Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CHIN Digital Heritage Symposium - Part 2

Panel – Connecting in Education

Connecting Into the Classroom: Removing Barriers – Creating Opportunities
Lisa McIntosh – Director of Learning, HR MacMillan Space Centre, Vancouver BC

It’s the same story that all museums have heard.  Schools don’t have the means to get the students out to the museum.  In order to analyze this issue, the Centre asked themselves three questions:
  1. What do we have to offer?
  2. What does our audience want and/or need?
  3. What are the perceived and real barriers to participation?

It was determined that teachers wanted their students to experience the educational offerings of the science centre, but find it increasingly difficult to justify and/or organize class trips.  Curriculum supplements are wanted and needed, but must be advertised specifically to teachers instead of broadly through school boards. 

The Solution:
Video conferencing through Skype.  This means that the Centre can perform science experiments that may be viewed as dangerous or an insurance liability in seclusion while kids eagerly watch from the safety of their classroom.  They also discovered that their charging a fee for each session did not prevent teachers from bringing their classes to the Centre at a later date.  In fact, the online sessions boosted in-person visits and in some cases became viewed as the preliminary contact with the Centre.  This allowed their visit to be more focused and educationally specific instead of just providing a broad understanding of the issues.

Lessons learned:
Since you’re not in the same room, it is very important to remind the students that they aren’t just watching TV.  Encourage them to interact, and work hard to involve them throughout the session.  Remember that a time lag exists when using Skype and other similar systems, so slow down a little bit and take breaks & pauses to allow for this.  While you are still testing Skype in-house, take turns delivering information & being in the audience to gain a better understanding of the process.

Virtual Museum of Canada and Francophone Teachers: Cross-Cultural Survey
Maryse Paquin – Professor, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

CHIN has been working with member museums to build the Teacher’s Centre of the Virtual Museum of Canada.  Teachers can access curriculum enhancing information that includes images, audio and visual files from museums across the country.  At the end of each learning object are assignments and questions for students to complete.  These are easy to use and re-use, and are available for different grade levels.

Use of the VMC learning objects requires the integration of technology in the classroom so they can access the website.  Currently a minority of teachers use the learning objects, most of these being in rural areas where field trips and access to other information may be more difficult to obtain.  Teachers were/are initially hesitant to use the site, but love it once they have tried it.  They view it as an improvement to curriculum that saves money.

Research Questions:
  1. What are the issues with the integration of the learning objects?
  2. What is the value of learning objects?
  3. Are you confident in the level of language of the learning objects?
  4. How pertinent are the subjects & content of the learning objects?

Current VMC learning objects users are 25% male and 75% female, with the groups being 50% elementary, 45% middle/high school, and 5% home school.

Results & Recommendations:
Francophone teachers were asked to rank by order of importance, stating that ease of preparatory work, frequency of use, and value of French-language VMC projects were average while the content was very important.  All of the results were viewed as being reflective of the baby boomers and the emergency of a new generation of teachers who want to use online curriculum enhancers.  This would mean that over the coming years there will be a continued increase in the use of the VMC learning objects.

CHIN should advertise more so that teachers can easily find the VMC & learning objects.  Links to the VMC should be on teacher portals and promoted through school boards and at conferences and professional development events.  Suggestions should be taken from teachers on how to make improvements, and CHIN should broaden its scope to include learning objects for preschoolers. 

Youth Curators of the Future Project
Jérôme Gédéon – Project Coordinator, CHIN

To entice youth aged 16-18 to consider a career in Museums by providing them with a behind-the-scenes look at participating institutions, thus gaining experience in curatorial practices.  Social media was used to share and discuss their creative work with participating students from across the country.  This would provide member museums with experience in using social media and open source software.
Other goals included partnering with CHIN members in innovative use of digital technologies, bringing youth into museums & galleries, and creating dynamic content for the VMC experimental lab.  They also wanted to test social media platforms to engage youth in culture and promote dialogue about art among youth from across Canada.  The project’s findings would be used to promote best practices.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Musée d’art de Joliette, Museum London, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, and Kamloops Art Gallery were partnered with local high schools.

Eight teachers and 90 students visited their partner museum, saw the storage facilities, conducted research in the archives and interacted with staff.  In groups or individually the students selected an art work, conducted research and wrote a curatorial record for the object.  Museum staff provided guidance and a high-resolution image with copyright permission.  A multimedia company created a wordpress platform for the students to work in.  Facebook was also used since all of the students already had accounts.

Panel Question & Answer:
What did the students like most?
They loved getting the “real” picture of museum work, and also working with like-minded peers from across the country.

Is online stuff taking away from physical visitors?
It depends on how you view “visitors”.  The Space Centre records Skype sessions and participating students, including this in their visitor count.  They also put a dollar value to this work, charging for sessions.  That said, some teachers also follow-up with a real visit or follow-up a real visit with a Skype session.

Are there any plans to provide sessions for students and/or teachers to learn how to use the VMC?
Not at present, we must first convince teachers

Facebook vs. Wordpress…what did you find?
Facebook already has a massive user-base, so the students were very comfortable using it.  Wordpress does have some extra or usier features though, such a tagging and sharing

Panel Wrap-up
George Siemens – Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute, Athabasca University

Museums must achieve a fine balance of maintaing their mandate but responding to societal needs.  This means they must be constantly experimenting, doing small projects whose failure won’t impact the institution.  In using Facebook, we must remember that there is a total lack of privacy – go in with your eyes open.  In terms of relevancy, we must meet people where they are, meet teachers at the space where they live.  It all comes down to asking the questions, “is it accessible and do people use it”.

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