The Digital Learning Network shares ideas and good practice in using digital
technology to support learning in the Cultural Heritage sector.

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Guest blog: How I learned to love digital

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Sian Shaw

Zahra Dhalla, a Community Learning Officer at Westminster Abbey, shares her three key takeaways from delivering digital learning for families from scratch during the pandemic, and looks forward to what the future holds.

On 18th March, I began my new job at Westminster Abbey as a Community Learning Officer. This was also the last day we had in the office due to the pandemic. I cried in the office infront of my colleagues. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t the start I was hoping for. The concept of doing this onsite, delivery-focused role from home felt overwhelming — digital learning might have been somebody’s strong suit, but it certainly wasn’t mine. 

Now it’s been 6 months of working from home. Having delivered a busy families programme over Easter, May half term and the summer, running virtual tours and digital workshops on Zoom and developing complementary Facebook Lives, I’ve learnt a lot and come away smiling. 

Here are my three key takeaways:

Use what you’ve got 

When you work somewhere like Westminster Abbey, there’s no doubt about it, the building is the star of the show. So our challenge throughout this time has been: How can we bring the Abbey’s story and the magic of the Abbey to families? Well, we had to use what we’ve got. For us, this meant using high quality images and screen recordings from our website’s virtual tours to build our sessions.

You can build relationships with families online

At the start of all this, I made the assumption that building relationships with families online would be close to impossible. The magic of being in the space together would be taken away and any chance of developing a rapport would go with it. In reality, it’s been so different. With family learning, we’re often trying to connect spaces, objects, the stories we’re telling, with families’ daily lives and at home those connections are easier to make. We’ve also found that children who might not feel as confident sharing their ideas and thoughts face to face, are often more outspoken and forthcoming in online sessions. 

Virtual collaboration is possible and brilliant 

I’m most proud of our Virtual Family Days, I would have never have believed that this sort of collaboration could be achieved virtually. Hosted on Zoom, we ran themed family days in which families could take part in a carousel of virtual activities over an hour through making use of the Breakout Rooms function. Each activity was hosted by a different partner organisation. It’s been a great way to support each other in this difficult time, to introduce families to new faces and spaces and to learn from each other. 

At the end of the day, what most of us need and want in our lives is connection. To know that we have value, that we matter, that we have a voice and that someone wants to listen to it. It is totally possible to make children feel heard and that they matter online. If that’s at the heart of what you do, if you are able to maximise the resources you’ve already got and ask the right questions of yourself, you’re there. 

Looking to the future

By investing time and energy— and you’ll notice I didn’t say money here — in creating high quality resources, you can make something that lasts and that has value now and in the future.

Once onsite activities resume, we’re not going to leave digital learning behind. We’re going to make use of what it does best for us. We’ll have a blended programme and our audience will have more options. In time, we’ll be able to enhance, grow, repurpose and maybe even re-design the digital resources we’ve developed alongside our onsite programme. 

Now in September, the teary-eyed woman who left London in March is no longer — the new me has longer hair, an increased appreciation for leggings and wants to champion digital learning. I think that says it all. 

POSTPONED. DLNET Conference: Digital ideas for learning, 23 March 2020

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WilsonYau

The DLNET conference 23 March 2020 has been postponed

As a consequence of the Coronavirus situation, we are postponing the event planned for 23 March 2020 at RIBA.  We will be in touch again when we have a new date for this conference. 

Those who have already booked will receive refunds.    

—————————————

When? 
Monday 23rd March 2020, 10.15 am to 3.30 pm

Where?
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD; Google map

What’s it all about?  
Engaging audiences with collections through digital technology and approaches

Who are we?
The Digital Learning Network shares ideas and good practice in using digital technology to support learning in the Cultural Heritage sector.

 
Full programme 

  • 10.15 am– 10.40 am: Registration and welcome

  • 10.40 am: Speed networking
    (Sian Shaw, Digital Learning Manager, Westminster Abbey)

  • 11.05 am : Update on recent digital initiatives
    (Alec Ward, Museum Development Officer, Digital and Communications, London Museum Development)

  • 11.30: BREAK
    (opportunity to input ideas for #DLNETChat)

  • 11.45 am: Virtual 3D reconstruction of objects from the Medicine Galleries
    (Emilia McKenzie, Digital Manager, Learning, Science Museum)

  • 12.10 pm: Live streaming for learning audiences
    (Ashley March, Digital Editor (Learning), Museum of London)

  • 12.35 pm: 3D printing in museum learning and outreach – Ideas and methods
    (Wilson Yau, Learning Manager, RIBA)

  • 1.00 pm: Lunch and VR exhibition exploration

  • 2.15 pm: Digital upskilling – Why it’s good to upskill across all staff, and an approach to doing this.
    (Izzy Bartley, Digital Learning Officer, Leeds Museums and Galleries) 

  • 2.40 pm: Session tbc

  • 3.00 pm: Final comments

  • 3.30 pm: Close

#DLNETchat and ThinkDrinks

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Martin Bazley

As well as our larger events, DLNET run a Twitter-based discussion, which is usually on the first Friday of each month. Use the hashtag #DLNETchat

There are also occasional ThinkDrinks:  informal gatherings for people interested in how digital can enhance learning within the cultural sector. Our next ThinkDrink is on 27 November 2019 from 6pm to 9pm, details here.

 

Using digital to support learning 15 July 2019

Posted on by

Martin Bazley

A day of discovery and discussion for cultural professionals, examining the role of digital in supporting learning and engagement activities

Lunch and refreshments are included.  Day runs 0945 – 1630

Sessions include:

Alec Ward, London Museum Development:  Social Media and Creating Digital content : why and how to use it for your learning audiences

Wilson Yau, RIBA: Tablets as drawing tools, focusing on ‘observation’ and ‘making’

zzy Bartley, Leeds Museums and Galleries and Claire Duffield, Leeds Libraries: Microbits: hands on session with ideas for your organisation, with reference to the new computing curriculum 

Alec Ward, London Museum Development:  Digital storytelling: how and why to do it, with hands on practice using Twine

 

Evaluating Digital Projects… Or why we shouldn’t use social media to evaluate museum projects!

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Stuart Berry

Our recent ‘live’ Twitter chat, #DLNETChat on 3 March looked at the topic of evaluating digital projects, and it’s clear that there was a lot to be said on the subject.

We have done our best to compile a Storify of the conversations which took place on the subject – click here for more details.  However, here we are picking out some of the particular discussion points which may be of interest.

Our ice-breaker poll launched on Twitter before the chat started, and was contentious in the options which were conspicuously absent:

Some very good links were shared, even before the ‘live’ chat started…

Once things got going, John McMahon brought plenty of good advice…

Others contributed some good links too:

There were also some very interesting side discussions, including one about Sentiment Analysis (click here for a Wikipedia article), which is essentially a way of digitally analysing qualitative data including social media posts and comments…

And it very quickly transpired why this might particularly apply to museum audiences especially…

There were many other useful and interesting conversations, including links to case-studies, tools and methodologies in the chat, so please look at the Storify for the full run-down…

Don’t forget to look out for our next #DLNETChat on the first Friday of the month, and watch our Twitter account for further details!

#DLNETChat – our live monthly Twitter get together…

Posted on by

Stuart Berry

Our regular followers and subscribers might already be familiar with our regular live #DLNETChat Twitter events, but for those of you who are new to us, new to Twitter, or who just wanted a quick recap, here is your definitive guide to #DLNETChat

IMG_20170106_140015

What is #DLNETChat?

#DLNETChat is a monthly live discussion on the subject of digital learning or digital engagement in a cultural setting. Many who take part are from a museums or heritage background, but we are keen to involve anybody from the wider arts or cultural sector.

Each month’s Chat has a specific topic, such as formal learning, using mobiles, etc. and there are a range of questions and discussion points raised to prompt further discussion and enable as many people as possible to join in.

The Chats usually take place on the first Friday of the month, at 12.00pm, and last for an hour. Keep an eye on the @DLNET Twitter account, the #DLNETChat hashtag or the Digital Learning Network email group for details of when the next chat will be, and what the subject is.

That sounds great, what else do I need to know?

Anybody can join a Chat, just make sure you use the #DLNETChat hashtag when you tweet, in order for everybody else involved to pick it up. Try and keep to the subject matter, although invariably the conversations do stray from time to time.

If you have a specific request for a Chat subject, or a particular question you would like answering, why not tweet direct to @DLNET, or send an email to the Digital Learning Network email group.

I’m new to Twitter, what do I do?

If you are new to Twitter, joining a Chat could be daunting, so follow the steps below to get involved.

You will need to be logged on to Twitter, it doesn’t matter if you are using a desktop, a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone – you can follow using the Twitter website through your browser (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer) or through an app on a tablet or smartphone. I use the Tweetdeck app in my browser, as it allows me to follow several strands at the same time, but the normal Twitter app or website is just as good.
 
In the search box, search for the ‘#DLNETChat‘ hashtag (hashtags are not generally case-sensitive) and this will bring up a list of Tweets using the hashtag. There can sometimes be options after you have searched, such as ‘Latest’, ‘Top’, etc. these will filter the Tweets – use the option that says ‘Latest’ or ‘Live’ as this means that you will see all the Tweets in time order, rather than just the ones which have had the most engagement. You can also keep an eye on the @DLNET Twitter page to see the Tweets coming from DLNET directly.
 
If you see a Tweet you want to engage with, just retweet, like or reply to it, using the icons at the bottom of the Tweet. If you reply, remember to include ‘#DLNETChat‘ in the text of your Tweet, people tend to either put the hashtag at the very start or very end of the Tweet, but it is just a case of personal preference. You can also join in by asking your own questions or making comments, again remember to include the ‘#DLNETChat‘ hashtag somewhere in the text of the Tweet – if you are commenting in reference to somebody else’s comment, it is possible to link to or quote their original Tweet, but it is usually good to at least mention them by their Twitter @name.

Reviewing ‘5G for Museums, Galleries and Heritage – unlocking the full potential’

Posted on by

Sian Shaw

Most of us are used to 4G – so 5G is just the next version, the upgrade, right? If that’s the case, then why are people getting so excited about 5G? I decided it was time to find out…

If you are anything like me, 5G is one of those phrases that has been kicking around for a while and popping up occasionally on the news, but you wouldn’t bank on yourself explaining it accurately to a stranger. Or fully understand why it would make a difference at work. Luckily, this coincided with a free afternoon event all about 5G for museums, galleries and heritage and unlocking the full potential of this upcoming technology. Exactly the tailored approach that we busy heritage professionals need!

So, first things first, what is 5G? The message was quite simple: 5G is 4G but with higher bandwidth and lower latency. In laymen’s terms, that means more “stuff” can be downloaded or streamed at a much faster rate. This lower latency, in particular, was being described as a change that would radically disrupt the way that people will interact with technology. It’s not just faster, it’s significantly faster. And it’s coming relatively soon with predictions of most people having access to it by 2022.

In our world of dodgy, unreliable Wi-Fi over large sites, often in historical buildings, this could be a real game changer. The sell was inspirational. There was talk of synchronised reality, such as a duet being played together despite the musicians being in separate countries.  There was talk of fully immersive experiences, where devices were taken away at the door, and concerts can be run using mixed reality (such as a real-life performer combined with AR). There was talk of global storytelling, with loaned objects no longer needing to leave their organisation in order for them to be used powerfully in an exhibition on the other side of the world. Real “testbed” examples were shared as the tease of what will be possible.

The point was summed up as a metaphor: we’ve made the theatre, now it is your job to write the plays.

Inspirational talk quickly turned to discussing practicalities in a mixed room of 5G and immersive technology experts sharing tables with museum and heritage professionals of varying disciplines. I was comforted as heritage colleagues were asking the questions we all think about when new digital technology hits the market – how easy is it for visitors to use, how easy is it for staff to use, and the big one, how much will all of this cost? I was sitting on a table discussing VR & AR content production and distribution, which ended up as more of a conversation about our audience’s technological abilities, wants and needs. Assumptions by technology experts about what the average person can do, and want to do, with devices when visiting heritage sites were being quickly squashed by anecdote after anecdote. This moved on from a conversation about 5G, which is merely a tool, to what output could and should we deliver. There was definite consensus that 5G wasn’t going to give solutions for every type of visitor; it was another string in your bow for those who want to use it.

So where does that leave me? I can now do the “lift chat” about 5G and I can see how it can open up the discussion of trying new technologies, which would have previously been dismissed over Wi-Fi concerns. 5G is exciting: no one is denying that. And with more reliable, faster technology, there is undeniable potential for what museums and heritage sites can do with it. But as always with technology, it’s about the idea you have and identifying the best way to share it. Which takes me back to the theatre metaphor. We need to focus as heritage professionals on working with our audiences to write the play, and then we can work out where is the best place to perform it.