Outreach and Public Engagement: TES Connect

With evidence of impact a key requirement of many funders, and with global reach a major priority of the University, it is unsurprising that researchers are devising creative ways to ensure that their work reaches the widest possible audience. This category attracted so many entries this year that we have divided it in two: a general category and a category for staff who have made educational resources  available to schools in the TES Connect repository. Here we celebrate the winning entries in the second of these categories.

There is a growing trend for people around the University to produce and share learning materials for schools as outputs of their own research projects.  It is now possible to make these materials available through TES Connect, which is now the fastest growing professional digital community in the world with over 3.6 million members. As of June 2015, there were 238 resources on the Oxford page of TES Connect, which had been viewed over 115,000 times. The Education Enhancement team in the Academic IT group provides advice and assistance to academics who wish to contribute to the repository.

Our two prize-winners in this category have been commended for the exceptional care and consideration which they have taken in creating their educational resources.

Joint Winner: Jane Dyson for ‘Lifelines’: Creating Impact Through Documentary Film

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Jane Dyson

Jane developed a short documentary film titled ‘Lifelines’ to engage school teachers, policy makers, journalists and other stakeholders in her academic research on educational disappointment, unemployment and social activism. It is set in the village of Bemni, in the Indian Himalayas, one of the research sites for the ESRC project in which she is a research associate.

Jane worked with IT Services to promote the film as an educational resource in TES Connect. She spent three months working with secondary school teachers in the UK, India and USA to develop educational materials associated with the film. The resulting teaching packs fit directly into the Geography curricula in the UK and USA. She has also produced teaching resources for use with graduate and undergraduate students.

‘Lifelines’ has proved to be a transformative educational resource. On TES Connect it has been viewed 538 times since August 2014, and a Welsh WJEC version has been uploaded to Hwb, an educational resource site hosted by the Welsh Government. Jane has received several testimonials from school teachers, including:

‘Lifelines and the resources are exceptional. The quality of the film and the range of teaching materials/resources stimulate students to empathise with the subject in a highly engaging and informative manner, in a package is that can be adapted to suit any ability level. It is rare for teachers to have access to such superb materials’ – Paul Littlewood, Geography Department, St Paul’s School, London.

Joint Winner: Lizzie Burns for ‘CSlide’: a Nobel Prize-Winner Inspires Science, Art and Creativity

When Professor Molnar became the latest custodian of a box of teaching slides from the Oxford Nobel prize-winning scientist Sir Charles Scott Sherrington, he and Dr Damion Young began a major public engagement project funded by the Wellcome Trust. The project made the slides of Sherrington (and other prominent scientists) accessible to everyone through an online resource called ‘CSlide’. As part of this project Lizzie Burns was asked to develop online teaching resources, based on the work of Sherrington, that would be of interest to primary and secondary schools and relevant to the National Curriculum.

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Workshop participants show their handiwork

Lizzie was keen to find an uplifting angle on Sherrington and came across a book he wrote in his later life titled ‘Man on his Nature’. In it he poetically and imaginatively describes the richness and beauty of life from the microscopic level to wondering about consciousness, the interdependence of life and our unique altruism.

Lizzie formed the idea of developing workshops and resources to spark the imagination of all participants with Sherrington’s spirit of poetry and enquiry. So she designed and ran a series of workshops linked to the curriculum on the body and brain to encourage pupils to think creatively through asking questions and creating artistic work from poetry to paintings. She also worked with trainee teachers, neuroscientists and ran events in the History of Science Museum. The result is a lasting online record of the project together with a resource of images, artwork, Sherrington’s writing and teaching slides and notes on the History of Medical Sciences website. These teaching materials have also been deposited in the TES Connect repository.

Feedback from students of all ages includes:

‘How come when the brain is littler it seems like it has more imagination? (8-year-old girl).

‘It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to unite the two loves of my life science and art, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to do so’ (international visiting student).

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