Marilyn Joslin Sklar
 
          
My ten-year-old daughter worked quietly on her math one evening. She lifted her head and asked me to help her with a geometry problem. While she was satisfied with my assistance, she said she needed a bit more clarification. So, my daughter went to her online textbook for more guidance. She clicked on a box, and a disembodied voice slowly explained a problem with graphics and text. 

After my daughter completed her homework, I was curious about her experience with technology in her educational experience. She said she loves the games she plays to learn multiplication. She likes videos she watches for science sometimes. My daughter says she wants to create more things. “That would be fun,” she smiles, “but, I want my teacher to be there, too. She helps me learn.”

This MOOC explored the concept of humanness and technology in learning. I found the videos and technology to be most relevant to my family’s experience in online education. Learning achievement for us has been personal, but success was made possible by the human element. 

Kolowich (2010) argues that “presence-oriented learning” is a key for successful engagement in online courses. The human presence, he says, can be both visual contact with the instructor as well as other classmates. I agree with his argument, and I use my family as a case study. 

After two failed attempts at graduate school in traditional classrooms, I almost gave up on an advanced degree. I had switched careers, but that was not the problem. As an introvert, I sit in the back of the classroom, observe, and listen. I will participate in discussion, but it takes awhile as I am quiet and afraid to say the wrong thing. 

In 2009, I stumbled upon the master’s of arts degree in museum studies at Johns Hopkins University. This online program was made for me. I took to it rather quickly. I had to discuss, but I did not have to face other students. I could observe and read then respond without fear. If disagreement happened in a discussion, I had time to reflect, respond, and feel okay about it. At the same time, I learned many new technical skills necessary for today’s world. 

The program provided a safe environment to learn. Yet, the human element made me grow. The program surveyed its students and found something surprising; students indicated that community was one of the most liked aspects of the program. The community was created in a number of ways. Instructors had one-on-one video chats via Skype with each student once or twice each semester. There was a closed Facebook page only for students where discussions of every sort took place. Current students and alumni had contact with one another on this platform. Students had group projects each semester, and hours were spent in group chats in discussion forums or audio chats on Skype. There were often live lectures, too, where students, instructors, and guest speakers interacted. So, synchronous and asynchronous methods created the community, and that community provided moral support, developed friendships, and created a fabulous networking system. 

At age eleven, my son was bored at school. He needed something more, especially in math. The traditional classroom was not working for him. My son tested into the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University and soon began taking an honors algebra course online. The course was designed with a recorded lecture followed by problems. The quizzes all had instant feedback, yet the tests were taken at home and faxed in. My son liked this design, but he also liked contact with his instructors. Although he had two during the course, he spoke with them by phone weekly and e-mailed them more often. He liked the instructors and trusted them. That course was followed by a geometry course, which was more of a correspondence class. He loathed this design because of the lack of any human contact, whether live or recorded. 

Finally, my husband is working on his master’s in business administration currently in online program. The former average student is now an excellent student. The online degree provides a new way of learning. My husband’s new academic success is not just from the online design but from the contact with classmates, other working professionals, and instructors. In his situation, the contact comes from discussion forums, conference calls, and emails. He thrives on instructor discussions and feedback and classmate conversations. 

Technology is embedded in education in the United States today. Elementary school students record and edit their own videos and podcasts. High school students and university students take some or all of their courses online. Professionals complete advanced degrees online. Engagement and success, however, are dependent upon the human presence. 

 
Seminar - Day Two. Four hours of sleep and aching feet. I brought smart walking shoes, but I think I need new feet. And, I turned in at 2 am last night. I am tired and looking at dark circles this morning. Yesterday, we walked a bit through the British Museum and received our assignments for the next two weeks. Our time at the British Museum was very interesting. We looked at the British Museum as both an encyclopedic museum and a global museum. A series of lectures, followed by a panel discussion, focused mostly on the institution's brand as a global museum. Jonathan King, Keeper of Anthropology, was our gallery guide. Later, he presented about the museum's partnerships with other countries for training their museum professionals and working with native artists. Two examples are: 1) The British Museum (BM) loaned an exhibit to the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) while it was undergoing some renovations, and BM helped rebuild NMK's storage facilities. 2) The British Museum has worked with the Haida in Canada, and BM is working with the National Gallery of Canada on building a First Nations collection. We also heard about BM's new project called "The History of the World in 100 Objects", which is a partnership with the BBC. It began as a radio show to highlight 100 objects from its collections that would tell the history of humans around the planet. It has been a grand success. The project now has an online database collections. Museums around the nation, as well as private citizens, are invited to contribute their own objects. One man exceeded his limit and posted more than 100 of his own objects telling the story about his hometown. One speaker briefed us on archaeology in the UK. But, my  favorite speaker was Colin McEwan, Head of Americas Section - Andean Projects - who told us about how museums and social science can make major impacts on people lives. He highlighted his archaeological research in the highlands of Ecuador. His excavations employed locals from a small village, and years later he worked to get a cultural center built to display and interpret many finds. This was not a fly-by-night operation. He had an exhibition designer work with them on the gallery space, and they used local inexpensive materials for the display cases! It was very sharp! The center has brought a sense of pride to the village. Ecuador's president gave the village a national award for their civic work and success!  We ended our day with a wonderful reception at the University of Westminster. Many drinks and "nibbles" (as Alan Morrison called them). 


On a personal note, I found a wonderful little pastie shop on Oxford Street on the way back from the British Museum. I tried one with lamb and mint. Yum! Also, I discovered two more little bookshops yesterday, including an Oxfam store. The Brits are avid consumers of the printed word, and they have the BEST little independent bookstores. Yes, I purchased a couple more books. (I'm going to WAY over my weight limit with my luggage on the way home!)


A bit cloudy this Tuesday morning. I'm off to the showers to prepare for another day on the streets and in the classroom! Sorry, no time to post photos this morning. However, I have several pages of them on my Facebook page from Monday.





 
Architecture, art, and greetings. The London Seminar began today at the University of Westminster on Regent Street. Dr. Alan Morrison welcomed everyone. It took him awhile to get everyone's attention as we were still introducing ourselves and figuring out whether we all looked like our avatars. Some people do, some do not. Dr. Morrison introduced our other instructor, Peter Ride, and the program's very own Phyllis Hecht. After Dr. Morrison gave us a wonderful history of the university and building, we walked through the neighborhood and stopped occasionally as Dr. Morrison gave us backgrounds on many buildings, their history, and famous residents. We even stopped by a home where James Smithson once lived. Heard that name before? Smithson..as in Smithsonian? The group of nineteen students and three instructors made their way to the Wallace Collection. Dr. Morrison gave us a tour of some of its most famous paintings by artists such as Titian, Rubens, Steen, Rembrandt, and Boucher. The paintings alone were amazing. However, the galleries in this once elegant estate were also stunning. I wanted to grab a late afternoon snack at the cafe, but I headed back to my place of residence--Marylebone Hall. The orientation was a great treat. The days ahead hold much promise, challenge, and excitement. Adding to my thrill today was the discovery of a great bookshop on Marylebone High Street--Daunt Books! What a store! I will be back to spend more time! Tomorrow, we register, have a session on media and museums, and tour the British Museum with North American Curator Jonathan King. Among other things we will discuss the museums' "History of the World in 100 Objects" project. 


Please find below photos from today's events. I invite you to comment on this post or previous ones. I always want to hear your thoughts, feelings, and insights. 

Alan Morrison is pictured in the second photo, and Peter Ride in the third photo on the right. 
Churches and a cool store display. The first church seen above is the All Souls Church. 
Sculpture on the BBC building. Morrison stopped briefly here to point out the architecture and the sculpture. Now, don't you think that the cloud formation looks like the United Kingdom?
A red phone booth--an icon of London. A church. A broadcast tower. Cool window ironwork. And, a brief street tour about the Smithson House. Do you know what great institution benefited from the life of James Smithson? Finally, some street scenes. 
Dr. Morrison guides us through galleries at the Wallace Collection. The masters' works are woven into the display. 

BEN & TATE

7/10/2010

 
I am still getting accustom to this blog. This is my third attempt at an entry. Somehow I deleted the past two. So, let's try this again. 

Saturday was a wonderful day: sunny, warm, and filled with interesting stuff. I toured the Benjamin Franklin House then the Tate Modern. Although we will visit the Tate Modern during the seminar, I wanted to experience it alone so I could wander and linger. 

The Benjamin Franklin House is very unique. It turns out that its interpretation is a grand case study for my internship at Tovrea Castle, which will be interpreted with a heavy docent tour, few artifacts, few period furnishings, but some text panels. The tour at the Franklin House is a well-crafted combination of theatre and living history. After a brief introductory clip about Franklin's achievements, a docent in costume dress takes you through rooms. Franklin's life and the time period comes to life with the docent's narrative woven with digital graphics and sound. Each room has few furnishings, but the spaces suddenly are filled with people and life as you listen to recorded conversations, in which the docent will often participate. It may seem odd, but it works. It really does. I recommend the tour to anyone who is in London. It takes about 45 minutes and only costs 7 pounds. 

The photos below are of exteriors of the Benjamin Franklin House, some exhibit cases in the reception area, an interior hall shot, and a shot of the purse Franklin carried while living in London.
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TATE MODERN

The Tate Modern sits along the Thames in an old warehouse, I believe. I had such fun wandering through the neighborhood of old brick buildings with pubs tucked into alleys or on street corners. There is a lot of construction in this part of the city as you will see. 

Anyway, I came to the Tate Modern to visit the exhibit "Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera". It is about the role the camera and photographers have  played in our lives since its invention. How intrusive are cameras? Do people have the right to be photographed by anyone? What about on the street? How beneficial are surveillance cameras? They have helped us solve crimes, but do we really need them? The exhibit addresses these questions and more in a very provocative way. I left pondering about my love of photography and the subjects I choose. Sometimes I shoot people on the street as I did in the park when I first arrived. Were those shots voyeurism? Did I have the right to intrude upon their private moments with my lens....without their knowledge? If I had requested permission from all of them, the moments of real life would be lost. Everything would have been posed. Makes you ponder, doesn't it? 

Along with this ticketed exhibit, I explored some of their permanent collections. I found it interesting that one small gallery had an Anish Kapoor with a Francis Bacon. It worked..sort of. I am a fan of Kapoor's work but not so much Bacon's pieces. Kapoor's work is sensual, while Bacon's paintings are haunting. Works at two ends of the spectrum, in my opinion.

I hope you enjoy the photos from the Tate...along with some views of the surrounding area shot from a balcony off a cafe area. Thanks for checking in today. See you tomorrow!
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Outside "Exposed" exhibit. People watching surveillance cameras which are watching people in galleries. Would you want to be watched?
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The gallery with Kapoor and Bacon. 
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Views from the Tube to Tate Modern. I love the old with the new, the brick with the metal, the curved lines with the arches.
 
I got a late start Friday. I spent a few hours reading and doing work. Besides classwork I also have regular work to do..as well as research for my internship. Okay, that makes me busy, but that makes me busy in London. I can grab a pint and read...or enjoy a glass of wine and work on my laptop in the cooler climate of England. 


So, as I was saying, I got a late start. I walked from Marylebone to Camden Town, where I visited the Jewish Museum London. It recently reopened with updated exhibits about what it means to be Jewish in the United Kingdom. In one exhibit about Jewish life and rituals, there is a touch screen called "Ask a Rabbi". You can choose from a number of questions, then choose a rabbi from a particular faith. It was fun to hear the different perspectives on the role of women in Judaism and who is a Jew.  There were many other interactives, including a large touch table about the history of Jews in the U.K. The museum had the touch table outside the ritual/life exhibit. There really was no sign directing your attention to it. Gee, after research last semester, I know that table cost tens of thousands of dollars. People passed by it because there was no signage. A few teens wandered over, and after realizing what it was, began to have lots of fun with it!


I picked up some great ideas from the Museum of London about interactives for exhibits. One is a puzzle which asks you to assemble the pieces of a clay vessel (a rubber reproduction, I believe). The other interactive was a game about the history of Jewish expulsions and suffering in Europe. While the topic is awful, the game made the topic a bit safer to discuss ...and turned it into something fun and interesting. 



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Well, after taking the above photos, my camera batteries died. Note to self--TAKE EXTRA BATTERIES DAILY! I have no more photos from the Jewish Museum London...or of Camden Town. For anyone else in the seminar reading this, Camden looks like a great place to grab a meal; I saw some lovely restaurants with cheap prices! Camden is a quaint neighborhood, too. 


Sadly, I have no photos to share from the Museum of London either. Sigh. Great museum. I really enjoyed the exhibits on London's prehistory and Roman periods. As I posted on Facebook, I was shocked momentarily to see human skulls in some of exhibits of earlier periods. Curators also included human cremations; some vessels were filled with ash and bone pieces. We can't do that in the States anymore, really, not since the passage of NAGPRA. We have living descendants, and I think we feel differently, too, about treatment of the dead. What do you think? This topic started quite a discussion on Facebook! Do you think human remains should be displayed? What if the remains are non-native? What are your thoughts? I will post more photos of the Museum of London as our group will tour there later in the seminar. 


After a brief rest period for my haggard feet, I met up with Allison Dixon and we headed to the British Museum. I learned from their Facebook posting today that the museum was having a free evening event--"Renaissance Late". It featured all kinds of activities about the Renaissance, including art activities, theatre, lectures, Italian beer and wine tastings, falconry, and swordfighting demonstrations. Allison and I chose to watch the INDOOR swordfighting and the outdoor falconry demonstration. 
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Oh, yes. The birds worked for treats--dead chicks!
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Allison Dixon pets one of the hawks in the falconry demonstration. He was beautiful! 
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After "Renaissance Late" we finally had dinner! Allison and I decided on the Museum Pub very near the British Museum. Yes, the Museum Pub! How great is that?! We had pear ale and some nontraditional pub fare; my dish was shrimp curry! Spicy but the curry was a little cold. Well, that was my museum hopping for today. Tomorrow, more fun, more museums, more London!


RESPONSE TO TOM: HI, TOM! Yes, they were wearing protective gear. You could still hear the clash of the swords. I'm sure the real things are much louder. It was kinda cool watching them though. 


I've been to some other birds of prey shows. In Flagstaff, the staff members at the Arboretum feed the great horned owl quail parts. My friend and I wondered what the fuzzy things were the man at the British Museum was feeding to the raptors. As we got closer, we saw the dead chicks. And, he was not just giving them small pieces. At one point, he gave a hawk a decapitated chick, which the bird ate in about three bites! That's nature for you: eat or be eaten. 
 
Good morning! It's a lovely summer day in London! I was awakened at 6:15 am by a call from my son, who's in summer camp in California. He called to say, "Good night"! While he heads to Dreamland, I'm off to explore more of the city today. My plan is to walk to the Jewish Museum London and  to visit the Benjamin Franklin House. Yes, by the way, Ben Franklin lived in London for quite awhile, and the home is now open to the public with tours. I'm very excited. Oh, that reminds me. I need to purchase my ticket this morning. I will meet up with colleagues for dinner, then hopefully off to the Victoria and Albert to explore for a couple hours since it's open late. 


Yesterday, I suffered from a serious case of jet lag. Struggling to stay awake, I hit the streets of London to explore the Marylebone neighborhood. I wandered toward Regent's Park and found people enjoying the gorgeous weather in many ways. People basked in the son on the grass, napped on park benches, read books, picnicked with friends, and strolled through Queen Mary's Rose Garden. On the way back to the hall, I snapped a few photos and hopped into a couple shops for a quick dinner and to purchase a hairbrush. I always forget to pack something, and this time it was a hairbrush! I can't run around London looking like a crazy American tourist with unkempt hair! 


Note: For more information about the Jewish Museum London, check out these photos from the New York Times.


Below are some photos from Regent's Park and a shot of the rooftops of Marylebone. I love those old brick buildings and chimneys!


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Hi, Kim! Still trying to figure out how to correctly respond to blog comments. Thanks for your post. Yes, I am heading to the Tate Modern tomorrow! Thanks for the tip on how it enhances Nina's book "The Participatory Museum". I'm looking forward to my solo visit. We return as a group to the Tate later during the seminar. I'll post photos of my trip tomorrow. "See" you in class! 

London Seminar

7/7/2010

 
This blog is another class assignment for "Creating Online Learning Environments". And, it came at a perfect time! I am off to attend the London Seminar for the Johns Hopkins University MA Museum Studies program. You are invited to follow me each day as I learn and play. I have a few days to be a tourist, then I must be the student. This will be my third time in London. I visited in the late 1980s as a young single person, then again in 2003 with my husband and two young children. During this trip, I will be solo...but staying with colleagues at the University of Westminster. My hopes are to enjoy England, to relish a bit of "me" time, to make new friends, and to absorb some new knowledge. 

I depart this afternoon from Phoenix and arrive in London Thursday at noon. Just finishing up some class readings before completing my packing. Travel should be good. Only major storm system in the Midwest, and the rest of the East and Atlantic look mostly clear. A bit of rain in London today. Well, I must finish some readings, hit the treadmill, get my daughter ready for camp, and run a few errands before leaving. I'll "see" you in London. 


(Response to comments: I have yet to figure out how to respond to comments. So, I will respond with the associated posting. 


To Tom Walsh: Hi, Tom! Yes, I'm not accustom to the humidity anymore. I've lived in the southern/southwestern part of the United States for most of my adult life. The past ten years have been in Phoenix, where it is a dry heat. And, in Phoenix, it gets clammy with about 15% humidity. I was sweating quite a bit here yesterday. Humidity today here is forecast to be 34%, 47% Saturday. I'll try to wear cooler clothes today.