The Urban Chronicles Project - Vila Real
"We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time"
-T. S. Eliot: Little Gidding (1942)
The core idea behind Urban Chronicles is to use site-specific community storytelling to create deeply personal, meaningful engagement with the language through engagement with the learners’ local context.
The language learned in the classroom, gains power when it is connected to the learner’s social and emotional relationships and values.
While the project is principally about learning English as a foreign language, there is a strong thread of "tactical urban intervention" running throughout its design. The philosophy behind this is to empower individuals, through a hands-on approach, to improve our urban neighbourhoods, communities and shared spaces. Urban Chronicles helps learners to develop important cultural and practical values such as civics and situates language in meaningful communication. The learners become cultural narrators, as they give voice to hidden stories and develop complex, creative, real-world digital media production skills.
Here you can download the app I talked about in my IATEFL presentation:http://mvabl.com (update: as of 2014 this is no longer available) and check out the example tour made by my students. The project consisted of 5 tours made up of interviews, images, audio recordings and video of people in the old town centre that my students considered to be personally interesting or undervalued. People with a story to tell.
Geofencing was used to trigger the multimedia files so that they would activate only when the 'digital wanderer' following the path was standing within a specified physical proximity (20 metres) from the place in which the story was originally captured. I chose to do this for several reasons, but principally because I felt it was important to interact with the media while physically present in the location. This was so that the spaces could be experienced as multimodal, inhabited and lived places rather than just detached sets of geographic coordinates. This was a key 'tactic' in the intervention as one of the goals of the project is to change the way these spaces, and the people who live and work in them, are perceived.
All of these sites were also identified using QR/AR (augmented reality) code stickers bearing the logo I made for the project and also within the application. Inside the app just search for "Urban Chronicles" or "Paul Driver" and you will be able to download an example tour. Alternatively, just click on this link from your iOS device and it will download directly. Of course, the best option would be to come to Vila Real and walk the tour as it was intended to be experienced, in situ! Don't forget to request an invitation to use the web creation platform so that you can make your own Urban Chronicles tours with your students.
I would love to make this a global site-specific urban storytelling project, so I invite you and challenge you to contribute your own local versions of Urban Chronicles. I'll provide you with any help or advice you might need. Just get in touch.
Click on the images below to watch the slides from a talk I gave on the theme of geospatial narratives and language learning (left) and to see an example from a tour my students made, as it looks within the app (right). If you would like to watch the video of my IATEFL talk on geospatial narratives and language learning, please get in touch.