Making Things, Doing Things

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On Thursday 26 October a gang of ‘digital curious’ museum folk discovered cheap and easy ways to start using technology at their museum. Led by Paul Clifford we made robots, programmed micro:bits and found the ‘Maker’ within us.

“Instead of learning about our technology we opt for a world in which our technology learns about us.” Douglas Rushkoff

 

The Maker Movement

The Maker Movement is a global community of people making and sharing their objects through events and the internet. A ‘Maker’ might build furniture, bake cakes or engineer robots but, whatever the activity, at the core of the Maker Movement is a belief in democratisation, social learning, collaboration and self-empowerment.

For Makers who are interested in digital technology, they might enjoy electronics, robotics, 3-D printing blended with more traditional crafts like metalworking, woodworking, arts and crafts. A Maker might build something from scratch or tinker with existing technology.

The Kit

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Makey Makey – have you ever wanted to make a banana piano or turn your hands into buttons? Then the Makey Makey is the kit for you! The Makey Makey is a simple circuit board onto which you can attach crocodile clips to turn anything into a button. Cost: £50 approx.

micro:bit – a microcontroller that you can simply programme to do different things, like direct motors, flash lights or play sounds. Using the MakeCode.org website you can programme a micro:bit really easily following the instructions on the micro:bit website. In 2016 the BBC distributed a micro:bit to every year 7 child in Britain, so many schools already have a supply of these. Cost: £12 approx.

Servo:Lite – a type of servoboard. A servoboard is a device that controls motors or mechanisms (technically known as servomotors or servomechanisms), for example turning wheels, switching lights on and off or playing a noise. The Servo:Lite is controlled by the micro:bit (or other microcontroller).

ZIP Halo – a circular board that has a ring of flashing lights, which you can programme using the micro:bit. Cost: £12 approx.

Motor and wheels – moving wheels that you can attach to your Servo:Lite, which you can programme using your micro:bit. Cost: £8 approx.

Arduino – an electronics platform for making interactive projects. An Arduino senses the environment through sensors and you can tell an Arduino what to do by writing code in the Arduino programming language. Cost varies depending on what you buy.

Touch board – you can use this to turn any material or surface into a sensor, so you could paint a light switch on a wall, make a paper piano or create an interactive poster. Cost: £60 approx.

Raspberry Pi – a tiny, affordable computer that you can use to learn programming. You can plug it into a monitor and it comes with its own operating system. Cost: £30 – 40 approx.

Conductive Paint – you could use this to paint buttons or circuits.

Little:Bits – really simple electronic kit that lets you build circuits. Lots of fun to play with and great for absolute beginners.

Extras – crocodile clips, batteries, keyboards, monitors, copper tape, etc.

There are countless extras you could buy depending on what you’re interested in!

(Please note that these products are available from a range of sources.)

How can we use this technology in our museums?

Some museums are doing all kinds of amazing things – from massive digital projects to cheap and cheerful kids’ events. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Build a Robot – using craft materials, motor wheels, micro:bit and Servolite you can create simple robots that wheel around and draw shapes.

Maker Trolley – short on space in your museum? No problem – why not try a trolley loaded with craft materials, and a few simple bits of technology to get kids playing.

Cardboard Instruments – cut out guitars and pianos from cardboard and use Makey Makeys to turn these into intruments. Check out the Makey Makey website for different ideas.

There are lots of blogs and websites full of ideas with easy to follow instruction. Check out the following for inspiration:

https://makezine.com/projects/

https://www.makerspaces.com/makerspace-ideas/

https://learn.adafruit.com/

https://www.kitronik.co.uk/blog/kitronik-university/

https://www.raspberrypi.org/education/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/connectedstudio/toolkit

https://situate.io/

https://smartify.org/

Don’t have the technology?

No problem – you can borrow the Essex Museum Development’s digital learning library for free.

Why not try contacting local businesses to ask if you can have their old computers, keyboards, tablets, etc if they’re throwing them away?

Contact Makers and technology producers to ask if they might loan you equipment or donate some to your museum. Check out the list below for ideas of who you might contact:

Raspberry Pi Foundation

BBC micro:bits

Mini Maker Foundation

Your local ‘Code Club’ or local Makers

Crafts Council (also potential funders!)

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If you’re interested in using digital technology but aren’t sure where to get started, come along to the next Heritage Education Group meeting where we will be playing with the technology library. We will be meeting on Tuesday 5 December at the Essex Records Office. Contact me for more information and to book.

WIRE: Wikipedians in Residence Essex

Wikipedians (or Wikimedians) in Residence are volunteers who dedicate time to working in-house at a museum or gallery, creating and updating Wikipedia articles related to that organisation and its collection. They are not simply an in-house editor: the role is also about enabling the host organisation and its members to continue a productive relationship with Wikipedia and its community of editors after the Residency is finished.

Wikipedia describes the idea here
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedian_in_residence

The Fry Gallery, Stow Maries Aerodrome, Essex Police Museum, Combined Military Services Museum and Chelmsford Museum will all be hosting a Wikipedian this autumn as a part of the WIRE project.

WIRE has only just started, and we’ll report back with our learning in a few months. In the meantime, if you’d like to explore updating your museum’s Wikipedia presence (even if you haven’t set one up yourselves, check Wikipedia as a page about your museum probably already exists) you can use the guide below.

Writing for Wikipedia

Be aware that new articles are ‘patrolled’ shortly after submission and if your article is not thought to comply with Wikipedia’s guidelines it will be deleted.

Articles submitted to Wikipedia should be written from a neutral point of view. Content must be
• unbiased
• verifiable
• noteworthy
• must not breach copyright

Think of it as writing an entry for a printed encyclopaedia. Entries should be written in an informational and neutral style rather than a marketing style. If possible facts should be supported by references.

Images should be the copyright of your Museum and be prepared for them to be downloaded and used once you have added them to an article. Consider using a Creative Commons licence to retain copyright while allowing others to use the images. You can find out more about licenses here – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ Wikipedia expects editors to grant free content licences – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons_license

Before you start do a search on Wikipedia to make sure that someone else hasn’t already written an entry- duplicates will be deleted.

Consider if your article will meet Wikipedia’s ‘worthy of note’ conditions. Just advertising the existence of a museum is unlikely to but adding an article on a collection probably will. Entries should be strengthened by references (preferably online) and an article with no references is likely to be deleted.

There is some good advice here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Your_first_article

Wikipedia also provides a wizard to help with writing your first article – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Article_wizard

A good tutorial can be found here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Tutorial

Creating an Account
It is possible to write for and edit Wikipedia without an account but there are several good reasons to create an account for your museum.
• It will give entries more authority
• A number of reliable entries from the same source will build a good online reputation
• You can pick a recognisable user name
• You will have a user page with subpage called a ‘sandbox’ where you can experiment with writing and formatting an entry before submitting it

To Create an Account
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:CreateAccount&returnto=Wikipedia%3AWhy_create_an_account%3F

Logging Your Steps
It’s a good idea to keep a log of your research and make sure you have a note of all the sources you have used along with web links. This makes it easy for you to respond to any queries about your entry and will also leave useful information for the museum should you not be available.

How to Write a Post for Facebook

The third in our social media series from Louise Winters:

Fabulous Facebook posts for your museum

Whether you have a personal Facebook account or not, it can be a bit daunting to start writing posts for your museum’s Facebook page. If you do already use Facebook at least you have an idea how it works and what kind of things other organisations post. Even so, it is a different thing to be posting on behalf of an organisation instead of just for yourself.

If you don’t normally use Facebook then the whole thing may seem really difficult. If you’re in this situation, try asking a friend or neighbour who does use Facebook to show you how it works before you sit down to write your first post.

Get writing: What is normal on Facebook and what isn’t?

One of the really nice things about Facebook (and all other social media) is that it can be fun and informal. It isn’t like a press release or a newspaper article. Social media is for short, friendly, eye-catching updates that let you get to know what someone or an organisation is REALLY like. The other brilliant thing about social media is that your followers can talk back by leaving comments. This is great: you should encourage people to reply to your posts and always reply to any comments and messages you get from followers.

Here are the three things, in order of importance, to keep in mind when creating a post for Facebook:  be FRIENDLY, make it CATCHY and keep it SHORT.

1/ FRIENDLY
• Your post should be friendly and talk to people as if you know them. Your aim is to make them feel welcome before they’ve even set foot in your museum.
• You don’t have to be formal and start with ‘Dear all’ or ‘Dear Visitors’ as you might in a letter or email.
• Do use ‘We’ when writing posts instead of I. You are writing on behalf of the museum, which is a collection of people so ‘we’ is better
• Write about things that are ‘behind the scenes’ or that show there are real people at the museum e.g. exhibition set up, birthday cake for a colleague or views you enjoy.

Lovely sunny spring post by Chelmsford museum:

http://bit.ly/2qRqPcW

• Ask questions to encourage a conversation – don’t be disheartened if no one replies at first. It can take a while, but keep asking. E.g. “We really enjoyed today’s event, what was your favourite bit?”
• Say thank you to people. For example: thank you for coming to an event, for helping to raise money, for volunteering at the museum or for replying to your posts.

Here are 2 examples that show the friendly side of museums:
https://www.facebook.com/chelmsfordmuseums/photos/a.440481002658800.99515.104334979606739/1657203684319853/?type=3&theater
https://www.facebook.com/museumbraintree/photos/a.404737529547592.86988.202985223056158/1468412493180085/?type=3&theater

2/ CATCHY
• Use interesting and eye catching words that really tell a story about whatever you’re trying to write about. “Beautiful glass vase” is more interesting than “Nice vase”.
• Use easy to understand words as you don’t know who will be reading your posts.
• Include photographs or videos as they catch people’s attention more than words alone. Be careful to credit the author if you use someone else’s video or photograph.
• You can also try searching for gifs (animated pictures) and emoji to brighten up your post.
• If you link to an article or blog post online Facebook will usually show the article title in the weblink preview so you can focus on giving new / extra information.
Examples showing museums being catchy by using descriptive words (“fantastic”, “sister, wife, lover, mother”) and photos:
https://www.facebook.com/museumbraintree/photos/a.404737529547592.86988.202985223056158/1473422179345783/
https://www.facebook.com/southendmuseums/posts/1864464276912550

3/ SHORT
• Get the most interesting bit in the first line. Don’t build up to it because Facebook often only shows a few lines with an option to click to see the rest.
• People skim through their Facebook feed quickly so make sure you’re friendly, but to the point. Ideally don’t write more than 4 lines.
• Including a photo, a gif or a video is a good way to convey an idea immediately. Make sure the photo, gif or video is relevant.
• If you find you often want to write long posts, consider writing blog posts to go up on your museum’s website and then sharing a link with a photo and a 1 line introduction or summary on the Facebook page.

Good examples of short, to the point posts with great photos and a photographer credit where necessary:
https://www.facebook.com/epolicemuseum/photos/a.111531825582471.12468.107798892622431/1239553546113621/?type=3&theater
https://www.facebook.com/TelegraphMuseumPorthcurno/photos/a.222240081120101.67350.187033977974045/1455608367783260/?type=3&theater

Keep writing –  Things to avoid doing:

Hopefully the tips and examples above will help you get started or increase your confidence when writing Facebook posts. Social media is informal and mostly very forgiving of the odd mistake, however there are a few things to think about to avoid causing offence and making your museum look bad:
• Don’t let people forget about you. Posting 1-2 times a day is a good amount. If you can’t post that much then a minimum of 2-3 times per week is good to aim for.
• Don’t use someone else’s intellectual property without their permission and without crediting them, especially photographs.
• Be wary of posting photographs of children without parental consent, even if you took them.
• Don’t share information that is private or shouldn’t be in the public domain.
• Think carefully about what you post and ensure it isn’t offensive and remember that something you consider funny may be seen as an insult by others.

Now you’re armed with some simple tips for how to write a great Facebook post: Good luck! Do you have any tips of your own to share or any posts where you got a really good response? Please share them in the comments below.

 

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/

My website: http://louisewinters.com/

 

Be A “Mega Star” With CREST Awards

CREST Award LogoThanks for the great work of the Royal Opera House Bridge we are very familiar with the Arts Award scheme here in Essex. But did you know there is also a scheme which provides qualifications for young people learning in science subjects too?

Last week I talked about the British Science Association’s Science Week. Today, I’m following up by introducing their CREST Scheme.

CREST Star is their scheme for children aged 5 to 12. It has 3 levels:

  • Star for 5 to 7 year olds
  • Super Star for 7 to 11 year olds
  • Mega Star for 8 to 12 year olds

Children participating in Star take part in a series of 1 hour activities. For every activity they complete, they get a sticker to put in their log book (which can be downloaded for free from the website). Once the log book is full they get their certificate.

While the British Science Association have created many activities themselves it is possible to become a CREST partner and have science activities accredited by the scheme. It is possible that sessions you already offer schools, youth groups etc  could be accredited in this way.

The CREST Awards are the BSA’s offer for young people aged over 11. There are four levels of award. The first level is Discovery. This bridges the gap between CREST Star and CREST Awards. It can be delivered in 5 hours and is envisioned as “CREST in a day”. This other three levels are based on projects undertaken by the participants:

  • Bronze – 10 hours of activity
  • Silver – 30 hours
  • Gold – 70 hours

Project ideas can come from the young people, teachers/youth leaders or organisations like ours. However, the decision should be student-led, so that they choose a topic they are interested in.

Once the participants have completed their project, their work is assessed and (if successful) they will receive a personalised certificate.

CREST Awards are endorsed by UCAS (the body that oversees applications to universities) and also count towards Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the Children’s University Passport to Learning. As they are an accredited qualification, there is a small per-pupil fee involved to cover assessment costs, details of which can be found here.

As mentioned in my last post, the definition of science is a broad one. Activities could be in many areas that your museum covers such as natural history, archaeology, medicine, forensics, engineering, technology and social sciences.

Many museums are moving away from history and towards science in their offer to schools. This may be a good way of accrediting your offer and making it more attractive to teachers.

Have a think about what you’re already offering it could be but you already have activities that could be parts of the CREST scheme visit the British Science Association website and investigate further.

Funding For British Science Week

On Wednesday, the British Science Association gave a presentation at the SHARE Regional Learning Network which I thought might be of interest which I thought would be of interest to many of you…

What Is The British Science Association?
British Science AssociationThe BSA, previously known as British Association for the Advancement of Science, was founded in 1831.

Like history and the arts, science has a “professional class” – people who do it for a living. However far few people see science as something you can has as a hobby or take-part in informally.  The BSA’s goal is to change this by engaging the wider public with science through events, activities and projects. The best known of these is the annual British Science Festival, which takes place in a different city each tear and dates back to 1831. However, they also offer CREST Awards for young people (which I will be writing about in another post next week), and British Science Week.

Why Is This Relevant To Museums?

The definition of “science” used by the BSA is a very broad one. It includes natural history, medicine, archaeology, forensics, engineering… in fact most museums will have something in their collection which is applicable. The BSA offer grants of up to £500 for community organisations, including museums (even local authority ones!) to run events during British Science Week that are targeted at an audience which is traditionally under-represented in science.

How Can Museums Get Involved?

The 2016 British Science Week will take place between the 11th and 20th of March. The audiences they particularly want to reach out to through their Community Grant Scheme are:

  • Black and Minority Ethnic Groups
  • Those of a low socioeconomic status
  • Young people with anti-social behaviour including those who are not in education employment or training (NEET)
  • People with a disability
  • Girls and women
  • Those living in a remote and rural location.

The application process includes a 300 word description of what you’re going to do and a further 300 words on how you’re going to recruit the target audience. Members of the target audience can also apply for the funding themselves in order to visit science venues and events.

When making decisions regarding the funding, the committee don’t take into account the number of people who will be engaged through the project however if the project is working with a smaller number of people they would expect the level of engagement to be deeper.

The fund opened for applications this week and the deadline is the 23rd of November.

There also is a separate Kick Start Grant Scheme for schools to take part in British Science Week (£300 for activities in the school, £700 for those in a school engaging the wider community) which your education partners might be interested in.

However, even if you do not apply for a grant (or are unsuccessful), you can still register a Science Week event with the BSA via their website. Organisations that do this receive a range of support including:

  • access to case studies
  • activity packs, projects and quizzes
  • marketing materials and PR
  • connections with local science volunteers

You can register your event up until middle of February.