Published: March 15, 2001.
Online Museum Educators: The Role of Real Teachers in the Online Museum Exhibition Process
Mini-Workshop: Online Educators
By their nature and mission, science museums believe that access to primary objects can spark meaningful learning. With the world wide web, access to those primary objects is greater than ever before. With the web, the challenge for museum staff to provide educational interpretation of those objects is also greater than ever before. The Franklin Institute believes that outstanding educators can provide important educational perspective for the collections-based resource initiatives at museums. The premise is that the end user is likely to be the best interpreter in the online museum exhibition process.
The advent of the world wide web has broadened access to Museum collections in ways never before imagined. Mere digitization of objects is not the greatest challenge; rather, the greatest challenge is the meaningful educational use of the objects. How will educators make use of online exhibitions? How can primary objects be instigators of inquiry in formal science education programs? In order to answer these questions, real action research is needed.
In 1998, The Franklin Institute, in affiliation with the Science Learning Network, organized its first group of action researchers, known originally as the "online fellows," and now known as Online Museum Educators. Since that time, thirteen educators from across the US and Canada have participated, sharing their perspective and talent. This year, a chapter of six additional Online Museum Educators, based at the Science Museum, London, has been initiated to broaden the base of experience and to test the process model in another museum. The initial findings suggest that primary objects can and do instigate inquiry in the creative teacher's classroom. The challenge that still lies ahead is to produce and test a content design model for wider use by online museums that is standardized enough to motivate similar activity in all classrooms, across cultures. That challenge is being addressed by the project in the current academic year, and progress to date will be reported at the conference.