The traditional goals of museums have experienced strong changes and its educational function is becoming more sginificative. In this sense, Virtual Museums and Exhibitions (VMEs) are web portals constructed with a museologic approach, and constitute a promising field, presenting particular educational values.
Hipertext format and Interactivity facilitates the creation of user-adapted visits (this constituting a key point for the Attention to Diversity in the classrooms). Hipermedia solutions and the web 2.0 philosophy enforces the constructionist approach for education (and make the student the center of the didactic experience).
However, VMEs still remain poorly used by teachers, mainly because of the lack of didactic resources in VMEs and the poor knowledge on this kind of digital resource between teachers.
In this communication, the creation of the VME on genetics "Reading the book of life" is described, together with the strategies undertaken to develop its educational value. This MVE is available in Catalan and Spanish at http://oliba.uoc.edu/adn.´
In order to increase its interactivity, the VME has been constructed using Flash and the Joomla! Content Management Site. This platform facilitates the contents to be presented in several ways depending on the choices of the user, and the participation of the user in contents generation. Contents are structured in 8 virtual exhibition halls inter-related between themselves through folksonomic approaches.
Each exhibiton hall deals with a main topic of genetics and is introduced through atractive tittles: Will I develop scales on my skin if I eat transgenic tomatoes? ; The Spell of Tsars; The Mysterious elf of Leewenhoek; The mark of Hiroshima horror; Lucy's long journey; The attack of the clones; If I study a lot, will I have smarter children? ; What does ATGGTATTCCACTATGGTC mean?.
To increase its educational value, several actions were undertaken. The creation of a Multimedia section can help students to deal with information from diverse formats. A new gallery of activities for students, with several kind of activities (Laboratory Experiments, Didactic Units and Science Popularization texts, Visit Dossiers, Research Activities….) empower the MVE as an educational resource and facilitates its use for the teachers. Other sections, as ADNews and Interviews, are included in the Agora of the Museum, a virtual space created to promote the museum as a collaborative space of for the construction of knowledge.
A diffusion campaign to educational websites for teachers was performed, and as a result, at the present moment more than 30 educative portals, professional colleges, teachers' social bookmarkings, institutional pages and Science Popularization weblogs offer links to the exhibition. In two years, the virtual exhibition has received 380.000 visitors. The creation of educative resources and the diffusion campaign between educational sites has resulted in an increase of the rate of visitors. The virtual exhibition seems to be useful for teachers, as we have detected many accesses from links situated in several Edublogs , Moodle platforms and teacher's forums (where it receives very positive comments). From our results, to develop school-friendly elements is a good strategy to improve the educational use of an VME.