April 17, 2021

cruciforme

travel, Always a step ahead

With school trips cancelled, are interactive online museum tours the answer?

3 min read

From there, it’s a bit of a choose your own adventure with articles, quiz questions, and videos and other virtual tours of different sites. I found myself getting drawn in further and further, fascinated by the sheer joy of learning. 

I think this is where a resource like Google Arts & Culture will really come into its own for schoolchildren and their parents and teachers.

“We’re conscious that many more educators are now resorting to and looking for material that is designed to work well for online learning so we’ve tried to ensure that there are elements if not the whole thing, which could easily be implemented into an educational context,” explains Chance Coughenour, a digital archaeologist who works as program manager at Google.

Educational needs

That being said, it’s hard to imagine, for example, what possible school curriculum would encompass everything from mummies to Roman interior design to mosques to Jewish funeral traditions. Certainly, it will fall to teachers and parents to cherry pick the sections of this project and any of the 10,000 others available which will fit their educational needs. On the other hand though, that doesn’t quite feel like the point here. 

“We’re trying to take what would seem complex, too scholarly or academic, and make it accessible to everyone,” adds Coughenour. “For this project, people might be interested in ancient Egypt or they may have only heard about King Tut and the pyramids, but from that little bit of interest they can then explore and learn all the other bits about ancient Egyptian history… We want to help guide users on a journey through the past in all its many layers.”

To that end, I found the information given is resolutely digestible and easy to follow, none of it too challenging, but equally it’s presented with a storyteller’s flair for scene-setting, stuffed with calls to slow down, learn more, and interpret it for yourself. If I had to put an age on it, I’d say that anyone from older primary school age children up to teenagers will learn the most, though as an adult using it, I found it just as engaging. 

There really is something for everyone here. Coughenour points me to a page at the bottom of this particular project which links to a previous one where Google worked with the British Museum using AI to create a bot which translates English messages into hieroglyphics. It’s brilliant fun and makes clear the connection between a language like hieroglyphics and contemporary emojis. 

And it’s not just Egyptology by any means. At a glance I can see other projects from Google to guide me through the Natural History Museum’s new Wizarding World Fantastic Beasts exhibition, 20 years of the International Space Station, all the Greek tragedies staged at the National Theatre, or a virtual tour of the Royal Academy. 

I’d liken this resource to the joys of a good school trip. These projects and explorations are not necessarily filled with details that will help young learners pass their tests or hit everything on the curriculum, but instead focus on niche areas to sow the tantalising seeds of intrigue which could grow into a lifelong passion, inspire self-taught learning, and dare young minds to explore further. 

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