rl_cr[This week’s guest post is co-written by Rhiannon Looseley, e-Learning Officer (web), Museum of London and Claire Ross, a researcher at the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities]

This week there are two of us blogging – we decided we’d be able to cover more this way –  and we want to concentrate first on some stuff that’s been happening in digital learning. We’ll also pick out a few things that are going on in the cultural heritage online sector generally as well.

We’ve been asked before how e-learning/digital learning/online learning is different to other museum web/tech stuff, a lot of which is essentially about learning as well.  Just quickly then, online/digital learning is often defined by the fact that it caters for a particular audience, often particularly for schools.  This means that our roles and the focus of our jobs requires us to understand the specific needs of our audiences and be able to create inspiring and engaging learning experiences rather than on us developing the technology behind those experiences.

Game-based learning

The start of this week saw the Game-based Learning conference (hashtag: #gbl10).  The ideas from the conference to me (Claire) brought to the fore some of the untapped potential of games from the point of view of creating systemic changes in cultural learning and cultural learning spaces. Gaming itself is becoming more and more mainstream and it affects so much of our lives to the extent many of us don’t recognise it or that it has benefits, particularly for digital learning in museums, because the wealth of collections information to draw upon.

This month’s V&A Friday Late also had the theme of playgrounds, which was all about social gaming so this got me thinking further.  Their use of a role-playing game (RPG) to get people engaged was brilliant. An Expedition With Mr Mirrors, is a collaboration between Failbetter Games and  A Door In A Wall (ADIAW). The game brought to life inhabitants of Fallen London, the Victorian-inspired universe of  Echo Bazaar, a browser-based RPG with strong social and narrative dimensions.  Taking a browser-based game into a physical museum was brilliant and provided a one-of-a-kind experience. Much of Echo Bazaar‘s draw comes from its unique manner of storytelling, something which museums could latch on to quite easily. Social gaming in cultural spaces is a really brilliant idea it encourages players to engage with each other and the space around them in a different way, producing more meaningful and unexpected engaging experiences.

Online games also give learners an enjoyable, engaging learning experience online.  Using games gets learners actively involved in their learning (contrasting with the more passive experience of listening to someone speak or reading something) and we know from tests that learners often remember what they have done more than what they have seen. A good example is the Museum of London’s new game,  Starting out, which my colleagues and I (Rhiannon) launched this week, which puts the player in the scenario of having just left school and moving to London, to teach Key Stage 4 students how to manage their money.

Digital Learning Network

The E-Learning Group for Museums, Libraries and Archives recently rebranded and has taken on a new, more informal ethos. It is now the Digital Learning Network (DLNet for short). The idea is to go back to basics and get people talking about technology and learning in museums, archives and libraries. There are so many people whose job involves some kind of learning/digital role, but who don’t have a support network and really depend on colleagues and informal relationships to share information about new developments. DLNet aims to help people to build networks in their area and organise ThinkDrinks, informal get-togethers in the pub, for a cup of tea, at the zoo, wherever people want to meet.  There is a  ThinkDrink happening on 13 April in the Southampton area, so if you live near, it would be worth a visit.

My Life as an Object
We’re both really enjoying following  My Life As An Object, a project run by Renaissance East Midlands working with Rattle. This project is now in it’s third week and is experimenting with encouraging audiences to engage with different objects in new and innovative ways.  The first week people were invited to interact with a bike which was given a personality and a voice on Twitter as @yellowchopper.  Last week we were invited to tell the story of a painting, Tea at Englefield Green, on Flickr.  This week we have been following the life of some  baby-weighing scales on Facebook .  Frankie Roberto is blogging about his work on the project on his blog as well and it’s interesting to read his perspective. It’s particularly refreshing to hear that this is a project which, rather than being about deliverables, accountability etc, is just about experimenting and seeing what happens.  It’ll be useful for all of us to hear what the outcomes of all the experiments are.

Rewired Culture conference
This happened last Saturday (27 March) and brought together developers from various cultural organisations for a hackday and an unconference to explore how to make links between data repositories such as museums and broadcasters and the wider community.  Neither of us attended this event but you can read about what the day was intended to do on the Rewired State blog and you can read about Brian Kelly’s account of what happened on the UKOLN blog.

Linked data
There has also been a lot of discussion around Linked data and what this could mean for museums.  You can read about Mia Ridge’s ideas about linked data, APIs and the Science Museum on the Museums and the machine-processable web wiki.  A meeting was held at the Collections Trust on 22 February (we realise this was a while ago but we don’t think anyone has blogged about it on the MCG blog yet) which you can read more about on Jeremy Ottevanger’s blog .

I’ve (Claire) been looking at a lot of reports about Europeana this week.  It is an ambitious project to put Europe’s cultural heritage online.  Eurpeana acts as a portal to the collections of libraries, archives and museums from all around Europe, in essence links you to 6 million items. I have a particular interest in cross-collection searching and what it has to offer to museums, and more specifically to its users. UCL’s CIBER research group are undertaking a project to provide real-time monitoring and evaluation of the use and users of Europeana, a project to keep your eye on.

Museums and the Web 2010 is coming soon
It’s now only two weeks until the Museums and the Web conference in Denver.  All the papers for sessions are now online on the conference website. We both attended this conference last year and got a lot out of it so no doubt we’ll be following again this year through the hashtag #mw2010 – those of you that are going, please keep us informed on what’s interesting!