Posts Tagged ‘education’
As a teacher and museum educator, one of my most difficult tasks is helping students move from a mode of passive knowledge consumption to one of critical engagement with information. Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a method traditionally used in museums, and I have found that it gives discussion leaders a way to generate critical thinking. This technique for viewing art was developed by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine. It was first tested in museums in the early 1990s. Since then, it has been implemented in museums, schools, and universities around the world. The VTS Institute leads periodic seminars and training sessions throughout the country. I first learned about this technique in a museum studies seminar and have since experienced it as a participant in museum tours. I now use VTS as a tour guide in a university museum and was recently challenged to perform the method in a classroom with a slideshow of digital images. This post offers a meditation on the challenges and rewards of using VTS, and especially on adapting the method for classroom use. Read more.
Thinking about the audience for your digital history project is an important step in any digital history project.
Few of us, especially in the nonprofit world, have the luxury of creating these types of online projects without a defined purpose: to educate, to motivate, or to engage a specific population. We might hope to create a resource for students and teachers on a specific topic, or aim to persuade people to come visit our sites in person. In other words, we want to accomplish something specific with our digital projects.
So how do we know if we’re succeeding?
Audiences for digital projects are just as important as those for public events. You don't want to be talking to an empty house.
Once a digital project has launched, how can you make sure that your selected audience has not only noticed you, but also is acting or learning or thinking in the way you hoped they would?
First, you need to confirm just who *is* using your site. You can use a tool like Google Analytics to track numbers of users, which pages are getting the most traffic, how long users stay on the site, and much more.
You probably also want to reach out to users directly to get their feedback. SurveyMonkey is a simple, free tool for creating online surveys. Or you could email a questionnaire to users (or people you hope are your users). If you have access to potential audience members at public programs or other in-person events, you could ask them to fill out paper surveys or interview them directly.
But be prepared: you might not like what you hear. Users might misconstrue your main theme, or be confused by your site structure, or hate your color scheme. Heck, you might learn that your desired audience isn’t even using the tool you’ve carefully chosen, adapted or crafted for them.
All is not lost! Sometimes, you can get your goals back on track with a little strategic marketing. You can’t expect your chosen audience to stumble upon your digital history project on their own. You need to publicize it in ways that will connect with your chosen audience: on list-servs, in social media, in newsletters or in the media, at public events, etc. Make sure your new project is getting the attention it deserves.
If you’ve already marketed the heck out of your digital project and you still aren’t connecting with the right audience, you may need to get more creative.
Why else might your chosen audience not be using your site? Do they need additional training, or enticements for using the digital resource? For example, if you’re hoping to connect with teachers, would it help to hold training workshops to give them the confidence to use your site in the classroom? Or perhaps a digital scavenger hunt or other online contest could help encourage your selected audience to explore the new digital resource?
Worst case, perhaps you need to tweak either your tool or your ideas about who is your audience. But you might just learn something that will help make your current and future digital projects successful.
Image: Pixomar / http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=905
Are you a New Jersey educator, or do you know someone who is? NJCH has announced the 2012 summer schedule for the Teacher Institute, courses offering 45 hours of professional development credit. The weeklong seminars are residential on the campus of the RIchard Stockton College of New Jersey just outside of Atlantic City. Courses are tuition-free; a registration fee of $100 covers the cost of books, meals, overnight accommodations, speakers, a field trip, and more!
Courses are accredited through Stockton College and offer the opportunity to earn 3 graduate credits with the successful completion of a research paper. Teachers also have the option of completing a curriculum project.
The Civil War In America: Sunday, July 8-Friday, July 13.
Seminar Leader: Clement Price, Rutgers Unversity-Newark
The Civil War was a critical moment in the construction of the American nation. While no battles during the Civil War were fought on New Jersey soil, the state’s attitudes and actions crucial when looking within specific historical context. This seminar will examine the Civil War’s standing in American History and historical sensibilities from the 1830s through the traumatic years of the War itself, focusing on the causes of the War, its impact on New Jersey, and new scholarship on women and African Americans during this period.
Narratives of Immigration: Asian American Communities and Conflict: Sunday, July 29- Friday, August 3.
Seminar Leader: Allan Isaac, Rutgers University
The United States, as a nation of immigrants, is increasingly defined by the narratives of its immigrant populations. This seminar takes up the novels, short stories, films and music that tell the stories of Asian immigrants’ arrival, sense of belonging, and the difficulties they have faced upon settling. Teachers will examine how Asian conceptualizations of national, racial and ethnic communities are formed, and how the idea of “community” relates to issues of immigration, colonialism, exile, integration and assimilation, political presence, religion, criminality, and “back home” nationalism.
For more information and to download the registration forms, visit the NJCH Teacher Institute.
From The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History:
This joint Gilder Lehrman/National September 11 Memorial & Museum seminar for teachers will investigate the historical causes and background, the immediate impact, and the developing legacies of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The seminar will examine the history of how Americans as well as other cultures have faced and coped with similar episodes of great violence (full-scale wars as well as specific traumatic events), such as the American Civil War, or the Great War in Europe, or the attack on Pearl Harbor. We will use the extraordinary collections of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, as well as the historic site and memorial itself, as subjects in our inquiry into the nature of commemoration. We will also read works on the nature and meaning of historical memory, especially of traumatic, violent events as nations have come in modern times to confront them. And finally, we will explore the role of the media and the arts (visual and written) in forging the reactions to and interpretations of 9/11.
The seminar Director is David W. Blight, Class of 1954 Professor of American History and Director, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolition, Yale University.
Information on travel reimbursement, meals, and graduate credit is available on the seminar website. The deadline for applications is February 15, 2012.
Seminar Flier – 9-11 Memorial & Museum FINAL
I decided in high school that I wanted to study history and use it in the museum field. This was at a time when there were few museum studies programs around and, at least in my small high school in western Pennsylvania, little guidance to how to go about getting work in museums. I grew up around antiques, my mom called her decorating style “early attic,” and I understood in a general sense that objects connect us to history.
During my undergraduate years I started to investigate museums and who worked there and I discovered a diverse population. What puzzled me at the time was how few people had degrees in history, even though they worked in history museums. I was perplexed. How are you supposed to express accurate historical information to the public if you don’t know how to judge what comes from reliable sources or know how to do scholarly historical research? This is what concerned me in my early years.
Unidentified woman c.1910 in c.1850s clothing, photograph by Charles Byerly of Frederick Md. Collection of the Historical Society of Frederick County.
With the growth of museum studies programs within or associated with university history departments, my concerns over the application of proper historical methods have been, for the most part, relieved. But now I have another nagging issue. What about connoisseurship? In the 19th and early 20th centuries it was called being an antiquarian. It is the deep knowledge about the material culture of the past that comes from studying and collecting objects.
Talking to friends who’ve matriculated in museum studies and perusing the course offerings and requirements from a randomly selected sample of museum studies programs, I note the absence of anything resembling lessons in material culture. I also found it interesting that two of the most well known and noted museum studies programs, the Cooperstown Graduate Program and the University of Delaware/Winterthur program have extensive offerings of courses relating to the study of material culture.
I’m not saying that the courses in museum ethics, collections management, exhibition creation, etc. offered by museum studies programs are not needed. Indeed, they certainly are. However, I see the potential for these programs turning out people who may have a strong grasp of methodology, policy and theory but have no idea how to tell if the federal style side chair they just received as a donation is from an early 19th century craftsman’s workshop or from Ethan Allen .
You might say, not all museum studies students will become curators, some will go into registration, education, or management. I can argue that material culture knowledge is important in all of these positions regardless of whether you end up working at the Met or in a small local history museum. After all, the vast majority of history museums exist to collect, preserve and interpret the material culture of the past. When you get down to it, it is all about the stuff. If you don’t have the tools to identify and authenticate objects or to express why the objects are significant and valuable to our shared historical experience, what will visitors to your museum learn?
Nearly 60 public history students, professionals, and faculty attended an inaugural Public History Community Forum organized to build community and collaboration in the Philadelphia region. Initiated by MARCH and cosponsored by the Temple University Center for Public History, the event on April 29 offered tours and informal roundtable discussions about recent projects, career issues, and opportunities for collaboration. Among the student participants were contingents from Temple, Rutgers-Camden, Villanova, University of the Arts, and West Chester University.
Amid the fellowship, it became clear that aspiring professionals shared a common concern about their career prospects in the current economic climate. Well-prepared by graduate programs, many are finding their opportunities limited to unpaid internships, limited-term grant projects, or part-time positions without benefits. While these may be viewed as reasonable entry-level stepping stones into the field, the next steps are difficult to envision at a time of tight budgets for many potential employers.
Participants in the forum offered suggestions for future collaboration to share information and better prepare new professionals for the realities of public history work today. In an evaluation survey completed after the event, participants advocated highly the creation of an online bulletin board for sharing information about projects and needs. In addition, many supported a proposal to create training seminars on new media skills, grant-writing, and entrepreneurship, to better prepare the next generation of public historians.
MARCH thanks all who helped by staging or participating in this event — watch for further news about our emerging collaboration for public history in and around Philadelphia.
With a seemingly limitless list of interesting digital public history projects and innovative tools to talk about, I decided to start with a much more basic topic: audience.
After all, what’s the point of a cutting-edge web site if no one uses it?
I’ve been thinking a lot about audience for my own digital history project at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. While browsing what others have done, I recently stumbled across an interesting 2009 analysis of whether public history sites are gearing their web content toward K-12 teachers — a prime potential audience for many digital history projects.
Prompted in part by news reports that K-12 schools were cutting out field trips to save money, researchers Ward Mitchell Cates and Paige Hawkins Mattke decided to look at whether public history institutions were offering online educational resources that could replace the disappearing class visits. (Sorry, I wasn’t able to find a digital copy of the Educational Technology article online; you’ll have to read it the old-fashioned way.)
Compared to the 66 public history web sites evaluated in 2009, Historic St. Mary’s City was among the top three sites offering a variety of educational resources.
The authors created a “representative” sampling of 66 institutions, from National Park Service sites like Gettsyburg National Military Park to independent sites like Tudor Place Historic House and Garden in Washington, D.C. They used a process not unlike what a social studies teacher might use: they searched Google for 14 terms including “historic house museum” and “public history Websites,” and searched books and associations’ and schools’ web sites for leads.
Cates and Mattke grouped possible educational resources into 12 categories, from “online instruction” at one end of the spectrum to “communication tools” — offering a way to contact the institution — at the other.
They found that 95.5% of the sampled public history web sites offered the least intensive resource: communication tools for contacting the site. But it went downhill from there. Fewer than three-quarters of the web sites included some type of online exhibit. Fewer than half of the sites offered teacher resources. Only one in eight offered online learning activities, and only 3% offered online guided tours that included audio as well as images.
Apparently, public history institutions were not offering web content to replace the disappearing class field trips.
Of course, 2009 was a long time ago in web time. I have no doubt that a good portion of the historic sites evaluated in this study have since added new web resources.
Nevertheless, Cates and Mattke remind us that teachers may not need or want highly specialized digital resources that don’t support what they’re already tackling in the classroom. They may be looking for tools we’re not creating. And we may not be telling them about the digital resources that are already available, let alone working with them on the grand new tool that’s coming down the pike.
We public historians need to talk to real, live teachers (and other potential audiences) about how to make digital projects fit their needs. We need to think about how well our digital history projects fare in search engine results, and how we’ll get the word out to teachers (and other audiences) who might find the new resource useful.
And sometimes we need to check out resources that our audiences are reading, like Educational Technology magazine, to see what they’re saying about us.
Among the 16 historic sites in the Mid-Atlantic region included in Cates’ and Mattke’s sampling, only four web sites offered educational resources in at least half of the researchers’ categories: St. Mary’s City (MD, 9 categories), Historic Cold Spring Village (NJ, 8 categories), Gettysburg National Military Park (PA, 7 categories), and Adirondack Museum (NY, 6 categories).