Following the success of the MP6 Finals in June, Sera Shortland, Citizenship Coordinator at Hamilton Community College and project lead, has been continuing her work on the project’s new website and reflecting back on the work she has undertaken. Sera shares her thoughts with us here:
Member of Parliament’s 6 (MP6) seeks to encourage collaboration and participation in politics and public speaking, using technology to build on, share and promote the existing work of Hamilton’s MP6 political speaking competition, which is open to learners aged between 11 and 16 from schools across the city. The competition provides students with direct access to key decision makers both in the council and national MPs. MP6 is more than a competition however; it is an initiative with the goal of engaging a curiosity in world affairs, a thirst for political literacy and the knowledge and understanding to communicate in an increasingly globalised landscape. Personal voice and opinion can get lost in the vast network of social media, MP6 provides the time and a place to talk; through its website www.politicallyspeaking.co.uk
Throughout this project staff have received training on the use of iPads and have been encouraged to use them with students. Two teachers have used the website as a starting point for debates in the classroom, accessing past winners speeches and asking students to appraise content and style, as well as give their views of the contestants. This is a small win in terms of the aims of MP6 as slowly more students are engaging with political speaking. It is hoped that the site will be useful to support less confident teachers, helping them to prepare for discussion in the classroom. This will rely on further development, through my ever increasing knowledge of using WordPress. The BSF team (especially Lucy) have been enormous help in demonstrating how WordPress works, its limitations and potential, whilst this has only been of personal benefit to date, students will be encouraged to use and eventually take over the politically speaking website and I will be able to offer my knowledge to other staff that may be interested in starting up their own sites.
In terms of the competition alone. 6 students used iPads and iMovies to film and interview judges and contestants. They learnt how to become budding directors using tripods and the Planet MovieMaker for iPad with Shoulder Support System. This system proved to be very expensive (£395), and without funding I would not have considered buying it, however, it created a furore amongst students all wanting to wear the equipment to film in. It was portable and captured useful film, however the zoom lenses did not fit the system well which made close up shots difficult, we will be investigating this further. Several more students are keen to begin writing for the webpage in the new academic term; this will be supported through citizenship lessons. I am keen for them to produce student friendly materials about politics after contacting all the main political parties as well as working out how they can use the social forum facility on the web page; we may have to default to Facebook for this as many young people say this is an easy platform to use.
Members of the student leadership team have had access to the iPads to detail their council work. Short films they have created detail their growing political awareness and harness their creative ambition using technology, this is proving transformational in terms of engagement in politics and communication and is an avenue to be explored and documented on the newly created website.
Further progress and next steps
There is no doubt that this competition and concept is needed for young people, not just in Leicester but beyond. MP6 hopes to encourage young people to get excited about what is happening in the world so that they understand and know about politics, but more importantly they learn how to become political and how to communicate the ideas and issues that are important to them.
Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, puts it eloquently:
“As we increasingly move toward a world of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyse, share, discuss, critique and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.”
(cited in ‘Full On Learning’ by Zoe Elder)
MP6 as an initiative hopes to support students in becoming more knowledge –able.
The Livestream of the final event was publicised to city schools and all the political parties, although it only generated 14 views on the day, an East Midlands MEP responded to the speech on UKIP, much to the delight of the student finalist who could see the potential of using this medium in future events to reach a larger audience. This will be further explored. The live stream was expensive, however the IT department are now aware of how to set up a system and we may find a free way of doing this rather than having to rely on Skype.
In practical terms, there is still much to do to finish the project site so that students can comment on speeches, upload ideas and collaborate. Being a student led activity has meant this has halted over the summer holidays! It is increasingly looking like there will be no finish to the web site, as hopefully students and teachers will continue to use and comment on political threads. Lesson ideas are being written, but they need student input to ensure they are fun yet challenging. They aim to frame the competition so that teachers who wish to enter MP6 (the competition) have a series of lessons taking students through it, that they can access at home, more VTs are needed on the site, short 30 seconds sound bites on political themes will be produced using the iPads and software purchased. The iPads especially are seeing a lot of use and many departments are queuing up to borrow them for lessons!
A brochure for schools is being written, complete with timeline as an easy reference point for other schools to run their own MP6 competition. Councillor Vi Dempster is also supporting the initiative, she has organised for two students to present their finalist speeches in front of the whole council on 18th September and after a meeting with her assistant we hope to run an MP6 day for the city as well as get local councillors into schools judging MP6 school knock outs and providing students with information about the local council.
This project has taught me so much, not least of which how to use iPads and become a blogging novice and it is fantastic to think that my new skills will help support others in the future. This is the beginning of the project, rather than the end and due to the nature of the project many of the results will be seen throughout the next few months as resources are uploaded to the site.
This year’s finalists and judges at the 2014 MP6 Finals