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Museum Education and the Web

When I'm not teaching adults or students in the galleries of the Museum, I develop, plan, and oversee workshops for K–12 teachers designed to introduce educators (and, thus, their students) to great works of art through object-based learning, interdisciplinary integration, and inquiry. At the conclusion of these programs, my colleagues and I encourage teachers to pursue further study and contemplation of works of art, directing participants to different areas of for additional research. While the Museum's online resources for teachers are extensive—including the Collection Database, Publications for Educators, the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, and multimedia features—a few years ago we wondered if there might be more immersive and effective ways to introduce teachers to these resources. How could additional tools—blogs, wikis, threaded discussions, and real-time online interaction—help introduce teachers to the Museum's collections?


During a workshop in the galleries, teachers discuss The Harvesters by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

In the winter of 2006 I began to collaborate with Dr. Herminia Din, an art educator at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, to create the Met's first online workshop for teachers, Face to Face: Comparing Portraits. This three-week interactive program for elementary-level teachers explored portraits across the Museum's collections. Occurring both online and in person, the workshop did not—and was not intended to—replace on-site encounters with works of art; rather it harnessed new technologies to allow participants from many different geographic areas to experience the Museum's resources. In that first workshop in the summer of 2007, twenty-eight elementary-level educators from sixteen states participated in a variety of online experiences: they wrote blog entries, contributed to threaded discussion topics, created hands-on art projects, collaborated in wikis to craft questions about the works of art, gathered key pieces of information about portraits from across collection areas, and "met" one another in live, synchronous webinars. At the end of the program, the teachers had several PowerPoint resources they could take back to their students, which they had created by working collaboratively and by using materials, images, and resources found on

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Screenshots from a virtual class reunion during the webinar Elluminate Live (November 14, 2007).

Following the successful launch of our program in 2007, we have developed more of these blended (online and on-site) experiences for teachers. Last winter, in conjunction with the special exhibition Beyond Babylon, we offered a multi-week program for educators, and last summer we collaborated with the American Museum of Natural History to offer an online and on-site summer teacher institute called Art, Science, and Inquiry, which we will offer again this summer. We have also started offering seventy-five-minute webinars for K–12 educators on a range of collection-based and thematic topics.


Teachers take measurements and other observations in Central Park during Art, Science, and Inquiry Teacher Institute, Summer 2009.

The process of creating and implementing these online teacher programs has helped us see value in the multiplicity of museum experiences: online and in person; personal and public; individual and collective. As the field of museum education has embraced interactive conversations with visitors, so has technology changed from "browsing" to a more participatory culture. As user-generated content expands and as interactivity becomes the core of communication and education, we are pleased to take advantage of online resources to create deeper and more meaningful experiences with our visitors.

For information about Teacher Programs, or to participate in an online or on-site program, email or call 212-570-3985.

William B. Crow is an associate museum educator and the head of School and Teacher Programs.

Related Publications
Crow, W., and Herminia Din. "Blurred Boundaries." Museum, July–August 2009.

Crow, W., and Herminia Din. Unbound by Place or Time: Museums and Online Learning. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums Press, 2009.

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