Overview of MW98: Why you should attend MW98 Learn new skills to enhance your museum site Explore issues and controversies facing Museums and the Web Experts featured at MW98 Commercial products and services to enhance your web site Organizations supporting MW98: Online interchange regarding the virtual museum experience Juried awards to best web sites in 5 categories Overview of MW98: Why you should attend MW98 Learn new skills to enhance your museum site Explore issues and controversies facing Museums and the Web Experts featured at MW98 Commercial products and services to enhance your web site Organizations supporting MW98: Online interchange regarding the virtual museum experience Juried awards to best web sites in 5 categories

Overview of MW98: Why you should attend MW98 Learn new skills to enhance your museum site Explore issues and controversies facing Museums and the Web Experts featured at MW98 Commercial products and services to enhance your web site Organizations supporting MW98: Online interchange regarding the virtual museum experience Juried awards to best web sites in 5 categories

Archives & Museum Informatics

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published April 1998
updated Nov. 2010


Collaboration and Student Involvement on an Art Curriculum Website

Barbara Rogers Bridges, Ph.D., ArtsNet Minnesota Coordinator, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Frederick R.Weisman Art Museum. Bemidji State University, professor Professional Studies, art education.


Turn of the millennium teachers are facing the most dramatic paradigm shift to emerge within the educational community in the last several centuries. Both teachers and students must become webslingers, like Spiderman; enter a chaotic realm, anarchy; merge onto the super highway, the no speed limit Autobahn; and willingly embrace a new learning model which may prove to be exhilarating and frustrating, challenging and rewarding. The Internet is like Mardi Gras - anything can happen and no one is in charge.

Blandin Foundation of Minnesota expressed interest in developing a curriculum site in order to connect rural Minnesota with the metropolitan Minneapolis, St. Paul area, and with each other. They selected five rural sites (arts organizations, college media center and Service Cooperatives). I was hired to identify art teacher, student, museum and arts organization desires, needs and expectations. By the spring of 1997, the site was constructed by all participants. We launched ArtsNet Minnesota in September of 1997. I gathered the original pilot group through Satellite Site promotions, workshops on site, and my college, K-12 and residency contacts. We continue to build our virtual community with studentís use of our site as our present focus. With a recent MCI grant, the summer of 1998 will bring continued expansion of our curriculum.

I earned my doctorate and embraced technology during the same time period. I flew, I crashed; I was in awe of the volume of accessible knowledge and I short circuited from the sheer number of variables in the equation. The entire journey made me feel ignorant, not a pleasant experience, considering I had just collected a doctorate! Using this personal experience as valuable data, the ArtsNet Minnesota project was approached with a clear understanding of problematic issues faced by educators interested in exploring the new learning model created by the Internet. In the spirit of collaboration, I hope this report may be useful in your quest to broaden constituency based accessibility to curriculum and art via the Internet (Eisner, 1991).

This paper will describe the emerging design issues revealed in the pre-study data, the resulting design of ArtsNet Minnesota at launch, a short summary of the 6 month study results, student involvement, discussion and next phase priorities.

Research Methods and Techniques:

I am a multimethodological researcher. I believe "truth" is best revealed by using empirical/ analytical, symbolic/interpretive, and critical data collection techniques (Soloman, 1991; Leedy, 1993; Cohen & Manion, 1994 ). I used the Glaser and Strauss (1967) grounded theory instrument development approach and employed the following:
  1. Review of literature and existing web sites.
  2. Interviews: (a) Personal (native collaborators) and (b) group.
  3. Verbal and written survey of workshop participants. What are the ArtsNet Minnesota participants' expectations? Frustrations? Needs? Dreams?
  4. Assessment of daily Internet listserv interaction; identification of emerging trends.
  5. Assessment of teacher lesson contributions, participation totals, online surveys, and phone conferences; identification of emerging trends.

Emerging Design Issues Synthesized from the Literature

  • Graphics heavy sites are often a slow download (Borland, 1997).
  • An understanding for the necessity of (Gailbraith, 1997), but an apprehension of, the emergent technology learning models.
  • Static HTML design.
  • Need for support group - feeling of isolationism (May, 1994).
  • Text not written in accessible language. This phenomena is described as the often intimidating "Unassailable Voice" by Walsh (1997). Text cannot be used "as is" for student, classroom generalist and community access. This reinforces the "elite" imageprojected by many museums (Donovan, 1997; Witcomb, 1997).
  • Site designs may be too time consuming for teachers to locate specific resources quickly. Time is a MAJOR issue for many teachers (Borland, 1997).
  • Lesson plans were too lengthy and scholarly.(Keifer-Boyd, 1996).
  • Lack of an embedded human resource on web sites was identified by workshop participants as frustrating.
  • Lack of specific events encouraging "real time" visits to the museums.

ArtsNet Minnesota Design at Launch- September 1997

Thirty six art works were selected from the three institutions. The inquiry based site design is non-linear and includes sections titled "About the Artist", and "About the Art", discussion questions (aesthetics, criticism and interdisciplinary) and vocabulary, all written in student language with convenient print capability. There is a separate link focusing on short multicultural and interdisciplinary lesson Activities, identified and indexed by discipline - science, language arts, art, math etc. Multiple indices also enable the user to search for information by theme (Environment, Identity, Inner Worlds and "What is Art?"), artwork, artist and media. Teacher written Lesson Plans illustrated using Minnesota students' artworks, a New News link and a Styles Characteristics chart and glossary are also included on the site. The ArtsNet Minnesota website design also includes an embedded list serve moderated by Dr. Barbara Bridges, who is available for general conversation, to answer questions, and to receive news and curriculum postings, etc.

Three regional workshops demonstrating ArtsNet Minnesota and providing an opportunity to meet the listserv moderator were conducted by Louis Mazza, New Media Designer at the Walker Art Center and myself in August and September 1997. Approximately one hundred people attended, most were new to technology. Louis is a frequent voice on the listserv and many participants have told me that meeting Louis and myself was instrumental in encouraging them to make the first step into the often intimidating world of technology.

ArtsNet Minnesota attempted to construct itself in the "Outstanding Learning Museum" model as described by McKenzie (1997). The site is an authentic multi-way conversation and curriculual resource exchange, the who, where, when, how and why described by Donovan (1997), Fernstrom & Bannon (1997) and Anderson (1995). The design of the website has created an opportunity for participants to take ownership of the ArtsNet Minnesota online arts resource.

Study Results September 1997 - February 1998

As of February 15, 1998, we have approximately 65 participants on the ArtsNet Minnesota listserv. The participants represent Minnesota state visual arts and theater organizations, museum staff, art and classroom generalist teachers, students and community members. We are not automatically recording the number of visits, user demographics or viewing patterns. The literature indicated this method to be ineffectual (Borland, 1997). Instead, qualatative data and statistics describing specific interest topic percentages, numbers of postings, areas of interest etc were tallied using the multimethodological techniques described previously.

Over 900 postings on our ArtsNet Minnesota listserv were recorded between participants or between participants and myself from September 20, 1997 to February, 1998. There were also over 150 phone calls recorded during this time. Many participants were new to technology and needed help signing up for the listserv or using their browser. e.g. I still give directions at least once a week on how to select "All" to post to the entire listserv.

Topic percentages follow:
Discussions focusing on how to get connected; technology questions
Discussions focusing on April 17 event
One-on-one discussions focusing on advice from moderator
Discussions focusing on curriculum questions (website connected)
Discussions focusing on current art events

Many of our participants are new to technology and are uncomfortable posting to the listserv. They read a general posting and then respond to me directly. The human resource has been an important component to the general development and usage of our site.

Student Involvement

Student involvement emerged as the number one priority for the next phase of ArtsNet Minnesota development. We create wonderful curriculum websites, but do students and teachers use them? In June 1997, the participants and partners decided that a constituency developed Student Link, connected to a specific art work, would be the next project. The students, directed by their art teachers, would "form a relationship with an artpiece" (Milekic, 1997 p.271) and be encouraged to transcend their own cultural perspective as they ask the who, when, where and what questions (Lopez, 1995).Participants were recruited for this activity using 1-6 phone contacts, 3-5 e-mail contacts and 2-3 snail mail contacts.

On April 17 we will conduct a major event for the ArtsNet Minnesota participants. Fifty students from grades 3-12 representing all parts of the state will select an artwork from the site and develop a student page link. They will bring the images and text to an all day technology workshop, conducted at the University of Minnesota by Louis Mazza, Paulette Jones and Barbara Bridges, where they will learn the basic elements and principles of design, HTML coding and how their weblink will be constructed. While the students are at their workshop, the sponsoring teachers (who may be meeting online friends for the first time) will take a customized all-day tour of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker Art Center, and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum. All April 17th conference attendees must be participating on the listserv. We disseminate information and share plans etc. online.

Teacher Responsibilities for the April 17th ArtsNet Minnesota Participant Conference:

A. Select 1-3 students. Identify them by name, age, and previous technical experience. Work with students as they choose a work of art posted on the ArtsNet Minnesota website. Students may work alone or in a group.

B. Write and submit to Barbara, a one-paragraph description of the journey that brought you to the ArtsNet Minnesota project (people contacts,interest in technology,discipline isolation, Internet experience, interest in learning about web and/or web design, mentoring students, etc. Please include background and special area of interest).

Student Responsibilities for April 17th ArtsNet Minnesota Participant Conference:

A. The students will investigate their chosen work of art, the background and the artist, etc. They will expand their investigation using other resources. Make sure they review other websites!

B. The students will develop an idea for a 2-3 page link responding to the selected work. Their link will appear on the same level as Teacher Lesson, Artist, Art, Activities, etc. Their development might be prose or poetry, it could be a comparison to similar (or different) art and artists. It could be student generated visual art, a quiz, a postmodern puzzle or a response not imagined by us! One group has animated characters from a work and will develop a short action sequence with a moral message. Others may choose a more traditional approach. Let the students develop the page(s) in the direction their creative impulse and skills take them.

C. The students will write a paragraph describing their chosen artwork and the general approach or idea they plan for their link.

Teacher Journeys and Student Plans

Teacher Journeys

Lindberg Elementary School

"Who would have guessed that I would be traveling down the "cyber hiway" with three third grade students (who, by the way, know alot more about the computer). My connection with ArtsNet Minnesota is directly related to my friend and colleague, Dr.Barbara Bridges who I met through our affiliation with the Minnesota DBAE Consortium. I teach visual Art to 720 K-12 students at Charles Lindbergh ElementarySchool in Little Falls, Minnesota. I know you haven't heard my voice online very much, class load and very few prep periods leave very little time for conversation, but I love reading everything!"

Plymouth Middle School

"Re: My Interest in Technology/Computers. Since my introduction of Internet I have been fascinated with the amount of information and resources available through the world wide web. Kids are very interested in it too, so it seems a logical connection in order to make to involve them in the art class in another way.

Typically, only one art teacher is assigned to a building. This network makes a wonderful forum to learn, ask questions, find ideas, and just feel like you are not the only one with the challenges you are facing. This group seems accessible both in terms of common interests, geography and a reasonable number of messages. I would really like to learn more about web home page design to highlight our school's program".

Student Plans

Sartell Middle School

"I am going to compare and contrast the difference between Rauschenberg's abstract expressionism and Marsden Hartley's realism. I will portray this by making the two artworks have a conversation about which one is really good art and why they are a superior artwork to the other"

Annandale High School

"We are going to write a poem about the painting "Through Birds, through fire,but Not through Glass," by Yves Tanguy expressing the emotions we feel as we observe the painting. In our poem, we will explore how this poem correlates to the teenage life and create an image that people will be able to relate to. Along with this idea, we will create icons that will link the viewer to other paintings and images that express similar emotions. We hope that this set-up will force the viewer to look deep into their own soul and feel what the painter was feeling at the time. We also had an additional idea of adding other students thoughts of the painting. We thought we would get a quote from people about their feelings of the painting. We would then take a picture of them and place their quote by their picture.

Discussion and Summary

Several design features presented on the ArtsNet Minnesota site have received special a attention. The teachers have raved about the Styles Characteristics chart. As we found when we constructed the chart, this is a problematic area for a consensus and the teachers really appreciated an updated list from the experts (museums). The multiple indexing (content may be accessed by theme, artist, artwork, discipline or media), embedded vocabulary, and student/classroom generalist and community friendly text have also been mentioned as particularly attractive features. We have moved from the aristocratic Jeffersonian model to the democratic Jacksonian model (Levi Smith, 1991).

Collaboration emerges as the key word for ArtsNet Minnesota's success as an online Learning Museum. Every participant brought a valuable skill to the party. For example, I am not a technology specialist. I contributed experience as a curriculum writer, as did Laura Pereira from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Susan Rotilie from the Weisman Art Museum. I also brought the perspective of a university professor, art teacher and artist. I was hired coordinate the development of the project and to act as listserv moderator after the launch.

We are all products of our enculturation. James Banks (1988), a noted scholar looking at cultural point of reference, concluded that egocentric individuals are denied important parts of the human experience. ArtsNet Minnesota is organized using a social reconstructionist approach (Freedman, 1994; Hicks, 1994; May, 1994). New Media Initiatives experts (Steve Deitz from the Walker Art Center, Scott Sayre from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts), classroom teachers from across Minnesota, museum staff (Jackie Copeland and Karen Moss, from the Walker Art Center, Kate Johnson, from The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Colleen Sheehey from the Weisman Art Museum) and Minnesota students all continue to contribute essential components to the development of ArtsNet Minnesota.

This project represents solid theory to practice connection (Bergman Feiring, 1997). We synthesized the knowledge gathered by others and used this information as a foundation. I would like to thank all the people referenced in this article for their contribution to our project. I would like to send special accolades to the Getty Education Institute for the Arts for their pioneering efforts and to The Blandin Foundation of Minnesota for our financial support. The future direction of ANM will be the cumulative sum of all participants and their continuing experiential growth and development. Unlike hard copy projects, there is no final publication date on the Internet.

Although the number of messages processed, over 900, has been challenging, I believe ArtsNet has met the stated mission: "to create new relationships and to provide previously unavailable opportunities and resources for communication between all peoples interested in the arts and art education in Minnesota."

Future Recommendations

  1. Increase student generated curriculum and interactivity.
  2. Increase hyperlinks to related resources.
  3. Add more artworks.
  4. Plan a teacher workshop retreat.
  5. Pursue funding for slide sets of works online to be used for "realtime" lectures to be connected to student ArtsNet Minnesota website assignments.
  6. Create an administrative link.
  7. Create student listserv.


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