Just after I passed on the information about the local history museum that turned its tour into a phone app, the Times published this article: http://tinyurl.com/2ewpp69
Seems every cultural institution realizes the potential for this kind of do-it-yourself tour, but — as the article shows — what the museums are actually offering is (so far) OK, indifferent, or hard to use. Well thinking about that, and the NPS project I’ve shown you, suggested to me that schools might think about class trips in a new way. Lets say — even in the days of testing and budget cuts — a certain percentage of middle school kids are still taken to local sites such as Ellis Island in New York, or the Lincoln Home in Springfield, or San Francisco Maritime park. What if the AP or honors history class was asked to create an app — using digital archival sources — for the trip the middle schoolers would take? Then, after the trip, the class would add its own notes and comments (leaving out, or leaving some different space for, class gossip and Hi Mom comments). The following year, the school would have the revised, annotated app to use, or to further modify.
The idea would be that older kids who have a better sense of history and better computer skills would select materials for younger kids to experience, but the resulting app would be an evolving tool used by the school. That way, the class trip would be constantly active, recreated, re-envisioned, through the skills of both sets of kids. Then some sites might have annual contests for the best apps, or have a websote where a series of annual winners would be available to be downloaded by any school or visitor.
This is a cross between a scrapbook, a historical tour, and a kind of school-by-school Zagats designed to make historical places come alive. Schools would be building pathways into the past by using modern devices and digital resources. What do you think?
Vicky brings up the question of resources and access and for the moment that is clearly a question. In some wealthy schools teachers can assume every middle or high school kid has smart phones and many kinds of iPads and laptops available. In poor schools students may only see computers in the library. Now I do think there is some grant money available to help schools get technology. So the divide is not absolute and not entiirely random — there are steps schools can take. But for the moment I think some schools will have to be the experimenter, while others wait for technology to become cheaper, or some school version of these devices is created that allows schools to give out tools that are not worth much outside of the classroom but give students the capacity to join in this new kind of learning while in school.