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Legends in their own timeline

Video technology is paving the way for adult learners around Scotland, writes Raymond Ross

WE LIVE in a visual age where more television programmes and films are watched than books read, in a culture where image dominates the written word. In terms of adult literacy, this may present a challenge. In fact, it presents an opportunity.

Adult learners around Scotland are increasingly making use of video technology to develop their literacies and other skills. One example is the Write on Buddies group in Paisley, one of more than 25 groups to make use of camcorder kits provided by Learning Connections this year to make a video based on their work. In the Buddies' case, the video, Paisley Legends, celebrates their creative writing.

A representative array of stories and poems, of reminiscences, experiences and accounts of living in the Paisley area were selected by the group who then discussed how they might be filmed. Using a storyboard and timeline sheets provided by their tutor Morag Smith, they developed a story- board and timeline for each piece and then decided what and where they were going to film.

The group gained confidence in using a camera by recording video and audio clips in their regular group setting, at the South End Action Centre in Paisley, before going out to shoot footage of local places they thought would best illustrate the themes in their stories and poems.

Uploading the footage onto a computer, they learned to edit the clips into what sequence they, as a group, thought worked best, then added music, voiceovers and any text they wanted to appear on the screen. The final film was shown to other learners at the centre.

Having yourself andor your work appearing on screen would be a major incentive to any writer, but equally appealing was the fact that the whole process was not only interesting in its own right, it was also fun, says Peter Lanigan, development co-ordinator with Learning Connections.

In such a process the literacies group are themselves transformed. "They become a (camera) crew. They learn to work together as a team, developing numeracy and time-planning skills through creating their own film schedule, while also improving on reading, writing and performance skills," he explains.

Besides the IT, social, team-working, planning and organisational skills involved, the brilliant appeal of the process actually lies in the end product in the fact that there is a film, which can be viewed by group members and others It can be a tremendous boost to self-esteem.

"There are many appealing factors to such a process," says Mr Lanigan. "It appeals to all ages, it promotes self-reflection, gets you out and about in your own community and lets everyone share in their own success."

But, perhaps the most appealing factor lies in its certain subtlety, which is that the process does not focus on the learners' perceived weaknesses (in writing or in whatever other literacies area). Rather, the learners are concentrating on making a production which exploits their strengths in what they are learning.

"What they are learning is just part of the process and nothing to fret over or be self-consious about," he says.

Moreover, as the learner is part of a team, the individual never feels isolated in their own uncomfortable spotlight. It is about positivity and, in that sense, can be a win-win scenario for the adult learner.

An extension of the Buddies group's writing activities, Paisley Legends took some 15 weeks to make, from planning to product. The work took place at the usual Monday evening meetings but also involved a full day to shoot the video footage and another to edit it.

Similar projects using Learning Connections camcorder kits include Windows on Ross and Cromarty and Filming in Lerwick, where local learners similarly explore their rural and island environments and communities.

Budding script writers, interviewers, reporters, editors, producers et al can access other projects, teaching materials and ideas at

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