Tag Archives: professional development

Why Museums Can Excel in Online Learning

“The recent development of MOOCs (massive open online courses) can provide museums with valuable possibilities for education, community outreach and multi-disciplinary collaboration.”

The quote above by David Greenfield, a doctoral candidate in Learning Technologies at Pepperdine University, was part of a paper entitled “MOOCs, Museums, and Schools: Natural Partners and Processes for Learning” presented at the recent Museums & the Web Conference in Portland theorizing about the potential of partnerships with schools and community members in developing online museum courses. Museums are already starting to realize those possibilities in the area of online courses.

The Museum of Modern Art, the Tate and my own North Carolina Museum of Art are currently offering extended online courses similar to MOOCs. These courses are different from each other in content, audience, and style, yet they are all pioneering engagement with local, national, and global audiences through objects in their specific collections. Their experiences offer important lessons to future museum MOOC-makers.

Why Museums Can Excel Online

MoMA Educator Deborah Howes interviewing MoMA Conservator Glen Wharton in front of 'Untitled,' 1993 by Nam June Paik. Photo used with permission (c) MoMA 2013.
MoMA educator Deborah Howes filming a segment for MoMA Online Courses in front of a Nam June Paik piece.

Why are museums uniquely suited to be leaders in this field? For one, museum education is predicated on informal, constructivist learning approaches which encourage the learner to control their learning. Similarly, online courses allow students to go through the content at their own pace, constructing their own meaning from discussion forums, assignments and projects. Deborah Howes, Director of Digital Learning at MoMA, said, the pairing of museum education and online learning is, “conceptually, very much aligned.” She continues:

“Museum education teaching is based on the curiosity of people who come from all different walks of life and have any number of questions about what excites them. Teaching online, we offer different kinds of learning experiences–videos of behind the scenes tours, slide shows of art works, DIY experiments–and students explore this variety according to their own interests to create meaning.”

Second, museum learning is often social. Visitors come in groups, field trips, or with families to share the experience of looking at and discussing objects. Learning Management Systems like Blackboard, Moodle, and Haiku allow for similar discussions and facilitate group collaboration.

At the North Carolina Museum of Art, students who might live hundreds of miles away can work together on a video project and post art projects to receive peer feedback. MoMA and Tate also encourage this type of online community through discussion boards. MoMA online course alumni have created their own Facebook groups to extend the learning community, some of which are in their third year of operation

MOOCs Multiply Museum Outreach

Elizabeth Moore, an NCVPS Photography student stands with her work in an exhibition in NCMA's education gallery. Courtesy North Carolina Museum of Art.
Elizabeth Moore, an NCVPS Photography student stands with her work in an exhibition in NCMA’s education gallery. Courtesy North Carolina Museum of Art.

Online learning can offer virtual windows to the extensive, beautiful, and awe-inspiring collections that museums have to offer. The NCMA is located in the middle of North Carolina, a state 560 miles (900 km) long. The virtual courses offer both synchronous and asynchronous components. Each week the instructor is in charge of opening the module (or unit) and hosting one live class with students. Otherwise, students go through that module and complete assignments at their own pace. Modules can include articles, assignments, discussion forums vocabulary wiki’s and/or multimedia. Over half of our online high school students live hours away and may never have even heard of their state art museum. Online, they can take our courses, be exposed to art spanning 5,000 years of all mediums, including sculpture, photography, paintings, and mixed media.

Once students take online classes at NCMA, we want to find ways to bring them to the brick-and-mortar building. To do that, we host exhibitions that highlight work from our online courses, which encourages students to visit the NCMA in person (see photo). We’ve also offered field trips and buses to our annual teen event.

The Tate’s reach stretches nationally and even globally. Rosie Cardiff, e-Learning editor at Tate, found that 31% of her students based outside the United Kingdom, with just under 10% living in Australia and New Zealand. Similarly, MoMA has both a national and international reach. A woman from rural Canada who took one of the online courses thanked Howes for the opportunity to interact with a global community of contemporary art lovers that she could not find locally. “A museum can provide that type of community and support,” Howes says.

Financing Remains a Challenge

Both the MoMA and NCMA courses started because of grants from Volkswagen and Wells Fargo Foundation, respectively. Both of these grants end soon, and both institutions are seeking future funding for the growth and expansion of the courses. MoMA charges $150–200 for their self-guided course and $200–350 for their instructor-led courses. Those fees will help sustain the program, whether or not they receive a future grant. The NCMA, on the other hand, does not charge for their courses, instead, high school students receive school credit. While we encourage students to visit the NCMA to see their exhibition or attend a field trip, we don’t have additional funds to cover their travel.

In Tate’s case, Rosie Cardiff explained that “initial funding for developing the courses came from the Tate Online core budget.” Tate charges £20 ($31) for unlimited course access. Cardiff says the courses “have now paid for themselves and cover costs of ongoing maintenance and copyright fees, etc., but they don’t generate much in the way of profit.” When asked what advice she would give to future museums or institutions looking to invest in developing online courses, Cardiff advised thinking “carefully about the business model for the online courses if you are planning to use them to generate revenue. Courses can be costly to produce and you need to think about ongoing maintenance costs, especially if the courses are tutored.”

Cardiff and her team presented an evaluation of their courses and their changing business model at Museums & the Web 2012.

An inside look at the Tate online courses. Courtesy Tate Museum.
An inside look at the Tate online courses. Courtesy Tate Museum.

Grounded in Specific Collections

As museums create online courses, resources, or distant learning programs, Howes advises they “think creatively about the unique qualities of their collection and what that could offer to a global audience. Anyone can do a course on modern art if they have a collection, but how do they offer a unique look on this topic?”

Similarly, the Tate and NCMA courses offer visitors opportunities to engage with and respond to art specific to their collections. The NCMA courses use art in the permanent collection as catalysts for learning about topics such as game design, advertising, fashion, photography and videography. The multimedia we provide include videos of art in the galleries, interviews with museum staff or local, North Carolina experts in that particular field. All three museums offer opportunities to watch video interviews with artists, curators, or experts, as well as demonstrations of artist technique and process.

Full Speed to the Future

David Greenfield believes that when it comes to museums and online learning, “we’re in the evolutionary stages of what’s going on.” As pioneers of a new educational format, museums join with for-profit companies like 2U and Coursera in shaping a field that is rapidly changing. In fact, as of May 1, 2013, MoMA, along with the Exploratorium in San Francisco, has announced a new partnership offering professional development MOOCs for K-12 teachers.

“Museums”, says MoMA’s Deborah Howes, “have a chance to rewrite art history in a way that is relevant to where they are.” MoMA, Tate, and NCMA are already doing just that.

ONLINE COURSE DETAILS:

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Courses Online

  • Audience: lifelong learners, general public
  • Cost: varies from $150-350
  • Length: 5-10 weeks
  • Course topics (selected): From Pigment to Pixel: Color in Modern and Contemporary Art, Experimenting with Collage, Modern Art 1880-1945, Materials and Techniques of Postwar Abstract Painting, etc.
  • Instruction: Self-guided and instructor-led options

North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) Virtual Courses

  • Audience: North Carolina public high school students
  • Cost: Free; only available to high school students for credit
  • Length: semester
  • Course topics: Videography, game design, fashion, advertising, photography
  • Instruction: Instructor-led

Tate Online Courses

  • Audience: lifelong learners, general public
  • Cost: £20
  • Length: 6 units per course, self-guided
  • Course topics: Artists’ Techniques & Methods, Introduction to Drawing Techniques
  • Instruction: Self-guided

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

KoteckiEMILY KOTECKI: Associate Coordinator of Teen and College Programs at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Emily creates online and onsite programming for these audiences, including art competitions, arts councils, and developing online courses.  Prior to museums, Emily worked at The Washington Post as a multimedia politics producer covering the 2008 presidential campaign. She received her received her Master of Arts in Teaching from The George Washington University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism from American University. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyKotecki or visit www.emilykotecki.comEmily’s postings on this site are her own and do not necessarily represent the North Carolina Museum of Art’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Reimagining Peer Networks in a Digital Age

By Mike Murawski, Portland Art Museum; Dana Carlisle Kletchka, Palmer Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University; Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, National Writing Project, University of California Berkeley

“People’s relationships remain strong—but they are networked. Neighbors, and neighborhoods still exist, to be sure, but they occupy a smaller portion of people’s lives. It is hard to borrow a cup of sugar from a Facebook friend 1,000 miles away, but it has become easier to socialize, get advice, and exchange emotional support at whatever distance. Where commentators had been afraid that the internet would wither in-person ties, it is clear that they enhance and extend them.” (Lee Rainie & Barry Wellman, Networked: The New Social Operating System, 2012).

In their recent book Networked: The New Social Operating System, Lee Rainie (director of the Pew Charitable Trusts Internet & American Life Project) and Barry Wellman (Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and Director of NetLab) have argued that the large online social circles of familiar platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. actually expand opportunities for learning, problem solving, decision making and personal interaction. Their work at the Pew Internet Project and the NetLab (especially research for the Connected Lives Project) suggests that digital technologies are not isolated — or isolating — systems, but rather networked systems built upon these social networking platforms as well as mobile device technologies.

As Rainey and Wellman remind us (although we need no reminder):

“Daily life is connected life, its rhythms driven by endless  email pings and responses, the chimes and beeps of continually arriving text messages, tweets and retweets, Facebook updates, pictures and videos to post and discuss. Our perpetual connectedness gives us endless opportunities to be part of the give-and-take of networking.”

But how do we—as museum and arts education professionals—maneuver within a technology-mediated world in a way that allows us to cultivate productive, human-centered networks and communities? Museums and schools have been widely engaged in how digital media and technology can connect them with their students and audiences. But what about the potential of these same technologies to build entirely new “communities of practice” among professionals—whether art teachers, university faculty, or museum educators?

These questions are at the core of a series of conversations that we will be facilitating over the next several weeks, centered around a panel discussion that will be part of the National Art Education Association annual conference in Fort Worth at the beginning of March. Through these organic and open conversations, we hope to begin exploring models of human-centered professional exchange and peer networks suited to the increasing complexity, connectivity, and velocity of the 21st century. Drawing on innovative work from the National Writing Project (such as Digital Is), sites of exchange such as this one (ArtMuseumTeaching.com), and connected learning models developed with MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative, we’ll be discussing how online networks and communities can harness the power of emerging technologies and social media to share, collaborate, curate, and participate with peers both today and in the future.

One way to more easily digest this sizeable topic is perhaps to take it one bite at a time.  So we’re excited to be facilitating two public “on air” Google Hangouts along with the session at NAEA—one hangout prior to the conference to take that first bite, and one a couple weeks after the conference to extend our thinking and perhaps follow-up on questions raised in the panel.  The online Google Hangout format also allows us to potentially engage a wider range of people than just those attending the NAEA conference, while at the same time practicing one of the most widely used technologies for face-to-face online engagement.

CONVERSATION #1 – Come Chat With Us via Google Hangout

“What Do WGoogleHangoutIcone Want from Online Communities of Practice?”

Open Google Hangout w/ Mike Murawski, Dana Carlisle Kletchka, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl

Thursday, February 28th – 1:00pm Pacific / 4:00pm Eastern

For this preconference conversation on Google Hangout, we thought we might simply ask:  “what do we want from online communities of practice and peer networks?”  What online networks and communities are you involved with? When you consider jumping into a new online community, what do you hope it will achieve?  What types of exchanges and experiences keep us engaged and prevent us from leaving (or ignoring) the online network? During this conversation, we were able to gather your thoughts, questions, and experiences which will inform our discussion at NAEA on March 7th.

View the YouTube recording of the “On Air” Google Hangout here:

Couldn’t join the Google Hangout?  Watch the broadcast above, and please add your thoughts and perspectives to the “Comments” section below, and we’ll utilize this space to keep the conversation going.

CONVERSATION #2 – NAEA Conference Session

NAEA_logo  “Reimagining Professional Exchange & Peer Networks in a Digital Age”

  NAEA Panel Session w/ Mike Murawski, Dana Carlisle Kletchka, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl

  Thursday, March 7th, -12:00-12:50pm, Meeting Room 121C/Center/1st Floor

At this session, we gathered with a great group of peers to share some of our own experiences working as developers, researchers, and participants in online networks and communities of practice, but also spent time opening up the conversation about key issues (many pulled from the preconference Google Hangout).  For example: how do we promote online ‘contributing’ instead of just online ‘visiting’ when it comes to these experiences? What are some ways to build co-learning interactions online?

Couldn’t attend the session?  Please feel free to connect with either of the Google Hangouts, or chime in via the “Comments” section below.

CONVERSATION #3 – Reconnect via Google Hangout

GoogleHangoutIcon“The Digital Follow-Up: How Do We Drag Everyone Back to Their Screens?”

Open Google Hangout w/ Mike Murawski, Dana Carlisle Kletchka, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl

Thursday, March 28th – 1:00pm Pacific / 4:00pm Eastern

One of the most difficult things to motivate busy museum and education professionals to do is to reconnect online after the conference or workshop.  While we all know the values of extending these relationships and opportunities to reconnect, it can be so difficult to make these a reality.  It only seems appropriate to make this one of the topics of our own ‘digital follow-up’ discussion.  How do we manage and nurture online professional networks so that members stay active, build stronger ties, and feel supported?  We also kept this follow-up conversation open to issues and questions that were addressed in the panel session at NAEA.

View the YouTube recording of the “On Air” Google Hangout here:


We look forward to continuing this exciting series of conversations!  If you have any ideas for a future Hangout or online get-together, let me know and we can work to schedule here within the ArtMuseumTeaching.com community.

Reposted through the National Writing Project’s Digital Is website.

A Teaching Interview: THE Audition for Museum Educators

Stricken with those awful nerves that overcome your system while you try to remember those lines you were up past midnight cramming into your head, you cling to your crumpled, dingy papers for dear life – the papers that contain the information you were trying so hard to memorize, the statements you need to naturally and conversationally say. You know you know it, but every time you try to say something without glancing at your papers that are quickly becoming damp from your sweaty palms, your brain freezes. Your name is about to be called as you sit in the uncomfortable chair, fidgeting with the sticker that betrays your best outfit. Doors swing open, and a smiling voice says, “We are ready for you.”

This scenario easily depicts almost every audition I’ve ever had. It also depicts the ‘teaching interviews’ or ‘sample tours’ or even ‘classroom simulation’ I and many other museum educators have had to do as part of interview processes. As a still-sometimes actress, if it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, call it a duck – museum educators audition for their jobs. A lot. Good monologues do not get actors cast – and good information doesn’t always get museum educators hired. Technique plays a large part in both careers, posing the question: Isn’t it about time we start paying more attention to how we are saying things, and not just what we are saying?

Teaching AuditionIn an audition, the actor is usually provided with an opportunity to bring in a prepared monologue. The actor will perform said monologue and the director makes a decision if the actor is getting called back or sent on their way. Generally speaking, the actor will spend hours, days, even weeks finding that perfect monologue that not only showcases their skill set as a performer, but also connects with the particular role they are auditioning for. If an actor is auditioning for Cosette in Les Mis, their first choice wouldn’t be a piece that brings people to gut-busting laughter. Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?

For the teaching interviews I’ve had the pleasure and anxiety of experiencing, it all starts with successfully completing the in-person/phone interview. Then there is the nerve-racking moment of reading the invitation to do a teaching interview. While each institution is different, usually the main idea is to assemble a sample tour (or tour stop) and, with a nod to multimodal learning, an activity for that stop. Usually the prospective educator has about a week to put together this stop and spends countless hours researching the collection, choosing objects, picking that ONE object that will showcase knowledge, teaching skill and personality. Just like an actor auditioning for a role.

actors warming up prior to auditions
actors warming up prior to auditions

But actors will warm up before auditions – take 10 minutes and walk into Ripley-Grier and see dozens of actors at all times doing tongue twisters, stretching, working on breath support and even adjusting their posture. They’ve realized that it’s not just about what you are saying – while the selection is important, it’s equally about how they are saying those words. There is the old adage that you can make people interested in a banana bread recipe if you are interesting enough. In museum education, you might know every fact about Rembrandt and his Self Portrait that hangs exquisitely in the West Gallery at The Frick Collection – but, if you can’t capture your audience and if you can’t be heard, then what?

Some museums are picking up on this idea and calling it what it is.  I had the pleasure of being at the Denver Nature and Science Museum at the end of January to lead professional development workshops and found they audition their education staff. There is an educator position entitled “Performer – Facilitator” and part of the interview is a legitimate audition. According to David Allison, Visitor Programs Manager, and Samantha Richards, Educator/Coordinator for Earth Gallery Programs, after the telephone interview, “they [the candidates] are asked to prepare a monologue and a science facilitation…we also have them do a ‘cold read’ of a script.” When asked why, David replied, “The cold reads show us the comfort level they have with improvisation and the ability to ‘ramp up’ their performance on the spot…the prepared pieces both shows us how well they prepare and also what their instincts are around performing and presenting dynamic shows to our guests.” Samantha added, “The cold read also shows us their performance skills…it is as much about how they wear the cape and how engaging they are as how comfortable they feel.”

For the educators who are uncomfortable with the performance aspect, DMNS has an alternative. According to Samantha, “We do also offer the option of reading two contrasting stories instead of monologues.” The audition section of the job description itself is very clear:

Two contrasting monologues (e.g. comedic and dramatic, 3-5 min each) with some movement;

OR

Choose two children’s stories to read. For one, pick 2-4 pages to read as if you were reading one on one with a child. For the other pick 2-4 pages to read as if you were reading to a large group, where you would need to use dramatic voices and movement to tell the story.

David added, “Some educators take to it quickly and can easily adapt. Others struggle. We can generally tell very quickly if someone is a good fit or not for our team.”

The audition aside, DMNS also does ask for a science facilitation – the information and research is still there. They are also focusing just as much on the presentational aspect of the positions. Samantha added to this idea: “It is very important that our staff is comfortable doing everything from talking to one child about a rock to wearing an astronaut suit and ‘being’ an astronaut in front of a hundred visitors.”

Teaching interviews are not much different than auditions. As educators, it’s time to start focusing on how we are saying the things we are saying. Take an improv class. Do deep breathing before a tour. Pull out some tongue-twisters to get the muscles in your mouth ready to say those artist names and movements without tripping over syllables. We are not actors – but – we have an audience. And taking advantage of every trick of the trade will only make us more engaging and our passions more interesting. In the words of Kid President during his pep talk, “Boring is easy, everybody can be boring. But you are gooder than that.”

Have you had a teaching interview/audition? Does your institution conduct them? How did/do you prepare? Should more museums have auditions and practice-based interviews for education positions?

Challenging Ourselves: Strategies to Reflect on Our Practice

As managing museum educators, it’s often difficult to find new ways to help our educators grow. Often we work with seasoned, experienced, and creative educators who are teaching in the schools as well as the museum and planning with teachers every day. How do we, as managers, support them to do their best teaching every day?

Photo by Jason Brownrigg

At The Museum of Modern Art in New York, we welcome 30,000 K-12 students in guided programs every year. With a volume such as this, our eleven educators are teaching multiple lessons a day. Educators have to be flexible, quick on their feet, and communicate really well with the classroom teachers. Often, there is not a lot of time for planning or reflection. So we use our monthly meetings as a chance to plan lessons, brainstorm ideas, and reflect on our teaching.

In an effort to formalize the training and professional development we offer the educators, along with other tactics, we experimented this year with Monthly Challenges. Each month, as a group, we explore one aspect of our teaching or experiment with a new teaching tool. These ideas are shared amongst the educators over the course of the month, through an Educator Network site, which is essentially a WordPress blog. A lead educator is assigned to each challenge and that educator starts off a blog conversation around the topic.

Below are three examples of recent Monthly Challenges and some snippets of educators’ reflections:

1. Movement Challenge: Offering kinesthetic opportunities for students in the galleries

As a final activity, I asked the students to pose like characters in a work they saw on the tour. We had two students do this at once, combining two poses from different paintings to create a new situation. The rest of the group had to write down what action or drama is taking place. In this way they created new stories.

It was fun to create associations through movement rather than language. And I loved that we stood and used our whole bodies (something we so rarely get to do in the galleries!).

Before I even had the chance to introduce the activity they started to respond to it with movement. Therefore, I just went with what was happening naturally with the students. They all did different movements for different parts of the sculpture simultaneously.

One other thing I’ve been trying out since our workshop, is acting out the artistic process itself and/or how the materials move. I’ve had kids in small groups mimic with their bodies how an artist might make an assemblage style sculpture by bringing together, overlapping, and interconnecting different parts of their bodies; I’ve had kids act out drippy paint with their bodies, etc

2. New Works Challenge: Lessons comprised of all new works the educator had never taught with.

Overall, I would say that I think the benefits of new pieces are that they add a freshness to your conversation and an unpredictability that keeps you on your toes. I think the students sense this excitement and openness.

After years of developing new lessons, it is satisfying to have store of activities and strategies to draw from.

There was a moment during the tour when I wanted to change things based on what was happening with the students but realized I couldn’t go to the old stand-bys. I was happy to try out some new objects but will need to use them a few times to figure out their full potential. I think the best tours happen with the objects I am most familiar with but I have also had great moments with new works when I spontaneously select an object because another group is having a conversation in front of one I had planned to use.

If was fun and challenging for me to not be able to quite anticipate where these conversations would go… I agree, in general, with the comments already expressed — that maybe 1 or 2 new objects with an old tried and true piece could work better. There’s good reason why certain works are so well-worn and this challenge reinforced that idea for me.

3. Student Questions Challenge: Creating space in lessons for students’ questions about big ideas or works of art.

The questions that they shared with me were: “What are the artist’s intentions?” and “How do we know if a modern work of art is good or not?” Questions that i think are perfectly suited to the bicycle wheel.

In terms of generating questions – it’s harder than it looks. A genuine question comes out of genuine curiosity and questions often need space to form (and require risk to put forth). I know that I often get many questions during post-visits and I wonder if teachers notice this too – Do students need time to digest and reflect on the experience of the museum?

I definitely believe that entertaining and exploring their questions has to be balanced by my guiding the discussion in certain directions and meeting certain goals… But touching on what R said in her post, I think of the museum as a serious, but informal learning environment; whereas in a classroom, kids are generally supposed to stay on task, I think it’s nice in the museum environment to indulge the students’ curiosities — and basically invite the inevitable tangent/sidebar- type lines of questioning.

It’s important to me to create an environment for our educators where we never stop reflecting.  We continue to consider what we deliver and how we deliver it to students, to serve their needs as best we can. These Monthly Challenges give us chance, as a group, to hone in on one aspect of our teaching. We can dig deeper into the benefits and challenges of how we do what we do, while also brainstorming and sharing with each other. We benefit greatly from each other’s creative ideas, reflections, and approaches. Some challenges were more successful than others, but focusing deeply for a time on one aspect of our teaching, helps us to think differently about that aspect the next time.

What are some ways in which you work at your institution to reflect on teaching practice?  I would love to hear from others who have managed similar types of exchanges among their staff.