I just finished a post that was more stream of conscious that was necessary, but one thing I was interested in finding out it how people are integrating technology into their careers. Last week I was able to attend the Summit on Digital Technologies for Museum Education at George Mason University. The point of the summit was to convene educators from around the country and examine the many ways that technology is being employed in their institutions. If you are like me, you probably are thinking "seriously, are we still talking about this subject?" But, yes, this topic is still a large part of our professional dialogue. And I beleive that this is due to a number of factors. First, the technology is still extremely new. It is in some ways analogous to the zipper--invented before it had a purpose. So, many tools require a great deal of experimentation to see if they even have any educational value. Second--and related, museums on the whole are risk adverse. Even some of the most progressive institutions are fearful about what technology is and who has the power to use it. I am stunned by the number of repeat discussion threads on the Museum-Ed list serve that inquire about other museum's policies on Facebook and social media. In not sure that it is solely human nature, or if it has something to do with the often bureaucratic and expert-obsessed nature of museum work, but some institutions seem wholly unwilling to even experiment. Third, dispite recent achievements, there is still a wide technology gap between generational groups. Many people (often, but not always in the older generations), dont understand, see the point or see the value of technology. Conversely, the data supporting how technology is effective and worth the ridiculously expensive investment is inadequate or non existant.
One last thought is that, museums today are always trying to broaden their audience and their appeal. Technology has become a defacto panacea for reaching out to those untapped masses. But, I can't help but wonder if our investments in technology are only reaching an even smaller subset within our already existing audience. Is a digital deliverly method going to make the subject matter any more paletable or accessible? Until some more data is found, I think that remains to be seen.
However, I dont want to come off as completely against technology. In fact, I feel that it should be embraced, experimented with, adapted, and shared. I just think we need to have a clearer reason for using it beyond "it's the newest trend" or "that's what the young kids want and expect."
So, I am curious to know, how is everyone else using technology? Has it proven successful to you? Are you reaching new audiences or the same people? And if its the same people, is a deeper, more meaningful, or more frequent contact? Has it lead to any other opportunities? Have you found any interesting (and cheap) applications that have proven useful to you?