More Ways Cultural Institutions Are Using Tech and Social to Interact with Kids

Part two of a two-part series

The second half of my series on how New York’s cultural institutions are using technology to help kids interact, collaborate and use social media with their families to enhance their experiences with the institutions features Art Babble and The Brooklyn Museum of Art.

ArtBabble

ArtBabble is a video site dedicated to art and artists and features high-definition video content from more than 30 partners around the world—Corning Museum of Glass, MoMA, Museum of Art and Design and The New York Public Library among them.  It was conceived, initiated, designed, built, sculpted, programmed, shot, edited, painted and launched by a cross-departmental collection of individuals at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA).

The “Channels” section allows visitors to sort through “A to Z” video topics, such as “Animation,” “Origami” and “Robots.”  You can also sort by the artists’ names or by the names of the institution partners.   However, there is not a way to sort content appropriate for elementary and middle-school-aged children.

Emily Lytle-Painter, a lab coordinator at IMA offers these video suggestions for younger audiences:

Empire of the Eye: The Magic of Illusion: Introduction, Part 1

“The Magic of Illusion”—presented in a seven-part podcast series—is a film about how we see, what we see or what it is we think we see.  Al Roker guides viewers on a journey into the secrets of illusion, utilizing special effects to illustrate the artistic and visionary discoveries of the Renaissance. While Copernicus and Columbus were changing our understanding of the world, the Renaissance masters were dramatically changing the way we see that world.

Robots – Nemo Gould

Kinetic sculptor Nemo Gould took SJMA on a fascinating tour of his studio/workspace. He talked about his robot creations and talks about the robot that he specifically built for the exhibition “Robots: Evolution of a Cultural Icon.”

Lino Tagliapietra—Voices of Contemporary Glass

Lino Tagliapietra grew up on the island of Murano, the center for glassmaking in Venice.  Today, he is recognized as an accomplished artist, and he is widely regarded as the best glassblower in the world.   The video features an interview with Tagliapietra as he demonstrates Venetian glassblowing techniques.

Other noteworthy videos for this audience include:

Robert Lang Teaches Origami: Duck

Installation of Gabriel Orozco’s Mobile Matrix at MoMA

For Parents: How to Engage Your Children in Art

Laurie Simmons: Choreographer Helen Pickett

Moving East Gate/West Gate by Helicopter

 

Brooklyn Museum

First off, I must say the website for the Brooklyn Museum is really well organized and easy to navigate.  The “Exhibitions” section features not only current, upcoming and past museum exhibitions, but also includes three tabs that you can access for more information.  Most exhibits feature four tabs:

“Media,” which includes YouTube videos, including the show’s installation, as well as Tumblr and Flickr slideshows relative to each exhibit, for most shows;

“Talk,” which features blog posts and visitor comments;

“Print,” which includes the exhibit catalog, if there is one, and a “Teachers Packet;”and

“Events,” which include opening parties and gallery talks.

The Education: Youth and Family Programs section features online activities to explore, including Ancient EgyptBrooklyn Expedition and, my favorite, theJean-Michel Basquiat Street to Studio.  The Basquiat activity introduces kids to the famous street artist and allows them to “Exlpore the Paintings,” “Create an Artwork” in Basquiat’s signature style and “Send an E-card” featuring one of his paintings along with a personalized message.  The section also includes family guides to current exhibits and listings of gallery talks and events for children.

Additionally, the museum has an app for the iPhone and Droid (Brooklyn Museum Mobile) that acts as a guide to the museum, provides easy access to its online catalog and functions like a social networking site by allowing users to recommend their favorite art to other visitors.


How Cultural Institutions Are Using Tech and Social to Interact with Kids

CultureChild 2.0

Part one of a two-part series.

New York’s cultural institutions are employing an array of new technologies that help kids interact, collaborate and use social media with their families to enhance their experiences with the institutions.  Part one of this two-part series explores activities for children through The New York Public Libraries’ Summer Reading Program, The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

New York Public Library Summer Reading Program for Children

Each year, the New York, Brooklyn and Queens Public Libraries join forces and sponsor a Summer Reading Program for kids.  My daughter looks forward to it every summer.  To get started, children log onto the website and set up an account.  Kids create profiles with a new screen name generator (which sets up a screen name to fit them perfectly without revealing personal data) and design avatars using clothes, hairstyles, facial and features and more.  After logging in, kids can record the amount of time they have spent reading.  A running total for the summer appears on each child’s profile page.  Kids earn special badges by keeping logs and reviewing their favorite books, music, movies and games.  They can also “like” others’ reviews and click on others’ avatars to see other items that those users have logged.

Summer Reading culminates in late August.  Volunteers organize parties at various branches throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, and children come in to receive certificates and prizes. The Summer Reading 2011 kick-off is June 9, 2011.

American Museum of Natural History Explorer App and Website

The American Museum of Natural History Explorer (AMNH Explorer) Phone/iPod touch app is awesome.  Through the museum’s wi-fi network, Explorer can identify your location and offer GPS directions, so getting around the museum is a breeze. In addition, it serves as a guide to more than 100 exhibitions with explanatory text and images of important objects, and provides directions to cafes, gift shops and bathrooms.  You can also share an interesting exhibit or artifact via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.  You can download the app free at iTunes or borrow a preloaded device at the museum.

My husband and I took our daughter to the museum last Saturday.  We used our long subway ride to plan our visit. Once inside, I simply touched my exhibit of choice on my screen and received step-by-step, on-screen directions with a map.  It couldn’t have been easier.  I have to admit, though, it took getting used to carrying my (silenced) phone around a museum.  Once I got to each exhibit, I preferred to read the wall tags, watch the films and interact with the exhibit versus trying to read about the various sections on my phone.  However, the GPS map was brilliant, especially for finding the bathroom quickly with children.  It was also easy to reconnect with my husband via a quick text and digital map after we got separated.

My daughter loved touring the giant brain as part of Brain: The Inside Story. Thanks to AMNH’s fantastic children’s section of the website, she can play the interactive games from the exhibit anytime.

AMNH also offers two new dinosaur iPad apps.

MoMA Kids Interactive Website and Audio Tours and Mobile Apps

The Museum of Modern Art’s free Droid  and iPhone/iTouch apps offer calendars, tours of all MoMA audio programs, general information and an index of all the museum’s works and artists featured in its collection.  The apps’ Snaps feature lets visitors to use their camera phones to snap photos and send them as a museum postcards to family and friends.

No smartphone?  No problem.  MoMA also offers free audio tours (sponsored by Bloomberg) throughout the museum.  The audio tours for kids are interactive and engaging, providing a wealth of information about MoMA’s collections and the building.  During a visit with friends, we gave the children the audio guides.  While my seven-year-old liked the independence of being in charge of her guide and was interested in facts it espoused, my friend’s younger children (ages four and five) had more fun punching the buttons.  This turned out well for all of us, as the younger children were entertained with their new gadgets, and the rest of us could view the pieces in each gallery in which we were most interested and at our own pace.  The audio guides are free, but you need to leave an ID to get one.

Post-visit, children can participate in an online Intergalactic Journey to MoMA and P.S.1 with an alien creature to recall paintings, sculptures and installations that they visited at MoMA and complete art projects; or they can plan their visit to MoMA’s sister museum. PS1.  The online program is designed for children five through eight and requires Flash.

MoMA’s Kids and Family program offers a robust array of activities, including family gallery talks, workshops, films artist talks and other resources for children.

Putting Learning into the Right Context for Children

How do you make learning about art, different cultures and even math relevant and engaging for kids?

Recently, one of my readers left a comment about a visit with her stepdaughter to the Rubin Museum of Art, which is dedicated to art of the Himalayas and surrounding regions.  It turned out to be a great experience for them both, because her stepdaughter had recently studied India in school and took pride in sharing what she had learned with her parents during the museum visit.

Another parent and photographer Darryl Nitke recently told me that he considers himself very educated, especially in the realm of art.  He said, however, that the one place where his middle and high school education had fallen short was teaching art, literature, science, music and philosophy independently and not putting context between them.  He does things differently with his son, who has been accompanying him to museums and galleries since he could walk.  He always tries to tie in visits with his child’s interests, current school topics or by putting the art they view into a historical context.  For example, due to the current tragedy in Japan, he is taking his son to the Met to see The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.

Darryl explained how this process of exploring art with his son came together during their trip to Rome last summer: “We took a bunch of photos at the major sites and of specific works in the museums. When my son started fifth grade this year, his history book had at least 10 photos of the same sites and museum pieces that we had seen—taken from exactly the same place! That really thrilled my son!”

I also recently met parent and sculptor Skye Ferrante while waiting in line with our kids for the MoMA’s Material Lab.  We struck up a conversation about why we teach our kids about art.  He subscribes to Ray Bradbury’s philosophy that “life is a search of metaphors for life” and believes art is a great metaphor for teaching his daughter about the world.

“I learned more about French History from Victor Hugo than I did from a text book,” he said.  “But I’m biased: I’m an artist.”

Nonetheless, I’m seeing the idea of “context” being carried over into subjects other than social studies and art.  My first-grader recently proclaimed that she “hates” math but couldn’t really explain why.  Hoping to glean some insight, my husband and I both attended “Math Day” at her school.  We learned that the school’s math program is based on a problem-solving approach rooted in everyday situations.  “By making connections between their own knowledge and experiences, children learn basic skills in meaningful contexts, so that mathematics becomes ‘real,’” said the principal.  Again, it’s all about the context.

After being stumped by a fourth-grade math problem, we wondered how long we could continue helping her with her homework, let alone encourage her to like math.  We learned math in more of a rote fashion.  And, I’ll be honest, I never liked math either.

A visit to her classroom was more promising.  We saw the concepts that the principal spoke about in action.  The children were writing numbers, reading word problems, building towers with blocks that represented different numbers and calculating the tall totals, solving math puzzles on the class Smart Board and using a giant number line that stretched half of the room, while collaborating with each other through addition and subtraction to reveal a mystery number.  And my daughter seemed very into it.  Was she just having a bad day when she made that proclamation?

I’ve since tried to casually incorporate more math into everyday activities, such as cooking, playing games like Mancala and Monopoly or figuring out the 25 percent savings off a doll that she wanted.  The head of the school’s Computer Lab suggests students can stay on top of their math skills during spring and summer breaks by playing games on age-appropriate educational websites.  He recommends:

http://www.aplusmath.com/;

http://www.brainpopjr.com/math/;

and http://resources.oswego.org/games/.

I also read good reviews of the following iPad/iTouch apps and will be giving them a try with my daughter: Math BingoMath Board and Tic Tac Math.

Internet and Technology in Schools: Why We Shouldn’t Pull the Plug

CultureChild: Technology and School

Most parents of school-aged kids are aware of a current debate taking place on- and off-line, regarding the use of computer technology and the Internet at school.  During the past week, there has been a lot of heated comments on theThe Huffington Post as a result of Laurie David and Susan Stiffelman’s recent post, “Technology and Schools: Should We Add More or Pull the Plug?

I believe in teaching children in school and at home the importance of balancing technology in their lives and how to use the Internet responsibly, in tandem with a lot of teacher and parent supervision.  I’ve seen technology offer my daughter educational experiences that wouldn’t have been as dynamic for her otherwise.

Internet games accessed in school libraries—such as Free Rice, which donates 10 grains of rice for each question kids get right through the World Food Program, international pen pal programs run by Students of the World and cultural exchanges like the Thorn Tree project—exemplify how the Internet can be used as tool to enhance learning, broaden children’s knowledge of the world and further their understanding of different cultures.

Packer Collegiate, a pre-K through grade 12 private school in Brooklyn, NY, has established an ongoing cultural exchange and fundraising program with the Ndonyo Wasin Primary School in Kenya, which is also part of the Thorn Tree project.  Named for the thorn trees under which the preschool children meet, the Thorn Tree project is an exchange between educators in the north Kenyan region of Sereolipi and Jane Newman, a retired New York City advertising executive.  The venture has raised funds to build classrooms and dormitories to house students and has boosted the number of children attending primary school in the region from 132 in 2001 to 651 in 2008.  No doubt, the learning exchanges between the U.S. and Kenyan schools would not have been as successful without the use of technology and the Internet.

At Packer, students in the second grade begin a pen pal exchange via e-mail with the second graders at Ndonyo Wasin.  One year, fourth graders at each school collaborated to write and produce short videos about their schools and share them with one another.

In an article on the school’s website, Andrea Kelly, Lower School Head at Packer Collegiate said   “Our goal has always been to provide both schools with an exciting window on another world.  We want them to know that there are many different ways to live a life.  And with all the differences, we want them to identify the commonalities between their cultures.”

The fourth-graders’ videos described on Packer’s website showcase these ideas beautifully.  In the Packer video, the children proudly display a large garden in which they play, the infra-red controlled sinks and soap dispensers in the restrooms and the wide selection of books in the library.  In the Kenyan piece, the students lead a virtual tour of Ndonyo Wasin—through the dormitories equipped with mosquito netting, into the solar-powered library where the children can watch Sesame Street, and by the athletic fields where children play “football” (soccer) and netball (a game like basketball).  With pride they introduce viewers to two of the 40 camels on Ndonyo Wasin’s campus that provide milk for the school, as well as the solar-powered well that gives clean water to the whole school.  Previously, the students had to fetch water from a well that was two miles away.

While these are just a few initiatives, countless schools are using technology wisely.  Sadly, Laurie David and Susan Stiffelman, who claim to be “in the trenches” as a mother and psychologist, seem far removed from the innovation that educators, who are also deep “in the trenches,” are making on this front.