Creating an educational resource

Goal

To produce a resource for teachers to use in the classroom to bring history lessons to life using archive material held by the Record Office. In particular, to give examples of how the historical events prescribed in the National Curriculum impacted on their own localities.

Situation

Initially the idea was to produce hard-copy packs, or perhaps CDs, to sell to schools, but after discussion with the Schools Humanities Advisor, the Record Office was determined to produce a resource online which could be accessed free of charge.

Stakeholders

Flintshire County Council's Schools Humanities Adviser

Message:
  • Please help the Record Office create and communicate a relevant online resource to local teachers.
Communication method:
  • An initial face-to-face meeting was followed by regular telephone calls and emails

Outcome:

  • The Schools Humanities Adviser was the first port of call for this project and was tremendously useful. First, he was very enthusiastic about the project from the outset. Second, he had contacts amongst history teachers throughout the county and the means to encourage their involvement. As a former teacher, he could also give valuable opinions in his own right: 'He was right behind us all the way and we couldn't have done it without him'.

Teachers

Objective:
  • to find out whether they would find the resource being proposed useful
  • to find out whether the online format was the right one
  • to discover what they would want such a resource to contain
Communication methods:
  • Face-to-face contact at a History teachers' inset day and at a forum for secondary school heads of history and geography, both of which were very productive. The Record Office attendance at both events was facilitated by the Schools' Humanities Adviser
  • The Record Office subsequently created a presence for itself on Moodle, the schools intranet, which aided communication
Outcome:
  • The teachers gave a very positive response to the proposal. A 'twilight' session for teachers, held at the Record Office, was well received and it is hoped this will be the first of many. Contact made in this way has resulted in teachers being more aware of the archives service and opened the door for schools visits.

Working with universities

The work required for this project prompted the Record Office to form links with two universities:

  • University of Chester in various disciplines includes work placements in its degree courses. During the three years of the project the Record Office hosted six-week work placements for three students: the first worked on website design, the second on historical research to identify source material and the third was an art student who produced images on themes for which photographs or other pictorial evidence were lacking
  • Glyndŵr University in Wrexham required placements for its history students and several came to the Record Office to research a number of themes for the project and identify suitable documents to include

Flintshire County Council's IT service

The Record Office wanted to put its resource onto the Record-Office pages of the County Council's website but had no experience of this process. It was very reliant on council IT specialists. Despite face-to-face meetings to explain the aim and seek a solution this was not productive so the Record Office turned to NGfL Cymru.

NGfL Cymru

This body specialises in online educational resources and was an ideal partner to develop the online resource.

Communication methods:

  • NGfL made frequent visits in the early days and took on all the technical work as well as translation
  • Communication in person and by telephone and email worked very well

Outcome:

As time went on, NGfL's own position became precarious as future funding was uncertain. As a consequence, communication became more difficult resulting in certain elements of the resource not being as fully developed as hoped.

However, there has been some good feedback and work is continuing to develop the resource. Publicity has involved a press release, a link from the Record Office's own web pages and articles in its newsletter The Hourglass. The two members of Record Office staff who masterminded the project were given Personal Achievement awards in the Flintshire Excellence award scheme, which helped to raise awareness within the organisation.

Conclusion

The experience of Flintshire Record Office highlighted the impact of a strong advocate. The Schools' Humanities Adviser was well placed and enthusiastic to promote the resource to its key audience of teachers. The difficulties of communicating with the IT specialists show what a potentially devastating effect poor communication can have on a project. Conversely, the positive reaction that has been communicated back to the Record Office has encouraged it to continue working on and improving this resource.