On 14th January, SHARE Museums East ran a Digital Learning Day with Paul Clifford and the Museum of London. Yvonne Lawrence, Learning Services Manager at Chelmsford Museums, shares her experiences (and images) of the day:
“… A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention …”.
One of the scarcest resources of our age is attention; we are bombarded with instant information and images, hyperlinks and choices. Working with artefacts, we encourage people to slow things down, focus on the object, give it full attention and use all five senses. How does this low-tech approach fit with increasing uses of digital technology today? And how can we vary the use of digital technology between formal learning and informal learning for families?
We sat around a packed conference table to discuss the use of digital technology in museum learning. It sounds like a paradox – after all, isn’t the unique selling point of what we do that we use real objects to engage and inspire? How can we make digital technology do more than we can with objects and paper? Is blended learning the answer – mixing real experiences with digital technology? Some people actively seek out non-digital experiences (not everyone wants to live life through a lens).
Digital technology is not a magic fix. Paul advised us to think about overall learning objectives rather than starting from the perspective of ‘what can I add digitally to this?’ You need to consider costs and security; logistics – storage and charging of equipment; copyright issues with apps, software, and the finished product – who owns what?; creating, sharing and deleting finished projects; and last but not least, who has the time to manage all this?
The Museum of London uses 10 iPads for school visits with free or almost free Apps that are very simple to use. These include ‘Photomontage: Photo Layers’ to allow people to ‘greenscreen’ themselves into an old photo; ‘PuppetPals’ to create animations and soundtracks illustrating historical events such as the Great Fire of London; and ‘Popplet’ mind mapping software, good for exploring uses of an artefact and sorting ideas. Children use these Apps to create digital output they can send back to the classroom to use in follow up work, adding motivation and value to the learning experience.
The practical afternoon session explored technology such as the £50 MaKey Makey, described as ‘an invention kit for the 21st century’. Deceptively simple to look at, and not much bigger than a credit card, this is a very simple circuit system that can be hooked up to a PC to create some stunning effects – similar to a programmable Raspberry Pi. If you have ever wanted to make a printed image interactive with different outcomes when someone presses different areas, this is for you!
Yesterday the teacher in our ‘Stone Age to Iron Age’ session asked if he could use his iPhone to record the gallery tour. I agreed and have been inspired to record our own version to use with schools: my first attempt at blended learning to help teachers get the most from their self-led gallery visit – hopefully without stopping them from booking another school session!
Want to know more about Raspberry Pi, Makey Makey and other digital learning tools? A variety of these are now available for Essex museums to borrow. Read more here.