Learning and Technology sitting in a Museum Shaped tree…EngageM Take Aways

For the past while, the Digital Learning Network and Museums Computer Group have been toying with the idea of holding a joint event.  An event which combines two areas very close to my heart, learning and technology in museums.  Why? Well… we all know that museums are finding more and more ways to use digital technologies to enhance visitor experience; and this has a big impact on museum learning and public engagement programmes. But really how often to these two sections of the museum world really get to talk to each other?  Surprising little, because in many museums the work of learning departments and technology teams is still quite separate.

We wanted to change that so, we held Engaging digital audiences in museums this week.  It’s the first event that MCG and DLNet have organised together, and it’s been great working with everyone.  A big shout out to Rhiannon, Juno, and Mia, who did most of the organising and programme decisions.  I hold my hands up and say that I didn’t do very much of the work, apart from turn up and jump over tables, but I am very proud of how the event went.

The aim was to bring together the two worlds of museum technology and museum learning and encourage them to talk and learn from each others’ skills and experience.  I hope we managed to do that is some form or another.

We had some official bloggers on the day (posts will be up on the DLNet and MCG sites shortly), and there have been a couple of posts up already by Juno and Ben from Thought Den (including not one but two awesome Twitter posters).  So I won’t waffle on but here are my take aways:

  • Nick Winterbotham  is particularly good at soundbites.  I love his enthusiasm for all things learning. From encouraging us all to make this conference the most important day of our lives so far,to, Have you heard about the Big Society version of Cluedo? It’s got no library in it
  • There’s still a lot of questions about mobile use in museum. “Is using mobiles in museums a sign of Super modernity of a sign of flawed concentration and disengagement?”  Matthew Cock asking How does audience motivation fit into the use of mobiles? Can you match mobile functionality with motivation types?  Quite a lot of the discussions reminded me of Kevin Slavin‘s keyonte at MCN2011: “The job of technology is not to give us new things to look at, but new ways to see”
  • Lucinda Blaser encouraging us to all think creatively and not let the technology guide us. “if there was magic in the world what would you want to do in the museum?”
  • Wonderment is the ultimate key performance Indicator
  • I miss Newcastle more than I thought I did.  Thanks to John Coburn’s presentation on Hidden Newcastle.  And the eccentric brilliance of a lying egomaniac.
  • Generic Learning Outcomes. They. Are. A. Good. Thing. But there is more work to do to embed them into digital projects.  See Rhiannon’s post about that.

Short and sweet. ish.

Digital Learning Adventures in Museums Call for papers now open!

Image taken by Benedict Johnson Photography Limited at DLAM11

Digital Learning Adventures in Museums focuses on case studies from museums who are using digital technology in innovative ways to support learning onsite, offsite and online.   Following on from the success of Digital Learning Adventures 2011 (DLAM), we are planning on making it bigger and better this year, with two days of  presentations, how to activities, and hands on demonstrations.

The Digital Learning Network and the British Museum are hosting a two day Digital Learning Adventures in Museums conference at the British Museum on 23th and 24th February 2012.

As well as case studies discussing a range of digital learning topics, there will also be an excellent opportunity to get your hands on using digital technology using the British Museum galleries and the state of the art Samsung Digital Discovery Centre in the Hands on Session’s .

We want to make sure the presentations at DLAM2012 represent the latest work in the sector and cover the issues that are important to our members so we have decided to open a call for papers. We have selected a set of themes, focusing on designing, delivering and evaluating digital learning projects, but also looking at collaborative partnerships and working with volunteers.

The themes are:

•           Designing and delivering participatory learning opportunities

•           Developing mobile applications for learning

•           Partnerships and collaborations

•           Working with volunteer technologists and hobbyists and other volunteers

•           Evaluation of digital learning projects

However, we are open to any elements concerning digital technology and learning.  In particular we would like all speakers to include actionable lessons in their papers.

If you would like to propose a paper for one of these themes, please email info@digitallearningnetwork.net by 30th November including the following information:

•             Your name

•             The organisation you work for if applicable

•             Link to resource/website if applicable

•             The theme under which you envisage your paper sitting

•             A short summary of what your paper will cover (up to 250 words)

•             The main ‘take home’ points which participants are likely to find applicable to their own work


We will aim to make a decision on which papers to include and let you know by 5th December.

We look forward to reading your proposals.

TeachMeet Museums and Adventures with Digital Learning

I’m working on a few events which are coming up very soon! Sooner than I’d like if I’m honest, time just seems to slipping through my fingers.

The First is a Digital Learning Network event held at the British Museum on the 4th Feb: Adventures with Digital Learning in Museums.  I’m really excited about this event, as it is my first as Chair of the committee.   It’s quite a hands on day, myself and the wonderful Shelley from the BM have played with the format a bit to include two sessions (onsite museum digital stuff and museum outreach digital stuff) each with 3 speakers and a overview speaker, followed by an activities session, encouraging people to dig in and have a go with some of the cool digital technology in the British Museum galleries and the state of the art Samsung Digital Discovery Centre.  We are still finalising the speakers, but so far we have some absolutely brilliant speakers who are doing fantastic things with digital learning in and outside of Museums. I’m really excited about this, as I have only met a few in person, so it will great to meet everyone properly on the day.    Adventures will also involve an Unconference session, as I think it’s really important to provide opportunities for networking and discussion to share ideas, and actively contribute to the best of what is happening with Digital learning in museums and in outreach.  Fingers crossed it will be a great day.

Following on from that on the same day, we are also holding a TeachMeet Museums!I love the concept of TeachMeet’s.  They are informal gatherings for those curious about teaching, and technology.  The ethos of a TeachMeet is for everyone to get involved and learn something new, be amazed, amused and enthused.  TeachMeet previously have focused mostly on teachers sharing good practice, described as a “Show and Tell for teachers”.   With TeachMeet Museums we want to find out what, why and how teachers are using museums, and museum digital content, and what museum learning teams can offer teachers; what’s good, what’s great, and why.

I’m looking forward to hearing stories about digital learning, from teachers and other museum learning professionals.   The aim is for anyone interested or curious about teaching, technology and museums to come along and share great ideas they’ve trialled in their classrooms, in museums and in outreach, ask important questions or simply sign up to take part as a member of the enthusiastic audience.  Teachmeet Museums will give educators from all sectors the opportunity to meet up with likeminded individuals and share the best of what is happening in their classrooms and in museums. If technology tickles your fancy, museums make you happy or independent learning excites you then come along and share your ideas and experiences with others.

Thinking and Drinking at DLNet and DDH

I have recently become chair of the Digital Learning Network for Museums, libraries and archives, which I am very excited and nervous about in equal measure. It is a great honour and I cannot thank enough the previous chair Martin Bazley and the rest of the committee for their continuing support and hard work.  I hope I can do the role and the Network justice.

As part of DLNet we hold ThinkDrink’s  which aim to get a few people together who are interested in talking about using digital technology for learning in museums, libraries and archives round a table with a few drinks and nibbles to help get the discussion going. A brilliant idea!

Last week (16th September) the Wiener Library hosted a very interesting ThinkDrink focusing on the issues and opportunities surrounding digital learning in relation to difficult or challenging subjects.   The Wiener Library is one of the world’s leading and most extensive archives with over one million items on the Holocaust and Nazi era. I had not been to the Wiener before nor had I really considered the difficulties of creating digital resources which discuss such sensitive subjects. It was a fascinating evening, and it was really great to see a wide selection of museums, libraries and archives represented. We had a very engaging discussion which explored the specific responsibilities attached to providing sensitive online resources and information.  We had a few key questions that guided the discussion. What is appropriate or inappropriate in relation to digital learning and difficult subjects?  How do you protect the user and the subject of the material without becoming inaccessible? and how do you guard against the misuse of resources?  I have certainly taken a lot away from it; however we seem to have created more questions than answers.

Here are some of the questions that really stuck in my mind:

  • Is it our responsibility?  Should we be protecting the user?  Are we policing or supporting?
  • Could anyone be harmed as a result of releasing the material?
  • Audiences need to be able to trust us as information providers– trust to provide access to the material, but perhaps also trust to limit access where appropriate?
  • Is viewing distressing and difficult material online any different from viewing the same material in the physical reading room?

Another thinking and drinking meet up I am a part of the Decoding Digital Humanities. An informal monthly gathering in the pub for those who are interested in all things digital, providing an opportunity to mingle, share ideas, discuss readings and raise questions surrounding the field of digital humanities.

This weeks (Tuesday 21st September) DDH we were discussing Alan Lui’s 2003 paper entitled The Humanities: A Technical Profession. Lui raises questions about the concept of Knowledge, of protocols, organisation and information behaviour and the institutional nature of the humanities.

It was a fascinating meet up with the discussions provoking more questions than reaching answers, but it is a brilliant opportunity to get us thinking about concepts and the work that we do more.  What separates DDH and the DLNet ThinkDrink’s is not that one is attended by academics and one is attended by practitioners, the difference is that at DDH we also are able to hold some of the discussions online using twitter and the blog.  This weeks DDH produced some really quite fascinating discussions on twitter when I frantically tweeted some of the questions the physical meet up was throwing up.  You can see more about the content of the meet up and the tweets on the UCLDH blog.  This is what I want to happen with the DLNet ThinkDrink’s.  But it appears putting these things into practice are more complex than you would think.  Previously I would have been rather quick to say “why there is no problem with putting these discussions online, what harm can it do?” but following on from the Weiner discussion perhaps it isn’t as simple as that.

The multiple voices of an academic blogger.

The multiple voices of an academic blogger.

The multiple voices of an academic blogger.

The multiple voices of an academic blogger. is there an echo in here?

Currently I write posts for four blogs including this one.   I enjoy it, I have a different approach to each of them (here, work, DLNet and IgniteLDN) due to the different nature, intention and audience, but I do try and keep my tone consistent and as much like ‘me’ as possible. However, splitting yourself four different ways isn’t always easy, particularly when then four different outlets deal with different yet similar things.  It has come to my attention that on one of the blogs in particular my change in tone on occassional posts might not be appropriate.   So this got me thinking.  What is appropriate? Have I been letting the side down? Why bother? What tone of voice should I use? Should I use a tone of voice? Who is reading this? Is anyone reading this? Should I just go and read a book instead?

I’ve been thinking about the implications of academic blogging for a while, a while back I pondered whether this blog was damaging my academic reputation. The concept of academic reputation keeps coming up again and again, and on the whole it seems that using social media tools to disseminate and discuss your ideas and to create a dialogue are frowned upon, and research that I have been working on show that the majority of academics never ever use social media and web 2.0. That isn’t the case where I work, UCLDH is well versed in bloggage and tweets, and as were the museums I have worked for.   It’s likely that the field I work in and the people I work with are just ahead of the curve, and everyone else will catch up eventually.

I’ve been blogging personally on this blog for a while now, and I still feel like I’m finding my feet, and I don’t know if I would call it academic either. Blogging certaintly, I don’t want to randomly rant, or produce diary snippets of my life, and I know a little bit about my regular readers and do try and think about whether they would find it useful or interesting.  Whereas on Facebook, its clear who I am and who my audience is (personal with a little bit of the UCLDH crew thrown in), and on twitter (@clairey_ross) I’m sort of more professional and informational with a little bit of life in there too. Here I specifically want to talk about what I’m excited about, and that is usually museums and cool (some people, including my boyfriend, would say geeky) stuff that I’m working on, have been to, or am just plain hyperventilating with excitement about.  I’m happy doing this, because this is my personal blog, I write about what interests me and I hope it interests my readers, as I assume they are mostly into the same things I am, or they wouldn’t be reading at all, right?

However on the other blogs, it isn’t as easy.  I still try to find the space between the excitable slightly weird me and the professional me, which is difficult. It’s easier on the Ignite blog, because the set up in its essence is to be randomly interesting and I hope my personality fits in quite well. So posting about Restoring The Archimedes Palimpsest or What does the hard hat and Wonder Woman have in common? Is absolutely fine.

But for DLNet its different, I don’t know if people want to see the scatter brain me, so I am more informative rather than flap happy.  Its early days for the DLNet blog and we haven’t really gathered momentum, I hope it will take off soon and I have some ideas for that. And then to the UCLDH blog.  This is different again; a mixture of project discussions, UCLDH events and reviews and promotion for other related conference and events, whats right for here? A personal approach or a more factual one? I can’t decide.

So I pose the questions: am I spreading myself too thinly? Should I concentrate on one and not the others? Which one? Should the tone of an ‘institutional’ blog be more informative and less personalised? Should there be multiple authors, do multiple tones of voice make for a more creative discussion environment? Or do too many cooks spoil the broth?

Digital Learning Network: Creating and Evaluating online resources a round up

On Tuesday I had my Digital Learning Network committee hat on for the creating and evaluating online resources event. It was a really interesting day, it is so nice to still feel so connected to museum digital learning even though I don’t work in it directly anymore. It’s great to hear what other people are doing and what they think. At this event it was really nice to sit back and watch not only the presentations but also to observe the audience and what they thought of it all.

First up was Rhiannon Looseley (museum of london elearning officer – brackets web) discussing what to consider when Project managing an online resources project.  It was good to hear Rhiannon speak, she reiterated points that I tried so hard to achieve whilst project managing at Geevor. Then Martin Bazley  spoke about Getting it right from the start by creating the right resources for your audience. Martin discussed the iterative research and planning process and have the constant reminder – who is it for, what is it offering the audience and how will they use it? This was followed by Clare Horrie,  from The National Archives. Clare told us about The National Archives education website redevelopment which incorporated user evaluation, and found a lot out about how there site worked. Particularly that their Labelling of content wasn’t accurate and some resources were very hard to find. Then we has a quick Databurst – Identifying and making the best use of consultants and service providers – creating a beneficial partnership: Richard Gray, from Footmark Media. Richard told us about Richards recipe for reciprocally rich results (a definite tongue twister, to read, write and say!) – Plan carefully; What skills do you have in house; What time do you have? What is missing? Whats your budget?  Bring in expertise early; Use different experts for different phases if appropriate and buy champagne! Something we would have to agree with over at UCLDH. We like a bottle of champers or ten for our party’s. Then it was the turn of Andrew Lewis,  from the V&A  speaking about Quilt of Quilts user generated content resource – from initial concept to final feature.  I had forgot just how good Quilts is.  And thats why conferences are great, you might not be learning anything new but you get reminded about some awesome stuff. Which is very exciting and provides a renewed zeal for cool ideas.  We looked at Patchwork pattern maker and the quilt of quilts. What was nice to see is the stats behind it also taken the social activity in to account.  Social activity on site ~50% of uploads have been commented upon, and ~90% have been rated by other quilters using the feature! Thats quite high!  Finally we had Yang-May Ooi and Ingrid Beazley discussing Dulwich on view. Which is a really good blog and it was really nice to hear how they got it going and turned it into an award wining site.

This was followed up by the Crit room, and it was really interesting to watch some live usability observations, particularly seeing that I was observing and not leading anything! So instead of furiously scribbling notes and watching very carefully where people clicked and why, it was great to sit back and watch it unfold.

All in all a very good day.

The Digital Learning Network has arrived!

In 2007 I found myself so far out of my comfort zone, in Cornwall, by myself, in a tin mine museum, with a lap top and wonky internet connection and a project plan entitled ‘e-learning’. I didn’t know where to start, and I didn’t know who to talk to, and at times I felt very isolated and out of my depth. I had no option other then to jump in head first, and it was brilliant, it was hard work, and very difficult at times, but some wonderful people helped me along the way, and I am very grateful for that. I had a head full of ideas, and I was very excited about the task and it was fantastic to talk to people who had been in the same situation as me, had similar ideas, and most importantly loved everything about museums and digital learning.

Fast forward a couple of years, I have a successful digital learning project under my belt, I’m now a researcher in Digital humanities, and loving every minute of it. I am also on the committee for the Elearning Group for Museums, Libraries and Archives (ELG). And its fantastic.

Last month I wrote a post about reigniting my passion for digital learning! This was mostly down to an ELG committee meeting .What made it brilliant? Being able to bounce ideas around and talking to other people who just get it. Who are just as passionate about digital learning and what it has to offer.

So what were we talking about that got us so excited? Well…

The ELG has become the Digital Learning Network

DLnet for short

The idea is to go back to basics and get people talking about technology and learning in museums, archives and libraries. There are so many people whose job involves some kind of educational/digital role, but who don’t have a network and really depend on colleagues and informal relationships to share information about new developments. We want to be able to help, people like me in 2007 to Find people, build networks, share ideas and basically just talk about digital learning, why its great, what you are working on, what do you want to know about other projects, how can you over come some problems with digital learning in your area. So, If you want to find people working in digital learning in your local area, build networks, and exchange ideas, DLNet can help.

We’re getting conversations going about using digital technology to support learning:

  • online – through the website or Twitter
  • face to face – all over the country, in networked groups

Here’s what you can do:

  • get a few people together for a ThinkDrink – at the pub, out for tea, at the zoo – wherever you like
  • let us know what you talked about – Tweet it, post pictures on Flickr, write a blog post, or post a short video on YouTube (tag it with #DLNet and we’ll find it)
  • form your own Digital Learning Network group

So: we are changing our name from the E-Learning Group to the Digital Learning Network – DLnet for short – and putting more effort into getting people talking and sharing ideas, as well as doing all the stuff we used to do.

And don’t worry, we are still:

  • exploring how technology can help deliver inspiring and creative learning in museums, libraries, archives and the heritage sector
  • running our highly popular events such as conferences and seminars
  • hosting the email list, which will soon become DLnet@jiscmail.ac.uk (instead of elearning@jiscmail.ac.uk )

Have a look around the Digital Learning Network website and let us know what you think. I hope you find it as helpful and exciting as I did and still do!