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published: April, 2002
2001: A Cyberspace Odyssey
Julie Springer and Phyllis Hecht
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA
This paper reviews the first stage of a technology initiative to assist K-12 teachers in developing Web projects that integrate K-12 curriculum content and the art collections of the National Gallery of Art. A select number of these projects will be made available on the Gallerys Web site (www.nga.gov). While the Gallery has offered education resources through its Web site since the sites inception in 1997, this program marks the first significant effort to provide on-line teaching resources that are designed by K-12 educators. The programs goals, design, and evaluation objectives are summarized by the two staff members primarily responsible for the initiatives conception and planning.
Keywords: teachers, art museums, instructional technology, online resources
2001: A Cyberspace Odyssey was the beginning of a two-year technology initiative in which selected groups of K-12 teachers collaborated with the National Gallerys education department and Web team to create online teaching resources to be published on the Gallerys Web site. The program is an outgrowth of the Gallerys annual summer Teacher Institute, in which teachers from across the United States come to learn about the Gallerys collections and how to incorporate art resources into their lesson planning. Cyberspace Odyssey is the two-year expansion of this program into a hands-on workshop that integrates the museum collections and teacher experiences through art and technology.
The overall goals of the two-year program are to help Gallery staff gain firsthand knowledge of the type of on-line resources that are most useful to teachers, to encourage teachers in learning to create Web-based arts education resources, and to expand the Gallerys distance learning resources. More specifically, the goals and benefits of the program are as follows:
Distance learning has been a key part of the Gallerys mission since the museum opened its doors to the public in 1941. Films, slide programs, teaching packets, CD-ROMS, and videodiscs have long been available to teachers and other adult audiences on a free-loan basis. The advent of the Web, and the Gallerys Web site in 1997, brought more immediate, versatile, and dynamic means through which to foster awareness of the visual arts and make the Gallerys collections widely accessible. Exhibition literature, teaching packets, lessons and activities, and interactive virtual tours are among the many educational resources available on the Gallerys site. The finished projects from the Cyberspace Odyssey program will extend our distance learning resources and better serve those educators without firsthand access to the Gallerys collections.
Team Selection and Agenda
Educators were asked to apply in teams of three and to submit a joint statement outlining their collective qualifications and the Web project they would develop if selected to participate. They were not required to be from the same school, but were asked to agree to collaborate with their teammates for the eight months to conceptualize, build, field-test, and finalize their project. It was recommended that team members possess different areas of expertise, each of which contributed to their particular curriculum topic. Individuals selected to participate received a stipend of $1,000 with an additional $500 payable on completion of their teams on-line project. The successful teams were those demonstrating sophisticated computer and Internet skills, experience with curriculum development, and commitment to teaching through online technologies.
Twelve three-member teams were selected from approximately seventy applicants, based on the strength of their proposed curriculum projects. Successful team applicants were those who proposed creative ways of using the Gallerys collection and envisioned how the Web could best convey their choice of content. At lease one team member was required to have some experience with Web-based lessons. Selected topics ranged from a math lesson that incorporated the angles of the Gallerys East Building to a study of the connections between art and music. Priority was given to creative topics that made meaningful use of the Gallerys collections and targeted a specific grade (or age group), subject area(s), and national standards for K-12 curricula.
Six teams came to the Gallery for a week-long seminar in July, 2001, while the other six received the same instruction in August, 2001. During the program, teams worked with education and computer technology specialists to begin developing the content and storyboards for their Web resources. Instructors were Gallery staff and outside experts in art, education, and instructional technologies. The course of instruction was sequenced to help teachers explore the potential richness of on-line resources, analyze and critique select sites focused on art and education, and establish criteria for high-quality Web site content and design before beginning to build their own projects. Toward this end, teams were asked to prepare for their week in Washington by studying and critiquing a pre-selected list of Web sites and by reading two books pertaining to on-line curriculum design. One book (Harris 1998) was chosen to provide a general introduction to the development and implementation of different types of Internet projects, depending on content objectives and desired outcomes. The other publication (Williams and Tollett 2000) addressed Web design and production issues. This preparatory work allowed participants to arrive at the Gallery with shared knowledge and a framework for group discussion.
During the seminar, teachers were offered training in HTML and Dreamweaver, and were given packages of software with which to develop their projects (Adobe Photoshop 6.0; Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 with Fireworks 4 Studio; and Inspiration 6). Teams also learned more about the Gallerys permanent collections and which objects might best support the content of their on-line curriculum projectbe it related to math, music, Renaissance history, or autobiographical writingto name just a few of the subject areas chosen. At the end of the week, each team gave a brief presentation on the direction of its project. These presentations revealed that most teams had become more focused throughout the week in terms of the theme and resources they would pursue, while others had begun to conceptualize the underlying structure of the lesson.
Teams were asked to continue their collaboration through the completion of their Web projects in April 2002. During these months they were responsible for developing a storyboard of the project, selecting visuals, integrating content and images in HTML pages, testing the project in the classroom, and submitting a final project. Each team was assigned two mentors with whom to consult about either the content or the technological development of their projects. A listserve was established to facilitate communication among the groups. In addition, teachers had access to a password-protected Web site that offered easy reference to project guidelines and deadlines, links to educational resources, mentors and colleagues names and e-mail addresses, and separate work folders for submitting the individual stages of their projects (Fig. 1).
Evaluation of the 2001 and 2002 programs will seek to measure the achievement of two objectives: 1) providing useful Web resources for K-12 educators, and 2) increasing Institute participants skills and comfort levels using on-line technologies. Useful Web resources are defined as those published and used on the Gallerys Web site, and those remaining unpublished but actively used in the classroom by their creators. Evaluation will assess both content quality and usability of sites. Methods employed will include direct observation of site use (by either teachers or students, depending on the intended audience), and interview sampling techniques designed to gauge user reaction to content and navigability.
Questionnaires will also be used to solicit participants affective, or attitudinal, responses to the program and the process of building the Web projects. The first of these, available on-line at the password-protected Web site, asked participants to evaluate the instructional design of the week-long summer seminar and estimate how well it prepared them for the task of conceptualizing and building their curriculum projects. Participant response to this initial survey (40 percent) was very positive. We now face the challenge of incorporating these suggestions, along with our own perceptions of the experience, into the program for the summer of 2002.
Support for this program is provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fund for the Teacher Institute. Additional funding is made available by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the GE Fund, and the Sara Shallenberger Brown Fund.
Harris, J. (1998). Virtual Architecture: Designing and Directing Curriculum-Based Telecomputing. Eugene, Oreg.: ISTE Publications.
Tollett, J., and R. Williams (2000). The Non-Designers Web Book: An Easy Guide to Creating, Designing, and Posting Your Own Web Site. 2nd edition. Berkeley, Calif.: Peachpit Press.