British Pathé and the Olympics

A still amazingly little known resource available to schools with a South East Grid for Learning (SEGfL) connection, is that of the British Pathe archive, both movie and stills. For information about user rights go to the link shown below but suffice it to say that what costs money to download at home is free if you do it in school, even if you do your search of the archive at home first. The resource can be used in many ways as long as you stop short of publishing in a public webspace.

The purpose of this article is to suggest ways in which some extraordinary footage of the 1908 London Olympics (see the link at the bottom of this article) might be used to enhance or prompt learning activities. In addition I want to think about activities that involve some of the higher levels in Bloom's Taxonomy as revised in 2002 by Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl.

Creating (6)

Evaluating (5)

Analysing (4)

Applying (3)

Understanding (2)

Remembering (1)

(When I don't refer specifically to a level in the taxonomy I will indicate the available level that might be possible by its number in brackets.)

What might surprise people is that the archive can have impact across the whole curriculum and not just in history lessons.

A good first task would be to watch the clip with the class and simply ask, "What is happening?" It is important to remember that young people might not have the connections that make understanding the past and recognising what is going on a given. Even so it is a question that works at the analysing level of the taxonomy, as does the task of identifying similarities and differences with the present day.

"Which of the people in the film can you identify?" (1) is another good introductory question that might lead to work on biography (3). Perhaps the learners could use a Facebook profile template to demonstrate their learning; what would this person's Facebook page have looked like if it had been available then? (6)

All these people have their own stories and the whole event, as today, will have been set against the context of its time so the activity could be widened to ask what else was going on in the world when the event took place. (1) This sort of activity and how well it is done relies heavily on the learner's ability to find supporting information and to validate and assess the reliability of its source; a vital 21st century skill. (5)

As well as the film itself, stills are available for download. A group of these could be used in a sequencing activity for younger children (3) or to provide illustration for a newspaper report written by older ones. (6) Analysis could be evidenced by annotation of a still or understanding by a caption. Older primary age children could demonstrate their understanding by creating a 'movie' from stills in Microsoft's free application PhotoStory 3. (6)

Moving on (no pun intended) from stills, the clip could be mashed with children's own video, perhaps of a child reading a script to create (6) a news report. This involves selection and editing and the Pathe clip is the outside broadcast element, with the children providing the studio content. MovieMaker is ideal for this and can also include stills and charts by way of illustration.

An interesting contrast would be to create a radio broadcast, essentially a podcast, using perhaps Audacity (6). If a picture speaks a thousand words in the examples above then the necessity to write a script and to write it well is an essential element of the learning here.

Other writing tasks might include an imaginary Twitter account for an athlete from 1908 or a blog, perhaps one that acts as a scrapbook of the experiences of an athlete or spectator (5). With both of these, even if they don't go live on the Internet (although I hope they would), there is an opportunity to reinforce e-safety and privacy messages.

In PE the pupils could reproduce events and video performance for analysis (another e-safety opportunity) (4) and record improvements over time. They might pick one event and do it alongside its modern equivalent and analyse similarities and differences.

Learners could pick one aspect shown in the film, maybe fashion, and research it. This would be an activity that has many opportunities for learning about and reinforcing information literacy strategies (5).

Where's the maths? It's not a subject that comes readily to mind when associated with film. The athletics events actually lend themselves well to work in handling data/statistics. For instance, it is interesting to record and graph gold medal winning performances throughout the years and discuss what they might be in another hundred years. Average speeds per mile during Dorando Pietri's marathon could be calculated and compared with those of today's heroes (4). Can you work out how quickly Paula Radcliffe or Mo Farah run every 400m of a marathon? Can you run even a single 400m that quickly?

I hope some of these ideas prove useful and help make the 2012 competition one that sticks in the memory for many years to come.