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July 17, 2012

Mission Possible: Bridging the Gap

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer intern Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share her experience with us. Here, Lisa reflects on what participating in these workshops meant to her. 

Writing 6 word stories that interpret what we see in this piece to spark our creativity, an example of the lively classroom environment EdLab promotes.

She looks up and directs her attention to the front of the room, cringing as she hears the sound of cars zoom across the board with each title. With each chunk of text, she winces at the click of the typewriter flying in from the left of the screen letter by excruciating letter. We’ve all been there; the mess of slides horribly incorporating sounds and effects on a PowerPoint presentation in attempts to bridge the technological gap between students and teachers. Kim Skerritt and Jeff Meade mentioned during the last EdLab workshop, if you don’t feel that the technological aspect of the project will add to the assignment then leave it out.

I was once that girl prefacing each blog I had written for this series, distracted and driven by routine. I’ve been in classrooms where the homework and projects were pulled directly out of the books and listened to lectures in which the material reiterates the textbook verbatim. At the end of the EdLab workshops, we all sought to create our own mission based projects and asked ourselves, as teachers; would we find joy in grading these assignments?Ultimately, what I love about the EdLab workshops is that it does an amazing job integrating our community, interests, and learning while remaining modern. EdLab conducts the workshop in a way that allows for a safe space for the educators to explore and experiment – but it doesn’t end at that, these workshops take the product of our missions and shares them with the public.

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum debriefing after a mission.

21st century technology can be attributed to the idea of mission-based learning in order to create a lively and interactive environment in the classroom. The various Smithsonian museums proved to be wonderful resources that can be utilized in our educational development. As someone who is a visual learner, being up close and personal with the paintings allowed me to better absorb information and apply it to my school and community. I have been able to liberate myself from the stereotypes many people have of Generation Y – and instead, allowed myself to embrace the blessings of this generation and use it to my advantage to create a classroom that aspires towards activism.

Looking for more information about the Smithsonian EdLab program? Click here.

July 13, 2012

Mission Possible: Creative Control

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer intern Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share her experience with us. Here, Neema Amadala reflects on what participating in these workshops meant to her. 

Imagine being able to interact with a painting and the museum in a completely different manner than usual. Instead of simply standing and admiring the painting, we studied and questioned its possible meaning, we created our own narrative about the painting, we didn’t let someone else interpret it for us. This type of experience can be adapted to any museum or any classroom; this approach makes field trips part of the learning experience not just an afterthought. Students unleash their creativity instead of viewing the museum as yet another excuse to leave the classroom: museums open the doors to learning and adventure.

Each EdLab workshop has a theme for the week and a mission for the day but gives creative control to each individual group allowing you to choose what topics interest you and what you would like to explore further. This format can be used in any setting and made me realize how much flexibility educators have with technology. My favorite creation of the week was the comic book our group created based on a Thomas Hart Benton painting in Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art.

“Achelous and Hercules,” 1947, Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), tempera and oil on canvas mounted on plywood, 62 7/8 x 264 1/8 in. (159.6 x 671.0 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Allied Stores Corporation, and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, 1985.2.

As a child, I often heard about putting myself in other people’s shoes. For a child this is a difficult thing to imagine: how do I wear the shoes of someone else? The older you get, the better you understand the meaning behind the phrase. It’s still hard to imagine until you talk to the individual, hear their struggles and the challenges they face. This workshop enabled me to understand the difficulties educators face when trying to implement new technologies in their classroom but their presence in the workshop shows their determination to find ways to continue innovating. Innovate on educators, innovate on!

For more information about the Smithsonian EdLab program, click here.

Comic the EdLab workshop participants created

 

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