Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Building the Future of Education

Last week I dropped a tantalizing hint about the second position planned for the evolving CFM Fellows program, one that will be officially announced at the annual meeting next week. Here’s the unofficial preview:

The Ford W. Bell Fellow for Museums and P-12 Education

In honor of our outgoing president (himself a former teacher—bet you didn’t know that!) we are creating a two-year position to start the Alliance down the path of creating the “vibrant learning grid” CFM envisioned in last year’s white paper on education.

It’s 2025, and:
Paolo’s dad drops him off at preschool—right at the front gate of the Detroit Urban Nature Museum. Paolo is excited about his morning activity—exploring a new topic in the engineering center—and about helping to plant the garden during “Curiosity Time” in the afternoon. Modeled on the Hundred Acre School that opened at the Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich, Massachusetts in 2014, this program in Detroit is one of the “1000 Museum Preschools” that have opened in museums of all kinds over the past ten years. By 2025, these museum-based, immersive, hands-one experiential learning programs serve over 50,000 children aged 3-5, in all fifty states.

The Ford Fellow’s mission will be to:
  • Foster innovative education experiments by museums
  • Compile and disseminate case studies of museums integrated into community education networks
  • Identify high-performing digital platforms that aggregate and distribute educational content (and help museums infiltrate those sites)
  • Conduct research to quantify museums’ contributions to education, and help the field set ambitious but achievable goals for scaling up that impact
  • Pilot projects that help communities integrate museums into the local learning ecosystem 
That’s a tall order, but we are confident that in during the 2 year residency, this first Fellow will help the Alliance plot a continuing course to achieving these goals.

It’s 2025, and:
Jess and her classmates are studying Ancient Egypt. They browse the Internet to find3-D scans of objects they want to print for their classroom museum, and select a scale model of the temple of Dendur from the Metropolitan Museum, a canopic jar lid from the Smithsonian and three mummies from the Field Museum of Natural History. As they assemble their exhibit, they compile questions to ask the staff of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum (halfway across the continent, in San Jose, CA), which they will tour via telepresence robot next week. Building on Bre Pettis’ MakerBot Academy initiative, by 2025 over 70% of grade schools have 3D printers in every classroom, drawing on digital content shared by over 5000 museum in the US, giving students hands-on access to art, history, science and nature.

The Alliance is supporting the fellowship itself out of operating budget—which is only appropriate given the core identity of our field as educational organizations. However, we need your help to fund the activities of the Fellow, in order to accomplish our ambitious mission.

It is fitting, given this is a CFM project, that our funding campaign will rely in part on crowdfunding—rallying the support of museum professionals and people from all sectors who value museums’ role as educational institutions, and share our belief that museums are key assets in the next era of education. Your contribution, of whatever size, on our Razoo funding site can help us claim that generous gift. Just as important is your help in spreading the word about the campaign. If you want to support the Ford Fellow, please blog, tweet, Facebook and Snapchat with a link to the campaign site [razoo.com/Museumsarethefuture]. 

It’s 2025, and:
Indra is riding the bus across town to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where she is interning in the department of herpetology. She is one of forty teenagers who have chosen CMNH as their formal work-for-credit experience. Another thirty-five students are working in the parallel program at the museum of art, fifteen at the historical society and eighteen at the botanical garden. Altogether, almost 200 students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District are engaged in formal museum internships in any given year, and are, in turn, serving as mentors and tutors to younger students in science, math, art, and history. Building on the shift towards personalized, learner-centered programs that engage teenagers in real work, it is becoming the norm for the staff of US museums to include teen interns, engaged in research, interpretation and collections care in return for educational credit. In 2025, the American Alliance of Museums releases a report projecting that by 2030, half its member museums will offer such internships, serving over 5,000 teens.

You may be curious about how and when we will recruit the Fellow. Keep your eye on this Blog later this year for more information on that. But here’s a teaser: if you are a regular reader you know I’m a fan of alt hiring practices, and the search for our Fellow will probably take some interesting twists and turns.

It’s 2025, and:
Ivan Sedowski is browsing the online catalog of teacher training from Coursera. He’s torn between the Museum of Modern Art’s“Art and Inquiry" Course, which as one of the original Museum MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) for teachers, now enrolls over 50,000 teachers each year, and one of the newest offerings—“Immersive Math,” just launched by the Museum of Math in NYC. While Ivan finds this online content immensely helpful, he was blown away by the Exploratorium Teacher Institute he attended last summer (that program’s 30th anniversary!) and is looking for a similar program to take next July—maybe one at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which is practically in his backyard. By 2025, over one-fifth of American teachers receive at least a portion of their continuing education credits from museums, either through on-line courses or face-to-face learning.

The microscenarios interspersed in this essay depict the scope and scale of the rich, immersive, experiential learning landscape museums can create in coming decades. Each of these scenarios is grounded in the present, extrapolating from something a museum is actually doing today. The assignment for our field (should we chose to accept it) is to scale those efforts up to the point where museums are part of the personal learning portfolio of every child.

The Fellowship will be announced at the general session of the annual meeting on Monday, April 27 at 10 am. At my session "Beyond Field Trips: Museums and the Next Era of Education" (Tuesday at 1:45 pm) I will discuss the fellowship--and the future of education generally--with my guests Katherine Kelbaugh, director of Atlanta's Museum School and founder of the new Association of Museum Schools, and Andrea Rombauer, Manager of Family Programs at the Atlanta History Center. We are going to leave plenty of time for Q &A, so come prepared to contribute your thoughts as well.

I know we can build this bright future of learning—because museums can change the world. Help me make it so.


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