Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Technology and the Young Professional

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?


Anonymous said...

Those are excellent questions I feel could be endlessly discussed! I am a huge advocate of using technology in museums, especially to ENGAGE a broader demographic of visitors. I mean engage, not just reach. Online tools and networking are a non-intimidating and low-commitment way to get visitors engaged with your institution without them necessarily feeling targeted. They come on their own terms from the comfort of their home.

For some museums technology CAN be a waste of time and money when it isn't used effectively or persistently. It is easy to mess with Facebook for hours, but you’re museum should have specific goals of what they are trying to accomplish by having that site and limit themselves to those objectives.

I recently attended and wrote on a seminar at the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Conference about online tools museums can use to really put themselves out there.

Though these are mostly tools, they have the same needs as social networking. It DOES take time, but in order to effectively use them, a museum needs to use them often in order to engage more than their normal dedicated audience. We also can't expect instant results. It's highly unlikely any museum will have 200 fans on Facebook within the first week.

Museums need to offer something enticing via their social networking be it a fun fact a day, a contest or a poll. Just occasionally posting that there is an upcoming event WILL NOT engage anybody. I don’t know that technology/social media is necessarily “the future” in museums but I do think it is an opportunity to be taken advantage of.

(Pam Schwartz blogs at )

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I think technology will be a huge help in exposing people to things they wouldn't normally have access to.

For instance, a child going to school in Alaska may never get the opportunity to visit some of the great museums that other kids in the US take for granted on their annual field trips.

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Anonymous said...

Great post, thank you!!! I agree, museums should be hands on, like a NUCCA Chiropractor, and engaging to the people who visit them.

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Anonymous said...

Why is it all the statues in museums look like they have been coated with diana stalder whitening cream?

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