It was difficult to separate the social and cultural benefits of this case study as they overlapped in so many respects, not least because the setting was a major European purveyor of culture. Both Beverley and Fran reported significant sociocultural benefits for them, for the children and for the school. The school has a history of Arts projects involving the local school community and innovative animation projects and as such it was primed for taking risks. Indeed Fran had herself been educated in an unorthodox manner where integrated, non-subject driven content was central. During my interview with her, she was impressed with being given so much freedom, so much in the way of resources and so much expert back-up: “At no point did they say ‘No!’”. For Bev also, the Year 4 teacher at the coal-face of delivery and logistics, it was a dream team fuelled by flow.
At the outset Bev said she would have walked away from the project given the chance because of her perceived lack of control over it, however, she gradually began to see how all the different activities were coming together and the concomitant effect on the children:
“ I really do think their self confidence and their belief in what they can do has really improved … and they’re proud of what they’ve done. I think they’ve come together as a whole class. Really great. Supporting each other on the interviews, you know, really helping, helping Harvey come up with a poem, they’ve gelled together, really worked well together as a class… It’s been an amazing thing.”
When asked if she could have changed anything, Bev merely said that she would like recognition, almost absolution in fact, that she would perhaps not have time to cover the ICT topic for that term… which shows the pressure that most teachers are under to ‘sign off’ chunks of content in a timely fashion. The overall irony being that there had been an overwhelming accumulation of learning for all concerned in the areas of information, communication and technology. Media education is as much about the teacher’s ongoing willingness to learn and grow and Bev was a great example of this.
A further consideration in terms of enhanced engagement in media-related educational practice is spatial arrangement and the physical environment in which children are immersed. Whilst the children were annotating the photos I videoed the group of girls in the audio transcript above and asked them how the photos (featuring locations rather than events) made them feel. Milly was unhesitant in her appraisal: “It felt like I’m at home”. There is an interesting mix of tenses here, as if the feeling, as prompted by the photo, was still fresh weeks later. See telferscot_culturalcampus_interview.mov @ 03:06 mins.
As opposed to a one-off, this was a sustained project. Bev noted how much the children grew into the Southbank Centre: “Their confidence at using the Southbank is amazing, they believe it to be theirs”. A fact corroborated by Fran who received an email from parents whose child, on the strength of this project, had taken them to the Centre and given them “a guided tour”.
There was an overwhelming sense that the children had claimed this public space as their own: this was seen in the way they would settle into a particular ‘lunch space’ and interact with the area (photo1 below); the way they went from space to space and up and down stairs in an orderly, confident, chatty fashion (photo 2); also in the way they would settle down to work in groups (sometimes lying on the floor) in whatever space was allocated to them within the building (photos 3 & 4) without recourse to asking for permission, which had notably been the case at the start of the project.
Photo 3 shows the children planning how their artwork and media creations could be publicly displayed: they are making co-design choices in the vicinity of toddlers, grandparents and chatting adults in a bar. This is mobile, relevant and engaged learning in a real-life context. Although most boroughs are not blessed with the resources of an international arts centre, this project is testament to the impact of committed institutional partnerships and restoring executive status to the teacher. It is the teacher leading the process, not the expert and this is the premise on which such a project could be more broadly replicated.