Yesterday, I attended the Virtual Field Trips for the 21st Century Learner session at #nmc16. Kaytee Smith from the North Carolina Museum of Science presented on the various educational opportunities various forms of media have provided. The fact that the room was packed without a seat left to sit in proved that this really was an interest peaking session. Kaytee described several practical and wonderful innovative approaches to bring the museum to children across the world.

Reimagining how the museum could be brought in different ways to children through museum-school partnerships was the main priority. One example was hi-definition video created with Untamed Science, which provided rich visual experiences; taking children up close and personal with the “unhuggable” creatures to inspire interest in creepy animals like, reptiles and tarantulas.

Another exhibit deals with teaching kids misconceptions of dinosaurs. She used fun creative activities including video conferencing and Augmented Reality (AR). The students were able to print out drawings, and with apps developed by the museum, 3D renderings were made from the drawings. Q&A sessions with the kids revealed wonderful creative thoughts from the kids, revealing their unique perspectives. One question a student had was “do dinosaurs have eyebrows?” This had to be taken to an expert at the time. But why did they ask this? Well, Katee explained, because the student was comparing his features to a dinosaur. The student was displaying some higher order thinking along the lines of analysis on Bloom’s Taxonomy scale, which is pretty impressive to me, and very creative in the sampling of the comparisons.  This revealed an egocentric view of the world and could allow for future teaching opportunities.

More importantly, this museum education program tackles so many things within their outreach programs. Ideology of real versus virtual was brought up, too. And Kaytee explained, all kids need different forms of engagement. Where one child would not want to be near a snake or spider, let alone touching one, they may be fascinated and inspired by the hi-definition, up-close and safe behind the monitor with virtual interaction. Again, other challenges are made with visual culture and gender identities within these virtual field trips. Katee purposely introduced the children to a female scientist to contradict the stereotype of who a scientist is. No Doc Brown, here! The class was brought into the microbiology lab as field assistants, who collected culture samples from their teacher’s body. The sample was set back and the growth of the culture was shown to the elementary students through video conferencing. Who doesn’t want to know what’s growing on their teacher? And the scientist who introduced this fun perspective on microbiology is a female.

There was so much Kaytee covered, I wish everyone could have been there. How she used various forms of media to allow learning at socio-cultural levels, and pedagogical levels is really exciting to me.

If you are interested in finding out more information about the virtual museum field trips, please feel free to contact Kaytee at:

Katherine.smith@naturalsciences.org

Twitter ID: @scikaytee