Modern Museums Using Virtual Realities & Accessible Technologies For ALL Learners!

Babylonian Museum, 500BC

Babylonian Museum, 500BC

RE@L welcomes Guest Blogger Dolly Santos to our growing list of contributors on cutting-edge EdTech topics. Dolly blogs regularly on her site: DollyMath.com, with useful tips and current information for teachers, kids and parents.

Dolly picked a topic dear to our RE@L heart: EdTech Resources for K12 that focus on the latest technologies. Technology makes our many museums more accessible without our actually being there. These new devices use what’s called Virtual Reality. Many educators see great potential for K12.

Museums have been repositories for useful knowledge since artifacts were first created by those who came before us. What we discover anew today is based on what was discovered and archived in the past.

RE@L thanks Dolly Santos for bringing virtual reality to the attention of our RE@L Blog readers. Here are Ms. Santos’ thoughts on these new Virtual Reality technologies, and the help they bring to ALL learners:

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“Museums are a centuries-old method for preserving and displaying information about the world around us. (Click on the graphics or links in this blog to learn more). Dinosaur bones, ancient pottery, and artifacts educate us on unique local histories. These museum collections are informative and available to the public, thanks to the tireless efforts of many museums and their highly-trained staffs.

“As we learn more about education and the human mind, an increasing number of museums are recognizing that not everyone can learn from an exhibit sign. Language barriers, disabilities, and differing learning styles all are potential information blocks for museum guests. Fortunately, modern innovation has allowed museums to alter the way they educate the public.

“Here are just a few of the ways museums are using technology to make their collections more accessible:

1.   Self-Guided Tours:

virtualmuseum1“With the rapid spread of smartphones, many people have access to thousands of unique mobile apps. Many museums now are offering self-guided tours using free apps that can be downloaded directly to your phone. The “apps” link here will take you to a tour of the American Museuem of Natural History. “Virtual tours” can:

  • lead you on the best route in the museum to ensure you don’t miss anything;
  • verbalize the information for people who struggle with vision or word comprehension;
  • offer exclusive background information for people who want to know more about the exhibits.

“Click on the graphic to the right for more information on: “Accessibility and New Technology in the Museum,” – photo courtesy of A&MI.

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“Some apps also provide extra resource activities such as quizzes, scavenger hunts, or other stimulating games for children and kinesthetic learners. This type of active learning works to keep museum guests engaged and can be perfect for someone who has difficulty focusing when learning.

2.   Virtual Tours:

virttours“Large-scale museums are beginning to create and publish online virtual tours of their exhibits. 45 Museums here have virtual tour links. Some of these virtual visits are conducted through apps, while others can be found on the museums’ websites.

“These virtual tours can be especially useful for students who cannot attend a field trip as a result of illness or disability. Schools with limited field trip budges use them, as well. Rather than being left out, these students can engage in discussions about the exhibits thanks to the virtual tour they were able to take from their homes or classrooms. This innovation makes all the difference to people who otherwise would be unable to visit the museums.

3.   Customizable Exhibits:

virtmuseums“For many people with disabilities, the standard museum exhibit can pose challenges:

  •    •   Perhaps the font on the signs is too small to read or the chosen font style aggravates a dyslexia issue.
  •    •   Some people may struggle with crowds or excessive noise.
  •    •   Others may need a slower audio rendition of the exhibit information.

“To remedy all of these potential blocks to accessibility, museums have begun developing a customizable museum experience. Exhibits feature interfaces on which visitors can select options like font type and size, audio, volume, etc., to make gathering information easier. While these technological advances still are in the works for some locations, other museums already have implemented interface systems for their guests, such as those shown in this link.

classroom_smiles“Beyond technology, museums have continued to work on more visitors being able to learn from their exhibits. Hands-on learning, films, workshops, special events, and other extra activities already are commonplace in most museums. These technology enhancements help learners of all kinds enjoy all of the offerings at museums.

“While these supplemental activities certainly are helpful to all guests, technological advances especially aid people with disabilities. Though accessibility is not yet a standard in all museums, it is a work in progress in the vast majority of them. There will be more help coming to those museum visitors who need it.”

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RE@L thanks Dolly Santos for an overview of this new and helpful museum access phenomenon. We hope you enjoyed the virtual tool link she cited as much as we did. We keep clicking on this link for new sites and tours. As the website says, “They never close,” and the virtual visitors can stay as long as they like!

We see the potential of these new Tech-Tools, too. Virtual Reality is the next best thing to being there without going there. That’s one reason why RE@L is exploring affiliations with museums, like The Strong, that feature learning technologies. Last spring, The Strong Museum selected “Oregon Trail™ software as a Hall of Fame product to be featured in their museum in Rochester, NY. Here’s the link to our RE@L Blog on that topic. Oregon Trail was created by MECC back in the 70′s by a team of creative software designers, several of whom are now a major part of Team RE@L. Here’s a link to The Strong Museum site, where you will find information on thousands of game artifacts in addition to Oregon Trail.

RE@L has several new products in various stages of development which bring the same kind of innovation, effectiveness and broad resources that Oregon Trail and 300+ other MECC products did many years ago. We at RE@L see Museums of the future as partners in extending the “reach” of our products to learners everywhere. Museums show us how new artifacts and ideas build on old ones. Whether in school, at a museum, or at home, these new virtual reality tools  can “virtually transport” the learner to the museum displays.

In today’s RE@L world, the right learning resources can be brought directly to the needs of each visitor and make learning far more accessibleFurthermore, it takes Social Media to a new level. We at RE@L like to think of these new tools as the “Cooperative Media,” where each of us can learn with all of us. More powerfully, teachers and students can create our own Virtual Museums to share and show others what we have learned.

What a virtual world we learn in today!

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Please email your ideas, suggestions, comments or questions to:  comments@realexperiencesatlife.com

Click on the our RE@L Blue Globe below for more information on RE@L:

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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.