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Education professionals in different countries use various motivating factors to encourage active learning and provide future generations with an opportunity to understand the world. The effectiveness of teaching practices used in museum education is strictly interconnected with the degree to which they awake the interest to the world in people from different age groups. Along with other advantages that museum education provides, it helps to make young learners take a new look at the world, turning their aesthetic sensitivity into a powerful motivation.
Modern Practices in Museum Education
Modern museums offer a wide range of education opportunities to their visitors of different ages. Given that age differences have a strong impact on learning practices, modern researchers pay special attention to developing education methods that would help to meet the needs of school-age children. One of the key practices in modern museum education is the organization of out-of-classroom events to solidify knowledge that students gain during traditional classes (Fleming, 2016). Fostering collaboration between education specialists at schools and museums remains among the key tasks of museum education.
The lecture method is widely used in modern museum education. Nowadays, the organization of museum field trips is among the most common methods in museum education. An effective field trip should provide visitors with social, object, cognitive, and introspective experiences (Fleming, 2016). The prevailing type of experience that learners get heavily depends on the type of museum meant to become a source of knowledge and inspiration. This differentiation, as Fleming (2016) notes, is widely used in museum education to achieve educational goals. For instance, history museums are chosen as non-traditional education centers that provide cognitive experience whereas science museums are actively used as sources of interactive experience.
Three important types of learning can be used in museum settings (Fleming, 2016). Behaviorist learning is an approach based on psychological responses; in museums, it is possible to use this approach by creating trivia quizzes with rewards for the most active participants. Despite the rapid development of technology that helps to make learning interactive, traditional learning is still used in museum settings to teach both children and adults. In this model, information is presented to visitors or students directly. Importantly, the information should be well-structured to achieve learning outcomes. Another approach to education, discovery learning, is used on the premise that personal experience is the best teacher. Various museum events such as exhibitions act as the physical representation of this principle. For instance, modern devices that provide museum visitors with an opportunity to learn more about physical laws or the mechanisms of natural events such as precipitations are widely used in science museums (Garrido & Camarero, 2014). This method of teaching is extremely important as it helps museum visitors to analyze causes and effects on their own.
The use of the drama method in museum education is among widely discussed and innovative teaching practices. According to Ruso and Topdal (2014), creative drama as a teaching method has a lot of potential applications in museum education. In particular, creative drama activities teach students to express their thoughts freely and develop improvisation skills. History museums act as ideal settings in which creative activities can be organized. The study by Ruso and Topdal (2014) explains the effectiveness of drama methods in museum education – in their experiment, research participants with their parents initiate role-playing games in one of the ethnographic museums in Turkey. The participants’ positive reaction to the games indicates that drama education methods in museums should be used more frequently.
The Use of Technology in Children’s Museums
Due to the rapid development of modern technology, museum education specialists can use a wide range of tools that encourage children to become active learners. In general, the use of technology in museum education is centered on enabling museum visitors to interact with exhibits and kindling their interests. However, it is worth noting that technology is widely used in museum settings to meet the needs of physically disadvantaged visitors and, therefore, provide equal access to exhibits and information.
The use of interactive technology helps to transform the experience of museum visitors, making it more diverse and, what is especially important for children, memorable. When it comes to the design and development of technology-driven tools, children can act as testers who provide feedback, informants, or even design partners (Hourcade, 2008). Children’s readiness to play these roles is extremely important as the quality of interactive tools influences the quality of museum education. With a due account for the specific needs of modern children who demonstrate well-developed computer skills, the use of interactive technology should be an important part of museum education programs.
The brightest example of technology in museum education is the existence of online museums that use 3D modeling and various digital techniques to offer a unique experience to Internet users. ICT tools that help to provide more learning opportunities to children include computers as exhibit displays that can be used both in online and physical museums (Alwi & McKay, 2013). According to Alwi and McKay (2013), the way that information is presented for educational purposes should be chosen based on the leading cognitive style of children. Knowing that learning outcomes heavily depend on the effectiveness of learning materials, specialists in museum education should strike the right balance between graphic and textual information to keep both visualizers and verbalizers focused. In general, the use of multimedia instruction in online and real museums helps to solidify children’s newly acquired knowledge as it provides visual content that makes facts more illustrative.
The use of modern technology in museum education also helps to reduce inequality caused by physical and mental disabilities. Knowing that all individuals should have equal access to education and cultural artifacts, museum education professionals actively use tools and devices that remove barriers. Trying to comply with ADA, many museums in the United States provide visually impaired children with a unique experience. Specialized education programs that are available in New York and Ontario encourage visually handicapped visitors to rely on other senses to explore various art forms (Cho & Jolley, 2016). Continuing on the topic, it is important to note that children with developmental disorders such as autism also benefit due to modern technology. To facilitate the education of people with ASD, art museums in the United States use sensory-friendly museum maps that inform users about the physical conditions of various rooms and potential sources of sensory overload (Cho & Jolley, 2016). Museums that focus on exhibitions for children provide special interactive programs for kids with ASD. Thus, museum visitors with special education needs can acquire new knowledge, using noiseless digital devices and toys, and audio support.
In general, the teaching process can be productive and effective when practices are constructed about the principle of demonstrativeness. In this connection, museum education acts as an important supplement to traditional education in classroom settings. Modern teaching practices used in museum settings include traditional methods such as giving lectures and a behaviorist approach to learning. Apart from that, the use of multimedia devices and online field trips presents a well-established practice in museum education due to the unique needs of modern children. Importantly, technology is widely used to encourage active learning when working with children who have developmental disorders or visual impairments.
Alwi, A., & McKay, E. (2013, July). Understanding children’s museum learning from multimedia instruction. Paper presented at the IADIS International Conference on e-Learning, Prague, Czech Republic.
Cho, H., & Jolley, A. (2016). Museum education for children with disabilities: Development of the natural senses traveling trunk. Journal of Museum Education, 41(3), 220-229.
Fleming, W. W. (2016). Best practices in museum education. Honors Research Projects, 258. Web.
Garrido, M. J., & Camarero, C. (2014). Learning and relationship orientation: An empirical examination in European museums. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 19(2), 92-109.
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Hourcade, J. P. (2008). Interaction design and children. Foundations and Trends in Human-Computer Interaction, 1(4), 277-392.
Ruso, L., & Topdal, E. B. (2014). The use of museums for educational purposes using drama method. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 141(1), 628-632.