Thinking about inspiration, and what inspires us as teachers, and our students as eager learners, is something we might not often have time to do. As a lecturer in higher education within a further education college (HE in FE), I feel it a great privilege to be a teacher of English – both language and literature – and to have such a vast array of resources at hand to inspire the people who have chosen to study English – the advantage of English Language is that you can study almost any text. There is no shortage of enthusiasm amongst our students – indeed, getting them to stop talking about English is usually more of a challenge than engaging them in the first place. However, as busy teachers we often feel we could benefit from some input from academics and materials outside of the college – after all, our students have often been taught by us in the Access to HE course, or at A level, and might be getting a bit too familiar with our ways …
So, while in our college setting we are able to provide academic and pastoral support, individual attention, and focused discussion groups, our students are less likely to recognize the experience of listening to a lecture for 50 minutes, or considering new ways of interpreting great works of literature. The Great Writers Inspire website can provide this experience directly from Oxford University, or indeed, we can take out just five minutes from a lecture to provoke debate or to supplement work in class. For students whose homes frequently do not contain the shelves of books we associate with literary inspiration, the website is one way of making up for this lack. We find that our HE in FE students are often bewildered by the when, where, who – and how do they all join up, of great writers. So, the website’s contextualization of linking writers and texts through various themes and periods is useful background understanding, which we might wrongly assume to be already in place.
The two-day experience at Oxford Computing Services as a ‘user’ was exciting, interesting, and inspiring. Meeting a variety of teachers from schools and universities, and discussing our different and similar needs and hopes in an entirely conducive and cooperative atmosphere, was a delight. Those modules I had considered creating in Victorian Literature, or Modernism, suddenly became a much more tangible prospect. While we could do with MORE of everything from the project (and only because what is there is so good) – and I know more is on its way – the possibility of writing such modules incorporating open access materials became real. The session when we could set off and explore such resources was extremely helpful and gave me something very useful to take back to college.
I’d like to say thank you to everyone for making the event so enjoyable, and I very much hope to remain in contact as the resources grow, and as our uses of them multiply and hybridise in ways we may have not yet even imagined.
Candice Satchwell is a Lecturer and Programme Leader at Blackpool and the Fylde College.