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published: March 2004
Accessing Museums Through the Web: A Model for Evaluating
the Impact of Museum and School Partnerships
The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of the process used to evaluate the design and implementation of museum-supported videoconferencing and demonstrate selected videoconference uses and outcomes for both museum educators and classroom teachers. Over the past several years, severe budget cuts and growing safety concerns have impacted the typical classroom's ability to physically access the rich resources available in museums, environmental centers, and active learning centers. Paradoxically, the mission of many museums, as reflected by their mission statements and their subsequent allocation of staff and resources, have changed to reflect a growing emphasis on service to educational settings. Project VIEW, a federally funded Technology Innovation Challenge Grant, located at Schenectady City Schools, has developed an innovative program that has as its objective the sharing of museum resources by bringing the museum to the classroom via interactive, point-to-point videoconferencing. Under this model, core groups of museum educators and teachers collaboratively develop curriculum units that integrate museum staff and supporting artifacts into classroom instruction through the use of videoconferencing via the web. In addition to designing a method of developing curriculum, the project also has designed a professional development program that trains classroom teachers and museum educators in point-to-point videoconferencing and has established a method of evaluating the efforts that support the program and the resulting outcomes to teachers and students.
Utilizing a stakeholder based participatory model of evaluation, the project has been able to provide program staff, local educators, and museum teams formative and summative information on the process of designing and implementing videoconferences as well as information on the direct outcomes and systemic organizational changes that have occurred as a result of participation. A multi-phase mixed methodology approach to data collection has incorporated evaluation feedback to the design teams at three stages of development, at implementation, and post use. Data sources include observations of team collaboration, review of curriculum materials, interviews with teachers, museum educators, technology support personnel, direct observation of classroom use (both at the museum site and in the classroom) and paper-pencil surveys and interviews of participating students and classroom teachers. In addition, specialists in museum education and K-12 education provide external reviews of the curriculum and selected videoconferences. As part of this process, the evaluation effort also documents best practices in the provision of professional development for museum educators and classroom teachers. The focus of this effort is to document model methods of training museum educators and classroom teachers on the development and the use of point-to-point videoconferencing. These formative data are utilized by museum administrators and project staff to improve the preparation of curriculum and the presentation of the videoconferences; summative data are used to document long-term impact of the training and the subsequent use of collaborative videoconferencing the museum and the school.