The PGCE students at Sheffield University have just completed their final assignments. But this was no run-of-the-mill assignment- it was a mission that no PGCE students had previously undertaken at Sheffield University.
It all started earlier this year, when these students were asked to wander around graveyards of northern Sheffield to make poetry come to life using digital video recorders. They were then introduced to the delights of Winterhill and Rawmarsh City Learning Centres where they became familiar with the recording and editing processes of making a film. Working in groups, they supported each other’s ideas and technical understandings, learning that good communication was very important. They soon realised that they needed to be ‘over explicit’ to help learners new to technology. As one student said,” you learn best from hands on experiences.” Whilst some relished the prospect of using digital technologies, others were apprehensive, convinced of their own incompetence yet aware of their obligations as a teacher to keep up with the latest technologies. “Children must be equipped to face the ever changing technological era.”
Pretty soon, they were ready for the real task at hand: the final task that Mick Connell and Andrey Rowsowsky were to set for them. It was not to create a resource for teaching, nor was it to be assessed, observed or linked to any part of any school curriculum. The students were set free from these shackles – given free range. Yes, they had to make a film, but they were given full licence to develop their recently acquired to skills pursue their own interests and
… be creative.
The only stipulation they were given was that their films had to be about the city that had hosted them for their year of study: Sheffield. Any aspect could be explored- people, landscapes, cultures, history. Students were invited to build on their own interests and create something that was unique to them.
Anna and I were invited to see the screening of these films. With the group, we witnessed five completely different and unique takes on Sheffield. Students watched and discussed their films, quizzing each other on the techniques they used. It was interesting to find that although many had planned storyboards for their productions, they had put these to one side as serendipitous events such as thunderstorms, public reactions and availability of unforeseen props changed the direction of the stories.
After the event I thought: this is real teacher education – not teacher training. This was an activity that would impact on so many aspects of these students’ personal development. Encouraging well rounded, creative and digitally literate individuals can only be good news for the children who are lucky enough to have them as teachers.