DREAM TEAM 2016 - Guest blog post from the Royal Shakespeare Company!

As technology permeates more and more areas of all our lives, growing numbers of children and young people are getting their ‘first encounter’ of the arts and live theatre through ICT and online platforms.  Whilst these changes to how we consume culture present significant challenges to the cultural sector (rights being just one example) the opportunities are so great, we need to adapt quickly in order to reap the rewards writes Jacqui O’Hanlon, Director of Education at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The way we communicate, socialise and live our lives has altered dramatically over the past decade. Theatre and the arts are no exception and using an interface that young people are familiar with and feel comfortable using has helped us reach new audiences on a scale that was previously unimaginable. Digital platforms mean that we can now reach all sorts of people that we wouldn’t have been able to connect with through more traditional channels –whether because of financial or geographical limitations or because they’d decided that it just wasn’t for them.

At the RSC we’ve been exploring how we can use new technologies to extend our reach, particularly in terms of new audiences. . For example in March last year, we became the first UK theatre to co-host a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) giving students around the world the chance to learn from some of the world’s leading Shakespeare experts. Run by the University of Birmingham in collaboration with RSC Education and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Much Ado About Nothing: in Performance was completely free to access from anywhere in the world (with internet access) and looked at how the play would have been staged in Shakespeare’s time, how it’s been interpreted in the past and how it can be brought to life for modern audiences. Students had immediate access to specially created video and audio content as well as seminars from leading Shakespeare scholars, actors, directors and creatives.

We are also the only UK theatre to stream our current productions directly into classrooms up and down the country each term for free. Our Schools’ Broadcasts programme, streaming its 6th screening next month, has meant that thousands of students, who wouldn’t or couldn’t ordinarily access our work, have now seen a world-class theatre production from the comfort of their own classroom. Around half of the audiences for these broadcasts have been completely new to Shakespeare, and over 80% have been new to the RSC’s work. A high percentage of teachers surveyed about the broadcast experience now says they are planning to attend a live theatre performance in the future as a direct result.

Likewise a new suite of free interactive whiteboard resources is helping to transform the way that Shakespeare is experienced in the classroom. This  suite of resources provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for each of Shakespeare’s plays housing everything a teacher needs to successfully introduce their students to  a particular play in performance.  Configured to sit on classroom whiteboards, the resources: introduce the plays through interactive pages; offer instant access to hundreds of images from the RSC archive, as well as videos of actors and directors talking about the plays, characters and their interpretive choices, links to teacher’s packs with discussion topics, lesson ideas and suggestions on how to approach teaching a play in class, stimulate discussion and support learning. We already have resources for Henry IV Parts I and II, the Two Gentlemen of Verona and Love’s Labour’s Lost. Much Ado about Nothing, the Merchant of Venice and Othello are due in the next academic year.

We’re also harnessing the power of the internet to engage a critical mass of schools all over the country in marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death next year. Dream Team 2016 is based around A Midsummer Night's Dream (watch the trailer here www.dream2016.org.uk ) and we’re asking schools to sign up online now to get involved in as big or as little way as they like - from making a pair of donkey ears/fairy wings to wear to school on Midsummer's Day in 2016, to creating a fairy kingdom or Athenian wood in the classroom to downloading our free playmaking pack and staging their own productions. Off-line we're hosting a mini Playmaking festival in Stratford during the summer term where schools can perform and/or take part in workshops but essentially the scale of the ambition is only possible because of technology that allows us to make our resources available to everyone regardless of where in the country they live – for free.

It’s clear that using platforms and interfaces that young people are familiar with and confident in using is helping democratise our work on a scale like never before. This is great news in terms of giving more teachers and students better and easier access to our work but the longer-term impact can be much more profound. Students and schools are able to ‘dip their toes’ informally into our work and often the result is that preconceived ideas they had about Shakespeare being ‘too complex’ or ‘not for us’ are challenged. When students then have a good experience of Shakespeare in the classroom, their understanding of what they are capable of and their confidence are boosted and the chances are that they will adopt a ‘can do’ attitude to complex work in the future rather than feel intimidated and retreat. So whilst our theatres and the experience of live performance will always remain at the core of everything we do, technology is an increasingly critical part of the jigsaw – particularly in our engagement with young people. As well as allowing us to take our work out far and wide, it provides an important gateway to building an understanding and appreciation of the arts and Shakespeare’s work that can stay with and enrich young people for the rest of their lives.

Information about the RSC’s Schools’ Broadcast Programme can be found at: http://onscreen.rsc.org.uk/education/default.aspx
For more information about the free interactive whiteboard resources visit: interactive-learning.rsc.org.uk.
More information about Dream Team 2016 can be found here: www.dream2016.org.uk 

I just want to say a massive Thank You to Jacqui and Jo for this! The Dream Team project looks fantastic and is something we will certainly be signing up for at our school.  

Having used Shakespeare in the Primary classroom, the response from the children is always positive. The ability to integrate technology to help children immerse and retell the plays is a very powerful tool! 

Have a read of some previous blog posts about what we have done- 

Retelling Shakespeare with the iPad 
Having Fun with Shakespeare!


  1. This is so cool. I am such a huge fan of their work. I really am impressed with how much you have worked to make this website so enjoyable.
    recent computer technologies


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