CALRG 2011_ The role of social networking in museum learning

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Presentation at the CALRG 2011 Annual Conference at the Open University

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  • Hello, I’m Koula and I’m a 2nd year PhD student in IET. My talk here today is based on a study I carried out over the last few months which was looking at the technology-enhanced museum visitor experience. More specifically the aim of the study was to gain an understanding on how best to support aspects of the visiting experience such as meaning making via social media tools among school groups? My goal here today is twofold: First, I would like to present this work and some of the preliminary findings and second, I’d like to get your feedback that will help me to proceed with my analysis. I’m sure many of you in this room are familiar with the top names of social networking tools, things like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and you have first hand experience with using such tools, both in your academic and personal lives. It is a fact that we all use these tools to connect with each other & feel connected, to collaborate, to chat, to share pictures, to write comments and to create. This has a profound impact on the ways we are communicating and brings unique and fundamental opportunities to re-think learning in formal and non-formal learning environments, like schools and museums. Why museums? Well, museums can be overwhelming and frustrating spaces, highly intellectual and for some people highly boring - so if we can engage people, and particularly young people, in interesting, meaningful and participatory activities in museums, then that’s an interesting issue with respect to the visiting experience and process of meaning-making.
  • A number of museums have responded enthusiastically to the challenges brought by social media. However, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are still predominantly used as marketing channels, like the example from Tate’s Facebook page here
  • or as public relations channels, providing a platform for question and answer type interactions between the public and the museum, like the example from the Museum of London Twitterstream here. Little is known, thus, about the nature, scope and implications of this fast, but uneven uptake of social media in museums .
  • There is a growing debate in the sector about the promises, opportunities brought by social media. Of course the discussion refers to the possibilities and realities with respect to the learning provision too. However, little is currently known about applications and implications for museum learning.
  • There’s limited research on the educational effectiveness of digital technologies in museum’s sector, especially compared to traditional programmes. Therefore, there is room for empirical research on whether and how museums, learning and ‘social media’ intersect and how web 2.0 technologies could be integrated in museums’ learning programmes for schools.
  • Recent work on school visits to museums shows that museum visits can offer rich learning experiences facilitated by authentic objects, which is regarded as the key parameter in museum learning, in a way through which meaning is constructed. can expose students to subject-matter that cannot be effectively covered in the classroom, introduce them to resources in their community, and provide a varied social experience ( Anderson & Zhang, 2003; Kisiel, 2005; Rennie & McClafferty, 1995; Storksdieck, 2006 ). The museum can be a place to learn across curriculum topic areas ( DCMS & DfEE, 2000 ) in an engaging environment ( Johnsson, 2003 ).
  • In particular, five elements to positively influence students’ learning are identified in school visits to museums: to be linked to the national curriculum, to have connections with activities before before and after the visit, not to be an isolated experience, but to be connected with the classroom activities and to design activities on the basis that will enable collaboration, based on problem solving, enrich creativity. Also, Griffin’s work showed that the learning gains are more when the students know and value the purpose of the visit and collecting information, they have control over what to learn, feeling of ownership of the way they are learning and they are able to share their learning. Overall, these were the starting points of designing & planning this study, especially sharing the learning where we believe that web 2.0 technologies can contribute. Also, in this study social media tools are used to support and stimulate social interaction. It is based on an assumption: If students use social media tools for learning purposes Then social interaction among them will be enriched and thus, learning may be advanced through collaborative social interactions around artifacts and social construction of knowledge This draws on Falk and Dierking’s Contextual Model of Learning.
  • Falk and Dierking (1992; 2000) investigated the contexts in which this learning takes place. The visitor/museum experience is, thus, conceptualised as the interaction of the personal, the social and the physical contexts. This was represented in what Falk and Dierking termed as the’ Contextual Model of Learning’. This model takes into account what visitors bring with them to the museum (personal and social context) and the characteristics of the museum as a setting (physical context). Importantly, the visitor is viewed as being actively engaged in the construction and reconstruction of these three contexts, a process which is shaped by ‘time’ and is “filtered through the personal context, mediated by the social context, and embedded within the physical context” (1992, p.4). identify twelve suites of factors2 within three contexts which they consider crucial for museum learning: among them within-group social mediation; facilitated mediation by others.
  • The main RQ for my study are:
  • The visit was designed around the theme ‘Get Up, Stand up, Fight for your rights’ and the Museum of London was selected as the sit of the study and I will explain over the next couple of slides why. The participants were a Year 9 history class in a secondary school in MK and involved classroom based activities and a visit to the museum.
  • one of the themes running across the nee Galleries of Modern London at the museum and is related to KS3 History curriculum. Also, Museum of London was appropriate on the basis of some criteria that were set in advance, like its infrastructure (this is not common in museums!) and provision of programmes with the use of digital technologies, some of which I attended before the study. Presence on social media tools. Also, personal communication with museum staff showed that they are thinking of using Twitter for their learning provision and were interested in investigating this further.
  • Twitter was selected as the social networking tool to be used to complement the interactions among the participants during the visit. For the people who are not familiar with Twitter, Twitter is primarily a microblogging platform, where every user can publish short messages up to 140 characters, so-called ‘tweets’. There are some leaflets that I will pass around - trying to recruit some more Twitterers here! There are quite a few reasons why I opted for Twitter: first, it has both synchronous and asynchronous characteristics. It would allow the researchers to collect participants’ reactions to what they experience at the MoL but also enable communication beyond the visit. There is a growing body of research on Twitter and discourse on its effectiveness as an educational tool. The advantages of microblogging, according to Ebner et al. (2010) consist mainly in the possibility of giving immediate feedback and in documenting processes (p. 94). It is quite simple to use. Also, in UK updates can be carried out using SMS, and this means that it could be used even without a network in the museum during the visit ( I was lucky enough that MoL had infrastructure, but not all the museums do). It has been embraced with enthusiasm among museum worldwide, and as I already said,
  • Various methods were used to collect data, as shown on this table. The focus of this presentation is on the tweets posted during the visit- however, without presenting the analysis of content - and observational data during the visit and interview data.
  • So, what the visit involved. Participants were in 8 groups of 3s/4s. Each group had a specific inquiry related to the overall theme of the visit & a printed booklet with instructions, map & some activities. However, the groups has flexibility over what objects to select and look at. Also, a digital recorder with a mic was attached to one member of the group and also each pair of participants had an iPhone. The participants were asked to use either Twitter or TweetDeck, specific hashtags were suggested. All of them had to visit the three New London Galleries - each group had to follow a pre-defined trail across these spaces - not the same for all the groups and collect some evidence to use later for a presentation. There were some restrictions on the number of pictures the groups should capture - but I’m afraid they didn’t really stick to the max number. Also, I have to say that the accounts were created prior the visit, Twitter was used in the classroom twice and also there was a project account called @MuseLearn, where all the participants were following. Also a list.
  • The first thing I did when approaching my data, was to look at all the tweets posted on the day of the visit - that is a total of 84 tweets and classify them into 9 broad themes that were identified in a first open-coding of the data, according to features of the tweet and content) . As you can see on the table, a high number (n=74) was related to the museum and its discourse, 11 were related to the trip and I thought it was very interesting fact that only one was related to extracurricular activities and was actually posted after the visit.
  • Also, most of the tweets were original posts with only 9 of them being direct replies. More than half were linked to activities related to the aim of the visit. What do all these tell me? The fact that almost all the tweets are related to the museum and its discourse is particularly important given the nature of the visit; a self-directed visit, with teenagers equiped with internet connected mobile phones, and yet none of the participants contributed any ‘noise’ to the online discourse, about any of their extracurricular interests (this was noticed in the classroom activities for example). It also demonstrates an appropriate use of Twitter by students which shows that integration of social media in learning activities does not lead to students misusing them, as ‘media sceptics’ in the education sector claim.
  • Apart from looking at the tweets as numbers, my second approach in looking at my data, involved creating a visual representation of the twitter stream. The visit stream initially looked like this. The problem with Twitter and with every social media tool, is that the online discourse is rendered chronologically, rather than logically. This reflects and attributes importance to the time sequence of the contributions rather than their conceptual structure. Hence, it is difficult for users to track key issues raised in the conversations (e.g. ideas, arguments, questions) or the links attached to the tweet and thus to contribute to the conversation without reading the entire online conversation, clicking on links and being able to filter the ‘noise’. The same difficulty applies for the researcher when analysing and trying to make sense of the online discourse on Twitter. Hence, the approach followed here to analyse the tweets is to structure and represent the discourse as a semantic network of posts, as proposed by De Liddo et al. (2011, p. 6).
  • The Compendium was used to map the tweets ( http://compendium.open.ac.uk/ ). Compendium is a software tool for mapping information, ideas and arguments. Representing the online discourse as a visual map offers a useful way to engage, explore and reflect on that data. Compendium, also allows you to give tags to the nodes and posts you create, something that it was useful for me to make sense of this data. The aim of this approach is to code each post according to its function in the conversation (node/post type) and how is connected to a specific post or participant, according to the function of the post and its place in the conversation (semantic connection/link type). I’m currently working on this aspect, to look at each post & identify the precise role of the tweets in the wider online discourse. However, this is not presented here. This network shows a map of all the tweets posted by the seven groups on the day of the visit, the researcher (icon in that last row, right). The pictures posted online and connections between the groups can be seen. All the tweets are clustered around a group icon, as the unit of analysis is the group and the interactions among the groups. What does this graph tells me? It shows that six groups posted on average a similar number of tweets (apart from Group 2). Also, there is only one group without any connections to other groups (Group 2). The connections are limited and all represent direct replies. Where tweets are linked to other tweets, they tend to consist of a single exchange (comment-reply) without further exchanges, as shown by the fact that some tweets are linked to other tweets, but are not linked back. In trying to interpret this graph, I could say that it suggests the posts are disconnected which might indicate disengagement from the learning task or the conversation. Further, it seems that the Tweets have a monologic character, consisting of group postings loosely bound by the participants’ experience at the museum. However, what this map cannot show, is any ‘invisible interaction’ taking place with participants reading the tweets and ‘interacting’ with the content and artifacts, without posting a comment or replying. This was evident in the interview data.
  • Interviews with 11 participants were conducted after the visit using a semi-structured approach and lasting approximately 15-20 min. In analysing the interview data thematic analysis was employed. Here, accounts from 3 groups are provided (n=5) to give insights on whether use of and interactions on Twitter, helped the participants to engage meaningfully with museum content and make sense of their experiences. So, there was evidence that the participants were reading each others tweets during the visit. One of the interviewees said: And they actually found the carriage, as they do have a tweet about this. Also, the second extract is indicative.
  • All the interviewees agreed that this was a very positive and engaging experience
  • Specific questions were also posed about the use of mobile phones during the visit. Here, two themes emerged: first, the notion of the technology assisting in getting ideas and interpretations across, thus creating an ‘opinion space’, where multiple opinions could be heard.
  • The second theme that emerged when answering questions about the use of technology is the notion of being connected and staying connected, creating an ‘inter-connected space’, bridging the different (physical) spaces of the museum. The following quotes demonstrate these points:
  • I think that the two following quotes summarise really well the value of having this activity whilst at the museum and having comments posted online. ‘you get lots of opinions’, forming judgments, get some information’, search more The second: it’s interesting to see what people put, if there’s something you didn’t see
  • Also, beyond these points, it seems that use of Twitter helps the participants to ‘archive’ and possibly extend their museum experience, which otherwise would be disposable
  • To conclude, it could be argued that at a primary level, social media tools can be used in museums for engaging students to participate and share their experiences. The interview data showed that there was a second level of interaction among the groups and entailed dialogic features; with one’s self as a reader, within and across the group once posts were read, with the objects and the institution and a broader audience which could potentially read the contributions. This ‘invisible interaction’ supported the negotiation and exchange of meaning making among the participants and shaped their collective experience at the museum. Also, these tools are appropriate for documenting and archiving their experience and for making the visit more social and more enjoyable.
  • Looking at my data and the so far findings, I would argue that the availability of such tools that enable users to generate content, may enable visitors to learn from each other and may change their experiences radically. However, there is not guarantee about that.
  • Understanding technology-enhanced museum visitor experience:
  • CALRG 2011_ The role of social networking in museum learning

    1. 1. CALRG 2011 Conference 14-15 June 2011 The role of social networking in museum learning <ul><li>Koula Charitonos </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>
    2. 2. Museums via Social Networking Sites Fig. 1: Tate Gallery Facebook page (accessed 8.6.2011)
    3. 3. Museums via Social Networking Sites Fig. 2: Museum of London TwitterStream (accessed 8.6.2011)
    4. 4. Promises and Opportunities <ul><li>engaging with an audience beyond the physical location </li></ul><ul><li>increasing geographic reach and potential impact </li></ul><ul><li>facilitating interactions with objects and about objects </li></ul><ul><li>facilitating collaboration and dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>creating new models of participation </li></ul><ul><li>Learning? </li></ul>
    5. 5. Gap in the research <ul><li>limited research or evaluation on the educational effectiveness of digital technologies in museum’s sector (Falk & Dierking, 2008) </li></ul><ul><li>little empirical evidence on whether and how museums, learning and social media intersect and how social media technologies could be integrated in museums’ learning programmes for schools </li></ul>
    6. 6. School Visits <ul><li>Key: interaction with authentic artifacts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>provide learners with rich experiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>motivate and excite learners (Ramey-Gassert et al. 1994) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>expose learners to subject-matter (Vavoula et al. 2009) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>enable learners to be active participants in their learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>introduce learners to resources in their community </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>provide a varied social experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>learn across the curriculum topic areas (DCMS & DfEE, 2000 ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>enhance links to conceptual learning back in the classroom (Ramey-Gassert et al. 1994), reflection, scaffolding learning and resolving possible misconceptions (Anderson et al., 2000, Falk & Dierking, 2000) </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Factors for learning in school visits <ul><ul><ul><li>alignment with curriculum; pre- and post-visit activities; integration with other subjects and disciplines; connection of classroom experience to museum experience; insistence on student production through problem solving, construction, collaboration, and use of creativity (Lebeau et al., 2001, p.134) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>awareness of the purpose of collecting information; control over what to learn; feeling of ownership of the way in which students are learning; share their learning with classmates (Griffin, 1998) </li></ul></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Contextual Model of Learning Fig. 3: Contextual model of learning as proposed by Falk & Dierking (2000) Personal Context Physical Context Social Context
    9. 9. Research Questions <ul><li>• How can museum spaces, artifacts and social media tools be used to create participatory learning experiences which are engaging and meaningful? </li></ul><ul><li>• How do young people’s online interactions help them to engage meaningfully with museum content and make sense of their experiences? </li></ul>
    10. 10. Visit:‘Get Up, Stand Up: Fight for your rights’ <ul><ul><ul><li>Museum of London </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Year 9 History class (n=29) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Pre- and Post-visit Classroom activities </li></ul></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Why ? <ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Fight and Protest’ theme running across the ‘Galleries of Modern London’ linked to KS3 History Scheme of Work </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>infrastructure (internet in the galleries) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>digital equipment (e.g. digital cameras, iPods and iPhones) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>presence on the main social media sites (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, You Tube) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>provision of learning programs with digital technologies </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>integration of Twitter in its formal educational provision? </li></ul></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Why ? <ul><ul><ul><li>most popular micro-blogging service </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>research has shown that it can be used as an educational tool (Elavsky et al. 2011, Junco et al. 2010) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>synchronous and asynchronous attributes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>simple interface (web and iPhone application) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>updates in users’ status in UK can be carried out using SMS </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>approx. 1700 museums use Twitter and its potential for learning programs is under consideration </li></ul></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Methods for data collection Pre-visit Visit Post-visit pre-test questionnaire observation (notes, pictures, video) post-test questionnaire personal meaning map online posts on Twitter (text and pictures) personal meaning map online posts on Twitter pictures/video captured by participants online posts on Twitter classroom observation audio files from each group self-report videos about visit booklets classroom discussion about the visit video collages on Vuvox semi-structured interviews
    14. 14. Visit Plan <ul><ul><ul><li>8 groups in threes/fours </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>booklet </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>inquiry </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>recorder with a microphone </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>iPhones (3G/3Gs) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Twitter/TweetDeck and specific hashtags </li></ul></ul></ul>Gallery 1: Expanding City Gallery 2: People’s City Gallery 3: World City
    15. 15. Analysis and preliminary findings I. What do the numbers show? Themes Number of tweets Context (posted in the museum or on the bus) 81 URL (in tweet) 14 Hashtag (in tweet) 31 Related to museum and its discourse 74 Related to the trip (issues/management/logistics) 11 Related to participants’ extracurricular activities/interests 1
    16. 16. I. What do the numbers show? Category Type Task (according to trip’s aims/group’s inquiry) Social dimension Original Post Retweet Reply On task Off task N/A Us/we/our I/me N/A Number of tweets 74 1 9 55 25 4 20 6 58
    17. 17. II. What do the tweets show?
    18. 18. II. Map of the tweets
    19. 19. III. What do the participants say? <ul><ul><ul><li>(Invisible) Interaction among participants </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>“ when we saw the tweet about the carriage...we wanted to go and find it!” (Kevin) </li></ul><ul><li>“ You know about the Black Panther? Cos when we were at the museum I tried to find it, I couldn’t find it...and then I saw the pictures and ‘Ohhhh, that’s what it is!’ So, then I learnt about this thing”. </li></ul>
    20. 20. III. What do the participants say? <ul><ul><ul><li>Enjoyable and engaging </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ ...it was a lot more enjoyable because it was really focused and you could actually learn about something...” (Neil) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ [...]We were really into it...with that everyone stayed on target...” (Maria) </li></ul></ul></ul>
    21. 21. III. What do the participants say? <ul><ul><ul><li>creating an ‘opinion space </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ I like that...cos you go to see other people’s opinions...I mean, like, if you look at something, as I look at something, I see different things, so you can see how they interpret it.” (Nana) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ you answered some things on iPhone and other people got to read it, so they would faithful your opinion and faithful the difference... (Maria) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ ...some people don’t have the confidence to put the hand up and talk about what they’ve seen. With the technology...I saw a lot of people write down some really good ideas and maybe the use of technology could help them get their point across” (Sara) </li></ul></ul></ul>
    22. 22. III. What do the participants say? <ul><ul><ul><li>creating an ‘inter-connected space’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>[..] I like the fact that you were staying in touch with everyone, even though they were not there...People tweeting about what they were seeing and you kinda know what is there, without being there...”(Nana) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>We were in groups, but I was feeling connected with other groups, so we were all sharing ideas over internet...we were really into it...” (Maria) </li></ul></ul></ul>
    23. 23. III. What do the participants say? <ul><ul><ul><li>“ With the tweeting, although you can learn with a pen and a clipboard, but when you think about it...you get lots of opinions on what you’ve posted, forming judgments, and the best part of it, even if you don’t use it that much, you can get some more information, particular items you are interested in and search about it” (Neil) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ You could go back at it and look through it and then just see different opinions...that’s the most important thing, looking, like everyone has an opinion, so do you...and it’s interesting to see what people put...if there’s something you didn’t see...” (Nana) </li></ul></ul></ul>
    24. 24. III. What do the participants say? <ul><ul><ul><li>‘ archive’ space </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Without technology you wouldn’t have remembered it and looking back at them when you can” (Sara). </li></ul>
    25. 25. Findings <ul><ul><ul><li>Social media tools may be used in museum learning: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>for engaging students to participate and share their experiences </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>for facilitating interaction and negotation of meaning </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>for enhancing the social dynamics of the visit and creating a collective experience </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>for documenting and archiving the experience </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>for enjoying the visit </li></ul></ul></ul>
    26. 26. The availability and provision of technology that enables capturing, generating and sharing content may enable - but does not guarantee - visitors to learn from each other and contribute to each other’s meaning making in ways that significantly change their experience.
    27. 27. <ul><ul><ul><li>How best to support aspects of the visiting experience such as meaning making (interpretation) via social media tools? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How best to encourage and support visitor-generated content and enhance the quality of the online interactions? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How to develop more effective pedagogic strategies that will anticipate and encourage the ways that young people use such technologies and collaboratively construct meaning? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What (new) models of participation in museum learning programmes are enabled by social media tools? </li></ul></ul></ul>‘ A Long and Winding Road’
    28. 28. Thank you! <ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>@ch_koula </li></ul>

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