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learning Archives - Engaging Museums by Dana Allen-Greil

How does inquiry-based education work when learners are distributed and asynchronous?

August 8, 2013 | By | 5 Comments

I’ve just wrapped up week 1 of my first MOOC experience, Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies for Your Classroomtaught by MoMA educator Lisa Mazzola on Coursera. (It is still open and I encourage you to join! It’s not too late. If you’re not entirely sure what a MOOC is, see this helpful explanation of a Massive Open Online Course from Educause.)

[Note: If you are participating in the course, you can find this same post in the Coursera forum. Would love for you to respond there.]

As a museum professional who specializes in digital engagement and a museum studies professor, I come to this course with several layers of questions related to inquiry-based learning and how it intersects with online platforms:

What are the best practices for inquiry-based learning in art museums?

After nearly a decade in a national history museum, I am fairly new to art museums and how they engage learners with works of art, as opposed to other kinds of museum objects.

What aspects of inquiry-based education translate well to digital spaces?

Should I change my approach as an educator for formal online education experiences (e.g., online university courses) vs. informal learning experiences (e.g., social media)? My professional speciality is digital outreach and engagement for museums and other nonprofits, with an emphasis on both learning and marketing outcomes. I am also an adjunct professor for the Johns Hopkins University museum studies program, which involves teaching entirely online. I’m curious to explore further how the context of the learner impacts the effectiveness of inquiry-based education . . . for example, does a Twitter follower get as much out of inquiry as a formal student?

What are the challenges that educators face in using inquiry-based methods online to engage learners that are not in the same room and are not participating at the same time?

In teaching online graduate courses, I have found the asynchronous nature makes the process of constructing knowledge together as a group more difficult than I experienced when teaching graduate students in a physical classroom.

How does observing an object digitally change the experience of observation for the learner?

How does being online affect some of the other aspects of inquiry-based learning, such as communicating with a group about one’s ideas and interpretation? As someone who designs digital museum experiences, I am especially interested in outreach projects for audiences who cannot come and see museum collections in person. How does this change the way I structure an inquiry-based experience?

How does a MOOC really work?

I’ve been reading about them for months but this is my first personal experience as a student in a MOOC.

Should museums be using MOOCs as an educational platform?

And for what audiences (e.g., adults, teens, teacher professional development, homeschool audiences)? Part of my role at a national art museum is to figure out how to leverage our expertise and resources for maximum impact. I am curious about how museum educators can bring something unique to the MOOC space and am excited to learn from the model MoMA is presenting here.

So far I have found the readings and lecture video to be quite good at addressing the first question (how can inquiry-based education work in a physical location). I highly recommend Laurel Schmidt’s “Great Teachers Don’t Take No (or Yes) for an Answer: Teaching by Asking Instead of Telling” and John Hennigar Shuh’s “Teaching Yourself to Teach With Objects” (I was able to read both in the course of two metro rides).

I look forward to noodling over some of my other burning questions with other Coursera students as we learn by doing, digitally.

Note: You can follow some of the discussion about the MOOC on Twitter using the hashtag #artinquiry.

What are your thoughts on how inquiry-based learning translates to online learning? Does it matter if the learners think of themselves as such (e.g., part of a formal class environment) or not (e.g., simply following an educational institution on social media)?

Image credit: Network visualization by Flickr user yaph

What museums need to know about Google Play for Education

May 23, 2013 | By | 6 Comments

Last week during their annual developer-focused conference, Google provided a first glimpse of Google Play for Education. While coverage in education and tech blogs has focused on what this new development could mean for teachers and school administrators, I wanted to provide a quick guide for those of us in museum education. What does this mean for our work with teachers and students? And how can museums play a role in providing quality educational content?

What is Google Play for Education?

  • An app store for educators. The store (to be launched this fall) will make it easy to search, download, and deploy apps and other K-12 learning content to multiple (Android) tablet devices.
  • An iPad killer? Bulk ordering for groups means that schools can easily purchase and instantly distribute content to student devices. Because of this simplicity, and more affordable hardware, some are already saying Google Play for Education will kill iPad use in schools.
  • Content for educators, reviewed and approved by educators. Educators will be able to search by category, grade level, and other criteria. Educators will review content submitted to Google Play for Education and categorize them with Common Core Standards. Teachers will be able to read app reviews by other teachers and share their own recommendations.

Why does this matter for museum education?

  • More platforms for content. If Google Play for Education takes off, it will have big implications for museums in terms of the platforms we use for creating digital learning content, including lesson plans, activities, and apps. Many content producers have been publishing in iBook or iOS apps and will need to more seriously consider developing Android apps. Google has already recruited NASA and PBS as content partners. How can museums work with Google to create high-quality content for these platforms?
  • It’s not just about iPad or Android apps. Teachers will be able to push out YouTube videos to students in the same way they can apps. Now is a good time to review our strategies for creating video and other multimedia content for this audience. It is also a good time to look at Chrome apps and HTML5 for delivering rich mobile content on the web that is device agnostic.
  • Professional development for educators. Teacher training will be essential to effective integration of tablets and digital content in the classroom. How can museum educators play a role in this training?

What do you think about this new development in K-12 education? How might your museum take advantage of this opportunity?

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Opening Up Museum Studies with Social Media

May 21, 2013 | By | 9 Comments

How can museum studies professors—and educators of all stripes—incorporate social media into their teaching? How does social media help us enhance learning and open up access to expertise? I was invited to give a brief presentation on this topic for COMPT (Committee on Museum Professional Training) at the AAM (American Alliance of Museums) 2013 annual meeting. My talk covered the social dimension of learning, how social media has changed museums and its audiences, and examples of social media tools being incorporated into the curriculum.


  • Learning is social – Knowledge is socially constructed – Social media supports the learner
  • 3 Cs of Social Learning: Consume, Communicate, Collaborate
  • My favorite example of museum studies, social media, and social learning:, which blends wikis, podcasting, and blogging to provide students direct experience talking to experts around the globe and the ability to share their work with the world through open access.

Social studies: How educators are using social media

February 25, 2013 | By | No Comments

Last week I had the pleasure of organizing an event for Social Media Week DC with three experts in social media and learning. Fahad Hassan, Joan Le, and Darren Milligan represented a diverse perspectives on the topic: Fahad from the edtech provider community, Joan from her view as a high school science teacher using social media extensively with her teenage students, and Darren from the view of museums and other organizations creating resources and experiences for educators to use in their teaching. We were joined by a chatty group made up of roughly half educators and half people looking to reach and serve educators.

You can find a full recap, including presentation slides and video, in the Storify archive.

Highlights from #EdTechChat for museum educators

February 7, 2013 | By | No Comments

On Digital Learning Day (February 6, 2013), the Verizon Foundation and its partners hosted a Twitter chat for educators and learning organizations to share ideas and best practices, ask questions, and learn about the latest digital tools and tech-based resources available. I created a Storify archive of the highlights of the discussion that I found most relevant to museum educators looking to support teachers and learning through technology.

Social Media Week ♥s Museums

February 1, 2013 | By | No Comments

Have you ever been kicking around an important question or idea and wished that you could just bring all the smartest people you know together for a little while to hash out the answer and pick their brains? I have two big issues I’m been mulling over for a while now and my magic genie appeared in the form of an invite to join the advisory board for Social Media Week DC. All I had to do after that was click my heels three times, email favor requests to some of my amazing colleagues, and *poof* my wish will be coming true! (Yes, I know I’m mixing storylines and metaphors here but I’m just SO excited.)

While I’m being somewhat selfish in my selection of topics and speakers (I want those burning questions answered!), I think everyone working in museums and/or education is in for a treat with these two upcoming events. If you are in DC, I encourage you to attend these free sessions. If you are unable to participate in person, rest assured that we’ll be live-tweeting, Storify-ing, and blogging about what we learn!

Defining and measuring social media success in museums and arts organizations

Friday, February 22, 10:30-noon (stay for lunch!), National Museum of the American Indian

Hashtag: #smwMuseSocial

Join social media practitioners from local museums and arts organizations for a lively discussion about the value of social media to our institutions. Are our current social media practices engaging online communities to their greatest potential? What outcomes are we hoping to achieve? And how can we better evaluate the success of our efforts and take our social media engagement to the next level?

Our panelists will:
*share recent research about how social media has transformed the arts in America
*present lightning talks on the social media outcome that matters most to them
*discuss your ideas, needs, and concerns

Come prepared to share your burning questions or big idea! Following the formal program, you are invited to buy your own lunch in the museum’s Mitsitam Cafe and take part in informal discussions in smaller groups.

Social studies: How educators are using social media

Thursday, February 21, 5-6:30pm, The Fridge DC

Hashtag: #smwTeach

How are teachers using social media in the classroom? And how can your organization or museum best reach and support educators by providing relevant resources, facilitating social activities, and connecting them with your social content? Join us for a discussion of the rapidly evolving role of social media in teaching and professional development in the education sector. Speakers include a science teacher, the organizer for DC’s EdTech MeetUps, and a museum educator.


Other museum-related events during Social Media Week DC:


Museum-related events during Social Media Week New York:


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