Election 2017: Education for all

This is a series on five major election issues seen through the eyes of the national museum.

In the lead-up to the 2017 General Election, we have linked each of these issues to objects from the collection, or education programmes, run by Te Papa. In this post, Learning Innovation Specialist Ewan MacLeod writes about Education.

The word ‘education’ has many different meanings to many people. This is as true inside Te Papa as it is outside. However, instead of talking about education in the abstract we more frequently talk about learning.

This is especially true of the Learning Innovation team at Te Papa. Our role is to empower lifelong learning. We aim to change hearts, minds, and lives and we do this through our collections – they drive learning. We believe that everyone is a learner. Providing access, motivation, and opportunity to learn is our mission!

Virtual learning

One example of how we provide access to learning (and to our collections) is through Virtual Excursions. We enable ‘visitors’ to undertake a virtual tour of some part of the collection. We use video chat to connect learners and educators. As the educators move through exhibitions, they use stabilised video cameras to share their experiences and guide learners to objects and images.

A girl films a plane hanging from the ceiling

Learner-led Virtual Excursion, 2017. Photograph by Matthew Richards. Te Papa

Pania Smith, a Mātauranga Māori Educator, described a recent Virtual Excursion with a Tertiary Nursing Programme from Te Aho a Māui – The Eastern Institute of Technology, as a moment that rang true because it “put the right educators in front of the right people at the right time.”

This connection, through live video, allows for a learner-centric experience where the learner’s own questions and interests can guide the shape of the virtual excursion. In this case, the discussion around the Treaty of Waitangi. For this, the timely conference being held at Te Papa on the the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People was the ideal situation to broaden and enhance a cultural understanding in different contexts.

‘Equity of access’

According to Matt Richards, a senior learning advisor, “Virtual Excursions provide equity of access to learning for schools who cannot afford the transport costs of getting to Te Papa. The sessions enable learners from geographically remote locations to build global communities of learning.”

A man films one of the giant models in the Gallipoli exhibition

Scott Ogilvie connects with a classroom through video chat in Gallipoli – The scale of our war, 2017. Photograph by Tara Fagan. Te Papa

As we facilitate education through our Virtual Excursions we continue to learn ourselves. As Richards tested ideas around networked learning in Hīnātore Learning Lab, he observed a young learner from a local Wellington school using the stabilised camera to run her own version of a Virtual Excursion. As the young learner moved through Tangata o le Moana – the exhibition telling the story of Pacific people in New Zealand, she was connected live with a class of young learners at a primary school in Melbourne, Australia.

Beyond the walls – and across the seas

As the Melbourne students asked her questions she focused on salient museum objects including communicating information about a vaka (an ocean-going sailing vessel). Richards describes this as “transformative use of technology.” The discourse had moved from being transmission of knowledge from one to another into a two-way conversation where both learners were making discoveries.

Virtual Excursions are one example of Te Papa’s educational programmes that use emerging and connective technologies to transform collaboration and communication in education.

As the New Zealand national election draws near, we are interested to see how ‘education’ is bounced around in various policy and approaches. As always the shape of education will continue to change. At Te Papa as we try to change hearts, minds, and lives, we empower learners to create their own shape for learning.

Previous blogs

Remaining topics in this series include immigration and the economy.

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