By Julie Wilson
Manager of Digital Learning and Outreach, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
For over a decade the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has used distance learning technology to allow students in grades K-12 to visit the museum without ever leaving their classroom. These sessions allow students to connect live to a museum educator, and experience the museum’s collections and exhibits through photos, videos and audio clips, while learning about topics such as civil rights history, geometry, and economics. Like many museums, the Hall of Fame has used distance learning as a way to reach audiences that were previously beyond our grasp. On any given day, students in places like Texas, Ohio, and Minnesota are able to travel all the way to Cooperstown, New York.
While this particular model of distance learning is a mainstay in many museums, an ever-changing technology landscape demands that we continuously review the tools and resources that are currently available and continuously emerging in today’s market. In the field of distance learning this means exploring new connection tools and presentation formats, in an effort to understand the role that museums can play in the 21st century classroom.
In 2012 the Hall of Fame was selected to take part in Developing a Model for Technology-Based Museum School Partnerships, an IMLS-funded partnership between the New York Institute of Technology and the Albany Institute of History and Art. Through this program the Hall of Fame received training and equipment that have allowed us to broaden our distance learning offerings to include delivery via web-based platforms that were previously unavailable to us. Perhaps more important than equipment and training, was the dialogue that this program created between classroom teachers and museum educators.
As the primary focus of this program is to create a collaborative relationship between museums and schools, each museum participant was matched with a classroom educator, and each pair was asked to design a lesson that would suit the participating class. As museum educators we often see thousands of students each year, generally for only a few hours or even just minutes at a time. This program has challenged us to create a multisession experience that is tailored to meet the needs of one specific classroom, building knowledge discovered over several connections.
To date we have made four web-based connections with the same fifth grade students in Mrs. Leach’s class at St. Isadore Elementary in Riverhead, New York (with four more connections planned before the year’s end). Using baseball as the educational vehicle, the St. Isadore students have learned about geography, economics, math, and civil rights history, with each live lesson being supplemented by (Common Core-aligned) classroom lessons that the Hall of Fame has prepared. At the end of the school year the students will complete a class project that will demonstrate the knowledge they have built during the year and their project will be placed on display in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s learning center.
Museums like the Baseball Hall of Fame are filled with countless resources that can enhance the classroom experience in so many ways. The content is there, teachers are prepared to use it, and the vehicles to deliver content are becoming more available and refined with each passing day. This collaboration has given us a starting point as we look toward the future of partnerships between the Baseball Hall of Fame and individual classrooms throughout the country.
Julie Wilson is the Manager of Digital Learning and Outreach for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY and an Adjunct Professor in the Museum Studies department at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY. She holds a Bachelors Degree in History and Art History from Denison University and Masters Degree in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University.