Mscapes and drama in role


Mscapes (mobile games, stories and tours triggered by your location) are great ways to develop Dorothy Heathcote’s ‘Drama in role; and ‘Mantle of the Expert’ techniques. 

She taught me that you could teach many areas of the curriculum through drama  – history, science, maths, geography. It is in many ways the antithesis of early online teaching methods with its fragmented bits of factual knowledge and its need to focus on the easily measurable. But role playing games have always had a touch of her wisdom in them, whether I’m beating up an enemy in GTA or remembering I have to play with the kids in Sims, I am choosing to step into the shoes of another character, to inhabit their world and to make the kinds of decisions they would make given the amount of available evidence. She was very keen on ‘available evidence’ as a way of focussing and then developing holistic learning. I think she would have liked the new moves to create Mscapes, where your mobile phone or other handheld device can feed timely information to you as you move through a physical landscape either within a school’s boundaries or on the site of a great historical or geographical event. Based on this incoming information and the developing scenario you can make choices about how to act or you can take that exciting step into interaction with another character in role, committing yourself to go with your instincts until the next piece of information arises, and learning something about why decisions might get made.  Two of the finalists in the BTween Exploding Narrative competition show this possibility. 

Both The Detective and Night Bridge demonstrate how drama in role could be developed using handhelds.

Whiteboard and mobile clips for drama, english, history


The drama of p-ause for thought

An Arts Council initiative at B-Tween is encouraging people to pitch interactive ideas. I like this deceptively simple one by ‘Catra’ for KS2 teachers

The idea seems to be that kids aged 7-11 receive footage and are encouraged to use it as the basis for a KS2 creative writing exercise. So it’s a bit like story starters from Teacher’s TV, a bit of film that can inspire investigation and creativity.

The TTV videos are much more structured as dramatic starters while Catra’s is much looser and purely location based, serving more  to provoke the imagination.

There is no particular reasons why it has to be an age-specific experience. Although it is a good way of generating creative writing or exploring genre or ‘other worlds’ in the primary curriculum it can also have application for all ages and for cross-curricular purposes. 

It could stimulate work in geography, or art. In one sense it’s a postcard propped up on the desk, but the delivery mechanism and its capacity to be moving, developing footage makes it so much more laden with possibility – receiving a random bit of footage, possibly away from your desk turns you into a detective immediately – why this piece of film? what could it mean’

The effect could be generated by teachers sending pictures to mobiles or PDAs, or, in the classroom, by using video on whiteboards or sent to individual workstations. If pupils have access to individual devices, handheld or not, it would be possible to let the pupils send a choice of video to their colleagues. You could have a chain reaction and have each participant sending a picture or video on for exploration. It’s a very simple but powerful idea for generating stories, poetry, or what the proposer calls ‘what-if’ writing.

I would like to use this method for teaching Drama. The late great Dorothy Heathcote’s teaching method was one in which pupils and teacher assumed the ‘mantle of the expert’ and created the story as they went along, with very loose prompts to react to. That teaching method would be enhanced by the ability to play off short video clips that would inspire new possibilities for participants to weave into their dramas.

Nice idea for History – or Geography?

This is a great idea for the teaching of history – it’s only possible if you have access to an existing asset, postcard, footage or graphuc, showing a scene from the past, which pupils can view on their hand held as they walk around a site. Excellent for historical monuments or locality studies but I would like to see this developed for Geography – if you could stand in a spot and see what it looked like last year, twenty years ago, a hundred years ago, five hundred, a thousand you could see both the change over time wrought by events e.g. The Industrial Revolution, and the consequences for the landscape.