Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Museums and Ed Tech

Last November I traveled to Washington DC. I spent many hours wandering around the Smithsonian and other museums. After visiting the National Portrait Gallery I wrote on a comment card that I wished there were options to download audio commentary on to my iPod. A month or so later, I heard back from the director of public relations that they were working to design podcasts - some are already available via iTunes and requested that I take a survey on technology and the museum.

I just returned from London where I again visited a plethora of museums. Many major museums now offer headsets with audio commentary available for certain items within their museums. I also searched podcasts on iTunes before I left. There were quite a few from the National Art Gallery in London, but they were mostly monthly, news reports on upcoming exhibits or special events. There were also additional "interactive" portions at most tourist spots with hands-on activities, videos, and interactive Flash-like videos. For example, in the British Library there was an interactive version of the Magna Carta where the user could zoom in on a picture of the document and view a translation in a pop-up window.

Museums are updating to meet the needs of their audience. The staid placards are no longer sufficient in the education of the museum's patrons. As I wandered around the British Museum - which is fabulous- I kept reading the different artifact descriptions thinking....they need an educational technologist to revamp this encyclopedia-like information dump. A couple of years ago I had found a job posting for the British Museum looking for people to help with online content design for school-aged users. With our global community, museums are now required to provide information and artifacts digitally as well as statically. What a wonderful field to be involved with and to observe as it emerges!

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