The annual conference for Gaelic education practitioners has moved online this year, in response to the Covid restrictions and other factors which were hindering attendance in previous years.
An t-Alltan, which is usually held in Aviemore and attended by delegates from all over the country, has been reformatted into a series of virtual events with a combination of webinars, live question and answer sessions and real-time tutorials. There will be options to watch again, at times that suit, but live sessions have been included to permit live engagement with experts.
The link to the An t-Alltan website is now live at https://www.storlann.co.uk/an-t-alltan/ and all Gaelic education practitioners are encouraged to participate.
The event has been reformatted by organisers Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig, the Gaelic educational resources agency, as a response to the Covid 19 crisis. It also features an emphasis this year on health and wellbeing and mindfulness, due to the pressures of the pandemic, but the concept of the conference remains the same: to provide a professional learning opportunity for Gaelic educationalists to look at new initiatives and develop their practice.
It caters for practitioners at all levels, from Early Years through to primary and secondary, and this year’s initial virtual events include a webinar for all sectors with Tim Armstrong, who will discuss the Edinburgh school campaign and big issues such as Gaelic identity and education.
For the Early Years, Jackie Mullen will be back with her popular tutorials on Gàidhlig nan Òg and the importance of music and song in language acquisition.
For primary school, there will be webinars on delivering learning through play and the Gaelic apps Dèan Matamataig, Air a’ Chloc and Fios air Fuaimean, delivered by Katie Wight and Chris Mitchell respectively.
The sessions that span primary and secondary schools are this year all about supporting mental health and wellbeing, in recognition of the stress put on young people and educators by current circumstances. There will be three webinars, accessible on-demand, in this area. One webinar on the subject of mindfulness will be delivered by Lorna Taggart and two on the subject of ‘health and wellbeing for GME teachers during Covid 19’ will be delivered by Dr Rachel Fraser.
The mindfulness webinar will include mindfulness in the classroom, breathing exercises, body relaxation and a sense of the outdoors, plus links. The webinars on health and wellbeing for teachers during Covid 19 will look at what pupils are facing, uncertainty, questions of trust and mentalisation, and more.
The provision aimed just at secondary will be webinars on quizlets, delivered by Emma Burrows and Ceitidh Campbell.
Across the board, there will be a focus on tools to support blended learning.
Although born out of necessity, the An t-Alltan online event has the benefit of being accessible to all and builds on the An t-Alltan that have gone before, since the event was first held in 2008.
Organisers will be looking to gauge opinion, for the purposes of evaluation and informing further development, so participants are encouraged to leave feedback on sessions.
Sessions for the Early Years sector have already taken place, with positive feedback received.
Historically, feedback for An t-Alltan has always been positive, with delegates saying they learned a lot about the resources that were available and potential strategies to use. The conference has been praised for its usefulness, as well as being motivating, interesting and inspiring.
Although that element of bringing together practitioners who may be geographically isolated has always been a welcome feature of the event, Stòrlann hope this year’s An t-Alltan will still build on that sense of community and exchange of knowledge and experience, while also bringing new benefits such as broader accessibility.
Joanne McHale, Education Manager at Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said: “We are indebted to Stòrlann for moving this event online and providing support for Gàidhlig education practitioners at all levels.”
Neil Smith is Head of Development Services for Stòrlann with particular responsibility for Information Technology and Design.
He said: “Sectoral challenges are numerous at the moment but we hope to provide an easily accessible menu of online learning events which practitioners will find useful in their present circumstances. By using a combination of pre-recorded and live events, together with an opportunity to network and exchange good practice, we hope to build on the success of previous ‘Alltan’ events and those currently available online from partners such as e-Sgoil and Education Scotland. We hope that as many as possible will register for the events as we add some more over the next few months.”
Donald W Morrison, Stòrlann Chief Executive, said this An t-Alltan was very much a response to the current and significant challenges in education.
He said: “I find it difficult to form words that express the magnitude of change and upheaval brought about by Covid-19. However, diligence, dedication and care, on the part of our Gaelic educators, parents and pupils, continues to shine through the current mists of change. The Stòrlann team is working hard to support the sector with resources, training and a much welcomed online gathering place under the well-known ‘Alltan’ banner. Do join us!”