A Feast of Film


Introducing the first Scottish Film and Learning Festival

You know that feeling you get when you have been planning a big event for the past few months and suddenly it’s over? That’s how I’m feeling today, after a truly fantastic day at the first Scottish Film and Learning Festival in Glasgow on Saturday. The area around George Square really did have a festival feeling, as the Great Scottish (Children’s) Run was also in town, but not even the samba band immediately outside one of the conference venue’s seminar rooms could dampen the enthusiasm inside. For those of you who were not able to attend this time, here is the complete list of presenters and presentations. If you click on the title of the presentation it will take you to some further information or resources related to the speaker and/or the presentation topic. A big thank you to John Johnstone from Radio EduTalk who came along and captured some of the presentations, which you can hear by going to the EduTalk website.

John Murray – Reading Explorers

Jo Hall – BBC L.A.B.

Sarah Wright – The Show-Stopping Toolkit

Rob Smith – Using Film in the Classroom

Mark Reid – Cinematheque Francaise and Understanding Cinema

Tim Flood – Draw What You See

Jonathan Charles – Using Storyboards to Develop Visual Literacy

Claire Docherty – Using the Scottish Film Archive in the Classroom

Bill Boyd – Ten Tools for Reading Film

Sarah Derrick – Discovery Film Festival DCA

Athole McLauchlan – Film Studies in Social Studies

David Griffith – From Shots to Sentences

Barbara Hill and Gordon Brown – SQA and the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy

Jo Spence – Into Film Programme for Schools

Craig Steele – Movie Mashup

Jennifer Jones – Commonwealth Digital Project

Glow Scotland – Using Glow to Enhance Visual Literacy

Bruce Eunson – Film and the Scots Language

Aussie Adventures 2: Launceston, Tasmania

To Launceston, Tasmania, and the purpose of my visit. I had been invited to deliver the final keynote speech at the New Literacies, Digital Multimedia and Classroom Teaching Conference, a collaboration between the Faculty of Education and the HIT Lab Australia (Human Interface Technology) at the University of Tasmania’s School of Computing and Information Systems. The conference was beautifully organised by Angela Thomas (@anyaixchel). Angela is a senior lecturer in English and Literacies Education at UTAS, whose research interests include children’s multimodal authoring, social semiotics and new media literacies. As well as making sure the event was running smoothly, Angela found time to present a workshop on Virtual Macbeth, the Shakespeare classic reimagined in Second Life, where participants could ‘explore the potential of virtual worlds for immersive, experiential and student-centred learning.’

Professor Len Unsworth of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, and well-respected author of several texts on new literacies, opened the conference with a fascinating insight into the ways in which the point of view of the reader/viewer changes between picture books and their animated versions, using the Oscar-winning animation of Shaun Tan’s picture book The Lost Thing as the focus. The point was well made that while the books and their moving image versions ostensibly tell the same story, there are often important interpretative differences arising from the position and actions of the camera.

Later in the day, Martin Waller (@MultiMartin), a primary teacher and researcher from Holy Trinity Rosehill Primary School in England, shared via his keynote the ways in which social media have fundamentally changed young people’s engagement with literacy and meaning making in the real world. The great thing about this inspirational speaker and teacher is that he isn’t just talking about it, he’s doing it in the classroom, where his Year 2 class (that’s age 6) have their own Twitter presence. Martin is also fascinated by children’s popular culture and how this can impact on learning, and is responsible for the famous @ClassroomTweets. Definitely a name to follow if you aren’t already doing so.

Day Two of the conference and the opening speaker makes an immediate impact. Lalitha Vasudevan (@elemveee) is Associate Professor of Technology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and her stated interest is in how young people craft stories, represent themselves and enact ways of knowing through their engagement with literacies, technologies and media. Drawing on her experiences in New York with court-involved adolescents, and through the moving personal story of a young man expressing himself through rap music, she made a very powerful argument for the case that in order to move towards greater enactment of multimodal pedagogies, such that adolescents’ literacies cease to be seen as barriers to educational participation, we need to provide teachers with access to what the research findings tell us and with opportunities to engage, explore and enact these pedagogies in the teachers’ own contexts.

Given the quality of the speakers and workshop presenters, being asked to close the conference with my own talk, ‘New Narratives for NewTimes’ was an honour and a pleasure. The feedback was incredibly generous and there are already plans to develop the conference themes into a book for publication next autumn. I would like to thank publicly Dr Angela Thomas, Robert Ceperkovic for making all the travel arrangements, the lovely Damon Thomas (@DamonPThomas) for chauffeuring us around and showing us the beautiful Tasmanian countryside, and all the other great people we met during our stay, including Annemaree O’Brien (@AnnemareeOBrien), Paul Chandler (@pauldchandler) and the irrepressible James Riggall (@jamesriggall).

If you are on Twitter you can catch a flavour of the conference at the hashtag #UTASNewLits, and if and when the presentations become available online I’ll post the links. Next time: Aussie Adventures 3 – Postcard from Sydney.

Aussie Adventures 1: Adelaide, South Australia

Arrived in Tasmania ahead of the New Literacies, Digital Media and Classroom Teaching Conference this weekend where I’ll be sharing the keynote platform with some interesting and inspirational speakers. You can see the full programme for the event here, and I understand that the talks are going to be recorded and uploaded to the UTAS website. Before arriving in Launceston however, I took the chance to visit some relatives in Adelaide that I hadn”t seen for quite a few years, and they took me on a tour of the wine-growing districts of Riverland and the Barossa Valley. Hard work but somebody had to do it. I thoroughly enjoyed South Australia and Adelaide in particular – beautiful city, great climate, fantastic parklands, bikes and bike lanes everywhere. Oh, and did I mention the wines and the seafood. Watch out for some photos when I get the chance to upload them. In ‘pretending to be working’ mode, I did also get to visit the great people of Renmark Primary School, where my cousin is the Principal, and share with them some ideas about developing multimedia literacies in the classroom. Even converted a few of them to Twitter so watch out for them on your social networks. Just had time before I left for a visit to Ned Kelly’s Retreat and some authentic outback tucker. No worries mate.

Storytyne Gateshead

For me, narrative is at the heart of learning, so you can guess how delighted I was to be part of the Storytyne Conference in Gateshead on Friday. Organised by the irrepressible Steve Bunce (@stevebunce), Regional Manager of Vital in the North East, the event was headlined by the amazing Tim Rylands, aided and abetted by his lovely partner Sarah (@sarahneild). If there’s anyone out there promoting literacy for young people in more exciting and innovative ways than this couple, I’d like to meet them. It also gave me the opportunity to meet and hear a number of people I had only met previously on Twitter, including Bill Lord (@Joga5), who certainly didn’t disappoint. A great storyteller himself, Bill shared with us some of his work as a Primary Literacy Adviser, which he does with such enthusiasm that he has been known to dress up as Burglar Bill to take part in a webcast with kids from various schools. Both Tim and Bill have blogged at length about Friday’s event. Read their accounts of the day’s events here and here.

For my own part, it gave me the opportunity to introduce a whole new group of teachers to the joys of Inanimate Alice, the digital novel which I have spoken about previously in the blog. Breaking my own rules on PowerPoint, where I would normally focus on images and very few words, this time I put together a few slides consisting of some powerful quotes – gathered mainly from the Inanimate Alice website – which represent a small sample from teachers around the world. If you follow the links on the last slide you will find some interesting resources as well as some lesson plans and case studies. You can also catch up with Alice and friends on Twitter and Facebook.

In the final session of the day, Tim and Sarah rattled through some of the many free Web tools which are available to help teachers and young people develop their language skills. I will be reviewing some of these in the weeks to come, but if you can’t wait to find out what they are you can find links to all of them here. This list was created using Linkbunch, another handy little tool I hadn’t heard of before. As if that wasn’t enough, delegates left with a handful of goodies, including the very useful Thinking Dice, and they were even invited to take away their own ‘storychairs’.

In a very full and busy day, some of the key messages for teachers:

  • Storytelling is a vital part of learning. Do everything you can to encourage young people to tell their stories.
  • Think carefully about how you construct your own learning and teaching narratives.
  • Don’t be limited by outdated definitions of ‘text’.
  • There are no reluctant readers, only the wrong books.
  • There is a plethora of free online tools available to help you (and the kids) make exciting narratives, but it isn’t about technology. Talking and listening to stories, exploring, thinking critically, and creating, are what really matters.
  • Start with what they know. Young people who think that their stories are not worth telling, are wrong.
  • You can’t write about what you haven’t experienced. Immerse young people in experiences before asking them to write.
  • Visit other worlds, real and virtual. Put them in situations and ask them to record what they see, feel, hear, smell. Take time to look around.  One of my favourite quotes from Tim’s presentation: ‘Don’t just do something, stand there!’
  • Stories are not just about fantasy and make-believe. Information is communicated via stories too.

Thanks again to all of those who were involved and to the organisers, especially Steve Bunce, for a truly magical day. I hear a rumour that a storytelling roadshow may be in the pipeline, but like those subtly dropped hints about Christmas presents past, I don’t want to think about it too much in case it doesn’t happen.