This week Fiona Lindsay discusses live theatre and digital theatre and the opportunities this can bring ...

Children and communication technology

The following fact worries me. Recent research by Ofcom has revealed that today’s six year-olds have the same understanding of communications technology as 45 year-olds.

Having just celebrated a particular milestone birthday this is a reminder that I’m not only old but very much behind with the times and it doesn’t bring me cheer. I’m not unfit, but keeping apace with such rapid advances in technology is almost impossible and there’s a choice to be made. Do I stick my head in the sand and try to avoid any virtual reality or do I get my trainers on and get tech-fit?

In many ways the between a rock and the hard place position that I am in is of my own making. Having spent the majority of my professional life being an ambassador for the live theatre experience, I’ve now moved over to the dark side and encourage teachers and students to enjoy the best seat in the house at the click of a button through my involvement with Digital Theatre Plus.

Click of a button? Yes! With just a click of a button students and teachers all over the world can immerse themselves in HD films of some of the best theatre productions of recent times. They can also go behind the scenes, meet actors and members of the creative teams and have a virtual trip to the theatre again and again and again.

It all sounds so simple, doesn’t it? However, persuading education audiences that this different way of experiencing the performing arts is a way forward is an ongoing challenge.

Most other subjects – especially Maths and Science - have enjoyed a natural transition from being taught fairly traditionally to now making good use of all the technology and multimedia devices available. Interactive smartboards enable teachers to teach a whole class whilst at the same time attending to the differing needs of each student. The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) doesn’t seem to be questioned as a means of exposing students to the rigours of hard core subjects. There doesn’t seem to be a let’s keep maths (teaching) live campaign and in my opinion it’s short sighted to ghettoise a quality arts education as only being valid if the experience of performance is a live one.

The beauty of an online arts education resource is that performance can be experienced again and again and again. This offers learners the opportunity to peel back the layers of a production in order to understand and make sense of it from the ground up in much the same way as directors and performers have to when bringing a production to the stage.

This is invaluable and presents performance in a relevant and dynamic fashion. If we want to turn young people onto likes of Shakespeare and the classics then exposing them to high quality current productions via an online streaming service is the way forward. Taking a trip to the theatre is becoming prohibitive for many education groups and the more online performing arts resources that are developed the better. This will ensure that there is finally a level playing field when it comes to as many young people as possible having equal access to great culture.

As creative practitioners and educators we need to collaborate in the development of brilliant digital resources for the arts so that there is a compelling argument for placing these so-called soft subjects at the heart of the curriculum. Stories, words, or a shared experience help us to understand ourselves and the world we live in and if we can harness the best of these virtually and share them, we will enable an enhanced learning reality for so many more young people.

My laces are tied. Are yours?