OLTD 502 Final Assignment – Digital Natives and Shifting Tides for Museum Exhibits

My search continued today, with some investigation as to how museums are trying to use mobile tech to deepen student’s understanding of their exhibits.  Museums offer a great bridging point between the classroom and the field as they offer a space removed from student’s home schools, while still providing a structured environment packed with information.  The challenge is to find a way to synthesize all of this information in a way that is meaningful to the learner.

The History Center in Minnesota is taking steps to do just that.  It recently invited a group of students to test out its new “Then Now Wow” exhibit, which makes use of a smartphone’s ability to scan QR codes to access and share content.  These codes can open up movies, photos, or opportunities to “converse” with historical figures.  It is up to the student which avenue they want to go down, and how long they want to spend on them.  The smartphones also facilitate teamwork in group games where students have to work together to virtually gather building materials for a house that they will construct on their screens.  Once they have returned to their classrooms, students will still have access to their pictures, recordings, or elements from the exhibit online.  As Wendy Jones, the Head of Museum Education and Programs says, “These kids, digital natives, are different from any other children in human history.  They are the first generation to have grown up with the Internet, video games and cell phones. They learn differently. We want to take the best of what technology has to offer and really deepen their learning.”  The blog article dealing the students initial visit to the museum can be found here.

The British Journal of Educational Technology has an article in its September 2012 issue examining the ways in which mobile technology can enhance meaning-making in museum field trips.  What they found is that technology is at its best in a museum setting when it is able to facilitate social interactions and inquiry activities.  They further state that:

Learning in museums is conceptualized as the construction of meaning. Making meaning is a social practice—people engage with their environment and each other through “socially made and culturally specific resources, in ways that arise out of their interests” (Kress)

I was excited to see that many of the changes that the journal recommends are happening in the History of Minnesota’s programs.  I thought I would investigate a little further, to see what other museums are doing:

The Melbourne museum in Australia has just released an Ipad App to celebrate its 10th anniversary.  The App is called “Please Touch the Exhibit”, and offers stand alone content, and opportunities to interact with its exhibits.  A video of the app in action can be found here.

The Museum of Modern Art also has a dedicated iPad App, in which users can delve deeper into the artworks on display, as well as viewing maps showing where works were created, and where artists lived.  Glossaries of terms, and in depth videos explaining the works are also provided.

While not all museums are moving as quickly to adopt and integrate m-learning into their exhibits, there is no doubt that smartphones are shaping the way in which museums will operate in the future.  As these devices becomes ever more pervasive, the expectation will be for more dynamic exhibits in which the user can control where they take their learning.  It will be an exciting ride as we discover new ways to use this emerging technology for a generation of learners who do not know a world without it.


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