Spirit of the Titanic: virtual classroom

Nicola Pierce being interviewed, while the school children look on

I had the great privilege of being a ‘fly on the wall’ at one of the most interesting school events I have ever seen in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum last week. It was a real showcase for what imagination, flexibility and working together can achieve, and the educational value has to be absolutely huge.

For about six weeks classes in four schools from across Northern Ireland had been doing project work on the subject of the Titanic which was, of course, built in Belfast in the famous Harland and Wolff shipyards. As the centenary of the sinking is in 2012, it is a very timely subject. As part of their work (and this is where O’Brien Press come in) they have been reading Spirit of the Titanic by Nicola Pierce, a novel which captures a huge amount of information, history and atmosphere from this most famous of ocean liners.

As the culmination of this work, a two-hour-long live internet broadcast was run from the museum (incidentally, if you have never been to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, I would heartily recommend you go – it captures the spirit and atmosphere of a bygone time exceptionally well, and is run by very enthusiastic and knowledgeable people). There was a TV-style outside broadcast truck with all the mixing desks you could want, as well as a satellite uplink! The real magic was that it was a live, two-way event, with the schools also broadcasting a view of the children, who were fascinated throughout.

It started in the print works, where we learned about printing tickets for the ship and where Nicola was interviewed about her book; moved to the post office and finally to an interview with an actor talking about riveting the ship together for a living! The students asked some great questions and a recording of the event will be available to all schools in Northern Ireland through their IT system.

All of which proves that cooperation and thinking outside the box can create some of the most memorable occasions: everybody involved was totally passionate about education, and it showed in the quality of the whole event, which really made history live.