This afternoon I had the privilege of participating in the North Carolina Museum of Art’s project, #NCMAAsk (search twitter for more), which is focused on museums, technology, and the future. There were a number of issues that came up, but, many of them centered around hearing, listening, and flexibility.
Museums in their partnership with schools have can serve as advocates for students and teachers, but only if they are creating programming, experiences, resources, and spaces that respond to their needs. In terms of advocating for teachers, it includes helping them out, it includes offering teachers the language that they can use to communicate the importance of the arts to their higher ups. It terms of advocating for students, it is about creating and implementing curriculum that is student centered.
Museums have the lucky position of being outside of the school’s systems. They don’t have the same rules and museum experiences don’t end in grades. We don’t know who is the smart student, the weird kid, or the screw up. A good museum educator takes all of the kids where they come, and brings them all into the experience. On an even footing, but in a totally different learning experience, a totally different kid might find themselves as the smart kid. In museums, K-12 classrooms get the chance to visit an alternate learning universe, if it is even for one hour.
I was asked to me an oracle of the future of education. I think there are some big issues, such as competency-based education and the complete restructuring of the grade-level system. I think museums, with their high-quality digital tools, apps, and powerful search engines, will be poised to be right there at the horizon of education. But, I am more focused on the closer targets. In the short term, I am focused on how to deepen engagement through multi-visit experiences, as well as the ways that after school education can be impacted by museums. Also, I am interested to think about the ways that museums can use technology to augment K-12, such as through distance learning, online learning, and simulations.
Finally, individualized learning is already happening every where. Phones are tools for learning and creativity. Museums can employ them in gallery spaces with students. But, this requires the staff being comfortable with these tools and finding authentic ways to use them. Taking the students lead, so allowing them to search on their phones when they are researching something in the galleries, is a great way to use mobile as a tool.