(Above) The Radiowaves: a safe website for 5-19 year olds to share videos and podcasts, blogs, connect with others, connect with others and report on their world. Screenshot courtesy Radiowaves.
Feature: UK-wide learning programme, Their Past Your Future explores the impact and ongoing legacy of 20th century conflict on people in the UK. It has digitised primary and secondary cross-curricular resources not only on its digitisation website but has tapped into the popular web trend of social networking by joining forces with Radiowaves.
The Radiowaves social networking site. Logo courtesy Radiowaves.
If you are looking to add a safe, multi-media dimension to your teaching that will help your pupils to engage even more in their learning, then try Radiowaves.
Radiowaves is a social networking site that is designed to give schools and young people a platform to publish podcasts, videos and blogs. Pupils familiar with blogging technology under the guidance of teachers have been using it to connect with other young people around the world to share and enliven their educational projects.
Now the second phase of the Their Past Your Future scheme, a UK-wide learning programme for museums, libraries and archives focusing on 20th century conflict, has been working with Radiowaves to see how it can capture the experiences of pupils involved in some of its projects.
A trio of innovative TPYF schemes facilitated by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Haslemere Education Museum and Essex County Record Office have begun exploring how the site can add another dimension to their projects.
With activities including oral history, site visits, use of collections, and work with older people and the wider community, all three projects grabbed the chance to work with Radiowaves to reach a wider audience and improve the learning experience for participating pupils.
Haslemere Educational Museum staff worked directly with key stage 3 students and the RE and History departments from the Woollmer Hill Technology College to explore the Holocaust and related themes.
Radiowaves allowed a large number of students to contribute to the Holocaust project through blogging and commenting on work virtually. The result was a vibrant space that pushed the project along.
Pupils from Woollmer Hill Technological College introducing their Holocaust project work on Radiowaves. Screenshot courtesy Radiowaves.
The climax was a visit to the school from Rudi Oppenheimer, a Holocaust survivor who shared his story with the young people. The visit was filmed and published on Radiowaves and many reflective blogs were posted as a result, including an impromptu debate about whether Auschwitz should be preserved.
"We've seen them learning, becoming more aware of the issues, their thoughts have matured," said Kay Topping of Haslemere Educational Museum. "It's been a fantastic way of watching that process, which I don't think you would have got out of a normal school project."
The Bridge Academy worked with RIBA, Hackney Archives and The Building Exploratory to explore the effects of conflict in their local area. This involved a project based upon an estate near the Academy, which was bombed in the WWII Blitz and rebuilt in the 1950s.
The Building Exploratory, an organisation that helps people discover more about their local area, ran engagement activities with the pupils utilising RIBA's and Hackney Archives' resources.
The project was showcased on Radiowaves as the Mapledene Time Machine and included a series of intergenerational interviews by pupils with older community members.
"Getting pupils to look at things differently, to learn in different ways, that's what the Radiowaves framework offered," said Paul Snell of RIBA. "Having that opportunity and that added dynamic, made an enormous difference."
Gosfield Primary School hosted a Veteran Tea Party as part of their WWII project - again involving the local community.
Gosfield Primary School used the Radiowaves website to bring out the strong local and oral history element of their World War Two project about how the war had affected the local community by capturing interviews with veterans and former evacuees from the local area and sharing them with a wider audience.
For the pupils it was a way of harnessing the current social networking trends to present their thoughts and opinions.
The Gosfield Primary School WWII project was one of two parallel projects run by Essex County Records Office with two partner museums and two local primary schools to investigate the impact of war on their local community.
"This approach can be applied when working with a range of ages and abilities as the technology allows the learning process to be personalised," said Eve Pattinson, Project Manager of Their Past Your Future.
Radiowaves already boasts a strong track record of working with the first phase of the Their Past Your Future programme, particularly the young participants of the Imperial War Museum's Commemorative Visits Programme who have been sharing their experiences with family, friends and the wider community connected with their schools.
"It is clear that the technology has the potential to widen participation and connect with new audiences including parents and friends, as well as raise the profile of individual organisations," added Eve Pattinson. "However, the potential of the technology as an advocacy tool has yet to be fully explored."
One of the final visits of the IWM's commemorative visits programme has seen pupils go to Berlin and the Museum is now using Radiowaves to not only widen participation but to see how the pupils' own content can inform a forthcoming online exhibition on the Cold War.
Funded by the Big Lottery Fund and administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, TPYF2 is currently supporting 39 new projects from around the country that tackle a variety of issues ranging from media awareness to intergenerational understanding.
These final phase projects join an existing 81 projects from the previous two years.
Find out more about Their Past Your Future (TPYF) at www.culture24.org.uk/tpyf
Their Past Your Future has launched a new website of digitised resources, explore it at www.tpyfdigitalarchive.org.uk.
You may also find the following resource useful - ToolKit: What makes a good Radiowaves activity?
Blogging allows many people to participate. It is a good activity after a session or visit allows all the pupils to reflect quickly and easily and produce an online output. However, feedback from across the project suggests that these blogs need to be facilitated in order to provide an initial focus and structure e.g. question prompts would provide pupils with clear objectives.
As general questions on specific themes gain their own momentum through online discussion, they should be linked to the content of the session. They could also act as follow-up activities for students. Questions could be used as a way of gauging learning throughout the session and over the whole project to show the 'distance travelled' in terms of the students' understanding and knowledge of the issues raised.
Time must be spent educating participants on how to use a public online space in terms of appropriateness and safety. It was recommended that a session dedicated to this entitled What makes a good blog? should be run, as younger pupils especially show enthusiasm for blogging but perhaps need to be given a focus and clear objective.
The blogs are particularly useful for evaluation as they enable you to capture the narrative around an individual's learning and progression. Blogging as an activity can be used to deliver the evaluation framework if clear objectives are present at the start of a project as in the case of the Essex project.
However, they worked equally well retrospectively within the Haslemere project and even steered the project as Haslemere reacted to what was posted in the blogs.
Videos and Podcasts
Video has the biggest impact on an audience and most is attractive to students, however, this is hard to facilitate in a large group. This is a better focused activity for a small group around a particular event e.g. an interview or visit to a site.
Creating a media response to collections allows individual experiences to be connected to those items.
Interviewing - especially young people interviewing each other - is particularly effective as in most instances an honest opinion is captured.
Training on effective interview techniques is valuable and by linking these to curriculum areas would be a way to further embed the activity e.g. ICT.
Some discussion, particularly with secondary age students around what the purpose of the material is and the audience, could be an additional training area e.g. Do these blogs and interviews need a more journalistic rather than an historical style?
It is worth recognising that other 'social skills' naturally arise from the interviewing process e.g. learning to respect what others are saying, being quiet when they are talking, learning to challenge an interviewee where appropriate and enabling the participants to form their own opinions as a result.
Resources and Support
It is important that technology for site visits is portable (Mp3 recorders/mobile phones), so that thoughts can be captured on the spot. Blogs, especially mobiles, should be included within the package with pre-paid credit.
Project staff need to discuss when the responsibility of recording and editing can be handed over to the students. This is likely to depend on the age group and ability of the pupils involved. Factors such as the length of the project and contact time available should be considered as should the resource implications associated with the selected approach.
Radiowaves enables you to personalise the process and set realistic goals/work with specific learning styles (e.g. written/oral) depending on the ability of the group. This should be explored at the start of the project and be informed by knowledge of the participants.