The Museum's website and educational audiences

By: Dr Lynda Kelly, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 13 May 2010

Participated in a panel session called Transformations in Experiential and Cultural Learning at the recent 2010 American Association of Museums (AAM) Annual Conference. Here's the gist of my talk including relevant links.

The AAM Conference session, Transformations in Cultural and Experiential Learning, explored transformations in museum learning and communication that are supported by web-based learning resources. Key points included the role of the museum website as a platform for information exchange by teachers, and as a learning environment that creates opportunities for deeper learning by contextualizing and interrelating objects.

Here's my Powerpoint notes from my talk titled, The Museum’s new website: transforming educational audiences.


“The use of the internet will inevitably change museums. ... The change when it comes, will not be merely technological but at it’s core philosophical.” Elaine Huemann Gurian, 2010, p.95.

Why Web 2.0?

It’s where our visitors are: 71% of visitors to AM have Facebook account

Sydneysiders use social media:

  • those who visited the AM used these sites in greater numbers
  • People in developed countries spending 82% more time on social media sites, Australia is #1

It’s expected:

  • then © 1999 “Do not distribute”
  • now © 2009 “Click here to share”

Web 1.0 - access to information
Web 2.0 - access to people
(Seely Brown and Adler, 2008)

The web is a social space, supporting social learning and collaboration.

Horizons Report 2010

  • Learn where you are
  • Information accessible everywhere
  • Collaboration
  • Academy as learning facilitators
  • Peer review
  • Digital media literacy across all professions
  • Trends 12 months – 3 years: Mobile/smartphones; Open content;E-books; Simple Augmented reality

Research studies undertaken for Museum's new website

Educational websites study 2006

  • Literature Review
  • Focus Groups Sydney: 2 groups students aged 14-15 years; 2 groups teachers: primary & secondary; 1 group specialist technology teachers
  • Question areas: how use internet at school & leisure; properties of ideal websites; critique websites

Found that a website needs to:

  • Look good
  • Be easy to search
  • especially for curriculum links
  • Contain concise content
  • Have a glossary
  • Copyright-free images
  • An e-newsletter
  • Two-way communication

Biomaps study 2006

  • How did teachers respond to a technical, scientific site about mapping?
  • How could they use it in the classroom?
  • Improvements and changes to the current site
  • Potential future applications

Found that:

  • Content linked to the curriculum, image-rich, interactive, enables both guided exploration & free-choice learning
  • Capacity for students to upload their own information & interact with others
  • Introduce students to concept of databases through interesting & practical, real-life example
  • Introduce students to scientific language and concepts: “Science at work”
  • Include information about underlying theoretical approach
  • Map species in their own local areas
  • Upload their own information to share with specialists & other students
  • Potential to use two-way sharing tools, eg blogs & Flickr

e-Kids' College 2007

  • Coalition of Knowledge Building Schools
  • 24 students across NSW
  • one-day workshop
  • each interviewed 10 peers prior about their views on technology

Findings are reported here.

Why a new website?

  • Provide accurate and accessible information that ignites interest and enthusiasm for nature and cultures
  • Invite our audiences to interact with us and each other, and question our information, collections and processes in an equal relationship

Goals for new website

  • contemporary and quality design
  • consistent branding across sites
  • intuitive architecture and navigation
  • improved usability and accessibility
  • variety of user interaction strategies
  • alternative search / browse functions
  • new types and paths to / from content
  • authoring and publishing management
  • Any staff can add content – anywhere
  • Any member of the site can add a comment - anywhere
  • Any signed up expert can add content - anywhere
  • Building community through MyMuseum function
  • Web 2.0 functionality

Web to classroom workshops 2009

  • Mix of primary and secondary teachers
  • How were they using the web in their classrooms
  • Feedback on AM site
  • Join MyMuseum and be future content providers

Found that they identified the following trends for their practice:

  • Access increasing
  • Importance of mobile web and wireless schools
  • Role of teachers changing: from one-to-many to many-to-many
  • E-books will become the norm
  • Students expect instant feedback
  • Multitasking is now acceptable
  • Students of the future will be digital learners
  • Social and collaborative learning will be the norm

Museum learning and how people use the web have the same underlying principles

Free-choice learning is “... self-directed, voluntary, and guided by individual needs and interests - learning that we will engage in throughout our lives.” (Falk and Dierking, 2002).

Meaningful learning is based on choice, control; challenge and collaboration (Paris, 1997).

Visitors and learning (Kelly, 2007):

  • Make their own meaning, construct own narratives
  • Want to build on what they already know
  • Choice and control
  • Critical thinking questioning and challenge
  • Multiple points of view and make up their own minds

More notes and commentary on this session (and others) can be found on Twitter via hashtag #aam10