Thursday, May 14, 2009

Awakening Curiosity

"The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of the young mind for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards." (Anatole France)


Perhaps it's because I'm heading to the NECC in June, or maybe I just have a little time on my hands having put my first course is behind me, but this weekend I've been virtual touring.

Of course because the conference is in Washington, my first stop was the Smithsonian website. This is the launching point from which you can access the 19 individual museums and the teachers' area, sign up for their free monthly e-newsletter, and look at current exhibitions.

There is a wonderful panorama tour of the rooms in the Natural History Museum. The file is large and takes a while to load, but it's worth the wait because it mimics what it's like to walk around inside the museum beginning at the Rotunda.

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(Video Source: Loren Ybarrondo: Smithsonsian Panoramic Virtual Tour of the National Museum of Natural History, 2009)

There are arrows on the floor that link to themed rooms such as the Ocean Diversity, Ancient Seas, and Dinosaurs. Except for the fact that the print on the display panels doesn't resolve when you zoom in, this is a great way to see the wonders there if you live far away or doing some trip pre-planning.

The companion site -- The Virtual Smithsonian Museum (high bandwidth) -- looks like it provides an even more realistic version of this tour. However, although my computer passed all the First Time Visitor tests, at the time of writing I couldn't past the Rotunda for a closer look at the the individual galleries. [Note: an email from the people at Smithsonian Channel indicates that full functionality is not available in Canada.] There is a static low bandwidth version available as well.

Here's a list of additional Smithsonian sites for you to peruse:
  • History Wired: a few of our favorite things -- "With less than five percent of our vast and diverse collection on public display in our exhibit halls, we hope that Web sites like this will bring many more of our treasures into public view. The initial 450 objects, selected by curators from across the Museum, include famous, unusual, and everyday items with interesting stories to tell."
  • The Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum -- "The Smithsonian Latino Center . . . [is] an avatar-based 3D virtual learning environment whose unique navigational features will provide access to the vast and rich collections, research and scholarship, exhibitions and educational activities of the Smithsonian Institution as they relate to U.S. Latinos and Latin America." (You'll need to download Second Life for this one.)
  • Online Conferences & Virtual Exhibits -- "Have you ever wanted to meet one of the Smithsonian’s curators? Or wished you could ask a question of one of our researchers? The Smithsonian series of Online Education Conferences will let you do just that." The February conference was about Lincoln. The sessions have been archived.


Next I headed to Exploratorium in California. The inserted panel shows the latest exhibits.


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There is an incredible range of topics here, but some of the linked pages (such as Climate Change - atmosphere) look a little crowded and hard to follow. There's also a big reliance on text material. I love their Ten Cool Sites -- the best from their archives about science, art, and education.

But my favourite part of their website is a new public archive of nearly 600 videos on subjects ranging from teacher tips (which can be downloaded) to yoyos.




I was presenting at an e-learning conference here in BC about 2 weeks ago and met the people from Virtual Museum Canada. They were offering an i-Pod as a giveaway, but I'd have stayed to watch their demonstration regardless. It looks like a winner. They're even willing to do webinars to introduce groups of educators to how to use this great website.

"The Virtual Museum of Canada celebrates the stories and treasures that have come to define Canada over the centuries. Here you will find innovative multimedia content that educates, inspires and fascinates! " They've linked museums (historical and scientific) all over Canada and made it possible to create and share lessons with archived material right on their site. You enter by one of 7 portals.

In the Teachers' Center you can find, create, store, or share lessons. You can type up an overview, add a linked object you found in any museum, add some questions and more objects. You can create your own wiki, blog and message board to communicate with students. Students can use any of these resources for their own projects.



After all my touring, I got to wondering how to access other great resources like this and came across the Virtual Library Museum Pages with links to museums all over the world.
Finally I found a wiki for a course given in 2008 about using museum resources with students. If you click on the individual students, you'll see the lesson plans and project ideas created by the participants and ways they thought of incorporating Web 2.0 tools.


Happy trails!


(Video Source: curleyb3 in Youtube posted 19 Nov. 2009)

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