Localising Philosophy is an ongoing education project since 2018, co-led by Dr Dominic Smith (Philosophy) and Dr Anna Robb (Education). Using art and philosophy, Localising Philosophy asks big philosophical questions that the project’s partners are facing. The project takes inspiration from a 1932 educational radio play for children, ‘The Railway Disaster at the Firth of Tay’ by the German philosopher, Walter Benjamin. In it, Benjamin uses the Tay Rail Bridge disaster of 1879 to weave together philosophy, history, technology, and fantasy to engage young children in Berlin to think about the development of technology.

Listen to this podcast for more information about Benjamin.

In 2022 the team were asked to support a Dundee secondary school cluster with their transition activities for Primary 7 pupils moving into their first year of secondary school after the summer. The project was deemed a success by the secondary school, resulting in the school increasing their transition programme in the summer from two days to three days and the team being invited back this year to deliver the workshops to a new cohort of Primary 7 pupils. Between May and June 2023, we therefore completed another successful iteration of the project exploring these big questions: ‘Why do things change?’, ‘Where is your place?’, and ‘How do we connect today?’

Phase one of the project saw the research team, joined by the project’s attached PhD student, Jodie Williamson, visit each primary school twice to conduct on-site workshops in the classrooms. Using an image of the Tay Rail Bridge and a mobile phone both labelled as ‘this is a bridge,’ Session One focused on the present. Pupils were asked to reflect on the different ways they connect to others and the world around them, followed by an oil pastel mono-printing activity to draw a piece of technology which they thought helped them stay connected. In the second session, we time travelled back to the past and asked pupils to imagine what life would be like if certain technologies did not exist, using comic strips to tell their story.

For phase two, the team, now also joined by two 4th year Philosophy students, met with the Primary 7’s as part of their third day of the transition programme at the secondary school. The day was a culmination of the themes we had been working on together in the primary classes, thinking about how the pupils connect their past, present, and future selves. The activities for this session involved leaving messages in their footprints to themselves in the past and future and a digital mind map of ‘technologies of the future’ using Padlet. Over the last two years the team have worked with around 500 pupils and their teachers across the whole project.

After summer, we continue with phase three of the project which sees us return to Morgan to meet the P7s in their newly settled S1 classes. Before they left our sessions, we left them with a thought for summer: How is AI changing our world, and how do you, as young people who will shape the future, and interact with AI, feel about it?

The project has impact and engagement components and acts as an employability platform for Philosophy students.

Find out more about the concept in this short talk or have a look at the following film

Full details here: https://www.localisingphilosophy.com/

Thanks to Jodie Williamson for this blog!

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