A day at the museum

I have always believed in the power of the network in education to provoke, support and connect. As a user of twitter I have built up a large network around me and now people I have connected with through that have become close colleagues who I talk to regularly about my practice. This year one of those connections I met on twitter using the #vicpln hashtag a few years back provided me with an opportunity to work closely with our local museums.

Throughout the year, our children have been inquiring into how our community curates and shares knowledge. After researching what is important knowledge, how it can be shared and the types of knowledge a community shares, the children have worked on creating their own museum exhibits for a museum at our school.

After connecting with Cam Hocking at Museum Victoria early in the year we were eager to bring the kids to the museum with a new experience of the school trip to the museum in mind. We didn’t want the experience to be anything they’d had at a museum before. Where they were told what rooms they can be in at a given time and with restrictions put in place because teachers are worried about what the museum staff an visitors would think. We wanted to see how the kids would experience the museum given the chance. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard at times to stand back and not look at my watch. But the kids were taken by what they were seeing. And they were considerate of the others using the museum. They didn’t need me to spend my time shushing them. In not being hung up on what others were thinking or what the kids should be doing, I was able to actually observe what they did. How they interacted with the artefacts. How quickly they moved from one to another. How they didn’t read anything, although much of the museum displays had writing. How they shared what they were seeing with each other and how they documented it with their cameras. The types of exhibits they were attracted to weren’t big or moving, but things they had a connection to. And surprisingly the dinosaurs, weren’t as exciting as the bugs!

But this was just part of the visit to the museum.  What we also wanted to achieve was a different experience for the kids. One were they were engaged and engulfed by the visit. What would it take for them to experience the museum on a deeper level? So after lunch we visited the museum wearing a researcher lens. Children entered with questions about the museum that would help them to build their own museum at school. How are the artefacts displayed? What do the artefacts have in common? What sizes are the artefacts? How wide are the walking paths? What senses are used for each of the displays. Why did they decide on that artefact? I took with me a bag full of tools they might need including measuring tapes, timers, paper, pencils and they all had cameras, iPads and a GoPro to use as well.

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You can probably guess what happened next. The kids spent longer at each of the exhibits. They didn’t rush. They questioned each other. They shared their learning. They interacted with the visitors at the museum. It was a completely different experience. And what the children came back with was a different lens in which to visit a museum. Not only was it a mysterious holder of knowledge but armed with the right questions, a day at the museum could be a researcher’s delight that could set the basis for developing our own museum and further strengthening our connections.

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As the inquiry continued we had many more great connections with the museum through twitter, hangouts with experts and visits from their team. As we built our own exhibits it was time to visit the museum again, this time with our own artefacts in hand.

With the ongoing relationship and connection we had with the museum we felt it was the perfect time to ask for a request; an activity room to create a School Museum Pop Up and some experts to give us some feedback. Wish granted, we jumped on a tram with arms full with boxes, ready to set up a pop up at the Melbourne Museum.

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It is not often you get to have such an authentic experience with real and purposeful feedback. The CEO of Museum Victoria dropped by, as did numerous experts within the museum; designers, curators, volunteers. All giving well considered feedback to the students who couldn’t get enough advice to make changes to their exhibits.  At the end of the day not one child was sad the experience was over as they headed back to school eager to make changes based on the feedback they had received.

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And that is not the end of it. This week the museum opened in full at school. Visitors from the community have been invited in between the hours of 10am – 2pm daily to visit, with some very animated tour guides showing them around. And it was not surprising to see some Museum Victoria staff in there eager to see the final product and get their hands on the exhibition booklet.

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….all from a connection that started on twitter and ended with the most amazing group of people from a museum, ready to support our learning every step of the way.

I am educator. I am me.

I have been thinking lately about how I conduct myself on social media.  After reading George Couros‘ blog post on Professional vs Private I reflected on my own use of social media.  I too have tended to separate my personal life which generally lives on Facebook and my professional life which predominantly lives in Twitter.  I don’t think I planned it this way but when I first started using Facebook I was travelling the world and wanted to share what I was doing to my antipodean family.  Twitter came a bit later and I was wearing my teaching hat when I fell into it.  Slowly, the lines between the two are starting to blend as my Twitter acquaintances become friends and my friends find Twitter.

I do believe that Facebook offers a false sense of security of privateness where as Twitter boldly puts everything into the public realm.  George stated that he is happy to have students follow him on Twitter as it is a completely public arena, whereas on Facebook he won’t ‘friend’ students.

I agree when he points out that although it is in the private section of Facebook we would be very naive to think it is always private.  It does make me wonder if Facebook too was as public as Twitter whether I would sepaprate the two as much.  Maybe I have learnt skills from Facebook that I use on Twitter?

Image: ‘Teaching the Toys
Found on flickrcc.net

I was recently given the advice that I need to draw a line between my professional life and personal life.  I took great offence to this. Education is personal to me.  Even as a young girl I would ‘play school’ with my Barbies, setting up my bedroom to look like my classroom and teaching them how to spell. And today it continues to invigorate me, comfort me, consume me.

I check twitter before I get out of bed in the morning.  I reply to emails or questions at the park on a Sunday. I walk past free postcards and I take a handful as they might come in handy for teaching writing one day. And I am not willing to draw a line between my personal and professional because it would tear me in half.

My  friends expect I am going to talk about learning over dinner  and my students get to know my friends through the stories I tell. I love that I can be there for people who care about the same things I do on Twitter and learn from them, the same as I do with friends I have grown up with.

Being an educator is who I am and I wouldn’t be whole without it.

 

First Time Twitterers!

Last week a friend had her first experience with Twitter.  It came late at night and after what I fear was an hour of yelling at the TV during Q&A!  So of course her first Twitter came with the hashtag #qanda.  The following night over dinner I couldn’t talk enough of how good Twitter has been for me.

Today I see her curiosity has got the better of her as she jumped onto Twitter once again.  Although I am sure she felt the same as I did when I first started – what do I do now?

I had heard so many people talk about how wonderful Twitter is for educators and I had an account for about a year before I started using it.  Now it is the first place I go to ask a question or share ideas.

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So where to start!

I first started by reading Sue Waters and Kathleen McGeady’s wiki and blog posts about twitter.  These are both great for Twitter newbies and this was where I really found out what Twitter was all about.

Here are my tips for First Time Twitterers:

Start Simple – I started by following some news outlets to get a feel for how Twitter works.  This is also an easy way to get updates of the news throughout the day. (It was through Twitter I was able to get the news straight to my classroom that Australia had its first female Prime Minister!)

Write a bio - You will have the opportunity to write a short bio about yourself in the profile section.  When I follow someone I always check the person’s bio to make sure they have a connection to education. And please add a photo or avatar.  The little default bird makes people think you don’t know how to put a picture on!  It also makes it easy to recognise your tweets.

Ask a question – you need to get yourself out there.  This is a great way to get responses from like minded people, especially if you use a hashtag that is relevant to you. If you know people on Twitter, get them to send a tweet to introduce you.

Use a hashtag –  A hashtag is the keyword that will allow people to search a specific subject. It will be a word with the # symbol in front of it (#hashtag).  You can also search for hashtags, which will help you to find like minded people.

Get yourself a desktop application –  I use Tweet Deck on my computer and Twitterific on my iPad.  Simply this is a place to organise your tweets and it keeps all of  your searches in the one spot.  Also if Twitter is blocked at your school this usually allows you to access it.

Build up your following list – A great way to start is to follow people from their blogs.  You will find as you start to add people they will also start to follow you, especially as you become more active.  This is how you build your personal learning network. You can add searches to your Twitter application and from here you can easily find people who are tweeting the same things as you.

In Australia, for Victorian teachers, you can search the hashtag #Vicpln and #Ultranet to find teachers.  You can also check out this site for a list of education hashtags across the world,  Education Hashtags. For Victorian tweeters there is also a list of DEECD teachers who use twitter.

Look for Twitter Buttons – You will see many different buttons on blogs and webpages.  This is an easy way to start follwing someone. Or if you have a blog put a button on yours. You will probably find many of your favourite sites have Twitter accounts.


Get Twitter Buttons

Safety First – always remember that your tweets are out there for all to see.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking your handle doesn’t give your identity away.  Your name will appear next to it!  If you want something to remain between you and the person you are sending it to, write a direct message.

What are your experiences of using Twitter?

Leave a comment to add any tips you have.