December 7, 2010  |  Events & Programs, Tech
Spending Real Time in Cyber Space

Screenshot of a webinar taught by Lisa Mazzola and Beth Harris

I’ve never considered myself particularly “tech-savvy,” but recently I began to rethink that notion. Over the past year or so, I have been experimenting with technology. At first the whole process seemed counterintuitive to what we try to do as museum educators. For me, the appeal of teaching has always been the engagement with people and facilitating meaningful interactions with works of art and with one another. I was not sure if that could actually be accomplished online, but I was willing to explore the possibilities.

I started with teaching a blended online workshop for teachers this past winter/spring. Besides being a great entry into the whole process, it prepared me well for my next endeavor, as it utilized two technologies that I would be using later down the line. Shortly after that first webinar, Beth Harris came on board as the Education Department’s first director of digital learning, and on her suggestion I began to explore social networking sites for teachers.

Screenshot of Abstract Expressionist New York webinar

On October 21, 2010, at 8 p.m. EST, Beth and I conducted a webinar for teachers from around the world through Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for teachers that offers free interactive webinars using a synchronous software tool called Elluminate. I was already familiar with Elluminate, as I had used in for my online workshop last year, and this was a great opportunity for us to share our resources for teachers on and Modern Teachers online that relate to the exhibition Abstract Expressionist New York. I’m not going to lie—there is definitely a learning curve! But once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy to use, and you can have a surprisingly high level of discussion and interaction. Although I could not see my students, I felt very connected in that 90 minutes and experienced the same excitement and invigoration as I often do at the end of an on-site program.

I have come to realize that what we do online is not a substitution for what we do in person, but rather its own experience with its own unique advantages. It also allows us to connect with audiences around the globe and to help foster the sharing of ideas and resources among them. I guess I never anticipated that I could be as engaged and excited with the online audience and I am with the on-site audience. Teaching webinars, harnessing the power of social networking, blogging about the whole experience on INSIDE/OUT—maybe I am tech-savvy after all!