The Digital Promise Must Include Virtual and Real-time Learning Places

I live near the Washington Mall, where there are so many museums and learning places. I am also a short distance from the National Geographic Building, the NEA building and the headquarters of so many teacher organizations. I worry about the people who do not have access to the resources that I have. Even in this area, there are people who have never been down to the mall or any building in the Smithsonian. The last classroom job I had was teaching a school full of immigrants. Some of them cried when I took them on a field trip to Washington, D.C. They had never, NEVER been there.

Of course, my principal was not that keen on “wasting” educational time to take students to other learning places. So one of the things that we can do with the digital promise is to at least introduce students to museums and learning places. The Exploratorium is a wonderful place to visit online. They promise a lot and deliver.

Then there is this. Most of my students will not visit the Sistine Chapel anytime in the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean they can’t explore the place. Even when you go, there is too much to take in without preparation. And reflection is needed. However, through the web, you can re-visit the chapel.

Bonnie with her students at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, learning about GIS and space photography.

A museum or learning place is lots of things that a classroom is not, and there are resources to touch, look at and be involved in. At the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, we could get pixellated to learn about how GIS (geographic information system) and space photography work (click the image above for more photos), or we could work in a weather station, use GPS to see the world in many ways and then go do an exhibit called The Power of Ten that is a math application. This was a summer camp group that I taught, and the museum allowed me to open their minds to so much.

My thoughts about thinking in the digital age are that there is so much that is graphic in nature, that is of the media, that is a kind of thinking that can be expansive, beyond the book, the teacher’s voice, and that is a combination of learning as described in Bloom’s digital taxonomy map (Andrew Churches, “Bloom’s Taxonomy Blooms Digitally,” Tech & Learning, 4.1.08). The idea of learning becomes expansive.

We could also use a more simplified set of ideas to probe thinking in the digital age, e.g., TPACK. Lisa Nielsen, in “Using TPACK As a Framework for Tech PD, Integration and Assessment,” says that “the TPACK model was created in response to the need to provide a framework around the important pieces of innovating learning with a focus on Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge. The overlap of these three components is where the 21st Century classroom is most powerful” (The Innovative Educator, 3.28.11). Also see Glen Bull and Lynn Bell’s “TPACK: A Framework for the CITE Journal” (Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9.1.09).

I feel like, as a GT teacher, I intuitively knew this. But it is nice to see it framed out. When people talk to me about “STEAM” I just laugh because this and Bloom put me in a Da Vinci State of Mind. (STEM used to be SMET, back in the day, and STEAM is the new acronym for STEM with the arts added in. It is not in Wikipedia or anything yet, last I looked, but STEAM is just a push to include the arts in STEM.) Museums have always done that to me. I used to skip church and hop a bus to the mall and look and learn and synch up with the real world of knowledge.

From the Museum of Women’s History (10.1.11) comes the thought that “there is consensus among experts that museums are inexorably — albeit slowly — moving into the brave new virtual world.” The reference is to an article by Jason Edward Kaufman, “Visiting the Museum? There’s an App for That” (Washington Post, 9.30.11). With this move, some types of online learning will be complete. However, I think that there will always be a need for some element of learning to be face to face, too.

One Response

  1. Bonnie has done a great job of making people aware of some excellent resources, so let me commend her for also leading the way you think about those resources. She didn’t talk about what GPS is, she talked about how it works. The Exploratorium is all about how things work. But let’s take a closer look at the Sistine Chapel. Let’s not focus on who painted it, what it is, when it was built, or where it is located. Instead, as Bonnie suggests, let’s focus on why and how it was built. Admit it, you can answer the first four questions, but you probably never thought about the how and why. The how reveals some remarkable STEM accomplishments for the era. The why leads to a deeper understanding of the existence of cathedrals all over Europe. On the STEM to STEAM issue, some STEM bigots push back and say we STEM people have a big enough challenge promoting STEM. Why should we help those Arts people? The answer is simple – they are us. The arts are all about creativity and innovation – thinking out of the box, trying new things, pushing the limits. So, once again, Thanks you Bonnie for your leadership and visionary thinking.

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