not just mum. The thought of going back to work is very daunting. I was hoping to improve my knowledge of computing to help me have better job prospects and to be able to achieve something for myself.

Technology is constantly changing and with that in mind I felt that I had been left behind.  My initial idea was to try and recap on my computing skills and hopefully learn some new ones. I did not want to commit myself to a long course as I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it. This course is just what I needed to be able to go over basic computer skills and be able to try new ones. I never thought I would have the opportunity to do web design, app design, coding and programming. With the children now learning coding at school I felt completely out of my depth and unable to help with homework. Just by having a taste of this on the course I am so grateful to have an insight and has left me wanting to learn more about it.
I was so anxious about going back into a classroom to learn. It is a massive step to put yourself out there and try something new and different. After the first lesson I was put at ease. The atmosphere was very relaxed with everybody wanting to learn for their own personal reasons. The class wasn’t that large which was a huge benefit for all the mums. This helped as everyone was learning at different levels. We were all able to have time with the 1 of the 2 tutors if we were stuck on anything.

The tutors were fantastic. Simon and Karen were very helpful and informative. They also had so much patience. Nothing was too much to ask. I had to leave every lesson early to be able to pick up my son. This was never an issue. I was talked through what the rest of the lesson was going to involve and with the class handouts I did not feel like I was missing out. I always had the option to email them if I was unsure of anything.

My learning experience at ACL has certainly been a positive one. The staff and tutors were all friendly and enthusiastic. They really wanted to see me succeed on my learning journey.

The #techmums course at ACL has completely changed my life! It has given me the confidence and drive to show myself and others that anything is possible. It has been such a personal achievement that has now given me such a boost when it comes to being Tech savvy. Over the 6 weeks I learnt a lot about myself. I have never been career driven or had life goals that I wanted to achieve. But after doing this course I have found I would like to carry on learning. I took a massive leap and done a maths assessment and have enrolled to resit my Maths GCSE. Something I did not achieve while at school. I now believe this is my time to study. I also wanted to try and get myself back out there and look for work and help my family. I was so worried to put myself out there at the thought of being rejected.  I was able to write a positive letter which led to me having an interview and being offered the job!!!

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Following on from the course if there was an opportunity to carry the modules onto an advanced level would be fantastic. I have found after finishing it has left me wanting to learn more especially in the web design, coding and programming.

A huge highlight of this course was being able to meet  Dr Sue Black. Listening to her journey as a mum first and foremost, and being able to achieve such amazing goals in tech is astonishing. Sue is such an inspirational woman who has and will show so many other mums you can really achieve.  I feel so lucky to be part of this.
I am a #techmum

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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).

From Tower Hamlets to the House of Lords…

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Today was a busy #techmums day, and a day of contradictions. Mary and I ran our week 5 #techmums class with Bishop Challoner school mums in Tower Hamlets in the morning. We were happy to see our fab mums, but sad because it was the last class for this wonderful group. I’m going to miss seeing them every week.

#techmums graduation

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After graduation with certificates and “I’m a #techmum” tshirts Mary and I went off to talk to a primary school down the road about running #techmums there. They were keen 🙂

Then it was back into London and a walk from Waterloo to the House of Lords where I had a really great chat with our fab patron Baroness Martha Lane Fox about #techmums, women in tech and Bletchley Park.

Such a massive contrast from morning to afternoon. The morning spent with mums in Tower Hamlets where the average life expectancy for a woman is the lowest in the UK at just 54. The afternoon spent at the House of Lords in Westminster an area where I’m sure the life expectancy is much higher.

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Very different, but with a common thread, women, tech and empowerment.

Technology, and social media in particular is bringing about a revolution for women. The amount of empowerment that I see being talked about and happening around me is very life affirming. From Beyonce’s wonderful songs, to Everywoman and Stemette’s to EverydaySexism, #techmums, Big Swinging Ovaries and Ada’s list, women are being empowered all around us. I can feel the buzz, can you?

We still have a very long way to go, but we are on the way. Women are connecting together to help each other, the ripples are quite small at the moment, but they will grow bigger and bigger until, in the not too distant future we will see some massive changes occurring.

I’m so excited about how technology is changing our world, and this is just the beginning…..

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

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

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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.