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From Brighton to the Cherokee Nation...

There was lots of fantastic creative chaos at the official launch of the Brighton/Cherokee Nation Digital Cultural Exchange Project which took place as part of Brighton Digital Festival.

Cherokee Nation Project Manager (UK) Fenella Tallon, gives her account of the event....

One uneventful Friday afternoon, a call came into the Wired Sussex office from the Cherokee Nation… What? A digital media company? No? Who on earth? The real Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma USA, no way? Well, yes way in fact!

And from that call in 2011, a cultural digital exchange programme was born linking two schools in Brighton & Hove Blatchington Mill School and Cardinal Newman Catholic School and two schools in the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, USA Fort Gibson Public Schools  and Maryetta Public Schools. It’s taken a while to sort out the detail between all the schools and we had one school step back on the US side and another take its place but we've achieved quite a lot so far… year 8 students (aged 12/13) are taking part and the aim is to get them communicating with each other using digital media. This means supporting the teachers to start using digital media in new and exciting ways in the classroom and we’re getting some help from Albion in the Community who've had some experience in using technology to connect football fans in different countries using technology. The Albion will train the teachers on use of iPads in the classroom and we hope to get the kids out of the classroom to the stadium to use technology to show the Cherokee kids round a soccer facility.

When they were in year 7, the kids started some prep work for the programme and had some introductory lessons on Cherokee culture and history using materials provided by the Cherokee Nation Foundation in the USA. They also reflected on their own history and culture in Brighton and produced some videos and presentations for the Cherokee kids introducing them to their home town. This is being shared with the Cherokee kids through a blog and the Cherokee kids are responding with information about themselves, their culture and where they live. The Cherokees made videos for the official launch of the programme which took place on 19 September 2012 at the Sallis Benney theatre in Brighton. Students from both UK schools attended the launch and were really excited to hear from their American counterparts and get a taste of life in the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. They realised they had similar interests (like playing x box 360!) as well as some differences such as living on a farm and driving a tractor! The Cherokee kids seemed to look older than the Brighton kids and I later learnt that Cherokee people were traditionally tall compared with Europeans....

During the launch event, sponsored by the Arts Council as part of the Brighton Digital Festival 2012, the kids got the chance to work with digital artists SDNA to help create some digital art in what seemed to be wonderfully creative chaos with a fantastically wild mix of Cherokee images and sounds (lullabies) and UK kids musing about what they’d take to the afterlife with them. All sorts were going on, making collages out of feathers based on Cherokee stories, filming the kids making movements like fire, recording them talking about their ancestors and the afterlife and making it all into an animated display in real time!

Everyone was really energized by the event, including the educators and digital media companies that attended the evening session where they found out more about the programme and saw the art the kids had made that afternoon. Now the kids are taking this forward in their History and ICT classes and we really look forward to what they’ll learn and create. The Cherokee kids had a virtual launch event at the same time and have made a film to share with us in Brighton.

So, from here to the Cherokee Nation and back again… it’s a learning journey with digital media at the very core.


You can see the final video created with the content gathered at the launch event here.

Check out the video from launch event in the Cherokee Nation here.

You can follow Fen at @fenniet55

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