Distance Learning Technologies

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          As technology improves, so do the possibilities for educators.  Now teachers can showcase student work in actual museums and digitally see the results.  In fact, students in California can send their artwork to New York City museums for display.  They can then visit their work virtually, interact with curators and critique work in a digital space.  Does this sound impossible?  I will give you three ways to make this happen in your classroom.

                First, Museeo is a paid program that will help you create a stunning virtual tour.  This is marketed to museums, but simply sending an e-mail to the site will allow them to create a special pricing option for your institution.  This fee includes a virtual tour creation with 360° panoramic views, multimedia presentations and auto tours (Mellow, 2013).  The virtual tour includes hotspots and clickable exhibits.  Once the user clicks on the exhibits, the multimedia presentation appears for each exhibit.  Additionally, you are able to update the content quickly and easily (Mellow, 2013).  The visual appeal and engagement offered by this site makes it a fantastic first choice for this project (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012).  Museeo can be combined with Today’s Meet, which is a free online backchannel.  One of the difficulties of communicating with a curator is that they are only available for applications like Skype during a particular time.  Using a backchannel, students can ask questions and collaborate with the curator during their normal class time.  This means that the teacher can allow all classes to be part of this discussion and the curator can simply leave the page open on his/her device while performing other duties.  Students will receive timely feedback to their questions about the exhibits and the teacher can print a transcript of the entire conversation at the end of the day.  As D. Warlick explains, everyone learns.  The teacher, students and even the curator can formulate ideas and deepen their understanding of the pieces (Warlick, 2009).  One of the best features of this avenue is that it can be printed at the end of the session and stakeholders outside of the classroom can read the conversation (Warlick, 2009).  After the virtual tour and conversation with the curator, students can work together to critique two pieces of artwork.  The artwork can be uploaded to Voice Thread as a new discussion thread.  Then students, teachers and the curator can comment on the artwork and each other’s critiques.  The beauty of Voice Thread is the ability to integrate audio and text comments.  This way students are able to contribute in a way that makes them most comfortable.  Here is an example of artwork uploaded to Voice Thread, https://voicethread.com/share/175064/.  Once this has been done with the two pieces, comments can be made as demonstrated by this next example, https://voicethread.com/share/318023/

                If Museeo is too expensive, a free option to create a virtual museum for storage on your own servers is Google Sketchup.  I utilized this with my students to create a virtual wax museum.  You can create the three dimensional image of the museum and then import pictures and video into the museum.  We attached a PlayStation controller and walked through the museum as if it was a virtual tour.  The only drawback is the file is relatively large.  At the end of the virtual tour, students can communicate with the curators via Google Chat.  This allows up to ten people to communicate via video chat, so several classrooms can chat with the curator simultaneously.  Digital copies of the two pieces of artwork can then be uploaded into two separate Google Documents and students can critique them collaboratively.  This collaborative tool allows the students to discuss the artwork in real time and documents their thoughts.  Students can then organize this into one collaborative paper or other outcome.  As Google has become more prominent in education, they have strived to create collaborative environments that pay attention to CIPA and COPA laws regarding student identification.  This is a boon for an educator who is just beginning to utilize technology.  With an internet connection and an appropriate digital space, the virtual tour can be uploaded and accessed via any device.  The availability of these tools across different digital devices make them an ideal option (Simonson, et. al, 2012).

                For the more advanced technology user, I will recommend one of my new favorite tools created by MIT.  It is Aurasma.  This application can be utilized to create an augmented reality tour within the classroom or other environment.  Although this would not replicate the museum, replicas of the artwork can be hung as waypoints.  These waypoints can then be attached to flash animations, video chats, webpage explanations or other media that the instructor finds relevant.  Using this application, I would include a waypoint that links to the curator for a face-time chat.  I would also include waypoints that link to a blog for documenting ideas and criticisms of the artwork.  A blog is an opportunity for anyone to publish on the internet and access can be restricted to meet privacy regulations (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  Then I would take the students on a tour of our augmented reality museum at the school, including digital images of the artwork in its current museum setting.  Here is an example of a waypoint utilizing Aurasma, http://www.aurasma.com/campaigns#/working-mother

                All of these web 2.0 tools can engage the learner in an authentic learner centered environment (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  Each of these options allows the learner to interact with the material at his/her own rate.  It also allows learners to construct meaning socially, which is important for creating a deeper understanding of the course content (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  When learning objectives are clearly defined and technology infrastructure is understood, incorporating Web 2.0 tools can truly enhance the learning environment.

References

Easypano. (2013). Flash virtual tour. Retrieved from http://www.easypano.com/flash-virtual-tour.html

Mellow. (2013). Museeo: Virtual museum application. Retrieved from http://www.museeo.com/

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M. & Zvacek, S. (2012).  Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. Boston: MA.  Pearson.

Warlick, D. (2009, December 20). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=2088

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