Published on June 2nd, 2014 | by Alison McCandlish
Guest post- Digital Commonwealth in Oban
This guest post is from Kevin Cameron, our trainer for the Oban High School cluster, reflecting on the project work which the Oban High school cluster produced. The video which they made is above, and you can also see the work in progress, and an Easdale video on their blog. You can follow Kevin on Twitter, or view some of his work on his website. Oban High School are also on Twitter. The project at Oban High focused on their commonwealth of 17 primaries and exploring their cultural links.
Usually, when I undertake participative practice, the brief I am given is broad.
It was with some trepidation then that I began the work at Oban High School for Digital Commonwealth. This was because the brief was quite precise. Again, unusually, it came with notes including such things as expected learning outcomes. A clue to this was in the title of the job: trainer. Normally when I am invited into schools it is as an artist or even filmmaker. These terms are important, as they define the expectation of the engagement.
For Digital Commonwealth the techonology is a key component and its something that is incredibly variable across schools. Some schools will have a camera that someone vaguely remembers was bought at the end of a financial year (though noone knows which one, or for that matter where the power cable is). Other schools are awash with ipads, ipods and white boards, every class a mini-studio producing slick news reports and animations. In the decade I have been doing participative work I have encountered all these. Digital Commonwealth presented another layer of challenge – engagement with social media: twitter, youtube, blogs…things that are very much part of young peoplesʼ lives that education departments in local authorities struggle to get their heads around.
Certainly Oban High School sat on the more techno savvy end of the spectrum; the ICT teacher, Mr Dickson, being particularly engaged and keen to help pupils work with digital media and, through this project, shared on social media. The pupils of course come with their own knowledge base – in P7 and 1st year it was clear that somethings had to be explained to me – for instance how Snapchat worked.
It was in this context that the work I was doing at OHS for digital commonwealth evolved. I had taken the precaution of asking pupils to bring in stills and video of their communities – and a very diverse bunch they were as Oban High School has the biggest geographic catchment area in the country. This material formed the basis of the work that we would do through the two days, relating it the core themes of space, place, people and exchange. These apparently nebulous terms soon took on a concrete form as the pupils interviewed each other about their backgrounds, homes and interests. Working in production teams of 5 pupils we sat their films in a magazine format which included pieces to camera and animation.
When Iʼm doing this kind of work, though itʼs great to turn out a product that everyone feels proud of, the most satisfying part is seeing participants who you can see feel they have got something out of the process. This was certainly the case with a number of young people in Oban: one discovered they had a real aptitude for editing, could help the other young people, and in the lunch break quickly cut together a pop video for her favourite song using images she had found online. A couple of the production teams cared enough about how they were presenting their stories that they reshot until they got something that they were happy with.
This process of thinking about who they are, and caring about what they are communicating about their Commonwealth of Oban High chimed with them. It motivated them to think about what was unique about their school and the people in it and to be curious about other schools taking part in the project across Scotland.