For my practicum, I am working on the Battle of Mount Street Bridge project. This project is based in An Foras Feasa, Maynooth University and is comprised of three sub-projects with the aim of promoting engagement with and facilitating the development of alternative interpretations of the eponymous battle, which took place during Easter Week 1916 as part of the Easter Rising (“Methodology”, mountstreet1916.ie). These sub-projects seek to engage people in different. The first one, entitled Contested Memories: The Battle of Mount Street Bridge, is a virtual reality/3D visualisation in Unity 3D of the battle. The response to this led to the development of the two other sub-projects – an augmented reality school app, and a location-based walking tour. The app is designed to be used as part of a school’s Transition Year curriculum, while the walking tour is intended to be downloadable. My practicum does not involve the direct development of any of these sub-projects, but rather is concerned with the engagement of people with the projects, for example stakeholder engagement, public engagement, and teacher and student engagement.
Thus far, I have conducted only a limited amount of research with regard to constructing a strategy to engage stakeholders. Most of my energies have been focused on re-designing the project website. To date the website has consisted of the 3D World, associated annotations, and background information on the battle itself, the projects, its participants and funders. This naturally means that in order to better represent the three sub-projects and not solely the 3D World the site needs to be re-designed. Considering how to engage different stakeholders via the site and how different stakeholders will use the site has fed into my conception of its design, with the addition of social media links and a news section being key additions for this purpose. There is a lot of value in engaging stakeholders in a cultural heritage project such as this and in designing a strategy to do so – interested groups engage in a meaningful, insightful way with history and culture and different interpretations may be explored, and a strategy to engage these groups can be adapted and utilized in the future for similar projects. Engagement in a cultural heritage project also leads to an increase in interest in and awareness of future projects.
Though I have, to date, focused on the website, I have conducted some small amount of research into best practice for designing a strategy to engage stakeholders. The strategy which I am in the process of considering will not be limited to communication via social media, but will also include communication via newsletters and traditional media forms, in order to reach a wider group of possible stakeholder than those engaging in social media. This will also serve to disseminate the project to as wide an audience as possible. Engagement of stakeholders and dissemination of information are, to my mind, inextricably linked. By seeking to use different media forms to engage stakeholders in the project, it is natural that one also brings information about the project to those who are not necessarily stakeholders, and these not-yet stakeholders (for example history enthusiasts or military enthusiasts or teachers or other groups who are unaware either of the battle itself or of the project) may become stakeholders by virtue of information about the project crossing their paths, either on social media or through traditional media. While it is not a given that this “cross-pollination” of ideas will occur, it is a possibility. Disseminating information using these different media forms also raises the possibility of inspiring similar multi-modal cultural heritage projects among other groups in the future, by showing that it can, indeed, be done. This was a possibility that had not occurred to me before I commenced work on the practicum, but now that it has I have a deeper appreciation for the process of engaging stakeholders.
While the strategy which I am designing and the re-designed website will serve to engage both stakeholders and members of the public (or at least to disseminate information about the project to these groups) another strand of my practicum involves examining the engagement of teachers and students with the Transition Year augmented reality app. I am to be involved in the coordination both of teacher training sessions and app demonstrations in schools, and by analyzing and considering the feedback from these sessions I will be in a better position to tailor recommendations for future sessions to better engage teachers and students. I also hope that these sessions will feed into the strategy for stakeholder engagement, by suggesting and demonstrating effective means to engage these two particular groups. A further issue which will hopefully be addressed by these sessions is the question of reinforcing student learning from the app, primarily with regard to additional tasks. For example, as having the students give a presentation or write an essay on some aspect of the battle illuminated by the app may be onerous tasks in Transition Year – not to mention particularly time-consuming in a year which is full of many different experiences and events and has an often-packed schedule – what other means may be used to enhance student learning? This particular question of student engagement is one which I hope to find a solution to by analyzing the feedback from app demonstration sessions.
In conclusion, I feel that engagement lies at the foundation of my practicum, engagement and dissemination. Though my own involvement in these areas has thus far been through designing the website, I am looking forward to getting to further examine them and bring new ideas to the table.
“Methodology”, Contested Memories: The Battle of Mount Street Bridge, http://mountstreet1916.ie/revision-methodology/. Accessed 09 March 2017.