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Education on the Outside?

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At first glance, I was excited to read this article, as it details--at least on the surface--the ongoing commitment to fostering free-choice or constructivist learning in some of the most well-known museums on the planet. As I read; however, it became clear that the opportunities featured in the article are primarily concentrated on art making, offered under the pedagogical auspices of "being in galleries, meeting artists and understanding their world." Furthermore, most of these examples featured art making in physical spaces outside the museum, which is problematic in itself--art museum education has long been relegated to basements and other "fringe" areas of the museum...what does it mean when learning is offered outside the physical space of the museum, i.e., the pop-up center that is soon to open at the Whitney?

As I read, I recalled an interesting comment, made my by colleague and friend Professor Steve Carpenter during a presentation on reconceptualizing curriculum at NAEA. He questioned, ever so briefly, whether or not the act of art making is, in fact, the primary goal/foundation of every model of art education (his question specifically focused on Eco-environmental curriculum)? I wonder...if it is, then where does that leave the myriad other discourses that surround art education and art museum education? What happens when we as professional educators privilege a particular kind of knowing over all other ways of relating to objects in the museum, especially when very few people excel at the skills that are being introduced in these short workshops?

Social Media, Internet Technology, and Museums

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The New York Times recently published a plethora of interesting articles in a special section about museums and the use of technology to engage with visitors in new and meaningful ways. Check them out if you haven't already hit your limit of free articles per month.

Undiscovered Amerindians

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On Monday, a student referred to a performance by Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Coco Fusco titled Undiscovered Amerindians. Here is a link with more information on that project (and a photo). Sadly, there is no publicly available link on the Net.

Tips for Blog Writing

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One of my Twitter friends posted this today, and I thought you might be interested in seeing it, especially if you are blogging for the first time.


QR Codes for Museums

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I was chatting with the staff at the eLearning Institute a few days ago when one of the staff members suggested a new way of offering interpretive materials in the gallery. Watch the video and see what you think. Then, of course, let me know. I like what I see so far... QR codes for Museums

Block5 | MySpace Video

Museums 3.0

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I just joined Museums 3.0, a Ning site that is devoted to theorizing and discussing the future of museums. Interestingly enough, I learned about it through a blog titled Museums 2.0 by Nina K. Simon. It really is incredible how easy social media makes it to connect with a global contingent of people who are interested in the very similar issues, no matter now specialized.

As an example: Elaine Heumann Gurian, a well-respected museum professional (and former educator, I might add), started a forum on the site about Museums as Soup Kitchens, an alternative model of museum operations that challenges the current model of acquiring, collecting, and displaying objects. It brings up myriad questions about museums: Are they responsible for changing their missions during periods of economic or social crisis? Are they primarily political, social, or aesthetic institutions? Can they effect change, or should they even try?

The answer, I suspect, depends on whom you ask. It's definitely worth discussing.

First Time for Everything

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This group consisted of residents of Centre County who were also seeing-eye puppy trainers. I had a great time with the group--the puppies behaved, the discussion was lively, and I'm pretty certain that none of us will forget the experience any time soon.

Useful, indeed!

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I created a website for a recent AAM presentation using a Wordpress format and could not figure out how to embed the Power Point presentations for each presenter on the panel. Enter @cogdog's suggestions for free Internet tools.  I created an account on Slideshare (which took about two minutes), loaded the Power Point presentations, and embedded them simply by hitting the Wordpress "share" button.  Worked like a charm!

Six kids + one video camera = Flow

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The concept of "Flow," as elucidated by psychologist Mihaly Cziksentmihaly (1990) and interpreted by art museum educators, is the idea that when one is engaged in an activity that is both meaningful and interesting, time seems to stand still.  For example, if you are playing chess and are really into the game, you may look at the clock and realize that you have been playing for two hours when it really only seemed like 20 minutes.

Yesterday, I gave a tour to six elementary and early junior high students that fit the definition of a "flow" experience.  They belong to a study group that gets together when the public schools have inservices--one or two parents takes care of the the group and all of the other parents are able to work as usual.  My tour was actually an auction item for a charitable group, and the woman who bid on it is someone I know through volunteering and also because her kids have attended many workshops at the museum.

When she and I discussed what she might like to do to collect on her auction item, she mentioned that the kids wanted to be as involved as possible and do some research beforehand.  Ultimately, we decided that it might be fun to have the students do an "Introduction to the Museum" video that could, at some point, possibly be posted on our Web site.  I sent one of the parents a list of works of art, with images, that we would discuss during the tour so that the students could get a sense of the scope of what they would be seeing.

On Thursday, the group showed up, camera in hand, to film the exterior of the building for their video since it was supposed to rain on Friday.  They came to my office on the off chance that I would be there and asked if they could ask me a few questions.  When I said "yes," one young woman pulled out a large piece of paper and began to unfold it.  And unfold it.  When she opened it completely, I was shocked to see that these students had brainstormed 35-40 questions about the museum, the collections, the colors on the walls, the sculptures in the front, where storage might be, the oldest and newest works in the collection, and more.  I happily answered some of the questions and looked over the rest, expecting to be asked more during the tour.

Our time together on Friday began at 11:00 a.m. and somehow didn't end until 1:00 p.m.  The group filmed our discussion about each work of art and then asked about other things in each gallery that aroused their curiosity.  They wanted to know everything--really, it is an educator's dream to work with young people like this.  By the time 1:00 rolled around, we only realized that it was time to go because they were hungry and I was getting very thirsty.  It was a textbook case of "flow."  For the students, and for me.   

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