Beyond the PDF: Exhibition and Collection Learning Resources
The MCA have taken some time over the past 18 months to focus on what the museum offers in terms of learning resources. The Learning team spent time on their structure, presentation and delivery as well as thinking about who might use them and in particular taking into account how classrooms seem to be changing.
The term ‘blended learning’ refers to an approach in the classroom where students may have access to connected devices and their learning incorporates an online component with a degree of independent learning. It’s an approach more and more schools are implementing, and while not ubiquitous it does seem to be an essential ingredient in the future of education.
In the past resources were provided in the form of PDFs or PowerPoint files and these have included interpretive information and images as well as classroom activities. How might a PDF or PowerPoint file function in a circumstance where each student has access to a device? Would each student access their own copy and if so were they written with a student reader in mind?
The team also researched what different teachers are looking for in a resource. Feedback from our teachers council suggested that there are a broad range of approaches, some teachers are happy to utilise a series of entire class plans while others are only looking for segments and ideas that they can synthesise back into their own pedagogy.
And finally, the longevity of these materials was carefully considered– given the significant resources involved in the development – were there changes that could be made to ensure the ongoing relevance of the resource well beyond the length of the exhibition?
These inquiries have led to the implementation of a new, modular approach where an exhibition, artist or theme is supported by a set of resources that each exist as individual entities online and can be utilised individually or in groupings as part of a variety of class plans. PDFs and PowerPoints can still be downloaded but all information can also be accessed directly from the MCA website.
Resources are written in a neutral voice that can speak to both teachers and students directly and we’re using a tagging system, all the resources are situated in a large pool where a teacher can filter on intended age, medium, or exhibition to incorporate them as needed.
A range of materials such as images, sound and video interviews and documentation are created to support exhibitions to a broad public. Rather than double up on these materials the new approach encourages students and teachers to make use of existing resources including engaging with the MCA online collection.
In the past resources were brief, perhaps only a sentence or two. Now each activity is supported by step by step instructions and concludes with a reflection phase encouraging students and teachers to digest and discuss ideas developed and encountered through the activity. The result is probably much smaller in terms of word count than previous resources but we’re hoping these materials make their way into more classrooms because of the detail and flexibility they offer.
It’s early days and the team intend to keep refining the model and adding new content regularly. The team would love to know how they’re doing, if you have any feedback get in touch.