Exhibits Alive! Museums, Schools, and Technology Work Together

Article excerpt

Pairing resource-rich museums with resource-hungry schools offers a sensible formula for academic and business success. Technology provides the mechanics for the broad dissemination of our nation's cultural, scientific, and historic offerings for teaching and learning.

"Making scholarship personal" is a primary objective of the Rainbow Advantage Program (RAP, www.rap.hawaii.edu/) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu. To accomplish this objective, Dr. Margit Misangyi Watts engages her college freshmen in what she calls a "COllaboratory." Entering its seventh year, COllaboratory creates an electronic academic environment where learning theory meets the real world as college freshmen connect with K-12 schools and museums to develop exhibits. In 1998 and 1999, Watt's RAP students worked with third-graders from Le Jardin Academy in Kailua, fifth-and sixth-graders from Gorham Village School in Maine, eighth-graders at Iolani School in Honolulu, and college students in the Russell Scholars Program at the University of Southern Maine to create Celebrations: Windows into Culture. Working together, they designed 58 fourteen-foot fabric sculptures, each of which shares facts about the historical significance of a selected cultural celebration. The hanging sculptures represent the culmination of many months of creative thinking, research, and collaboration; COllaboratory encourages students to recognize that learning is an ongoing endeavor, and education is as much a process as a product.

To accomplish the work, students are connected over electronic mail, on a listserv, and through Walden3 (walden3. mhpcc.edu/), a virtual community. Walden3 is a MOO (multi-user domain--MUD, Object Oriented), which provides a text-based platform for world-building and synchronous communication. It offers an online venue for team members to construct their personalized virtual workspaces and to communicate with each other, museum staff, librarians, and faculty. Connecting to the rest of the participants in this way serves to broaden perspectives, enhance creativity, and nurture intellectual inquiry. The Celebrations exhibit hung at the Bishop Museum, Hawaii's State Museum of Natural and Cultural History, from April 1999 through June 2000. From there, it traveled to the Museum of Art in Portland, Maine. E.A.R.T.H., the sixth annual COllaboratory museum exhibit, opened in April 2000 at the Bishop Museum.

Working with schools is nothing new for the Miami Museum of Science, a relatively small, but influential, hands-on science museum located in Miami, Florida. Their Technology Trainer Enhancement Center (TTEC, www.miamisci.org/www/ttec.html), which is funded by the Florida Department of Education, BellSouth, and the BellSouth Foundation, leverages technology to champion the museum's mission to promote science literacy and continued exploration by offering science education in an enjoyable and non-threatening environment.

The TTEC at the Museum of Science is best known for its focus on practical train-the-trainer offerings like Sailing the CyberSeas, a nautical-themed institute that prepares educators to conduct workshops on navigating the Web, conducting online research, exploring optical technologies, and creating teacher home pages for their peers. Blazing CyberTrails, an additional offering from the TTEC, is an institute designed to teach participants to help other teachers integrate technology into the curriculum. The institute includes links to Florida's Sunshine State Standards.

Recently, the TTEC was awarded a $5.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with matching funds from the Florida Department of Education, to manage FloridaLeaders.net (www.floridaleaders.net), a statewide technology leadership training program for principals and district superintendents. TTEC ic collaborating with the Florida Association of District School Superintendents and the South Florida Annenberg Challenge to ensure that they effectively provide leadership with the knowledge, skills, and tools that support widespread technology innovation and implementation in Florida. …

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