“Gamifying Museums Pt 2. – Aardman and The American Museum of Natural History on the Dos and Don’ts”

Blooloop is an online resource for “professionals working in the visitor attractions sector.” They have recently been exploring games and museums, with the second half of their latest post focusing on our work at AMNH. For the full article please go here, or read on to explore our work with Minecraft, MicroRangers, Playing with Dinos, and more.

In Gamifying Museums Pt 1 we looked at how Minecraft and Gamification are enabling museums to reach out to new audiences. In Part 2 we ask two key players, Aardman and New York’s American Museum of Natural History, if gamification automatically makes a museum more engaging?

The American Museum of Natural History

Barry Joseph (right), a keen exponent of Minecraft, is Associate Director For Digital Learning at the American Museum of Natural History.

Barry Joseph Associate Director For Digital Learning at the American Museum of Natural History AMNH
Barry Joseph

He was a speaker at the recent Minefaire in Philadelphia which he attended with his ten-year-old son. His talk was entitled, ‘Growing Up Minecraft: A Father and Son explore six years of living (and learning) in Minecraft’.

“We were largely focused on the types of learning my son has experienced outside of any classroom for the past 6 years, as he’s been engaged in Minecraft and Minecraft associated activities, ” explains Joseph.  “He has explored the twenty-first century through his self-directed engagement, which reflects the kind of learning that we wanted to build in a learning institution like ours.

“I spoke in part about how, when he was younger, his learning was about problem solving, and designing in a 3-D space. When he was older, it was leadership skills, civic values; he was developing e-commerce abilities. He was also learning transmedia navigation – how to move through different media.”

New Ways of Learning

“I’m coming from the perspective of having seen my son be involved for six years in one type of game engagement. I’ve seen how it has changed what he expects learning to look like. So, for us at the museum, we’re aware that young people growing up in the digital age have new ways of learning.

“Now, the game itself and the game process has become sophisticated enough to be able to teach the player how to play within the world of the game itself. And, so, young people are in these learning systems where failure is not bad: it’s how you learn. You develop grit by trying things again and again with slight modifications, until you learn to develop mastery around something.

“The games are able to create zones of proximal learning, where it’s like Goldilocks: ‘It’sAMNH american museum of natural history logo (1) not too hot, it’s not too cold…’ It’s not too hard that you feel overwhelmed; it’s not too easy that you feel bored, but it keeps you in that zone between, where you’re constantly engaged by learning.

“And, that’s one of the great opportunities for us, as a learning institution.”

What Joseph has observed is that games are played not necessarily because they’re fun, but because they’re engaging.

“The thing that’s engaging about them is when the player is being challenged to learn, ” he says. “Young people are experiencing more and more that excitement of being able to self-direct their own learning experience. That’s an incredible opportunity.”

explorer app amnh phone
Explorer app, AMNH

Promoting a Personal Connection

When many museums were founded in the 19th century, it was believed that just looking at a significant object was enough to make the viewer more cultured. The object would communicate everything valuable and meaningful about itself.

“Now, we’re in a new space where we’ve learned a lot and we’ve got time to learn, ” he says. “We come from a more constructivist perspective where we understand that the object itself is just part of a larger system of learning.

“So, being museum professionals, we’re not only responsible for protecting and providing people access to these incredibly important objects that are valuable to humanity, but providing people with the right means and knowledge to develop a personal connection with the object and what it represents.

“In that context, games, and not just games but play, become just another tool in our toolkit.”Read More →

My interview with the author of The Learning Affordances of Augmented Reality For Museum Exhibits on Human Health

Below is a re-blog of my most recent post on DMLcentral, an interview with Camillia Matuk. Read it at its original location, or check it out below.

Augmented Reality and Learning in Museums

When I read Camillia Matuk’s The Learning Affordances of Augmented Reality For Museum Exhibits on Human Health, I knew I wanted to speak with her about AR and learning. Camillia is assistant professor of educational communication and technology at New York University (with a Ph.D. in the learning sciences from Northwestern University, an MSc in biomedical communications from the University of Toronto, and a BSc in biological sciences from the University of Windsor.) She does design-based research investigations to better understand how innovative technologies and learning environments can better support teaching and learning.

Q: Camillia, thank you for joining us in discussion. What came first? An interest in learning, augmented reality or museums?

I’d say it was first my interest in museums, then in learning, and, much later, in augmented reality.

Museums were always a favorite pastime growing up, and were partially responsible for the interest I eventually developed in visualizing science. Although I eventually left the field, my four years as a medical illustrator studying at the University of Toronto and then working at INVIVO made a big impact on me. Still, it was only when I left that field and delved into research did learning come to the fore as a topic of study. As a Ph.D. student, I researched how people made sense of science from visual representations, like the cartoons of evolution that were on display at the Field Museum of Natural History. Later as a postdoc, I studied the role of technology in supporting K-12 classroom science inquiry.

Now, I’m at the Media and Games Network at NYU, and surrounded by people who are creating, studying, and playing with new technologies, including augmented reality. With my research focus on learning technologies, and my background in visualization, an interest in augmented reality was natural.

Q: How did this lead you to your recently published study, “The Learning Affordances of Augmented Reality For Museum Exhibits on Human Health?”

I had begun a project with a neuroscientist and NYU Ph.D. candidate, Oliver Vikbladh, to create an immersive experience of how the brain creates memories of space. The idea was to bring to life Nobel prize-winning research on the brain’s positioning system by allowing people to explore visualizations of place cell activation as they navigated a physical environment.

With Andre Fenton, Ken Perlin, and Jan Plass, we had won a University Research Challenge Grant from NYU to kick start the idea. With artists and former NYU graduates, Adrian Sas and Javier Molina, and with two NYU digital media students, LaJune McMillian and Mahe Dewan, we created a virtual reality experience that was exhibited at Creative Tech Week in 2016.

At the beginning of this project, we considered many different potential technologies. Although we eventually settled on virtual reality, augmented reality was high on our list.

Around this same time, Judy Diamond, a professor and curator at the University of Nebraska State Museum, was putting together a special issue of Museums & Social Issues, all about the ways that museums are taking on the challenge of educating the public about the dynamic and sometimes controversial issues surrounding human health and medicine. Her invitation to contribute to this issue sparked the idea for this article.

Q: What were some of your key findings?

Well, I found a lot of activity by various groups developing AR technologies, and examples of its applications in diverse settings, such as tourism and advertising, cultural heritage museums, K-12 science education, construction, and space navigation. Some of the empirical studies I found on AR in education reported its value in engaging and holding learners’ attention, and also in enhancing their conceptual understanding and collaboration. But these were exceptions. In all, there was limited systematic research to be found on how people learn from AR.

So, the paper argues that AR is well suited for communicating science, particularly topics in human health. It explains and illustrates its potential affordances, based on research in the learning sciences. These affordances included its ability to represent relationships in space, time, and context, which are critical for understanding, for example, anatomic structures and molecular processes; its ability to immerse learners in interactive narratives, which can help to keep the human element of health and medicine at the forefront of a learning experience; and its abilities to personalize learners’ experiences and to support them in learning from others, which are generally beneficial for learning.

Q: What do you think are some of the most important unanswered questions regarding AR and learning? Or, conversely, what do you think are some of the most promising findings that are just waiting to be fully-realized in a big way?

This is such a big question, because AR is a relatively new technology to education, and research on AR in educational settings is only just beginning. So, I want to say that all questions about AR and learning are important and unanswered! One review I came across called AR “a solution looking for a problem” (Dunleavy & Dede, 2014, p. 743), which I think is so appropriate.

We do know that people get really excited about it. Most studies find that learners report increased motivation and positive attitudes, which are important for learning. But when the novelty wears off and AR becomes as common as web-based video, it would help to have research-backed principles for using it effectively.

For example, how do we use AR as a conceptual scaffold — to give timely and targeted guidance and feedback — without cognitively overloading learners? How might we best take advantage of its location and user-awareness capabilities to personalize learning experiences across various domains and contexts, and for different learners? What are effective patterns for coordinating interactions between collaborators and the digital and physical materials that they work and play with? Building up examples and documenting lessons learned will give designers and educators ideas, resources and guidance for integrating AR into classrooms, museums and game-based learning experiences.

I’m looking forward to new technological developments that may overcome the usability issues with AR, namely, the difficulty with tracking and image processing that can cause AR information to jump around and not stay superimposed where it’s supposed to. Bacca et al. (2014) discuss this in their review as a cause of frustration for learners.

I’m also looking forward to how these developments might improve AR as an expressive tool for designers to create even richer interactive narratives, and for learners, who might learn through creating their own AR experiences.

Ultimately, I’m eager to see how research on AR in education might transform our ideas about learning in situated, authentic contexts.

Using Escape Rooms to Gamify Learning: an interview with Breakout EDU

Below is a re-post from my latest column on DMLcentral. Read it here or check it out below:

Using Escape Rooms to Gamify Learning


Escape Rooms first came to America in 2012-2013 from Asia and Europe, quickly spreading across the country. As defined by Professor Scott Nicholson, “escape rooms are live action team based games where players discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one or more rooms in order to accomplish a specific goal (usually escaping from the room) in a limited amount of time.” It should come as little surprise, but before long, innovative educators were adapting the escape room format for a wide-range of content.

minecraft-escape-roomLast year, at Minefaire, I met Adam Bellow. Adam was honored by ISTE in 2011 as Outstanding Young Educator of the Year. He founded both eduTecher and eduClipper. At Minefaire, however, Adam was doing something new: running a Minecraft-themed escape room, promoting his growing company Breakout EDU. Supporting educators to bring escape rooms into learning settings, Breakout EDU offers kits and curriculum for an emerging community of games-based learning educators.

Before long, we developed a program at my day job (the American Museum of Natural History)  to work with youth to create a prototype for an escape room, with an astro theme, using mixed reality (a Microsoft Hololens). Between advising sessions, Adam and I sat down to talk about the history of escape rooms, education and digital learning.

Adam, for the uninitiated, just what is an escape room?

Escape rooms are physical spaces that started popping up around the world about a decade ago where small groups of people (usually 4-10) get locked into a room and are challenged to solve a series of puzzles in order to escape. While the theme of the room and the particular scenarios vary drastically, from things like “Escape the Zombie Hospital” to “Escape the Prison,” there are usually a few key similarities between all the games.

In most games, the players have a 60-minute time limit to escape. Players are encouraged to collaborate and work as a team — even if the group is made of strangers. Players are watched by a facilitator (usually on closed circuit TV systems) and can make use of a limited number of hints when needed. These rooms have become quite popular and can be found in most major cities around the world.

I went to my first escape room a year and a half ago with some friends. It was a blast but I couldn’t see how the puzzles might work in a museum context. A few months later, at the Games, Learning and Society Conference, I experienced a version of a room that had been developed by Scott Nicholson, at a historic fort in upstate New York. This time, the puzzles had historical resonance, connected to the history of the fort, and the way soldiers in the revolutionary war had used cryptography. Hazzah! Escape rooms could be used for public education. When did you first come across escape rooms, and when did you realize they had educational potential?

Scott is a great guy and has been a big fan of Breakout EDU.

His White Paper on escape rooms is invaluable and a great place for anyone to start.

He actually just won an award for his Breakout EDU game, “Ballot Box Bumble.”

I personally found out about escape rooms the week after my friend and co-founder of Breakout EDU, James Sanders, went to one. He was telling me about how he had gone to an escape room with some educators and students. He had never seen students work so hard to solve really difficult problems in the classroom and wanted to harness that excitement and level of grit to be part of the school day. That is when Breakout EDU was born.

James told me about the idea and I have to admit that I had my doubts. But, they were all removed when I had the privilege of having my first experience of an escape room as a player of the very first Breakout EDU experiment — where there was a locked bag and teachers had to solve a series of complex puzzles in order to break into the bag. Over the following few months, James and his friend Mark Hammons helped to codify the idea and the rest is history. It was clear from the first minute of the game that this was lightning in the bottle. I was immediately on fire with ideas on how this platform in the hands of educators and students would help to change education.

So what is Breakout EDU? How is it helping educators teach content?

Over the next several months, the idea of creating a Breakout EDU box was solidified, a physical kit that could be locked with numerous and different kinds of locks relating to academic puzzles. We began creating and selling these kits in addition to developing an online platform where we could host (and allow others to create and host) games using the materials that we were selling. What started with a small handful of games has grown into a wide-ranging online library of educator-created and shared games that work with the Breakout EDU kit. There are games for all ages and targeting all subject levels. If there isn’t a game that is perfect for your classroom, then the option is always there to use our templates to create one that is and we love to see those games shared back to the community of educators on the site.

Let’s explore the intersection of escape rooms and digital learning. Where do you see the two come together?

Almost all of the Breakout EDU games have both physical and digital elements. Whether it is using the black light to illuminate coordinates that can be researched on the Internet or using automated forms and digital puzzle elements that work in tandem with the real world. We recently launched a series of computer science games that focus on coding problem solving skills. The future is bright for more higher tech puzzle elements. For example, we love games like “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” that engage players in VR and the real world at the same time.

The idea of incorporating elements like blended reality into escape rooms and Breakout EDU is something that we are starting to see and experiment more with. Like all other game elements, when done well, it enhances the experience for the players.

How to Design a Youth Space With Youth: an interview with the Shedd Aquarium’s Wade Berger

This is my third and final interview in a series exploring learning labs in Chicago Museums (the first focused on The Field Museum and the second on the Art Institute of Chicago). In this edition I interviewed Wade Berger, in Spring of 2015, who manages the Teen learning Lab at the Shedd Aquarium. Back in 2013 I spoke with Wade about their use of Minecraft (The Shedd Aquarium, Minecraft, and Virtual Piranha); now we chat about the teen space he runs and how museums can be places for teens to both hang out and geek out on science.

Hi Wade. So please tell us, where exactly would one find the Teen Learning Lab within the Shedd Aquarium.

Well, we actually have an Aquatic Education Center, which is a space underneath our galleries in the aquarium.

So this particular room we are in right now, what is it called?

It’s a Teen Learning Lab. This space was designed by teens for teens. Its a free space to make new friends, work on projects and explore careers in aquatic science.

What do the old style classrooms look like, which I see are still in use down the hall?

Those are like your more traditional spaces which we have for our school field trips and our registered programs; this space is designed to be a drop-in space – teens can just show up, they don’t have to tell us they are coming in ahead of time, and we offer after school hours, weekend hours and summer hours.

Traditional Classroom at the Shedd Aquarium

What is something people might notice when they first walk in, something that they might not be expecting?

The colors, the furniture, all of these things are really non-traditional for a classroom, and they are picked out by teens. We had teens that went through style guides and went through catalogs and picked out the furniture, picked out the color schemes, picked out the technology as well. And they also helped us lay out the room – we had the teens come in and help us move stuff around.  So it’s bright, and colorful. We have teen projects all over the places, including several wall-mounted murals–which our teens designed with the help of our exhibit fabrication team.

Teen Learning Lab at the Shedd Aquarium

What’s also awesome about this space is the amount of technology that we have, including traditional pieces of technology used in aquatic sciences or marine biology and even a 3D printer. We also have Google Glass and other cutting edge technologies, such as high-end Macs, video-editing software,  and podcasting equipment that we allow teens to use for their projects.

And how does the institution set learning goals and how do you adapt them here?

We have a group of Read More →

Skin in the Game: evaluating augmented reality in the Smithsonian Bone Hall

Last month at the annual AAM conference, this year in D.C., I had the pleasure to present on the use of augmented reality in museums with Diana Marques, who spoke about her research developing an app for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of National History, which put skins and movement on static bones exhibited in the halls, and explored the theoretical underpinnings of her research and app design. Afterwards, I grabbed her for a few minutes so she could share it as well with all of you.

Hi Diana. Welcome to Mooshme. Please introduce yourself.

My name is Diana Marques. My background is in biology. I did a graduate degree in Scientific Illustration, so I combined science with art, which is truly my passion, communicating the messages of science through animation and through illustration.

And you’re working towards a new degree?

I’m getting a PhD now, in Digital Media. The program is a collaboration between the University of Porto, in Portugal, and the University of Texas in Austin.  So, it’s a part Portuguese, part American program, and the research takes place at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, here in D.C.

Is there a particular hall that you focused on for your research at NMNH?

I worked on The Bone Hall which is a skeleton exhibition at the museum.  It has close to 300 mounted skeletons, it’s the oldest exhibition at the Smithsonian.  Actually, of some of the skeletons that are there on display, we have pictures in the 19th century, even before the Natural History Museum building was constructed.

So, this exhibit has had different iterations and the current design is from the ’60s.  The trigger to create this mobile app that is part of my PhD was to bring a new life to the exhibit, because we knew that it wasn’t meeting modern audiences’ expectations anymore.  You read the labels, they’re very specific; they are full of scientific terminology that’s just obscure.  So people were definitely having a great aesthetic experience – you see very large skeletons, very small skeletons, you take great pictures –  but the concepts of the exhibit were not carrying across.Read More →

Spider Goats, Sea Monkeys, and GMO Corn: a Museum of Modified Things – an interview

Photo credit to Stephanie Stasburg

In March, 2015, I read in National Geographic about a new small museum in Pennsylvania. Working at the American Museum of Natural History, I couldn’t help but jump up and take notice of their name: the Center for PostNatural History. Huh? What is PostNatural History? A few months later I found myself in their hometown of Pittsburgh for a gaming conference, and worked with the couple who run it, Richard Pell and Lauren Allen, to both give a public talk (on the Science of Seltzer) and interview them for Mooshme. We talked about Sea Monkeys, genetically engineered goats, and whether we think dogs were a good idea. I asked: what IS PostNatural History anyway, why does it need a museum, and how did they end up becoming the ones to launch the first?

Hi Richard and Lauren.

Lauren:  Hi.

Richard:  Hi Barry.

So where are we sitting right now?

Richard:  Well you’re in our kitchen, here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Which happens to be located directly above this museum, that we run here in town, called the Center for PostNatural History.

All right, hold on a second. That is a really interesting name for a museum.  So let’s break that down.  Why is it a “center”?

Richard:  Well, it’s a center because I felt like the bar was a little bit lower than a museum and we are just getting started here.

Fair enough.  And obviously there is a reference to natural history museums.  So what makes it a PostNatural museum?

Richard:  Basically we pick up where natural history museums leave off.

One of the things that I noticed in just traveling and looking at natural history museums, which I love, is that they almost all exclude life forms that have been shaped by human culture.  So domesticated life forms, for certain, but laboratory organisms, genetically modified organisms.  Pretty much really anything from domestication of dogs through agriculture rarely appear in natural history museums.

So we just decided to shine a light just on that, by picking up where they leave off, and create the PostNatural History Museum.

When did this all begin?

Richard:  I got started with this maybe nine years ago.  I learnt about a field that was just getting started called synthetic biology, which is kind of just a form of genetic engineering. It really surprised me becauseRead More →

Coverage in Vice’s Motherboard: “How Games Are Changing the Museum Experience”

We’re appreciative of Becky Ferreira‘s recent coverage in Vice’s Motherboard of a variety of efforts around AMNH to explore how games can enhance the visitor experience – from exhibit-based interactives (Flap Like a Pterosaurs), Hall-based games (MicroRangers), to tabletop gaming (Gutsy). I hope coverage like this helps advance the dialogue around the intersection of museums and games-based learning. Check the full piece out here (How Games Are Changing the Museum Experience) or read it in full below.

How Games Are Changing the Museum Experience

Museums have always aimed to engage their visitors with the spectacle of their displays, be they works of art, fossils, or historical artifacts. Increasingly, this has resulted in numerous efforts to integrate an interactive, game-based dimension into the museum experience, as opposed to relying on more passive observation of collections. Using multiple platforms like augmented reality, tabletop games, or digital displays, curators and designers are hoping to immerse people more deeply in their exhibitions, and to push the limits of what it means to take a trip to the museum.

“For a number of years now we’ve been exploring what it might mean for museums to employ games and play as a way to increase visitor motivation,” Barry Joseph, associate director of digital learning at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), told me over the phone. “We want to offer something to people that makes them want to leave their home, come to the museum, and experience something and it also gives them an opportunity to not only appreciate, but actually connect with the objects themselves.”

Take, for instance, the mobile game MicroRangers, which debuted at the AMNH last December.Read More →

10 minutes on my 15 years designing games in learning settings

Matt Farber and Steve Isaacs recently interviewed me for their podcast on games-based learning. “Our guest introduces us to some of the fundamentals of how games can be used to effectively engage students and drive learning.”

I talk about my history developing games within learning environments, such as recent games like Gutsy and MicroRangers.

How Museums Prepare for the Arrival of the Future: an Interview with Elizabeth Merritt from the Center for the Future of Museums

How do museums prepare for the arrival of the future, positioning themselves to be leaders in the learning ecology of tomorrow? For my DMLcentral column, I spoke with one person who keeps an eye on that horizon — Elizabeth Merritt — from the Center for the Future of Museums. We spoke about augmented reality, digital badges and how museums can become a transformative force in education.

Welcome, Elizabeth. Please introduce yourself.

Merritt with Della

Elizabeth Merritt

I’m Elizabeth Merritt, vice president for strategic foresight and founding director of the Center for the Future of Museums at the American Alliance of Museums.

That’s a lot of interesting phrases! Please break it down.

Well, second part first. In about 2008, I launched the Center for the Future of Museums at the American Alliance of Museums. This was one of the new initiatives started in the honor of AAM’s 100th Anniversary, which was in 2006. The board wanted some ideas for ways the association could lead museums in the 21st century. The staff came back and said that’s kind of hard if you don’t know what the 21st century is going to be like. One of the ideas that the board decided to approve was to have a think tank inside the association that’s trying to do trends forecasting. So, that’s the founding director part.

And, then, more recently just at the end of last year, I got promoted to vice president for strategic foresight, which is a title I totally made up.

Congratulations, and well done.

Yes, thank you. I like making up weird titles because then you get to tell people what’s involved in doing that job.

In the case of “VP, strategic foresight,” my thought is that one of the fringe benefits of doing future thinking should be learning how change affects the environment that associations are working in, and then applying it to AAM’s business decisions.

So, where does digital learning fit into the landscape?

Well, it’s huge because one of the major issues that we’ve identified in our work is the potentially transformative role museums will play in 21st century education as we transition away from what many people are tagging as a moribund era of education, one that’s based on all sorts of loaded assumptions about how kids learn, what they should be learning and why they’re learning.

To me, there’s the question of impact. If you accept that there’s maybe 25,000 to 35,000 museums in the U.S., how deep an impact can they really have on all of the kids who need a good learning experience? And, there are two ways you can get that impact.

There’s the face-to-face, place-based impact, whether it’s in the museum or the museum taking some of its resources out in the environment. And, then, there’s purely digital engagement. And, when you try and figure out how to scale enough so that any learner in the U.S. could have significant access to museum resources, digital plays a key role. It’s not just constrained by a museum’s four walls. There are no boundaries and it could scale infinitely; potentially it can be a hundred, a thousand times greater reach than you’d get from any kind of face-to-face interaction.

You produce an annual report called TrendsWatch. What have been some digital learning trends you’ve seen emerging, not just in the past year but in recent years?

AugmentationMatrix-2I’m really excited by the potential for augmented and virtual reality, both to convey museum content in new ways and to supplement it.

And, thank you very much for your work on AR/VR, because you framed my thinking about how these new technologies are fitting into the matrix of how and where people experience digital resources within the museum. Is it just them? Is it a social experience with their friends? Is it enhancing their experience of the physical museum or is it taking them somewhere they don’t have physical access to? I think all four quadrants of that matrix have incredible potential.

There is a real barrier for museums, for the large chunk of the American public, who just don’t get it, who don’t go into museums and say “Wow!” I don’t know if you are familiar with Reach Advisers R+D. They’ve been doing a lot of public opinion polls about museums and there’s one very depressing pie chart they have…

Go ahead. Make me sad.

It shows that the percentage of the American public who really are enthusiastically in love with museums is about 5%.

Yup, You did it. You made me sad.

Yeah, I’m sorry. Of course, we’d like that to be much bigger.

But, I think part of our challenge is that a lot of what’s in museums requires a big leap of the imagination or a lot of background context. Walking into a natural history museum and seeing a fossil dinosaur bone requires having a conception of what that means — the span of the time that’s embodied in that fossil, the kind of animal that it represents, the environment that would have created that animal. That’s a big leap. And, some people get it and it’s like “Wow, it’s a fabulous fossil. I feel so impressed by being able to see this thing.” But, for other people, I think the potential of augmented or virtual reality is to fill in the blanks that they’re not getting. AR and VR can help bridge that gap from the physical object to the passion, and the enthusiasm, and the awe we want them to have.

What are some other specific areas of digital learning that we’re starting to see emerging?

One of the keys to transforming the American educational system is figuring out how to recognize and reward a wide spectrum of learning. So, if it’s not all going to be seat time and it’s not all going to be, “Can we pass this standardized test?” — then what?

If you have really embraced distributive learning — whether it’s the kid doing a project out at the public park or a child coming into a museum and doing an internship or creating their own self-generated learning experience — how do you translate that to any kind of portfolio of work that someone can assess? I think that digital credentialing has huge potential for leveling the playing field between what are currently alternative or out-of-school learning experiences and more formal experiences that people already know how to assess.

So, how do we go from a traditional resume — I went to this high school, these were my grades, here are my SAT scores, I went to college, what courses did I take, did I graduate — to collecting and expressing the huge breadth of experiences, meaningful learning experiences, people can have, in lots of places, including museums? That’s where things like digital badging can play a role in making us players in the field.

Do you see museums more as a leader in paving new ways or as a sector that’s adapting successful techniques and spreading them out to broader numbers?

Both. There’s this fabulous diagram — Rogers Curve of Adoption — mapping the percentage of companies at any given time in the U.S. actually innovating and, it’s a tiny percentage, about two and a half percent. I think it works the same way in museums. There’s a small percentage of museums that I really think are cutting edge, that are doing innovations themselves, or going to companies that are doing cool things — companies like the guys working on Oculus Rift or the guys working on Magic Leap and saying, “we can do really interesting things with your technology. Let’s experiment together and see how this works.”

But, then, there are a lot of museums out of those 25,000 to 35,000 museums in U.S. that need to wait and see, either because they haven’t got the capacity to take on that kind of project themselves until there’s more of a turnkey approach or because they’re so busy just keeping the doors open. They don’t have the mental energy and space to notice what’s going on until it becomes more mainstream. On Rogers Curve, they might be among the 13% of organizations that are early adopters, or the 34% who are part of the “early majority.”

Frankly one of my goals at the Center for the Future of Museums, and one of the goals I have for CFM’s TrendsWatch report, is to try and push people, push more museums toward the front end of that curve, so they see earlier what’s going on, to have a framework for saying, “Oh, I understand why that’s important. I understand why it might be possible for me. And, maybe we should try that.”

Digital R&D at the Met’s MediaLab: An interview with Marco Castro Cosio & Neal Stimler

Last month we held an informal “Walk in the park” – colleagues from the  Metropolitan Museum of Art (on the opposite side of Central Park) paid us a visit and then we returned with them to check out their MediaLab. Below is my interview with them at the time, recently shared on DMLcentral, re-posted below.

Museum’s MediaLab Explores Digital Innovation

I recently took a walk across the park from American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), where I work, to our sibling museum founded on the other side of Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. For the first time, I got to go behind the scenes and visit their MediaLab, run by Marco Castro Cosio. After the tour, I met with both Marco and Neal Stimler, digital asset specialist in Collection Information. Both work together in the museum’s centralized Digital Department. I spoke with them about the Met MediaLab and what roles it plays spreading digital innovation throughout the museum. We talked about edible 3D objects and telepresence robots, cats, Minecraft, hip-hop, and the importance of digital innovation spaces within museums.

Marco, please introduce yourself.

Marco: Hi, my name is Marco Castro Cosio. I am manager of the MediaLab here at the Met. I have a background in art and technology, coming out of ITP at NYU. I was working as a curator and artist before coming to The Met and also worked at the Queens Museum as a teaching artist and as visitor experience manager at the museum.

And Neal?

NealStimler-20webNeal: I am a Neal Stimler, digital asset specialist in Collections Information at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I started my career as a print art historian working on German Expressionist prints and American art between the two World Wars. Responding to the critical importance of digital technologies, I shifted my professional practice to become an interdisciplinary technologist and creative strategist. I now work on helping to digitize the museum’s collections through workflow design, policy, strategy and wearable technology. I’m a collaborator and friend of the Met MediaLab.

Thank you both for joining us today to talk about media labs in museums. Let’s start by talking about the MediaLab here The Met. What is its history?

Marco: Met MediaLab was started approximately three years ago and was run by Don Undeen. MediaLab is an innovation R&D hub for the museum. We invite staff and outside agents — startup companies, research institutes, universities, creative technologists, artists and scientists — to experiment with emerging technologies within the museum context.

We started with a 3D printing hackathon, where creative technologists and artists were invited to scan the collection and create models that people could download and remix to make collections of their own. After the 3D hackathon, we started looking further into different emerging technologies.Read More →