Venture to the Interior –Virtual Object Lessons

Venture to the Interior –Virtual Object Lessons

Andreas Kratky (USC School of Cinematic Arts, USA) and Juri Hwang (USC School of Cinematic Arts, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-763-3.ch002
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The question of how to design and implement efficient remote learning environments gains a new quality in the light of extensive digital education projects such as the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative. At the core of this consideration is not only the task of developing content for very different cultural settings but also the necessity to reflect the effects of learning processes that operate exclusively with digitally mediated content. This chapter outlines the design strategies of the project Venture to the Interior, an interactive experience that presents selected objects from the collections of the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, Germany, and displays them in a context reflecting the museum as an institution and the practices of collecting as knowledge constitution. The project investigates the role of objects as knowledge devices and the possibilities for a translation of the didactic effects of experiential learning into virtual environments.
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The recent announcement of a 10 Dollar computer by the Secretary for Higher Education in India as well as the announcement of a new computer series of the One Laptop Per Child initiative of the MIT for 2010 gives the discussion about virtual classrooms a new and strong impulse. These initiatives are designed to make educational resources available to children who do not have a regular access to them. Targeted for mass distribution in developing countries these networked computers will be used in areas with sparse infrastructure where the computer and the content available through this computer will often be the only contact with a wider range of learning possibilities. While many of the studies about the pedagogy and efficiency of virtual classroom settings have been conducted in areas where the technological platforms are generally available and where also other access channels to knowledge exist, the question of how to design and distribute educational resources for a situation where the codes and a basic familiarity with digital media is not developed poses a new challenge. At the same time this increasing demand for digital learning resources and remote learning is not limited to developing countries. Also in the industrialized countries the need for targeted and customized educational tools grows and an increasing number of institutions sees the need to provide information and educational content through digital channels such as the Internet and electronic publications.

With the project Venture to the Interior we are exploring several design strategies to address the question of how to communicate historic information outside of the scope of traditional classroom didactics and supporting resources such as libraries and museum collections. The aim of the project is to harness computer-based learning resources to create a flexible and engaging experience that can be explored in a hands-on way by the learner and that conveys the content with rich media. A special interest is to allow for widespread availability through network communication.

The subject of the project is a museum collection, namely the collection of the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, Germany. A set of selected objects is presented in connection with the information necessary to understand the role and character of these objects.

Choosing a natural history museum means that we are dealing with one of the paradigmatic institutions of the Enlightenment project of cumulative knowledge constitution. Starting in the Renaissance period with rather heterogeneous collections that attempted to gather all knowledge in one place, the museum is the center of an effort to collect material objects ranging from artworks to botanic samples, animals, minerals etc. as a way of constructing knowledge about the world. It accompanied the growing differentiation and specialization of knowledge domains and the rise of the scientific worldview throughout modernity. Thus this project allows us to reflect the transformations that this institution has to face in a culture that is dominated by electronically mediated communication and data storage. At the same time archives and museums are the places where our society stores ‘history’ and they are the places we turn to, when we want to get first-hand information about the past and examine or at least see historic pieces of evidence.

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