Presenting the Evidence: Scottish Museums and e-learning
Jim Devine, Emma Gibson and Michelle Kane, Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, Scotland
This paper will present research currently underway in Scotland into the use and extent of multimedia resources being employed in the museums community in Scotland and their impact on users at remote locations. The paper will outline the project and provide an in-focus case study based on a visit and interviews conducted on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebridean Islands off the West Coast of Scotland. The Scottish "What Clicks?" project is led by Jim Devine, the Hunterian's Head of Multimedia, and will review existing and potential capability, human and technological, within the museum sector in Scotland, in the use of ICT to increase public access and resulting learning opportunities to collections. In addition, the project will produce recommendations outlining how the museum sector in Scotland can best realise the potential of ICT for e-learning. The World Wide Web and other digital means (e.g. CD ROM) offer Scottish museums the opportunity to increase access for a wide range of new audiences and to promote new learning styles. In particular, opportunities are created for study by those physically remote from museum collections - from primary and secondary schools through to community and special needs groups, to self-directed lifelong learners.
Keywords: Distance Learning, e-learning, multimedia, education,survey, interview
The Scottish Museums Council (SMC) and the Scottish Executive recently announced an award of almost £100,000 to the Hunterian in the second round of museum projects to benefit from the Strategic Change Fund. The Fund has been developed to bring strategic change to the Museum sector in Scotland and produce exemplar projects for potential wider application. Managed by SMC, and funded by the Scottish Executive, the Strategic Change Fund was launched in May 2002 to deliver over £1.5 million to successful projects throughout Scotland over two years.
The Scottish "What Clicks?" project is led by Jim Devine, the Hunterian's Head of Education and Digital Media Resources, and is reviewing existing and potential capability, human and technological, within the museum sector in Scotland, in the use of ICT to increase public access and resulting learning opportunities to collections. In addition, the project will produce recommendations outlining how the museum sector in Scotland can best realise the potential of ICT for e-learning. The World Wide Web and other digital means (e.g. CD ROM) offer Scottish museums the opportunity to increase access for a wide range of new audiences and to promote new learning styles. In particular, opportunities are created for study by those physically remote from museum collections - from primary and secondary schools through to community and special needs groups, to self-directed lifelong learners.
The Hunterian is working with a number of partners in Scotland and overseas, both within the museum sector and in education. Small, independent museums will also play an important part including the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther. School and community partners will be drawn from local and remote areas including Dumbarton Academy, Cumbernauld Primary School, Castlebay Secondary School, Barra, Soroba Young Families Centre, Oban, and T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Va. The project will benefit from peer review, and input on the US K-12 curriculum and reviews of best practice in the US, provided through the Hunterian's links with the Smithsonian Institution and Harvard University.
The Hunterian, working in collaboration with the Department of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow, has been at the forefront of digital delivery of educational resources, having launched the first museum Web site in Scotland in 1995, and developing leading edge techniques for the digital presentation of cultural resources. Schools in Scotland and overseas regularly use the Hunterian's Web resources, and email enquiries are dealt with from schoolchildren from as far afield as Barra to Brooklyn. This international aspect of the Hunterian's distance-learning activity has also led to a highly successful skills-sharing partnership with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
Since first sharing a platform at the first Museums and The Web conference in Los Angeles in 1997, The Smithsonian Institution and The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, on their respective sides of the Atlantic, have worked collaboratively to establish leading edge practices in the field of digital imaging and multimedia presentation techniques for the scientific and cultural heritage sector. This collaboration was formalised as SHADE (Smithsonian-Hunterian Advanced Digital Experiments), This partnership has also developed examples of best practice in skills-sharing through bilateral exchange of ideas and innovation, and staff exchange visits between the Education and Digital Media Service at the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, http://www.hunterian.gla.ac.uk and the Center for Scientific Imaging and Photography at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian. http://www.nmnh.si.edu
The Scottish Executive's Role
The Scottish Executive is the devolved government for Scotland. The Executive was established in 1999, following the first elections in nearly 300 years to the Scottish Parliament. At Devolution, the powers and duties exercised by UK Ministers in Scotland, relating to devolved matters, were transferred to the Scottish Ministers. Included in the list of devolved powers was Arts and Culture; and it was under that Ministerial responsibility, that in May 2002, the Scottish Executive launched the "Strategic Change Fund" to deliver over £1.5 million to successful projects throughout Scotland over two years. Awards have been made to new initiatives throughout Scotland, which have been developed to bring strategic change to the Museum sector and produce exemplar projects for potential wider application.
The Scottish Museums Council's role
The Scottish Museums Council is the representative body and membership organisation for Scotland's non-national museums. The Scottish Executive considers SMC to be its "main adviser on local museums and the main channel of Executive support for Scotland's 400 or so local museums and galleries". The 1998 SMC-led "National Strategy for Scotland's Museums" called for a fresh look at museum development and practice in the country, stating, "All museum development should incorporate the principle of sustainability".
Managed by the Scottish Museums Council, support from the Strategic Change Fund has been awarded to 13 new initiatives throughout Scotland. All of the awards are the result of innovative and collaborative partnerships being formed between the lead applicants, other museums, local authority councils and key non-museum sector organisations. This approach is welcomed by SMC as cross sector communication and partnership is crucial to museum sector development at regional level. SMC have said "The Strategic Change Fund has created some exciting initiatives that museums, local authorities and other partners expect to learn from and use as exemplars for the future. It has been a catalyst for introducing museum organisations to new methods of working and has provided them with the opportunity to develop new mechanisms that could be of substantial benefit not just to the applicants but also to the Scottish museum sector as a whole."
Projects receiving funding under the Strategic Change Fund are engaging in one or more of the following criteria:
A full listing of the SCF supported projects can be found at: www.scottishmuseums.org.uk/members_services/grants/SCF/scf_projects.asp
What Clicks in Scotland?
Case Study Isle of Barra.
The Isle of Barra is situated on the West Coast of Scotland, approximately eight by four miles in area. Its population is around 1200-1300, with many of the population aged over forty or under sixteen. Castlebay School, which encompasses both a Primary and a Secondary School, is part of the What Clicks? Project Advisory Group, through the Principal Teacher of Art, Mr Bill Blacker. Barra was chosen for an initial visit due to its geographical location, distant from many of the physical museum resources available in Scotland, which are mostly concentrated in the Central Belt of the mainland between Glasgow in the west and Edinburgh in the east. In addition, the presence of the Barra Heritage Centre, next door to the school provided an opportunity to assess the interaction between the school and a local heritage resource. It was an excellent candidate for an initial review of resources and to be used as a case study illustration of the partnerships and collaborations What Clicks? hopes to investigate and encourage.
Interview - Mr Eldo Pisaneschi Science Teacher
Mr Pisaneschi described himself as "quite familiar" with technology, with experience using email, Internet, Internet portals, digital projectors etc.
There are two Internet accessible computers in his classroom that are used a lot, with more access points available. The Internet is used during his lessons for pupil research, for example, a typical pupil project would be on "Elements" where each pupil would be given one element to research and produce a poster for. He is available for guidance during Internet use, however some pupils must leave his classroom and use the computers in the library for research. He doesn't recommend specific sites for his pupils, giving them a "free hand", saying that most of them are very good, knowing how to use the Internet well.
Other electronic resources are used, an example CDROM used is "Multimedia Solutions to Physics Problems" which is an SQA publication that is teacher led, used in the classroom with a digital projector.
Scholar is an interactive program that every school in Scotland has access to, which allows each pupil their own account and access to curriculum resources using the Internet, for selected subjects, for which Mr Pisaneschi is the School Coordinator. It encompasses the entire syllabus with all course materials for that subject and allows the teacher to keep track of the pupil's progress through the prescribed resources. Scholar is used in the school for science subjects at Higher and Advanced Higher levels; Mr Pisaneschi described the system as "wonderful" and describes himself as "an advocate" for using Scholar and hopes to see it expanded for other subjects as it is under utilised at the moment. It is used in conjunction with other teaching materials for Higher but is the only material for Advanced Higher. One of the strengths of Scholar was described to be its ability to be either teacher or pupil led. Virtual experiments allow the next best alternative to carrying out an experiment, considering factors like expense and number of pupils, which is important for a school like Castlebay. Sometimes there are only one or two pupils taking a particular subject and the expense of carrying out an experiment cannot be justified. However if the experiments can be represented electronically, they are "not the best, not ideal, but they get you there".
Problems / Issues
A typical problem with using the Internet for project research was that some pupils thought they had done well if lots of information was downloaded, rather than depth of detail. For some pupils, understanding of the material was lacking; they weren't filtering through the abundance of information to find that which was relevant to their project. Some information is also inappropriate to their project, beyond its scope, or simply not relevant to their level of schooling. The point was also made that it was easier to edit information in books for the classroom rather than the information available using the Internet.
Another issue raised was the continuing use of old technology that is not integrated with other systems used in the school. Mr Pisaneschi continues to use an ACORN computer using 5 1/4 inch floppy disks for one of his experiments, "it's still in use; it's reliable and it works". SCRAN was not used, it hadn't been heard of.
Electronic Submissions of pupil work was also discussed. The school use an Administration system called Phoenix, which was trialled for use as an electronic submission system. However there were considerable problems including that it was very unreliable so the project was abandoned, and described as a "disaster".
Interview Mrs Linda MacKinnon, Librarian
The library at Castlebay School is used as a public library as well as for pupil and general school use. There are five relatively new computers around one year old, as well as one other slightly older computer, reserved for disabled users, that has a larger keyboard and other more accessible facilities and uses applications like Speak N' Spell. All have free Internet access, for use by the school and members of the general public. The computers and the free Internet access were funded by the People's Network, a Government initiative, with the free access having been implemented in February this year. School groups use the computers a lot, however members of the public are given priority over the pupils, so if someone from the public wishes to use a computer that is in use by a pupil, the pupil would have to give up their place. The public do use the service with many visitors and tourists using the Internet over the summer months. In addition, the Librarian uses a rule where only four of the five computers can be used at one time by school pupils, so as not to put off members of the public. Pupils are only allowed to use the computers for a specific school-related reason during school hours. The Librarian enforces this rule by not allowing pupils to play games etc. The computers tend to be used for research, Internet use, typing reports for assignments etc, as well as careers information by the older pupils. CD ROMs are used "from time to time". Being a public library, it is open out with school hours in the evenings. During this time the pupils are free to do whatever they wish which, as the Librarian noted, tended to be for games with the boys whereas for the girls, the novelty of playing games quickly wore off, so they use the time more productively.
Total hours of Computer Use by all users example months in 2003:
Average use during the week is around 73 hours.
Interview Margaret MacLean, Technician
Every classroom has access to at least one Internet ready computer, some with suites of computers, most using Windows 98. An ongoing issue is that they are trying to bring in the use of Windows 2000; as they feel it is more secure, any new computers they get use Win2000. For example, the Business Studies Department has 14 computers, the Technical Department has 8. There are around 60 computers linked to the school's network including the Primary school, which is linked to the Secondary by fibre optic. The whole school is networked mainly for Internet access, but she doesn't think the networking potential is being realised by most teachers in school. Some teachers are resistant to using computers at all and don't want to learn how. Others aren't sure about the training and "don't know how much training they want". For example, file sharing is not really utilised, i.e. if a teacher has a file on one computer that they want to access from somewhere else, the file sharing capability of the network isn't really used they choose rather not to access the file at all from the other location, or use floppy disks to transfer the file manually. Some training is available for teachers, mainly through the Deputy Head teacher who puts on courses run in-house to address some of these issues. No training has been given to the technician staff and little outside training is given to teachers.
The Western Isles Council administers the network from Stornoway, where IT technicians are dispatched if required, as they are ultimately responsible for the running the network. It is hoped that in the future a wireless link will allow the network to be administered from Stornoway, without the need for technicians to travel to Barra. Margaret wasn't sure about Broadband being introduced. ISDN is currently used where the Council have agreements with third parties regarding email accounts and filtering services. The school currently doesn't facilitate Distance Learning but consider the Scholar program that pupil can access. There are also the facilities in place for video conferencing, the equipment the TV, 3 ISDN lines etc – is in place but hasn't been set up. However it is now going ahead "imminently". Margaret felt there was a difference between the Primary and the Secondary, that the Primary was slower on the uptake of new technologies and didn't use the Internet as much as the Secondary. The Primary is all networked, but "needs finishing", has a budget for IT and has the equipment but is not used a lot.
Interview Fiona Ferguson, Classroom Assistant and Patricia Blacker, English and Learning Support Teacher
Both felt their IT skills were quite good using the Internet on a daily basis as well as using email, portals etc. Not much formal training had been received, however when they did go on a course, they found it to be too easy, too simplistic for their needs.
The Internet is used with their pupils on a daily basis for their own research, for example to find out a particular piece of information. However they often found that finding teaching resources is difficult and time consuming and would like to see some more curriculum focussed resources. For example, they mentioned having a database of Scottish literature designed for educational use that was curriculum based would be really useful. Otherwise they tend to use the Internet for specific pieces of information. With the pupils, they use Google to search for information, then use Ask Jeeves if they can't find what they want using Google. They use educational games for literacy and numeracy in the Learning Base that all pupils have access to. They had heard of SCRAN but don't use it; I don't think they realised the extent of the information available, or that it could be viewed as curriculum based. Other CD ROMs had been used, for example for Macbeth and Tam O'Shanter English courses produced by Learning and Teaching Scotland. The CDs had quizzes, audio excerpts, text excerpts, animations, and character development info and were described as very good. The pupils enjoy using these resources as well, however few resources as good as this were available. They found many of the CDs they purchased to be "disappointing" and "rubbish" and put them off using department funds to purchase any more, considering they spent over £100 on each CD.
Specific Web sites are recommended to pupils for research and assignments, for example the BBC News site is recommended, as well as other Tabloid and Broadsheet sites for comparisons of the type and style of information available, and as part of research for argumentative or discursive essays and presentations.
Web worksheets are used to supplement the books they use many books have related Internet sites with downloadable worksheets and quizzes directly related to the books they already use.
The Learning Support Department also runs a scheme to allow pupils to borrow simple word processing equipment, if they don't have a computer at home or their handwriting is bad. They are used for typing up reports and other schoolwork and for pupils to use during class if their handwriting is not so good. These Alpha Smart 3000s are borrowed and users are assigned a file number where everything they type is automatically stored; no saving is required so they are simple to use. Usually the document is uploaded to a computer in the Learning Base to allow pupils to format their work before printing it out. This scheme is used a lot at the end of term and at exam time.
Mini Interview Cath, Business Studies Teacher
There are 14 Internet ready computers in the Business Studies computer suite that are used during lessons and out of lessons by request. Prescribed Web sites are used during courses and are built up into a Favourites list, however it is difficult to identify suitable resources for use in the classroom. For example in 1st and 2nd year it's mostly Web sites that they know themselves, like Newsround as well as other recommended sites. Other electronic resources are used, more for Standard Grade and Higher courses, often using a digital projector. Pupils use the Internet out with class time for their own research for Business Studies as well as other classes. Forums and discussion groups aren't used at the moment, she says it sounds like a great idea and something she'll have to get round to looking at, since they do feel quite isolated and she is the only business studies teacher, however she does keep close links with other teachers and thinks a forum or discussion group might be a useful way of keeping in contact. She uses the Internet to keep track of any new developments and to keep updated with anything new in the 5-14 curriculum. She accesses the Internet almost every day.
Cath doesn't feel there are enough facilities in the school in terms of computers that the library provision isn't enough as she is always taking requests from students to use the computers and Internet for their own purposes. SCRAN isn't used at the moment. Sometimes they have problems with the reliability of the network, and without a full time IT technician it is quite difficult when it goes down.
Interview Margaret MacLean, P4-7 Teacher, and Mary Agnes MacKinnon, Supply Primary Teacher
Mrs MacLean has 3 computers in her classroom that are used for word processing, typing up the pupils' stories and poems etc and researching on the Internet. Each pupil has their own floppy disk to keep their work on. Computer based educational games are used in Gaelic as well as English as the Primary has a Gaelic centre and some lessons are taught in Gaelic. Teachers don't use the Internet much for lesson planning and feel that they don't need to. One of the main uses of computers for the Primary teachers seemed to be making up booklets to be used in the classroom, especially for the younger classes. The Deputy Head gives courses on using IT, however training was a big issue and seemed to be a reason not to use IT. Training was the biggest issue raised, saying that it was "very important" although they were "getting there slowly". A Maths program was the only concrete example of IT use demonstrated. It is an interactive program with quizzes etc, that corrects the pupils' mistakes as they are made. This program was quite popular with the teacher, who described it as self-corrective, plus the pupils can use it on his or her own. It was mainly used as a backup by P4 and P5 pupils, after they had finished their class work. Again, training was an issue, as was time, "the biggest resource required is time".
Interview Jim MacKeeman, Deputy Head
The school uses digital camera equipment a great deal. About 3 years ago there was an initiative where all head teachers of schools in Scotland were given a lump of money that allowed them to develop particular things within their school. Castlebay's Headmaster decided that he wanted ICT to be developed within the school and used the money to buy an extra 15 computers over and above what they would be getting through the NGfL and other organisations. He then left it up to the Deputy about what else the money would be spent on. He decided then that something that they really needed in the school was a digital camera and digital video recording equipment where quality was a big factor. A camera was purchased for the Primary since the Secondary's money had been spent on the new computers and the Primary had some budget left, although it can be used across the school. Recommendations were made by an IT Coordinator - Kenny Matheson who has an overview of all the IT things that are happening and who the Council uses to administer the NGfL and NoF funding and training etc, as to what camera they should purchase. More school photographs were taken, they were able to record more school events and to produce higher quality teaching resources etc. After the success of the digital camera and the relatively minimal use of the digital video, when more funding became available, another good quality camera was bought for the Secondary department. The Art department use it most. Perceived downfalls were that it wasn't a traditional shaped camera, "more like a rubics cube", described as "rubbish!" and of no comparison compared to the previous camera package. Although there are benefits and downfalls of both cameras, both are used for different things. "We use it constantly".
Images are used for pupil display and pupil materials and for school Enterprise photos of all class groups and other school groups that will be sold to parents and the public.
Web site cannot be viewed currently; the Western Isles Council pulled all school Web sites from the Internet a while ago, and only recently in the last couple of weeks, have had permission slips to allow images of the children to be used in this way. Web site address is http://Web.castlebay.biblio.co.uk (though this URL does not resolve). Bibliotech ensure secure email and Internet access through the Schoolmaster.net system. The Council decided that this company should host the school's Web site rather than the Council itself, although other schools in the area used the Council's Web site to access a Web server for hosting purposes, since the agreement had just been negotiated regarding the email and Internet access. Subsequent Web sites developed by schools have also been hosted by the Council Web site and Castlebay could have had theirs transferred over, although they haven't felt the need so far. Deputy Head built the Web site himself and so had complete control over the content "the way it should be". Probably the most successful thing they've done with the Internet was an exchange with Irish students where one of the auxiliaries kept a photo diary of what was happening on a daily basis. Each day a gallery was built up and put on the Web for parents and students back in Ireland to see what went on each day. The direction now, strategically, is moving towards a similar thing but with digital video rather than just still images. However, when the Web site was pulled, the Deputy Head decided that he could not spend the time to maintain the site, so with ongoing training with the Primary staff in particular, in ICT, started a Dreamweaver course. Once some of them are trained, they intend to build their own Intranet site and host their own server. Then once it has been internally developed with the infrastructure to maintain it, it will be re-launched as a Web site.
The Deputy Head's vision from a few years ago, where Castlebay as a community school will be able to offer education as a community resource and will be able to use IT in order to allow people to share it. One of the ways to do that is posting homework and other planned education activities on the Internet. Teachers are pestered and get annoyed when, by the nature of the island, pupils miss days at the end of term due to holiday plans etc, but on their return expect the teacher to do extra work, preparation and marking in order to facilitate their plans. If however, the homework was posted on the Internet, it then ceases to be the teacher's responsibility and the pupil has to take much more responsibility for their own learning, which is what happens with universities at the moment anyway, and is good preparation for that.
Would the school be interested in making partnerships or collaboration with other institutions? Heritage Centre had a large resource about the Herring Fleet in Barra over the last two centuries. The school had an inspection coming up (they wanted to make sure everything was "gee whiz") and so they decided that one of the topics in the history section of the Primary would be on the local Herring industry. They were able to get a lot of information from the Heritage Centre, in the form of old sepia tone photos, which the school borrowed, scanned and enhanced using Photoshop, and managed to access an A3 colour laser printer so they could produce wall displays. When they were finished, there was a copy that could go back to the Heritage Centre, so they worked in partnership and both received the benefits. The Deputy can see two areas of growth in technology at the moment (as far as he can see in terms of "this little island"), the first being huge growth in digital video, which he is very interested for the school to progress along with. With the advent of broadband, more and more digital video is being used to replace still images on the Internet - he thinks this is "almost inevitable". The high quality reproduction of hard copy digital images is also becoming much more viable within schools, and other places at the moment. Before, they were restricted to using very expensive photo quality paper and inkjets whereas colour laser printers are now more affordable. Since he has a much freer hand with the Primary budget than the Secondary, they also bought a colour laser printer for the Primary. They are able to produce things like pupil reports in colour, and other school enterprise projects now that the speed of printing has been improved.
Funding is always a difficulty for a school, so any partnership that is going to allow them to access equipment and expertise is always going to be welcome, "we would grab anything like that with both hands".
Projects in the pipeline: trying to get funding to produce a brochure for the Isle of Barra, which will be reproduced on either their Web site or the Barra, or the Western Isles Hebridean Web site. So doing the panorama views "would be great". In the longer term, they were successful in a bid for an innovations award through Learning Teaching Scotland, where they want to kick-start the digital video, where they are going to do a little animation (the "Claymation Animation in Gaidhlig" Project). More flexibility in what they can do in the curriculum with the Primary pupils, and Jim feels that if they can be brought into the Secondary with a good understanding of technology and file management, that will assist them in getting through the Secondary. So both projects are focussed on upper Primary pupils, where after October for six weeks, the Art teacher will be spending all day every Friday with the pupils on the technology aspects.
Jim says, "Until the staff see something working and think how they can apply things themselves, it is difficult to get things started and that's why I think it's important, that if we've got the project, we could share and work with it, it could motivate others into using the equipment."
Resources on the Internet
"For almost every subject that's being taught in the school, there are a huge amount of free resources available for people to use if they can find them. The problem is that they are of variable quality and a fair amount of time has to be taken to make sure you are getting the resource that you want." But Jim thinks the Internet is invaluable and that a lot comes with experience. He thinks that shared "networks" between those who identify useful resources and those who would require such resources would be useful. He thinks such a network could and should be established. The difficulty they currently face is that there are a number of government and Scottish Executive funded projects in existence on the Internet and teachers either don't know they are there, or haven't had the opportunity to access them. Some of them he describes as "really good", but can't remember the names, one of them could be SCRAN?
The Scottish Executive have assembled a "team of champions" who they recognise as being the 600 most experienced and most interested members of teaching staff across Scotland in ICT to form the Masterclass group. One function of the Masterclass scheme is that within each authority, there is a subgroup of the Masterclass group, where their job is to assist and advise on the strategic development of ICT within that authority. Collectively, this works its way back to the strategic development of ICT within education in Scotland. It has enabled people who have an interest in ICT to identify areas that they want to further develop, and assist with the training and development. This is where they started the digital video projects within the school. Deputy is a member of the Masterclass and is very keen of promoting the various teaching resources that exist. However, they really need people that are not Masterclass participants to be able to also welcome these developments. He has the opinion that all teachers who want to be IT literate are IT literate and they ones that want to resist it, will continue to resist it. He feels they have gotten past the "revolutionary" phase of IT in schools, and are now waiting for "evolution" to take over, where new members of staff come in who have more facility and greater knowledge of IT to take it forward.
Interesting Point he has huge questions about the value of what can be usefully learned by pupils with "unfettered" access to the Internet. Back to the point about teachers if teachers have filtered through the resources and identified useful Web sites and planned the activities of the class, as well as monitoring the access, then "yes, there is a distinct possibility that the Internet can be a great deal of use". However, if the teacher doesn't have that degree of expertise and allows pupils (who probably have more expertise than the teacher) to use the computers, then "it's not a recipe for learning".
Other electronic resources
Jim also mentioned a project MICE a survey of the impact of computers in education. After 7 years of analysis they found there was no strong evidence one way or the other whether all the millions of pounds they spent putting computers into schools had improved education. However, schools now find themselves in the reality that they have many computers to use, where many of the teachers use the computers in order to create lesson plans etc. Many teachers in Scotland produce good quality teaching resources for their own use, and their school's use. For example, Jim has produced a Flash animation to show how technical drawings are done, which his class benefits from, as does his colleagues class, but no one else does. He feels many teachers do this, satisfying exactly what they need for a particular aspect of their own teaching, which other teachers would do in many different ways. Researching how much of this goes on in school, he feels, would be a tangible measure of how ICT is affecting learning and teaching in an establishment. A catalogue of existing resources, which could be made available through funding, would also be useful. This is an interesting point, as these resources would not be built for the masses, satisfying only a specific issues, e.g. only teachers teaching Higher Graphical Communication would ever use the resource, but addressing these issues extremely well.
The Deputy does not see the future of electronic resources being curriculum based, since this only gives a narrow view of what the curriculum is. A pupil must be able to view aspects of what they are learning in the real world for example, as part of their own research, which widens the knowledge. In class they learn skills but to gain knowledge, they research on their own, for example using Internet resources.
Interview Irene Donnolly at the Barra Learning Centre
The Learning Centre has been in Barra for about eight years, starting with only one desk and one computer. It was initiated by Barra and Vatersay Voluntary Action, who are in the same building, as a project to try and get people on the island to improve their IT skills, especially using Windows 95. People involved in the development of the island realised that there was potential for business and the improved economic status of the island if people had IT training. Links were made in the beginning to Lewis Castle College, where the need for more computers arose. For a few years various hardware was used, however now all their equipment is the same: seven computers networked together all with Internet access. All equipment etc has been funded by Lewis Castle College, which took over the running of the centre, although the local element is very important with links with Voluntary Action and the School where Learning Centre night classes and interest classes are held. Courses that the students use the Learning Centre for, come from Lewis Castle College and more recently from the UHI network. Previously the computers were mostly used to learn about computers, learn IT skills, however now the computers are used a medium for learning, for example by students doing degrees. The centre is generally frequented by part time and full time adult-returner degree students, of which almost 100% are female. The facilities are used a lot with satellite links to access the Internet, and are ready for broadband, if they get it on the island. Only registered students can access the Internet using the Learning Centre's facilities, due to JANET regulations - it is not a public access Internet facility. The very high population of female users can partly be contributed to cultural influences, as well as reflecting the types of courses that are offered Business Administration, Rural Health, Child and Youth Studies, Rural Development that may be more female-oriented. She feels that the types of courses that are more traditionally male-oriented are more practical, and not as suitable for Internet study. Blackboard and WebCT are the main learning platforms that are used as online courses, which are described as "very good". CD ROMS aren't particularly used, however, the video conferencing equipment they have is used quite a lot in the past although Web-based communications have recently overtaken the use - as part of degree courses for tutors to be able to link up to students on the island. Most courses are based almost 100% on the Internet, but at one time, 3 or 4 hours per week of the student's time would have been spent in video conferences. Expense was probably an issue for this shift in usage, as well as the success of student and tutor's abilities in communicating using the VC system. However, it is still used for meetings, as well as by the Centre's staff etc.
Most of the resources used are online so she does think that having more resources available would be useful, as well as having a broader range of resources. The UHI are prominent in developing online resources, every year there is more and more choice. There is a possibility that some of the Rural Development students may use museum Web site occasionally, otherwise there isn't much use of museum Web sites by the students at the Learning Centre. Irene would like to see more textbooks available online, and could see that museum Web sites might be useful if added to course materials by the course providers, however it would depend on the subject. She and the Learning Centre would definitely be interested in any projects involving other organisations, like the Heritage Centre or the School. The problem is just getting ideas off the ground and getting the funding. She says, "there is no lack of interest in anything, but there are barriers, because of funding or ideas. With the Heritage Centre that has more of an eye on history and culture etc, anything that the Learning Centre could do to complement anything they want to do with the equipment is absolutely appropriate. There shouldn't be any barriers to equipment if it's already here on the island, that's just crazy. Shared resources are the way to go".
Informal Chat Dana MacPhee Museums Officer, Sarah Rose Web Developer and Rhoda Collections Curator
Dana MacPhee and the Heritage Centre are just at the beginning of a project called Links Partnership for Change, funded from the same Strategic Change Fund as What Clicks? There seems to be some overlap between What Clicks? and Links regarding the partnerships idea between different organisations, although the focus of the projects are different, with Links focussed on Gaelic and its cultural traditions. As part of this project, a Web site is due to be built, hence the presence of Sarah Rose, the developer who won the contract to construct the Web site. They were keen to have someone from the island involved with the site for the Heritage Centre, however the Web site will also act as a resource centre for the project and so has purposes other than just for the Heritage Centre. They envisage the site as being quite simple and straightforward with a section dedicated to the Links project with information on workshops on Collections Management, education and interpretation, with other sections including history, example exhibits, Barra history, Gaelic etc. A forum will be used for discussions with remote parties. The current minimal Web site was set up some time ago, before Sarah arrived. She intends to take the project in whatever direction the Heritage Centre wish to go, including training for future maintenance of the Web site and the ability to make changes and more exhibits available without relying on outsiders. Accessibility will be a consideration during development, as well education in schools, informally and in museums. Barra is also going to be a Cultural Coordinator with some involvement with the SMC, which may be interesting to follow up to see their impact. Also mentioned was Ian Morrison The Museums Documentation Officer for the National Museums of Scotland, who previously conducted the Western Isles National Database Evaluation Exercise, WINDEE, that allowed users to access over 8000 record of museum objects, organised using an interactive map plus general information and quizzes. The project showed that many people were interested in basic access to museum records and was in fact trialled in Castlebay School! By coincidence, Ian had already been contacted as part of the What Clicks? Project with reference to his Curatorial Adviser post at the Bennie Museum. He constructed the Bennie Museum's Web site and in his words' "is part of my duties to investigate ways of making museum information, particularly about the collections, more widely available, as well as advising and supporting non-national museums." So it may be interesting to follow up what involvement he has, as well as watching the Web site project itself develop and contribute if possible.
During the visit, the staff were carrying out exhibit cataloguing, however not digitally. They would like to have digital resources, however with only a small number of staff and only six volunteers, "funding is a barrier to digitisation". They are keen on collaboration projects, and would be interested in having their objects used as part of a project that could ultimately be used in their Web site. A QTVR project was mentioned involving the pupils of Castlebay School and they seemed to be content to allow access to the Centre for a movie to be made.
Previous school visits to the Heritage Centre have incurred a payable entrance fee for each pupil. This has put some teachers off returning to the Centre and having to use part of their departmental budget for a school visit or project. The project is also involved with Inspiring Learning for All, a Resource initiative, however the nature of this needs to be investigated further. http://www.resource.gov.uk/action/learnacc/00insplearn.asp
All Eileanan Siar schools have Internet access to an Internet Service Provider offering Web filtering facilities. Schools are signed up to the Government's Schools Internet Caller (SIC) scheme which provides 50 hours of Internet access 8am-6pm, Monday to Friday. Castlebay have "tweaked" the timings of this service to allow access during the times that the Library is open, during school hours and in the evenings. This service offers Internet access, at any time during the school week, at a predictable cost including line rental and all call charges. All school staff and pupils have a Schoolmaster email account. Regardless of when or where a pupil enters school education a Schoolmaster email account is provided for them. Pupils can use this personal e-mail account on any Internet-ready computer, anytime, anywhere - in school, at home, or their local library. Their personal e-mail account follows them throughout their entire schooling days in the Western Isles - from school to school and from Primary to Secondary School.
This facility was found not to be used much by pupils or staff in Castlebay. The accounts are used by some staff for more official business, preferring their own personal accounts for other email correspondence. Teaching staff were estimated to use the service least among the staff, with other staff, like Office Administrators using it more. Margaret estimated that around 20% or less of the staff use their Schoolmaster emails.
Claymation Animation in Gaidhlig' - Castlebay Community School
The aim of this project is for the pupils of P5, P6 and P7 at Castlebay Community School to produce an animated cartoon using the plasticine clay models made famous by Aardman Animation. We are a bilingual school and one of the objectives will be to produce the animation with two soundtracks, one in English and one in Gaelic.
The premiere of the animation will be given during the school Christmas show, using a digital projector. The animation will then be copied onto CD-ROMs and made available to parents through a school enterprise scheme.
The bilingual resource will also be made available for other schools to use in language lessons.
Total funding awarded - £4768
Links - Partnership for Change
Funding - £101,211 from the SMC Strategic Change Fund same as What Clicks?
This visionary project aims to extend museum audiences and promote access to the indigenous cultural heritage of the Western Isles through the development of new partnerships in the community. The Museums, Gaelic, Social Services and Education departments of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will work with the 23 Comann Eachdraidh (voluntary Local Historical Societies), the Western Isles Health Board, the arts and further education sectors.
Gaelic, and its distinctive cultural traditions, is at the core of plans to develop joint strategies and models for collections management, education, access and interpretation. A pilot project will run in parallel on the Isle of Barra. The project has the potential to transform the delivery of museum services in the Western Isles, through innovative partnership working.
Schoolmaster Program: http://www.schoolmaster.net/
More information on Internet Provision for Schools: http://www.ifl.net/
Western Isles Council ICT Guidelines: http://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/edc/ictguidelines/index.htm
University of the Highland and Islands: http://www.uhi.ac.uk/
Learning Platforms, Blackboard: http://www.blackboard.com
Heritage Centre Web site: http://www.isleofbarra.com/heritage.html