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History - Animating the past

What it's all about

Northern Ireland can be a difficult place to teach history, since Catholics and Protestants, nationalists and unionists have different narratives about the past, writes Peter Geoghegan.

So how do you teach pupils about the conflict in a place where history can be so contentious? On both sides of the Irish border, teachers often shy away from discussing the Troubles, the 30 years of violence that racked Northern Ireland and cost more than 3,500 lives.

But an innovative project is using everything from comic books to animation and films to teach secondary pupils in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland's border counties about the conflict.

Teaching Divided Histories (bit.lyYr9Y9F) trains teachers to use digital technology to enable pupils to create their own responses to their conflicted history.

The project is aimed at key stage 3 (S1-3) pupils in Northern Ireland and transition year pupils in the Republic (aged 15 to 16). Teachers attend six two-hour sessions at the Nerve Centre's creative media arts centre in Derry. Four sessions are given over to technical training in a range of software for creating graphic novels (Comic Life), audio recordings (Audacity), images (GIMP) and short films (Movie Maker and iMovie).

Two sessions are dedicated to content development. So far one module has been designed, on civil rights and the outbreak of the Troubles. Nine more are anticipated, covering topics such as the hunger strikes and Bloody Sunday.

Cross-border, cross-community screenings of comics and films by pupils are planned, but early evidence shows that teachers and pupils find using digital technology a less confrontational way to negotiate the difficult terrain.

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