As part of Open Education Week I’m delighted that Maren Deepwell, CEO of ALT, and I have an article published in WonkHE on Openness in education: a call to action for policy makers. The article introduces the recent ALT policy guide, highlights some of the benefits of OER, and articulates why we need policy makers to embrace open education.
In case you missed it, this blog post outlining my OER18 keynote appeared on the conference website last week.
Being invited to keynote is always a privilege, but I was particularly honoured to be asked to present at this year’s OER18 Conference in Bristol, not least because I’ll be following in the footsteps of the three inspirational women who presented last year’s keynotes; Diana Arce, Maha Bali and Lucy Crompton-Reid. You see, OER is my conference, I’ve attended every single one since the conference launched at the University of Cambridge in 2010, and in 2016 I had the pleasure of chairing the conference at the University of Edinburgh with my inspiring colleague Melissa Highton.
To my mind, the success of the OER Conference has always been founded on its willingness to examine and renegotiate what “OER” means, and this is one of the themes I’ll be exploring in my keynote. And by that, I don’t mean defining the specific attributes of what constitutes an Open Educational Resource, I mean critically reflecting on what openness means in relation to education at different points in time and from different perspectives, because as Catherine Cronin reminds us in Open Education, Open Questions, “openness is a constantly negotiated space”. Open education looks very different to each and every one of us, and our perspective will depend entirely on where we are standing and the privilege of our vantage point. And of course it is inevitable that our perspective will change as our roles and careers develop over time.
Gabi Whitthaus has already written a thoughtful personal reflection on her journey through the OER conferences and, like Gabi, the changing themes and fluctuating interpretations of “OER” have influenced and reflected my own development and perspective as an open education practitioner over the last decade.
In my current role I have the privilege to work with a great team of people at the OER Service at the University of Edinburgh, an institution with a strong commitment to openness and a vision for OER. This commitment is squarely aligned to the University’s mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing. During my keynote I’ll be exploring some of the ways that the university encourages learners to engage with and co-create open education through a wide range of initiatives including internships, playful learning activities, Wikipedia in the classroom assignments, and outreach and engagement courses.
I strongly believe that engaging learners and equipping them with the digital skills necessary to participate in open education is key to ensuring that OER and open education is collaborative, diverse, accessible and participatory. Because ultimately that is what openness is about. Openness is not just about attributes, definitions and licences, openness is also about creativity, access, equality, and inclusion and ultimately it’s about expanding access to education, supporting social inclusion and enabling learners to become fully engaged digital citizens.
When the conference first launched eight years ago, I approached open education and OER from a rather different perspective. In 2010 the JISC / HEA UKOER Programme was well underway and the first OER keynote was presented by JISC’s Executive Secretary Malcolm Read. At the time, I was working for the JISC Innovation Support Centre CETIS, where I led the team that provided strategic and technical support to the UKOER Programme. My focus then was on how we could harness lightweight web technologies and new Web 2.0 platforms to create a sustainable OER infrastructure without relying too heavily on the monolithic systems and formal education technology standards mandated by previous programmes.
Two years later in 2012 I sat in the audience with my colleague Joe Wilson, then Head of New Ventures at SQA, and listened to Sir John Daniel, talking about the UNESCO / COL initiative Fostering Governmental Support for OER Internationally, one of the outputs of which was the influential Paris OER Declaration. In a rather roundabout way, that keynote and the subsequent Declaration inspired us to launch the Open Scotland initiative and, together with colleagues from across the open education community, to draft the Scottish Open Education Declaration. And it was through this initiative that I started to re-frame my perspective on OER and open education in terms of personal ethics and the wider policy landscape.
2012 was also the year that the UKOER Programme came to an end and the education technology sector in the UK faced an unprecedented and prolonged period of change and restructuring. Many predicted the demise of the OER Conference at that time, particularly when open education discourse was increasingly becoming dominated by commercial MOOC providers and their promise to disrupt! education. However, far from being swept side by the avalanche, the OER conference continued to thrive and to push the boundaries of open education to incorporate open pedagogy, policy, research and practice, and when ALT stepped up to support the event in 2015, its future was assured.
While it is crucial that we continue to critically negotiate and reassess openness, it is also important that we don’t lose sight of some of the fundamentals of open education. And I would argue that one of those fundamentals is that publicly funded educational resources should be freely and openly available to the public. As open education discourse shifts to focus on open policy, open practice, open textbooks, one might be forgiven for thinking that open educational resources are done and dusted, but that is very far from the case and this is another theme that I want to expand on in my keynote.
In addition to expanding its focus, the OER Conference has also made real and tangible efforts to expand its community, and to ensure that the event is diverse, inclusive, accessible and welcoming. The conference has become increasingly international and has gone to significant lengths to ensure that it really is open and accessible to as diverse a community as possible. ALT is to be applauded for its commitment to providing a wide range of channels and opportunities to enable colleagues to participate in the conference virtually and remotely, and the event has not shied away from asking difficult questions about who is included and excluded from open spaces and conceptualisations of openness.
One perspective that has sometimes been missing from open education discourse is the voice of the learner. That is not to say that the OER Conference has not made an effort to ensure that the student voice is included and represented. Two officers of the National Union of Students have presented keynotes; Toni Pearce at OER13 (standing in for Rachel Wenstone) and Wendy Carr at OER14. However I’m particularly encouraged to see that this year’s conference is squarely addressing learner inclusion by focussing on how open education and open practice can support learners, foster learner diversity and inclusion, and help students develop important digital literacy skills.
At the University of Edinburgh, students have always played a key role in shaping the institution’s vision of openness. Together with senior colleagues within Information Services, it was the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) that provided the initial impetus for the development of an OER policy at the university, and in 2014 EUSA’s Vice President for Education, Dash Sekhar, attended the conference in Cardiff along with colleagues Melissa Highton and Stuart Nicol to talk about this student-led OER policy. I’m delighted that EUSA’s current Vice President for Education, Bobi Archer, will be attending the conference this year, and several of my Information Services colleagues will be coming along to present papers highlighting innovative and creative examples of student engagement across the university. Edinburgh’s vision of openness encourages both staff and students to engage with the use and creation of OER and open knowledge, to enhance the quality of the student experience while at the same time making a significant, contribution to the cultural and digital commons.
Over the years, my own journey as an open education practitioner has followed a similar trajectory to the OER Conferences; my focus has shifted from national technology strategy, to institutional policy and practice, and personal ethics and politics. One thing that has not changed however is that I still believe passionately that open education and OER are necessary to provide diverse and inclusive education and to ensure that education really is Open to All.
One of the great things about openness is that when you release something under open licence, you never quite know who’s going to pick it up and what’s going to happen to it. I know this is one of the things that can make some colleagues apprehensive about using open licences but to my mind this serendipitous aspect of openness is one of it’s unique benefits.
One lovely example of this is that following the Morocco Open Education Day hosted by Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech as part of the OpenMed project, a forum of Moroccan scholars came together to draft the OER Morocco Declaration, which is based partially on the Scottish Open Education Declaration which I had a hand in writing in 2014.
Colleagues in Morocco have made significant progress since then, so I was delighted to be invited by Dr Khalid Berrada to attend the 2nd Morocco Open Education Day, which is taking place in Marrakech today, to give a talk about the Scottish Declaration. Unfortunately due to work and family commitments I’m not able to attend in person, but thanks to the University of Edinburgh’s fabulous Media Hopper Create service I was able to record this video contribution to the event.
Towards the end of last year I had the pleasure of working with ALT to develop a policy briefing on Open Education and OER. Open Education and OER – A guide and call to action for policy makers was co-authored by Maren Deepwell, Martin Weller, Joe Wilson and I and it can be downloaded from the ALT Open Access Repository here https://repository.alt.ac.uk/2425/
ALT has produced this call to action to highlight to education policy makers and professionals how Open Education and OER can expand inclusive and equitable access to education and lifelong learning, widen participation, and create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners, preparing them to become fully engaged digital citizens.
Open Education can also promote knowledge transfer while enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing.
One of ALT’s three strategic aims is to increase the impact of Learning Technology for the wider community and we are issuing this call to action for policy makers to mandate that publicly funded educational resources are released under open licence to ensure that they reside in the public domain and are freely and openly available to all.
This will be of wide benefit, but in particular will enable education providers and learning technology professionals to:
- Keep up to date with the rapid pace of technological innovation
- Develop critical, informed approaches to the implementation of Learning Technology and the impact on learners
- Scale up knowledge sharing and its benefits across sectors.
Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Slovenia to represent the University of Edinburgh and Open Scotland at the UNESCO OER World Congress in Ljubljana. The theme of the Congress was “OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action” and there was a strong focus on how OER can help to support United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.
“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”
The main output of the Congress was the UNESCO Ljubljana OER Action Plan and accompanying Ministerial Statement. The Action Plan outlines 41 recommended actions in 5 key areas to mainstream OER and to help Member States to build knowledge societies and provide quality and lifelong education, and I’ll be writing a short blog psot on the Action Plan later.
It would be impossible to summarise such a diverse event in a single blog post so I just want to pick out some of my own personal impressions.
The first thing that struck me was that the event really lived up to its ambitions to be truly global with over 500 delegates from 111 countries present. I attended lots of “international” and “global” events when I worked in learning technology standards development but they were always heavily dominated by delegates from the US and the global north. I think the OER World Congress is the first event I’ve been to that actually felt genuinely global.
That made it all the more disappointing that there were so few delegates present from the UK. The only other UK participants were Joe Wilson (Open Scotland) and Leo Havemann (Open Knowledge), and there was no official representation from either the UK or Scottish Governments. Given that the UK was once at the forefront of innovative OER initiatives with the #UKOER Programme, that’s a pretty depressing state of affairs.
I heard a lot of inspiring and thought provoking talks over the course of the three days, but one that gave me pause for thought, though perhaps not for the right reasons, was Sir John Daniel summing up of a panel discussion on actions and impacts. John suggested that we have a long way to go before OER reaches the tipping point of general use and that there is a “lamentable lack of data on OER use”. There’s certainly some truth in this, but I don’t think there has been as little progress as he seemed to be suggesting. John also argued that MOOCs have benefits over OER because they are complete courses, before going on to mention how much he enjoyed FutureLearn courses. This seems to me to be highly debatable given that many (though admittedly not all) MOOCs are neither open nor reusable in any real sense of the word, particularly now that many platforms are time limiting access to course resources.
I was inspired however by CEO of Creative Commons Ryan Merkley’s keynote. Ryan presented us with a clear and unambiguous message as to why OER is so important.
“We’re living in a less and less free world constantly trying to defend against restrictive copyright regimes that restrict access to creativity to those who need it. We should seek to share knowledge and lift people up, to create a more equitable world. The commons is public good, a platform for all to share and so is education but we’ve lost sight of that. Today’s education models place individual investment over public good; we pay less but we get less for what we pay and in the end we don’t own anything. The public has to pay for the same resources over and over again. Education budgets are tight, so why do we keep spending our money on things we don’t own and can’t reuse? Publicly funded educational resources should be publicly accessible. We should all own what we pay for. Free is not the most important thing about OER, it’s the permission to modify and reuse that’s important. We need to put the power of open at the centre of every opportunity. We need to transform education globally, and disrupt education models based on artificial scarcity. Left to their own devices commercial interests will build their version of the future out of the past. Our focus has to be on improving student learning not protecting old structures.”
Another inspirational moment of the Congress that really made me stop and think came at the end of the Open Data satellite meeting when Leo Havemann reminded us that
“Education should be life long and life wide and should not just have an employability focus.”
The Congress also provided a rare opportunity for members of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board to meet face to face and I’ve written another blog post about that meeting over at the Open Ed blog.
And it was also great to meet members of the Open Med project and to pick up a copy of the Declaration du Maroc sur les Ressources Educatives Libres; the OER Morocco Declaration which is based on the Scottish Open Education Declaration.
And you can see a short interview with me talking about the Declaration and open education initiatives in Scotland and at the University of Edinburgh in this interview with Jöran Muuß-Merholz.
— OERinfo (@OERinfo) September 20, 2017
One of the things I’ll be looking into as part of my new role is key performance indicators for open educational resources. At the University of Edinburgh we have a Vision and Policy for OER that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, enrich the University and the sector, showcase the highest quality learning and teaching, and make a significant collection of unique learning materials available to Scotland and the world.
Staff and students at the university are already making open educational resources available through a range of channels including Open.Ed, Media Hopper, TES, SketchFab, Youtube, Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia, and there are a number of initiatives ongoing that promote and support the creation of OER including 23Things, Board Game Jam, various MOOC projects, our Wikimedian in Residence programme and others.
So how do we develop meaningful key performance indicators to measure and assess the success of these initiatives?
Quantitative indicators are relatively simple to measure in terms of OER produced. It’s not difficult to gather web stats for page views and downloads from the various platforms used to host and disseminate our OERs. For example our open educational resources on TES have been viewed over 2,000 times, and downloaded 934 times, a Wikipedia article on Mary Susan MacIntosh, created during a UoE editathon for International Women’s Day has had 9,030 page views, and UoE MOOCs have reached two and a quarter million learners.
Measuring OER reuse, even within the institution, is much less straightforward. To get an of idea of where and how OERs are being reused you need to track the resources. This isn’t necessarily difficult to do, Cetis did some research on technical approaches for OER tracking during the UKOER Programme, but it does raise some interesting ethical issues. We also discovered during our UKOER research that once authors create OER and release them into the wild, they tend not to be motivated to collect data on their reuse, even when actively encouraged to do so.
There is also the issue of what actually constitutes re-use. Often reuse isn’t as straightforward as taking an OER, adapting is and incorporating it into your course materials. Reuse is often more subtle than that. For example, if you are inspired by an idea, a concept or an activity you ome across in an OER, but you don’t actually download and use the resource itself, does that constitute reuse? And if it does, how do we create KPIs to measure such reuse? Can it even be measured in a meaningful way?
And then there’s the issue of qualitative indicators and measuring impact. How do we assess whether our OERs really are enhancing the quality of the student experience and enriching the University and the sector? One way to gather qualitative information is to go out and talk to people and we already have some great testimonies from UoE students who have engaged with UoE OER internships and Wikimedia in the Classroom projects. Another way to measure impact is to look beyond the institution, so for example 23 Things lornwas awarded the LILAC Credo Digital Literacy Award 2017 and has also been adapted and adopted by the Scottish Social Services Council, and the aforementioned article on Mary Susan McIntosh featured on the front page of English Wikipedia.
I know many other institutions and organisations have grappled with the issue of how to measure the impact of open education and OER. In the US, where OER often equates to open textbooks, the focus tends to be on cost savings for students, however this is not a particularly useful measure in UK HE where course are less reliant on astronomically priced texbooks. So what indicators can we use to measure OER performance? I’d be really interested to hear how other people have approached this challenge, so if you have any comments or suggestions please do let me know. Thanks!
“So what do you do?” can be a bit of a difficult question to answer when you work in the domain of learning technology. And depending on which area of learning technology you work in it can be a harder question to answer for some than others. My default answer tends to be “I work at a University” followed by “I work in education technology”, often with the added explanation “It’s about the use of new technology in education.” “Open education” tends to get you blank looks outwith academia (now there’s a topic for discussion), and thank god I don’t work in “education technology interoperability standards” these days.
My family have defaulted to telling people that I’m a spy on the basis that they don’t actually know what I do, other than travel a lot and disappear for days at a time. It’s hard to argue with them tbh.
Sometimes I think it’s easier to explain what I don’t do; I don’t teach, I don’t do formal academic research, I’m not a programmer, I don’t develop or implement systems, I don’t provide help desk services, I don’t run the VLE. I do manage projects and provide advice to colleagues. I provide input to policies. I support networks and disseminate practice. I write a lot, talk a lot and present a lot. I facilitate events and chair conferences. I sit on boards, steering groups and executive committees. Maybe it is easier to tell people I’m a spy.
The reason I’ve been thinking about this is that after months of procrastination, I’m finally making a start on my CMALT application. I had hoped to do this towards the end of last year but two new projects took precedence, so CMALT went on the back burner.
I had mixed feelings about CMALT for a number of years, primarily because for a long time I didn’t really seem to fit any recognisable definition of what a learning technologist is. I tried to explain this anxiety in a blog post I wrote in 2014 Thoughts on ALT’s CPD Rebooted. That post also refers to a brilliant piece written by Amber Thomas Perhaps I’m not one, which I identified with strongly at the time, and still do. The main point I was trying to make in CPD Rebooted was that formal certification can be difficult for people whose roles don’t neatly fit into the kind of boxes that make up accreditation frameworks. This is doubly true for those on short term contracts, who have to jump from project to project and rarely have much time for formal CPD. I ended that blog post with a question I asked on twitter:
Things have changed a lot for me since 2014, both professionally and personally. Our understanding of what it means to be a learning technologist has matured and become more inclusive, and although contracts in higher education have become increasingly precarious, I’m very lucky that my own employment situation is more secure than it was three years ago. In fact I’m incredibly fortunate to work for an institution that not only allows dedicated time for CPD but that also actively promotes and supports CMALT membership. Information Services at the University of Edinburgh offer bursaries to enable learning technologists to become Certified Members of ALT and my colleague Susan Grieg supports colleagues to help them prepare their portfolios.
Having spent the day pouring over the CMALT guidelines I can see that ALT have worked hard to create an accreditation framework that is as broad as it is inclusive. However I’m still sitting here sifting through projects, webinars, presentations, papers, twitter conversations and reflective blog posts wondering how the hell I’m going to fit all this into that. How on earth can I demonstrate an “understanding of my target learners” when I don’t actually teach? Of course the answer is that I’m going to have to think creatively. I may not have a teaching role, but hopefully all those webinars and talks and blog posts do help my peers and colleagues to learn and to develop their professional practice. I’m still at the stage where I’m struggling to fit my experience into the CMALT framework, but hopefully if I keep thinking about it and reflecting on what I actually do, it will all start to fall into place. Having access to the CMALT Portfolio Open Register is already proving to be enormously helpful but I’d be very interested to hear how others have approached this.
(Belatedly realising I have no idea how to licence memes….)
Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration
Paper presented at the OER17 Politics of Open conference.
2017 has officially been designated the “Year of Open”.
The Year of Open is a global focus on open processes, systems, and tools, created through collaborative approaches, that enhance our education, businesses, governments, and organizations … Open represents freedom, transparency, equity and participation … During the Year of Open, we want to capture and display these efforts to increase participation and understanding of how open contributes to making things better for everyone.
This initiative is backed by many of the major international players in the field of open education, including Creative Commons, the Open Education Consortium, OER Africa, etc.
And the reason that this is the Year of Open is that we have a number of important anniversaries
It’s the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and it’s also the ¨ 15th anniversary of the release of the first Creative Commons licence.
It’s the 10th anniversary of the Cape Town Declaration which laid the foundations of the “emerging open education movement” and advocated the development of open education policy to ensure that taxpayer-funded educational resources are openly licensed. And if you haven’t read the Cape Town Declaration recently, I can highly recommend revisiting it, it’s really quite inspiring and inspiring statement.
And it’s also the 5th Anniversary of the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration which, five years after Cape Town, strengthened this call by encouraging governments and authorities to open license educational materials produced with public funds in order to realize substantial benefits for their citizens and maximize the impact of investment.
The OER17 Politics of Open Conference is taking place in London this week, and I can hardly believe it’s been a year since Melissa and I chaired last year’s conference in Edinburgh! As always, I’m looking forward to catching up with friends from all over the world and meeting some long standing online colleagues irl for the first time. I’ve got several sessions lined up up over the course of the two days, so if you want to catch me, this is where I’ll be. Come and say hello!
Perspectives on Open Education in a World of Brexit & Trump
Wed, Apr 5 2017, 11:20am – 12:40pm
Panellists: Maha Bali, Lorna Campbell, James Luke, and Martin Weller
This panel aims to stimulate deeper thought beyond our initial reactions to these political movements. We will provide diverse, multiple perspectives on the relationship between Open Education and the political changes represented by Brexit and the Trump election. Many questions arise, including:
- What challenges do these political movements pose for Open Education? What opportunities?
- Open Education movement has largely embraced values of inclusiveness, sharing, connectedness, equity, voice, agency, and openness. How might these values be furthered under these new regimes? How might these values be hindered?
- Will our work in the open education movement change?
- In what ways can we shape the future of the Open Education Movement?
The Distance Travelled: Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration
Wed, Apr 5 2017, 1:30pm – 2:50pm
Author: Lorna Campbell
Ten years ago the Cape Town Declaration laid the foundations for what it described as the “emerging open education movement” and called on colleagues to come together to commit to the pursuit and promotion of open education and to overcome the barriers to realizing this vision. Among the barriers the Declaration recognized were “governments and educational institutions that are unaware or unconvinced of the benefits of open education” and it went on to advocate the development of open education policy to ensure that taxpayer-funded educational resources are openly licensed. Five years later, the Paris OER Declaration strengthened this call by encouraging governments and authorities to open license educational materials produced with public funds in order to realize substantial benefits for their citizens and maximize the impact of investment.
This paper will provide an overview of the advances and mis-steps in open education policy and practice in the UK in the ten years since the Cape Town Declaration, while comparing and contrasting the UK experience with developments elsewhere in Europe and North America. The paper will include a case study on the Scottish Open Education Declaration and the efforts of the Open Scotland initiative to lobby the Scottish Government to endorse the principles of the declaration and adopt open licenses for publicly funded educational content.
Wed, Apr 5 2017
With Martin Hawksey, John Robertson and Lorna Campbell
End of day session, from 1730-1800. With onsite buddy Teresa MacKinnon and virtual buddies Nadine Aboulmagd and Simon Ensor.
This lightning talk will be a short polemic reflecting on political and personal events that have led me to both question and strengthen my commitment to open education over the last two years. These include the detention and disappearance of Syrian open knowledge advocate Bassel Khartebil, and the project that created an open book dedicated to his life and work The Cost of Freedom: A Creative Enquiry. The privilege of co-chairing the OER16 Open Culture Conference. The result of the UK’s European Membership referendum, announced the day after a meeting of European colleagues to discuss how we could work together to join up open education policy and practice across the Europe. The appointment of the first Gaelic language Wikimedian in Residence by Wikimedia UK and the National Library of Scotland. The surge of horror and shout of rage following the results of the US presidential election.
My response to these disparate, seemingly unconnected events was to write, to blog, to try to find words to make sense of events and my reaction to them, and to reassert my belief that we have a moral responsibility to work together to improve education opportunities for all, not just the privileged few.
I can’t promise this talk will be neutral or balanced, but it will be honest and from the heart, and ultimately it will be open.
Last week was the October school holidays so I took my daughter home to the Outer Hebrides to visit family. My trip coincided with the Royal National Mòd which was held in my home town of Stornoway this year so I was able to go along to some of the Mòd fringe events.
On Wednesday I was at the Council Chambers in Stornoway to hear Mr John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, present the Angus Macleod Lecture on The Place of Gaelic in Modern Scotland. (I’ve already written a more comprehensive blog post about the Minister’s lecture for the Open Scotland blog here.) In a wide ranging and really rather inspiring talk Swinney reiterated the government’s commitment to Gaelic stating
“Gaelic belongs to Scotland, hostility to Gaelic has no place in Scotland and we should all unite behind the effort to create a secure future for Gaelic in Scotland.”
In questions after the lecture I also had an opportunity to ask Swinney for his thoughts on the role of ICT in supporting Gaelic education. He answered by re-stating the Government’s commitment to providing 100% network connectivity throughout Scotland and went on to highlight the importance of education technology in broadening the coverage of education provision and ensuring that Gaelic education can reach greater numbers of learners than ever before. In addition he also emphasised the new opportunities that ICT affords young people in the Highlands and Islands, enabling them to expand their education and skills, and seek new careers without having to leave the Gàidhealtachd.
The second fringe event I went to was Manifestos, Mòds and Music, a fascinating talk by Jennifer Gilles on the National Library of Scotland’s digitised Gaelic collections. Jennifer presented a short history of An Comunn Gàidhealach illustrated by a whole host of items from the Library’s collections, ranging from publications and periodicals, to Mòd programmes and ephemera, printed music and even recipe books. I confess I was particularly fond of the “Celtic Terms of Invective” column from one of An Comunn’s early 1900’s periodicals. You can find a short Storify of Jennifer’s talk here.
Jennifer’s talk was followed by a showing of the a 1942 film The Western Isles. Set in Harris, the film depicts scenes of island life during World War II, as a family anxiously awaits news of their son after his ship, the Atlantic Queen, is sunk by a German submarine in the Mid Atlantic. The son, admirably played by a 14 year old motor mechanic from Harris, successfully skippers the lifeboat back to the Hebrides and returns to his family. It was fascinating to recognise many of the places that appeared in the film and many Hebridean families, mine included, can relate similar tales of heroism from the both the Merchant and Royal Navy during the Second World War.