PLAYBACK: How Academics, Journalists, Librarians and Museum Administrators Engage the Digital World
2.18.11 | The Met embraces technology to get visitors to embrace art; ebooks and the future of storytelling; how to use Facebook with students without being friends; what teachers and students can learn from Justin Bieber’s fans; academics and avatars; and how Twitter teaches media literacy ...
Making the Met More Welcoming: Thomas P. Campbell, who took over as head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art three year ago, has grand plans for using digital media to entice younger museum-goers and to expand the art experience to those who may not distinguish between Manet and Monet.
The Met not only has its first app, accompanying a show of renowned guitars, but it is aiming to reach every patron through increased visitor engagement.
“Trying to open up art museums to the broadest possible audience while maintaining standards can be a tricky balancing act — one that large institutions like the Brooklyn Museum and the Victoria and Albert in London have struggled with as they introduce more technology to galleries and use more entertaining approaches to attract visitors,” writes the NYT’s Randy Kennedy. “But the task is one that confronts almost all art museums now as they compete against pop culture and try to foster a new generation of museumgoers.” He continues:
Mr. Campbell said that technology, which the Met has embraced only slowly, is one of the best ways to bridge those kinds of gaps without sacrificing any of the seriousness or ambition of the museum’s exhibitions and collections. He describes it as a way to “demystify the museum through digital means.”
Now that huge amounts of information can be delivered to hand-held wireless devices, the museum will be able to do so at many levels of sophistication. Several different tours of a gallery or exhibition — tailored for neophytes and specialists, young students and frequent museum patrons — can be made available at a tap of a screen. And text, narration and images can be conveyed unobtrusively to those who want it.
The worry, of course, is rooms filled with people in “head-down as opposed to head-up mode,” Mr. Campbell said, but he added that he believed that the museum could “still keep the spotlight on the objects,” even as it caters “with much greater sensitivity to different audiences.”
Describing the intensity of his post, Campbell used a metaphor more familiar to gamers than art historians: “It’s like being in a video game sometimes. It certainly keeps you concentrating.”
Academics and Avatars: Speaking of video games, The Denver Post looks at the ways in which academic interest in video games has moved beyond simplified arguments of addiction vs. entertainment. The size, complexity and interactivity of today’s gaming worlds make them excellent sources for studying the development of moral codes or issues such as gender bias and identify formation, writes John Wenzel.
“For anthropologists it’s very exciting, as we kind of ran out of the traditional cultures to study,” said Jeffrey G. Snodgrass, an associate professor of anthropology at Colorado State University. “Some people are very, very critical of these games, and I have to remind them these are elaborate, cathedral-like works of art. So much thought and intelligence has gone into building these amazing worlds.”
“The Kids Have Taken Over the E-Readers”: That’s the word from a parent quoted in this New York Times story about the growing popularity of e-readers among children. Not only are e-book sales up for young adult titles—thanks in part to parents purchasing e-readers as holiday gifts—but more teachers have been encouraging students to bring e-readers to school. And it’s not just so kids can read the most current, popular titles, writes Julie Bosman:
Some younger readers have been exploring the classics, thanks to the availability of older e-books that are in the public domain — and downloadable free.
After receiving a light gray Sony Reader from her grandparents for Christmas, Mia Garcia, a 12-year-old from Touchet, Wash., downloaded “Little Women,” a book she had not read before.
“It made me cry,” Mia said. “Then I read ‘Hunger Games,’” the best-selling dystopian novel, “and it also made me cry.”
Plus: Writing at Wired.com, GeekDad Daniel Donahoo has great ideas for what e-books could, and should, be offering. The types of e-books he envisions would give kids more control over narrative, support 21st-century skills and nurture exploration.
“There isn’t a first page or an end page when it comes to the internet or digital media more generally, so why do we feel the need to limit our children’s exploration of stories and narrative on devices not limited by a specific number of pages?,” writes Donahoo. “We shouldn’t. And the new wave of digital publishers who can break out of the idea that the story is owned by the author, and realize that the story and how it is told and what is of interest actually belongs to the child, will produce eBook apps that better fit with the 21st century. They’ll produce eBooks that don’t always have a start or end page, but which take children on a journey through the knowledge- and image- and video-rich world of resources and stories that are out there.”
And for more, Calvin Reid has a short piece at Publishers Weekly on technology and the future of storytelling.
When Students Want to be Friends: Using a question about whether a teacher should friend a student as a jumping-off point for a longer Facebook discussion, Ewan McIntosh not only explains the do’s and don’ts when it comes to friending, but he takes the opportunity to discuss how and why Facebook can be a place for learning. And he points to more great tips from Juliette Heppell.
*If any readers have set up Facebook pages for their classes, tell us about it in the comments.
It’s About Search Skills, Not Esperanza Spaulding: Upset that jazz singer Esperanza Spaulding took home a Grammy for Best New Artist, beating out Justin Bieber, some of Bieber’s fans edited Spaulding’s Wikipedia page in mean and snarky ways. That, said one teacher, was justification for why Wikipedia is a poor source of information. Fortunately, Library Girl is available to set the record straight.
Through personal storytelling and excellent examples, Library Girl (aka Jennifer LaGarde, a middle school librarian by day, reference librarian by night) explains why the resources available to student researchers today are far superior to the limited and often out-of-date texts available to those of us who grew up during the pre-internet era. But that doesn’t mean kids have it easy:
Incidents like the one involving Bieber fever provide educators in general, but librarians in particular, with a golden opportunity to discuss how information works while armed with a timely and relevant example. But before we do that, we need to ask ourselves some important questions, because to be frank, how our students use information has implications that are far more important than the grade they get on their next research assignment. Regardless of what sources of information students are allowed to use at school, the reality is that today’s young people increasingly turn to blogs, wikis and social networks for answers to all of life’s questions: be they academic or personal. Given that, we MUST ask ourselves: are we helping our students cultivate the skills they need to evaluate all of the information that they encounter in their digital lives? Instead of just forbidding students to use Wikipedia, are we instead teaching them to evaluate ALL information for relevancy, reliability and bias? Rather than just blocking and ignoring social networks like Facebook, are we helping our students understand the possible consequences of their digital footprints while also showing them how to be responsible online citizens? What’s more, (and perhaps most significant), do we as educators, (who did not, for the most part, grow up in a digital world), even possess these important skills ourselves?
Frequently, I fear, the answer is no.
The problem, she notes, extends beyond researching history. How might they evaluate answers to questions about more weighty concerns—such as pregnancy and eating disorders—if they can’t tell the difference between good information and bad?
Plus: Anne Collier finds great examples of learning how information gets verified by following Andy Carvin, NPR’s senior strategist for digital media, on Twitter. Following Carvin and other trained journalists is valuable, she writes, because they actively and openly question the validity of what they see and hear.
“This, for the media literate, is a new kind of fact-checking, this real-time, collaborative kind, but fact-checking all the same—and it’s overt, teaching young people following events the importance and value of thinking critically,” writes Collier. “By following Andy, media lit learners not only get pre-screened realtime news from the ground (he personally knows a number of the Twitter ‘reporters,’ or activists on the ground, whose observations he retweets), over time they start to develop the kind of news sense some of us had to learn at news organizations: what’s important or worth repeating, who the source is, what needs checking, what’s the context, etc.”
Read Carvin’s interview with The Atlantic Journal to learn about his Twitter-stream curation of the protests in Egypt.
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