Education and Technology – Experiences in Digital Learning

24/06/2021 12:00 am

The current situation related to the Covid 19 pandemic has necessarily accelerated the natural and now inevitable process of technological innovation in all learning environments, especially in the area of education and cultural heritage.

On the one hand, the repeated periods of closure prompted museum institutions to try their hand at digital cultural productions. The latter are not only capable of overcoming the “physical barriers” with content that could potentially be exported worldwide, but they have also allowed for experimentation in different situations, and, at the same time, they have allowed for more in-depth learning before, during and after the museum experience. On the other hand, the challenges have been and are many. Cultural institutions have had to rethink their educational offerings.

“There has been an acceleration of the digital transformation of institutions, first of all in the way content is delivered through digital channels, which have gone from being mainly a means of promotion and information to a real tool for knowledge dissemination. Initially, cultural heritage institutions responded to the challenge of the first lock-down by producing products of often ‘artisanal’ quality. As these started to establish themselves as a real knowledge transfer tool, the level of professionalism in the production of the content itself also increased. Today, the greatest challenge – which museum institutions are facing – is to create attractive products, specifically designed for digital use, which are not the mere transposition of the physical experience offered online, but rather paths where interactivity becomes a highly experiential learning path.” [1]

If we focus on the children audience, a careful analysis of cultural consumption, museum supply systems and their evolutionary trends at national and international level has highlighted a number of public needs. In recent years, we have witnessed a considerable expansion of cultural offerings dedicated to the very young. New formats and innovative objectives have been created with the aim of enhancing the ideational, creative and creative capacities of younger customers: no longer visitors, audiences or spectators, but authors, creators, producers of contents and experiences, because it is not enough to enhance the ability to understand and interpret, but it is necessary to stimulate the ability to design, create, do and narrate.

A class project that participated in the third edition of the M9 Contest Urban Landacsape

In the case of museums, alongside the myriad of educational departments (around 35,000 in traditional European museums in 2018), the proliferation of science centres and children’s museums has not been accidental, ascribable to the centrality assumed by creative culture (which includes technical-scientific culture) and children’s dynamism. In particular, the children’s museum format has developed and established itself both in the United States and in Europe: according to the Association of Children’s Museums, about 31 million children and families visit American children’s museums every year; in recent years children’s museums have grown by 135%, while science and technology centres, which are also highly attractive to an under-15 audience, have increased by 52% (www.childrensmuseums.org). This phenomenon is mainly due to the fact that, in general, more attention is paid to children’s learning and to the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in education, the so-called stem education. In addition, there is a greater demand from parents for sophisticated places dedicated to play and edutainment. [2]

Having said that, we believe that museums and cultural institutions should intercept emerging trends and pay attention to the interests and needs of tomorrow’s domestic audience: schools, young people, families with children. In particular, itineraries should be edutainment and service information, focusing on the onsite visit experience and exploiting the innovative potential of new technologies, able to provide a satisfactory response to the growing interest shown by the new generations in technological and scientific innovation.[3]

The educational departments have a great responsibility towards the territory and schools, that of creating highly experiential cognitive learning paths characterised by multimedia and interactive displays, familiar to the younger public.

Multimedia and interactive languages, which have now become an integral part of children’s lives, enable us to work on multidisciplinary educational paths, intercepting the needs of schools.

One example we would like to bring to your attention is the use of the Minecraft Education Edition MEE platform. During these years of experimentation, we have realised how this tool – initially created as a playful instrument – has become an extremely versatile tool of integrated teaching. Three years ago we decided to rebuild our museum centre using Minecraft bricks.

M9 District in Mee

 

M9 District in Mee

This gave rise to the idea of launching a national and international contest for schools starting from primary, lower secondary and upper secondary level on the themes of the 2030 Agenda.

M9 Contest Urban Landscape is a competition where we invite schools to question themselves on their own territory, to become aware of what should be done in terms of urban planning to improve their neighborhood or village from a social and cultural point of view.

The MEE platform stimulates the young participants to produce and create a scenario which, although it takes on a virtual nature in its representation, nevertheless allows them to think constructively and proactively about issues that are characterized by a significant level of complexity.

The success of this project highlights how this digital platform offers the possibility of creating flexible learning environments, in which the roles, including that of the teacher, change in relation to the traditional concept of a frontal lesson.

MEE allows the teacher to work on participative and inclusive dynamics, aims at the development of problem solving and encourages a conscious and proactive use of devices and media education.

The third edition ended on 5 June 2021, and was attended by 250 primary and secondary schools, for a total of 5,000 students in the north, centre and south of the country. This year, more than ever, the MEE platform proved to be a valuable ally for integrated teaching, as we have seen from the many positive comments received from participating teachers.

 

 

[1] Osservatorio Digital Innovation – Politecnico di Milano Conference 25 May Extendend Experience: the challenge for the cultural ecosystem,

 

[2] Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, 9 May 2016, Strategic plan for the development of tourism in Italy, progress of activities, Rome; Ministry for Regional Affairs, Tourism and Sport, Tourism Italy 2020, 18 January 2013, Strategic plan for the development of tourism in Italy, Rome; World Tourist Organization 2016, Annual Report 2015, Madrid.

[3] Silvia Fabris, M Children: a didactic infrastructure on the frontier of innovation, chapter in the book ” A New Educational Frontier” Carocci editor 2019