Resources Galore!

The annual Scottish Learning Festival takes place next week (21st and 22nd September) at the SECC in Glasgow, and for any teachers  fortunate enough to be able to attend I would recommend a visit to the Into Film stand G25 in the Exhibition Hall, where they will be showcasing their new ‘Scotland on Film‘ teaching resource. With links to Curriculum for Excellence, the resource is  designed to help educators and young people  explore Scotland through film, focusing specifically on the two central themes of Language and Identity.

whisky-galoreScotland on Film’ is an engaging, curriculum-linked teaching resource for educators working with 7-18 year-olds, comprising downloadable teachers’ notes and a PowerPoint presentation with embedded film clips. As well as supporting teachers in engaging with film as a core learning tool, the resource is designed to celebrate Scotland and the rich contribution it has made to film. The activities focus specifically on two central themes: Language and Identity. From classic cinema through to modern day representations of Scotland on film, the resource touches on history, myth, and culture.  It also uses film with accompanying Scots language texts, encouraging students to explore the language in historical and modern contexts. The sections on identity cover many aspects of what it can mean to be Scottish, from personal identity to rural and city living.

Film is an important text within the English curriculum and we seek to utilise it at every opportunity. It also serves to provide a supporting context for other avenues of study; such as novels, functional writing and stimulus for creative writing.”  Michael Daly, John Paul Academy, Glasgow

Created in partnership with Education Scotland, The Scottish Book Trust, LGBT Youth (Scotland) and Arpeggio Pictures, ‘Scotland on Film’ encourages and supports teachers to use film as a core way of teaching the curriculum. Films featured include Fantastic Mr Fox (PG), Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (PG), Sunset Song (15) and short film Take Your Partners, while activities range from discussing what films made in Scotland tell us about Scotland, through exploring ‘book-to-film’ adaptations, to poetry writing and simple filmmaking.

“It has been fantastic working together with Into Film on this new resource. An essential element of my work for Education Scotland promoting Scots Language is the development of new materials that not only show the vast vocabulary and interesting linguistic history of the language, but also to create modern and vibrant ways for Scots to be explored within the learning settings of today.”   Bruce Eunson, Education Scotland

As part of its UK-wide programme to place film at the heart of young people’s learning, Into Film, an organisation supported by the BFI through lottery funding, will also be showcasing the benefits of its school film clubs, which provide  free access to thousands of films and related resources.  Visitors to the stand will have the opportunity to set up a club on the spot with help from Into Film staff, pose queries about existing clubs, sign up for the charity’s free ‘Teaching Literacy Through Film’ online course (created in partnership with the BFI), and get a sneak preview of its newest curriculum-linked resources.

Those who are unable to attend the Festival in person can listen to the keynote presentations live online at the following times. Check the SLF website for more details.

Wednesday 21 September, 10.30 – 12 noon, Opening keynote address, John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

Wednesday 21 September, 12.30 – 13.30, Fixing the past or inventing the future, Dr Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education, University of Oregon.

Wednesday 21 September, 14.00 – 15.00, Leading with evidence for educational improvement, Dr Carol Campbell, Associate Professor, Ontario Institute of Education, University of Toronto.

Thursday 22 September, 14.30 – 15.30, Taking on the impossible, Mark Beaumont, TV presenter and broadcaster, record-breaking round the world cyclist and ultra-endurance adventurer.

The keynotes will also be available to watch online retrospectively.

Superpower: The Power of Speech

As I write this post, 16-year-olds and their teachers in Scottish secondary schools are, literally, wrapping up their Standard Grade English folios for the last time, as the qualification which was introduced to bring equality to the qualifications and certification system  is being replaced from next year by new National 4 and National 5 Certificates. Loved and despised in almost equal measure, Standard Grade and its attendant portfolio of writing, ushered in the era of ‘exams for all’, in the mistaken belief that treating everyone the same was the same as treating everyone equally. The subsequent ‘setting’ of classes and the self-fulfilling prophecy of identifying ‘Foundation kids’ from the start of the course soon put paid to that notion.

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One of the rarely-mentioned consequences of the current change, it would appear, is that talking and listening will no longer be a formal, assessable element of the course, which will come as a relief to many teachers, for whom the administration of talk assessments was of nightmare proportions, and to many kids, for whom standing up and delivering a speech in front of their peers was an ordeal, to say the least. It was never meant to be done that way of course, but not for the first time, expediency and the assessment tail found itself wagging the curriculum dog. Nevertheless, one of the unintended outcomes, I fear, is that the development of the spoken word, so vital in a hyper-networked world, will yet again be relegated to the category of ‘desirable, but not essential’. Which is a real shame, considering that young Scots, with some notable exceptions, have not traditionally been renowned for their verbal dexterity, and considering  the emphasis put on orality by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), especially in terms of valuing one’s own culture and identity. In its 2004 position paper, The Plurality of Literacy and its Implications for Policies and Programmes, the organisation for whom the meaningful acquisition and application of literacy lays the foundation for positive social transformation, justice, and personal and collective freedom, recognises the importance of spoken language in enabling individuals and groups to articulate their own ‘meanings, knowledge and identity’.

“In acknowledging the fact that literacy involves oral, written, visual and digital forms of expression and communication, literacy efforts conceived in terms of the plural notion of literacy intend to take account of the ways in which these different processes interrelate in a given social context. Because all such processes involve expressing and communicating cultural identity, the promotion of literacy must foster the capacity to express or communicate this identity in one’s own terms and especially language(s). In a multilingual society, the plural notion of literacy entails designing multi-lingual policies and programmes for both the mother tongue and other languages as well as recognising the complementary relationship between literacy and orality.”

The Plurality of Literacy and its Implications for Policies and Programmes, UNESCO 2004

All of which gives me an excuse, if I needed one, to share with you this wonderful TED talk by Ron Finley, which I think demonstrates admirably the power of the spoken word, the importance of pride in cultural identity, and the ability of individuals to make a difference if they feel powerfully enough about the need to do so. I hope you enjoy it and share it with your students.