Friday, October 8, 2010

Melbourne Museum Musings

Last week I was embedded in Melbourne at the annual Museums Australia conference. 600 museos from around the country having a good chinwag is probably the best way to describe it. As always the real value was in the catching up with friends and colleagues, but there were also a couple of stand out papers, most notably from Professor Richard Sandell, head of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester and Professor Stephen Heppell. To get a feel for Heppell check out his website, and you will get some idea what he is like. A man who clearly is at the top of his field in the on-line educational world, consulting to governments around the globe, and a most engaging speaker. As his web site says, part of his job is ‘ horizon scanning’ (I like that term) for the UK Government on future directions for educational policy.

Well he certainly gave us a good snap shot of what he has spotted on the horizon. Let me try and summarise:

  • our children are growing up as part of the post-Google generation that live in a world of social media, where emails are something that ‘Dad does”
  • current teaching modes are artificial and directly detrimental to learning. The concept of having 40 minute lessons with a bell at the end and then retuning onto the next subject for the next 40 minutes is vastly inefficient, when compared to studying a single subject for a whole morning
  • technical journals, particularly those that are peer reviewed are just not keeping up with current trends as the time lag ensures they are out of date even before they hit the newsstands
  • to understand what museum spaces might be like in 15 years we should look at what is happening on-line now, as this will show us
  • the future lies more in the ‘doing’ (verb) than the being (noun). It will not be about who we are but what we do that defines us.
  • taking shoes off for kids has a huge positive impact on their learning ability and concentration (isn't that interesting!)
  • every turned off mpa/iPod/iPhone device or equivalent represents a turned off child and an opportunity to learn lost
He finished by telling us that we are about to have the most fun ever over the next 10 years, particularly in museums. Every object tells a story - it just needs that narrative released and its’ context revealed.

Bring it on, I say!

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director

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