Discovering, Creating, and Sharing Digital Museum Resources: Understanding the Needs and Behaviors of Youth Users

Darren Milligan, Smithsonian Institution, USA, Melissa Wadman, Smithsonian Institution, USA, Brian Ausland, Navigation North Learning, USA

Published paper: Discovering, creating, and sharing digital museum resources: a methodology for understanding the needs and behaviors of student users

As museums continue to expand their digitization efforts, many now include a focus on how to understand and improve the impact of access to these previously inaccessible resources. How are different audiences using these collections? How are they impacting the work of scholars, educators, students, and enthusiasts? This paper addresses the potential impact of access to these resources on students through an analysis of an ongoing research and evaluation effort at the Smithsonian. Beginning in 2013, and more intensively throughout 2016, the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access has explored the potential educational impact of access to its nearly two million digitized museum, library, and archival resources. Their efforts are designed to meet the online needs of this target group via a platform called the Smithsonian Learning Lab, a new Web-based platform (launched in June of 2016) for the discovery and creation of personalized learning experiences. The case study project conducted research with students to make the Learning Lab as useful to them as it has been designed to be for educators. The methodology included student observations and interviews; a literature review focused on online learning and the use of digital materials; environmental scans designed to understand the features of popular online learning systems and social media platforms popular with students; and finally, prototyping with this group in the classroom. The project uncovered some specific approaches to guide the adaptation of the Learning Lab to better meet the needs of students, including approaches that could lead to the development of best practices for enabling educational and personal use of museum digital content by students.

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