Failed by the classroom, saved by the technology

We’ve all been there, having slaved away the night before on an amazing, interactive, multimedia rich, 3D enabled, socially connected, cutting edge lesson (now in lifelike colour) for our students, when we get to class and bam, no internet, or the projector has died, or the wifi is down, or..dam more software updates…again…Yes, we have all been let down by technology in some way or another.

But how about when the classroom lets you down?

img_0082Today I was all ready to take a class of year 9 students though early Australian settlement (as all year 9 students look at the topic as part of; the nature and extent of the movement of peoples in the period (slaves, convicts and settlers), or ACOKFH015 if you want to sound all cool and Australian curriculum-ie) though the artworks on display at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Australian collection.
We have such amazing pieces that document this period in Australian history, from the first studies of Australian wildlife by Frederick Polydore Nodder* (seriously, have you seen a platypus? those things are nuts) to the classic, The Pioneer by Frederick McCubbin (humble brag, painted just down the road from my house on Mount Macedon)

These works are a wonder to see….but we couldn’t.

*(By the way, you can freely download the original 1799 book with these original drawings right here, it is all kinds of historical awesome.)

Yes, apparently when you have priceless artworks on the wall, moving them isn’t as simple as just taking it off the wall, adding a few nails (and just eyeing if it is straight like I do) and putting up something else. It takes days of work, handling, inspections, painting the wall and so on. So, the 19th century gallery, the one that has, you know, all the works I wanted to focus on, was closed, and will be for the rest of the week.

But yes, technology to the rescue. Like I have always done in the past, I created multitouch iBooks for my lessons, more of a way for me to get my head around things then anything else. As such I had one I prepared earlier, full of high resolution images of the artworks, videos, interactive elements, notes, and more (sorry, no 3D this time around).

imageFor the first half of the session we jumped into a lecture hall and used this resource to talk about the artworks and early settlement. I was able to pinch, zoom, and do all those things you can’t do with the actual artworks (no touching!).

We were able to do a bit of a focused deep dive on all ‘the history stuff’ and then spend the rest of the time in the other galleries just taking in what we saw and making connections with other artworks.

And I have to say (though I am sure this would be frowned upon in the art world) the effectiveness of having a classic art piece, in super high resolution on a massive projector screen, without people’s heads in the way (yes, I thinking of you ‘height challenged people’ constantly stuck in the back row) has its advantages.

So is there a lesson here? Well, they always say you should have a practical backup for the classroom should the technology fail, I guess it is just as important (and as easy with always in sync, cloud based tools) now to have a technological backup should the classroom fail.



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