Blog Posts By Phil Birchenall

Technique Developer Retreat comes to Wales – help shape the programme!


The cutting edge Technique training retreat, aimed at web and mobile developers, is coming to Wales and we’re looking for your input into shaping the programme.

Digital designers and developers from across Wales will be able to attend an exclusive residential training event, joining some of the best in the business for an intensive two-day blitz of cutting-edge workshops covering design, techniques and technologies.

“An essential event for developers. Technical training like this is invaluable”
Phil Jeffs, Technical Director at Area 17

The Technique Retreat is a unique event – its not a conference or a training course, but a training camp based around hands-on technical workshops from some internationally-renowned designers and developers.

More intimate and in-depth than a conference, and more dynamic than traditional training, Technique is all about practical, hands-on training, ensuring that you maximise your time learning from practicing experts as well as each other.

Small, in-depth workshops, led by leading international developers, let you really get to grips with subject and ensures that hard learning is combined with tips, tricks and approaches from the front-line of web and mobile development. Not only that, you’ll be able to swap best practice and approaches with the rest of the group.

The first Technique Wales event will take place in early 2013, at a central location – to be confirmed shortly.

If you’re a developer or digital designer based in Wales this exclusive event, brought to you by Software Alliance Wales and well-respected digital training providers The White Room, is for you.

You shape the programme

Technique Retreat events are so successful because they are designed in response to the needs of developers, through our ‘User Generated Training’ approach. So, this is your chance to tell us exactly the kinds of technical training you need. Just click below to tell us what YOU need, through our quick online survey, and we’ll shape the retreat around what we hear back!

Click here to take the Technique survey!

The White Room to lead new Web and Mobile apprenticeship


The White Room are working with Skills Solutions to deliver a unique new apprenticeship scheme, ‘Develop’, to grow the next generation of web and mobile developers.

The fast-paced world of digital development means it’s difficult to find, train and retain the best young people. The ‘Develop’ Apprenticeship is here to help digital agencies do just that.

‘Develop’ provides a platform for ambitious digital agencies to add talented young developers to their teams, without the burden of expensive salaries and training courses. This industry-first apprenticeship is a cost-effective way for companies to gain access to talent that will grow within their companies. Apprentices are supported by high quality training – designed and delivered by people working at the forefront of the industry.

The 18-month programme has been created by The White Room alongside Skills Solutions. It has been developed in collaboration with leading industry employers, respected developers and the Opera Developer Community, and with the active support of the W3C web standards curriculum.

Apprentices come to their place of work with passion, energy and enthusiasm; a desire to learn and commitment to contribute to your organisation while they get started in their career. They will learn the technical skills, languages and frameworks required to build websites and applications, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, iOS and Android.

This is a ground-breaking new apprenticeship scheme – the first of its kind in the country.

The scheme begins in June, and we have limited places to offer.

Demand has already been high, so if you would like to secure an apprentice for your company, please let us know as soon as possible.

For more information, or to secure an apprentice now, contact or 07525 393 138

The White Room help Greater Manchester Chamber to become a fully integrated Digital Business


On the back of the launch of their new website ( Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce has retained The White Room to develop and pilot their Enterprise 2.0 Strategy to make sure that the Chamber and its members are better connected than ever.

Greater Manchester Chamber is reinforcing its position as the most dynamic Chamber in the UK by rethinking what it is to be an essential membership organisation in the 21st Century. The White Room’s Digital Advantage programme is an important step in this transformation.

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce will be the first Chamber in the UK to adopt a fully integrated E2 plan with the aim of allowing staff to connect, communicate and collaborate with their members and stakeholders in the way that suits them best. It hopes to develop services ‘for the membership, by the membership and WITH the membership’ across a range of social web applications.

The next three months will see the Chamber embark on a Pilot programme of Open Source Policy Development where the whole membership will be invited to participate in an on-line policy development forum, vote on developing policy initiatives and get instant feedback on issues of the day.

Chamber Chief Executive Clive Memmott, said: “The Chamber is already using established social media tools such as Twitter and Linked In but on the back of our new website and an increasing range of new applications we feel that the time is right to push the boundaries and become a real ‘social business’.

“The White Room is undertaking a survey – the first of its kind in the UK – of members’ use of various social media tools and platforms. This will be used to develop bespoke communication channels to members in different geographical locations and in different sectors. The White Room will also be creating a dynamic on-line map of Chamber members across Greater Manchester so that members can connect better locally.

“A Chamber Wiki will be established to capture and manage knowledge across the organisation and membership. This will develop into a vital business resource for the Chamber and wider membership.

“This really is an exciting prospect and presents nothing short than a quantum leap in not just how we communicate with our members but how we can include them in some of the work we do around identifying the big issues that are affecting them. It makes perfect sense to start this now and we are looking forward to working with The White Room to make this happen. The changes and benefits will be dramatic.”

Andy Lovatt, MD of The White Room, added: “Digital Advantage is an Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business toolbox that enables companies to become fully integrated digital businesses; improving engagement, communication, collaboration and innovation across the workforce, supply chain and customer base.

“Digital Advantage provides an Integrated Digital Business Plan together with the tools, training and analytics to be able to compete and thrive through the digital revolution sweeping the global economy. It provides innovative yet practical solutions to those age-old business problems of engagement, communication, collaboration and innovation.

“Enterprise 2.0 or E2 is a movement that has been gathering pace in the US for some time now. E2 is about the application of Social Software within the business rather than merely as an external marketing tool.

“We’ll be deploying Digital Advantage to help Greater Manchester Chamber transform into a truly innovative and effective membership organisation for the 21st Century. Through the smart application of social software – linking internal and external comms – the Chamber can transform its business and keep pace with the changes brought about by the digital revolution,” said Andy.

Blog: Rethinking Technology Training for the 21st Century


Digital technologies are becoming ubiquitous; from wireless flooded city centres to mobile enabled rural communities and the immanence of IPTV, they impact on our work, our social and private lives and yet few organisations are using them well to transform teaching and learning in the workplace. As a society we are undergoing a digital revolution that is transforming most of what we do in our lives. E-learning has been around for some time, the Open University put courses on-line in 1989 and this year alone Harvard and MIT have committed $60m to offer free online courses. And yet companies large and small seem to ignore this potential and are wedded to more traditional forms of training. Chalk and talk and classroom based instruction seems to rule the roost when it comes to tech training.

It is clear that new digital technologies can enable a training revolution; or should that be a learning revolution? The way that people are sourcing knowledge and using that to learn new skills has multiplied inordinately and whilst new digital technologies make a learning revolution possible, they certainly do not guarantee it.

A recent Study by MIT highlights the problem in that “In most places where new technologies are being used in education today, the technologies are used simply to reinforce outmoded approaches.” New approaches to teaching and learning remain largely unchanged. “To take full advantage of new technologies, we need to fundamentally rethink our approaches to learning and education— and our ideas of how new technologies can support them.”(Rethinking Learning in a Digital Age, Mitchel Resnick, The Media Lab, MIT. 2010)

One of the problems is information and its ubiquity on-line. Of course anyone can find anything on the internet. Turning this into learning and or intelligence is of course quite a different challenge. Unfortunately the focus on information is both limiting and distorting. We need to move beyond this and refocus on the user and how digital technologies can can enable a greater and deeper engagement between the learner and the education provider right across the learning journey.

Why are so few people in the UK thinking about how that traditional relationship is disrupted and how perhaps the user (either directly or aggregated through social media) can become a partner in the co-development of educational material and of training and learning itself.

It has been long since recognised that teachers and trainers cannot simply pour information into learners. “Learning is an active process in which people construct new understandings of the world around them through active exploration, experimentation, discussion, and reflection. In short: people don’t get ideas; they make them.”(Ibid) So why are we so slow to use digital technology to develop training that facilitates this?

Technology Training

If it was going to happen anywhere you think it would happen in Technology training? To use the means of your production to enhance the skills you acquire to do that production would of course make absolute sense.

Yet the very idea of tech training comes with baggage. A hangover from school or college or interminable basic computer courses that everyone is put through no matter what their capability or aptitude. Training is generally ‘off the shelf’, predictable, boring; delivered to the class not with or even for them in particular. ‘If you are good you get it if you are not forget it’. Techies hate this and are amongst the biggest refusniks going; preferring to become autodidacts or to engage their late night peer support groups to find short cuts and work arounds. They learn to get by rather than to master and get the full potential out the of the hardware and software.

As technology becomes more and more pervasive and despite the best efforts of Apple and Adobe, most of us are going to have to get used to this kind of service as we become more and more dependent upon digital technologies at home and in our workplace. But traditional training will always leaves us wanting; it has to deal with fixed assets and attitudes – with the definitive not the contingent.

Better use of digital, especially social, technologies can and should alleviate this stasis and transform the way we thing about learning and professional development. Learning is something we do all the time and formal classroom training should be an important but not the only part of the mix.

Looking back at my own learning history over the past couple of years I have naturally migrated to on-line sources without abandoning more traditional formats. On-line seminars from the US have become an important source of through leadership with Mashable, Brainyard and Enterprise 2.0 being the foremost providers. Blogs and Wiki’s are now a central point of learning although my ability to contribute to the conversation is limited. Conferences or Seminars still feature but I find myself increasingly frustrated by the uni-directional nature as well as the cost of conferences of late.

The dynamics of training and learning are changing with digital and social technologies at the forefront of that change. Learning can be multi-facetted and draw its sources from a number of sources. Blended together around the needs of the end user, they can significantly shift the dynamics of learning.

Six Easy Steps

Here are a few tips to achieve this in your workplace.

1. Strategic buy-in
Training needs to be valued by the organisation and the team. Only through this mutual value and support can effective work-based learning take place. If one party is not up for it then its effectiveness is diminished. Digital technologies can bring together Senior Management with their team to collaborate on training needs and training development programmes. They can have shared aims and objectives and even undertake some of the same learning. Learning can be a great leveler – assuming you want this of course.

2. User Engagement
Engagement should be built around real work challenges and experiences – ‘learning by doing with others’ is usually the best solution. Training Needs Analysis is central to this and should be the central pillar of a dynamic learning and development programme. The user should be at the centre of their own learning even in the workplace.
Technology Training can and should be integrated into or built around an individuals workflow. Key questions should be – How do they interact with the technology and improve the business process? How can the training make this better? As part of this process, recognizing that the end users have invaluable contextual knowledge and expertise that can be used to enhance the training experience is central to successful delivery.

3. Co-design and Development
Before the advent of Social Media platforms this would have been difficult and laborious, now it can be easy and fun. A light touch online user survey can establish levels of technical competency and most appropriate delivery mode for that persons learning style. Our user Training Needs Analysis (TNA) and profiling enables us to engage user groups at an early stage and can be used to reinforce ‘ownership’ of the training, key project objectives and values thereby accelerating effective learning. The development phase will formulate the most appropriate blended learning approach with the creation of learning materials and the scheduling of training interventions.

4. Flexible Delivery
The key to successful delivery is choosing the right methods for deploying the training and undertaking learning. This can range from good old-fashioned Face to Face intensive, hands-on workshops, combined with project-based learning and ongoing access to cloud-based tutorials and other dynamic media assets including games, wiki’s and blogs. Mapping these resources and interventions should allow form minimal disruption in the workplace.

5. Constant Review
Training content and learning materials should be continually updated, based on ongoing feedback from both participants and a wider network of users. Programme feedback and evaluation should be a critical element the approach to training in the digital age and again can be enabled by light-touch digital technologies. Specific considerations should include the suitability of training content for the precise needs of the team in context; the level and style of delivery and the ongoing requirements for further training and development.

6. Make it Social
Technology training is not about technology it is about people and how they fully exploit the technology that has been put in front of them with the objective of them undertaking productive work. We should aim to take away the technology barriers from the end user and realise the full potential identified by Clay Shirky in that “Technology only becomes socially interesting when it becomes technologically boring”. The learning experience can be captured and developed using light touch social apps such as Wiki’s, Blogs, Screencasts and Collaboration Spaces. Peer to peer learning groups can be established and maintained over time. A momentum can be established to drive demand for more (of this kind of) training, which in-turn should help build a more productive and better business.

Andy Lovatt, May 2012

Creative Skillset Cymru commission The White Room to deliver International Media Conference


Following on from the success of our recent ‘Progress: Leadership and Management training’ programme, Creative Skillset Cymru have again commissioned The White Room to design and deliver a brand new programme of support for Welsh media companies.

The programme will help Welsh media companies to identify opportunities for international co-productions and explore new international markets for the content they create. We’ll have more news on this exciting new project shortly. Check back for details soon.



The White Room’s new web site


The White Room are delighted to bring you news of our new web site. Not only can you find out about all the research, events, training and business development we have been up to over the last 2 years but keep up to date with our latest news, find out about our partners and here what our clients have had to say.

Many thanks go to Manchester based graphic designer, Leanda Ryan, who developed the site for us.

Feel free to place your comments about the site by simply clicking the speech bubble, we’d love to hear what you think.

Skillset Cymru contract win for The White Room


The White Room have just been commissioned by Skillset Cymru to deliver an exciting new training scheme across Wales. The programme will develop business acumen amongst ‘future leaders’ in Wales’ creative and digital workforce. More information on this project soon.

For further information click here.

The White Room help Sky to go ‘Tapeless’



BSkyB have appointed digital consultancy and training specialists The White Room to help train their staff for their brand new digital production environment.

The development of the new, state-of-the art Sky Studios environment at their base in Osterley represents a significant step change in broadcast production, as Sky are the first major UK broadcaster to shift to a fully ‘tapeless’ system.

The White Room are working with their partners Mediasmiths – who were involved in the design of the tapeless, file-based infrastructure at Sky – to deliver a contextual induction to the production system to more than 700 technical and production staff from Sky Broadcast Operations, Sky Sports and Sky general Entertainment.

Chris Whatmore, Deputy Head of Broadcast Operations at Sky, said:

“Sky Studios Uncovered has proved to be an invaluable introduction to the new file-based production system here at Sky. In designing and delivering Sky Studios Uncovered, The White Room and Mediasmiths have created not only an enjoyable and engaging course, but one which ensures that every member of our team to take the course has taken away some tangible knowledge and understanding that will enable them to work better together in programme production.”

Paul Collins, course designer and programme lead at The White Room, said: “The shift to a fully digital media production system brings with it entirely new ways of working -  new concepts, workflows and terminology. We’ve designed a really interactive course which uses metaphor and analogy to bring the system to life, and create a shared language among users. It also emphasis the benefits that the new system offers. It’s as much about change management as technical training.”

The White Room also provide training to the BBC, and are in discussion with several other international broadcasters about helping them to manage the shift to digital production.

We are looking for a Web Development Tutor


The White Room – specialists in digital and media training – are working with Skills Solutions to develop a brand new advanced apprenticeship scheme for web and mobile development. The high-quality scheme, which is being developed in close consultation with the digital sector, will provide talented aspiring developers with the skills required by leading industry employers.

Continue Reading →

Influence wins new social media friends


We’re working with Real Fresh TV on a new training scheme that equips marketeers with the skills and knowledge they need to become effective Social Media Managers, creating and managing online communities and growing influence for a business or organisation online. We’ve added two new industry trainers to the line-up for the event, Rick Guttridge (Smoking Gun PR) and Steve Downes (Juice Digital).

Rick Gutteridge

Rick Gutteridge

Rick previously enjoyed spells in full-service agencies, was MD at major consumer specialist PR outfit and has led accounts on many major international brands.

He is Managing Director and Co-owner at Smoking Gun PR and has managed social media marketing campaigns for brands as varied as Manchester United, Panda Liquorice and the Welsh Assembly Government.


His all time favourite story is Lord Of The Rings which he feels remains as captivating for him now as it was when he was a child.

Steve Downes

Steve Downes

Steve is responsible for social media strategies for clients. He is also a guest speaker at social media conferences and digital marketing advisor to major brands.

He’s been in marketing communications for over 25 years and worked on major brands like Nikon, Siemens and even Big D and Planters Peanuts!

Steve’s proudest professional moment was meeting Yoko Ono to unveil a new name and brand for Liverpool John Lennon Airport.  She said “Thank you. John would have loved it”.

You can find out about Influence: Social Media Manager Pro or book your place by clicking here.