Notes from the Education workshop. 4/21/09, from 9:30am to 11:30am.

Note: If you edit/comment inline, please put your changes in [brackets] with your initials (or user name) and the date - - it really helps keep us from going crazy. (The Style Guide has a tip on this.) Thanks!

[Note: Yellow text signifies things to highlight/elevate. Green text signifies Action Required. M.E. 4/24/09]

A page on games...

[added by GBG 5/11/2009]

- - - start of workshop, recitation of process - - -

Q (Leo Mullen, Navigation Arts, Facilitator): Think holistically about this institution. How well are you executing on the core vision of this institution?

  • some aspects doing very well

Q: Does SI do better disseminating info or creating it?

  • we could disseminate more widely and more focused in our mode and measurement on how effective the solution
  • amount of scientific and expertise in units. We could do better at disseminating nationally.
  • better at creating knowledge. We're sitting on a lot of wonderful knowledge, with all this research. Not that we can't get it out - we can't get it out in ways that are most useful to our many audiences.
  • for 150 years +, groundbreaking research. Web offers possibility of whole new world to disseminate. Web can be used as a tool to start disseminating some of this info.
  • 54: we create far more than we diffuse. In house there is a wealth of info. Because of large size of org, there is so much going on that internal employees don't even know what's going on to diffuse that out.
    • [Couldn't agree more with that! For those units that have direct contact with customers and/or CRM systems in place to monitor customer interests, we don't have a good way to filter through all of the new information to identify what makes sense to pass along to whom. There are a few good examples out there that do collect & orgainize info for distribution, one being the Jazz Appreciation Month project, managed by a group at American History. Anyone ever heard of something similar for the scientific research? Smoot, 4/29]
  • people responsible for increasing the knowledge get no reward to diffuse the knowledge. If scientist spends 1/3 hours working on exhibit, s/he doesn't get credit because it's not in his/her performance plan.
    • [TSA can provide honoraria for curators/scientists who make public presentations, but the funds go to the department, not the person. Not sure how much "diffusion" is in a curator/scientist position description, but the really good presentors are in great demand. All of these presentations, of course, tend to take them away for their core work. Smoot, 4/29]
  • 23: goal is to publish scholarly journals, but problem is that it's reaching very few readers. Distribution of info is scattered, not centralized or controlled. Average person on street isn't being reached.
  • dissemination is an after thought. More effort to create the knowledge.
  • institution is struggling with academic/university model, but that model doesn't have the same need as SI. We serve the global community - they serve students only. [Some universities may see this differently, but I see the point: SI thinks our mission is to increase and diffuse knowledge for everyone in the whole world. M.E. 4/24/09]
  • SI has disconnect between it's increase in knowledge and it's visitors (online and offline). People who do the research aren't able to talk to visitors. SI should find a way to bridge this gap to make researchers accessible to these people. [Reminded of how the memorable moment for the experts during SI 2.0 was getting to talk to a scientist about meteorites. We need to find an unintrusive way of sharing what these people are already doing. GBG] [I agree with Georgina. There are great stories, they just don't get out there. We need full time storytellers who have some background in the subject matter and it's their job to get the stories out. Not all curators and researchers have the time or desire to do this. EffieK] Who are our customers?
    • [Not sure how this works inside a museum (Discovery Stations?), but for public programs, there are units who do this, e.g. and of TSA's Regional Programs sub-unit. This is a sub-unit that generates revenue--the school system or local community pays--, but as stated above, it is not practical to keep the best curator/scientist public presenters on-the-road all the time. Should point out that it is not just a conflict of "conduct research or present research," but also competing Smithsonian units who want these people to present. Who take priority? Free "live" public programs? Paid "live" programs? Free or paid digitized versions of these programs available on the Web? Smoot, 4/29]

Q: Effort / vision must be focused on education. What does this mean?

  • inclusiveness, to reach others who can't come to museums in person. Web and new media should include as many of these people as possible. Reach out to them.
  • In 30 years of working with teachers, education is to draw out, not step in. Researchers are passionate learners first. Re-create that ecosystem.
  • People are doing things for personal pleasure and life-long learning. Not necessarily formal learning.
    • [Resident Associate Program is a great example, e.g. learn to paint or listen to a lecture on a recent archaeological discovery. Converting live programs into a digitized format for use on SI Web sites is not easy and without a funding source, impossible. Haven't seen a good revenue model for this with lifelong learning--only with academic credit programs. Smoot, 4/29]
  • Does education include formal and informal learning? Community of learners - should be broad to include both audiences. Create a community of learners, globally.
  • 15: to link back to research, we need $ and support to provide to researchers and learners.
  • if focused on dissemination, staff needs to have professional development. Learn how to best disseminate.
  • university level education has changed widely over the years via Internet. Our education avenues need to reflect that new technology. Most visitors come through web.
  • gives SI physical ability for users to tell us what they want. More of an interactive relationship. This will give us a better idea of what the public IS looking for so we can tailor initiatives to that.

Q: How do we change this?

  • we need new metrics. Amount of funding to get people into buildings is out of proportion to funding online. Understand physical maintenance could be more expensive, but not investing enough to maximize outreach online. [Web is currently funded as an add-on versus as an Institutional program. It needs to be elevated as an equal program in how the Smithsonian does it business. Traditionally Web has been viewed as competing with onsite visits-- and "worse yet" offerred for free. Yet, studies are showing that by increasing web audience we increase traffic to our buildings. The Web also offers the visitors a chance to "self study" so that when they see the actual object they can appreciate it more. PSmith 5/5]
    • We are suspecting that new digital methods of outreach are also bringing in younger audiences, important for starting to build loyalty with the rising generation. [MacArthur 5/12]
  • if serious about engaging the national audience, there's no better tool available to us.
    • [How does the Institution make the jump from creating educational exhibits--mostly object based--for Mall visitors to creating online educational programming, esp. programming that is beyond simple video streaming? Maybe we need partners, with expertise that we don't have in place, to help make this happen. Smoot, 4/29] [I think it's partly a matter of resources and expertise, partly work patterns. At least at our museum, we tend to be very project based. Once an exhibition is open, curators and educators tend to move on to the next thing, perhaps after engaging in relatively short-term, intense programming efforts (both online and off). On the other hand, the thrust of a lot of 2.0-style online efforts is about building communities and relationships over time. Most of our staff are reluctant to commit to something like that. MacArthur 5/12]
  • look at ways to leverage technologies to elicit interaction among in-museum visitors. [Take it even further and use technology for in-museum visitors to point them to other related objects on display at another SI facility. At AAM saw an interesting application that let visitors bookmark objects they were interested in with software running on a PDA. After the trip they went to the website to view "their museum" with their bookmarked items. Visitors could learn more about the object, including video. To have this and also be able to contact the curator or educator or other visitors would be powerful. PSmith 5/5]
  • Web is not confined to what happens on the computer. It's also what happens in the gallery. [There's been at lot of talk at HMSG about galleries remaining "sacred spaces", where a viewer can intellectually "interact" with an artwork and doesn't require cell phones or touch screen monitors to make that interaction happen. I don't fully agree with that; I think some people need guidance in their interaction, especially with contemporary art. Do any other museums have this discussion about galleries being "sacred spaces"? JRossi 5/15/09]

Q: Does public perceive SI as an educational facility? Does Congress?

  • crowd sort of agrees and disagrees...
  • I'm a local and all I remember is that is was a nice place to go each year. Until I worked here, I had no idea of the full scope of SI. [An ongoing challenge is that SI is viewed most often as a destination. We need to better promote both our formal and informal offerings. PSmith 5/5] [Agreed. In redesigning our website, much of the management involved kept thinking the audience is someone planning their trip to the Museum, not the other audience of researchers, students, professionals, etc. We need to keep in mind the wide span of audiences that our websites cater to, not just tourists preparing for their visit. JRossi 5/15]

Q: How does the SI measure educational efforts?

  • 71: our Office of Policy and Analysis has done studies of exhibits, measuring what is important.
  • 33: people at the top need to go to museum and watch how people interact with the museum. Watch how they engage with the exhibits to determine whether/not they're successful.
  • What is "successful"? Doesn't seem to be a consensus across any media - Web or exhibits. All we've heard is "how many people" - not how things are being used. [This is definitely important. We need to stop focusing on how many people participate in our projects and start looking at the value that they take away, the level of engagement, etc. - GBG]
  • Leo Mullen: follow up to that - what would a company that puts SI out of business be measuring?
    • [Visitor/customer satisfaction, repeat visits/purchases, customer involvement, customer referrals, customer donations, etc., all of which requires some means of identifying & building a relationship with customers, i.e. a CRM system--hopefully a single system or multiple systems that share data seamlessly. Smoot, 4/29]
  • how much follow up is there if I go to the museum? Do I go to the Web to learn more? How can I be even further inspired? Engagement over time. [Don't forget engaging before the visit. PSmith 5/5]
  • should create a community for educators to use their collection of knowledge. [One example would be to provide our stuff to them to create their own educational curriculm which could be posted back to SI websites for other teachers to use or adapt from. Let the educators do some of the work for us, and give them a platform to share. PSmith 5/5]
  • if creating a community of educators, then everyone can have a say with what success looks like.
  • find a way to expand the community/ecosystem here to better engage with the public.
  • no one has yet said that education can become FUN! We need to figure out how to make engagements FUN. The education part is secondary to that, but you can have fun and learn at the same time.
  • we're not the sole source of knowledge/fun - just part of it.

Remember! this strategy is by you and about you, so please comment and share your thoughts on this wiki!

Q: Who are the Smithsonian's most important students? Who do you educate the most/best? Where's your sweet spot?

  • difficult to answer b/c we don't know who is learning NOW. We don't make an effort to identify those people. Record who they are and what interest they have. [This was stated in the context of Web site visitors. Very few SI sites have Web site registration functions to allow visitors to create accounts and identify themselves. Why would we not want to do this on ALL SI Web sites? It would certainly facilitate the collection of useful feedback, either comments published online or Web forms for people to submit comments & suggestions--dare I include questions?--to the appropriate unit/staff. Smoot, 4/29]
  • people learning most from us are those on fellowships, scholarships, training programs...
  • 15: students implies formal learning... this discussion should be about "learners". Formal students K-12 / 6-12 would be most important in our museum. Pre-K and adult learner is growing though. (American Art)
  • as a consumer of SI education, SI affiliates program TSA program (The Smithsonian Associates) is very powerful. Connections through those courses is very profound. Would be interested in demographics on those audiences. Assuming they're retirees, which could be potential funders.
  • other educators - informal and formal. Could reach all their students through just one connection. [Don't forget home schoolers. PSmith 5/5]
  • multi-generational / families / different ages.
  • I Wouldn't agree that teachers are most successful. They're one of most important audiences, but small percentage of teachers aren't even aware of SI education and resources. What they do with our resources is different than what we'd like them to do with our resources. What are they "doing" with it? [Note: this comment came from someone who works in a central office that supports educators! M.E. 4/24/09] [Why are teacher's not aware? Is it that we don't make it easy for them to find all of our resources from one central place. Instead requiring them to hunt through out our very broad web presence? PSmith 5/5]
  • struggling with this question. Audiences are extremely broad. What's the max number of people we can serve for the budget?
  • we don't turn interaction on the floor into a long-term interaction. We're not communicating effectively internally - sharing.
  • this institution struggles with defining education at the outset. We hope we are changing the way someone understands the information - stimulate something. Different learners, different backgrounds...
  • [We haven't really tapped into the youngest students at all. Take a look around and it seems that 75% of the families that visit have older and younger kids that don't fit into the K-12 category. Do a better job of helping families educate and entertain their P-K tag alongs. More Discovery Theaters, please. More "touchable" places where silence and strict obedience are not prerequisites to learning. Ask teachers at SEEC [Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, a daycare program for kids of SI staffers M.E. 4/24/09] to contribute to the knowledge base! FosterH74, 4/21/09]
  • [The Discovery Theater "Meet the Museum" program is a great example, but I believe is limited because it struggles for funding. Discovery Theater, receiving no federal funds, is supposed to be self-funding. Smoot, 4/29]

Q: How to get SI focused on education?

  • 117: yes, it's an achievable aspiration but useful to think of which audiences have greatest leverage potential. For example, Congress is small amount of people, but could turn into more funding for education. Teachers are key audience because it leverages impact. Term 'students' limits the audience to just that audience.
  • 61: SI needs to be clear in communicating to public what it means to participate in this learning experience. What are we offering the public? What do we want the experience to be with the visitor? Can we define that experience? Could be topical - interested in one topic - or life-long learner.
  • if I have a symptom, I go to Mayo Clinic site. Would like to see educators - anyone who wants to learn something - come to the SI website. Has to reflect what we're actually doing here, and all of us moving in the same direction.
    • [Maybe someone from VIARC Public Inquiry could pitch-in here. VIARC could easily report what people are looking for when they contact VIARC, as the VIARC staff actually communicate with people--as opposed to us Web staff, who just watch Web traffic counts. Unfortunately, I don't think VIARC records each contact digitally, but they should be able to provide a lot of anecdotal evidence of what people are looking for when they plan their visit or when they are calling about their great-uncle's WWI medal. If we know more about what people are searching for, we can better direct them to the proper learning experience & determine which learning experiences should be given priority for development. Smoot, 4/29]
    • [Any reason VIARC shouldn't have access to a central CRM system for creating customer accounts for callers or mail inquiries and recording what people want? That would allow subsequent follow-up using any and all available technologies. And, wouldn't these people be good SI member prospects? Smoot, 4/29]

Q: Why is education not mentioned on Home Page?

  • we should be going to THEM, they shouldn't necessarily have to come to us.
  • even if "education" was on Home Page, it's not something I'd click on anyway. Formal students and teachers might, but that might not be the right way or word.
  • Encyclopedia Smithsonian - get to it from Home Page if you click on FAQ. Been doing since '94. Gets 20mil + visitors per year which means a lot of those things are probably bookmarked by teachers.
  • (L. Mullen)... wow! I didn't know that existed... sound great.
    • [Action Required: need someone inside SI to comment on the status of Encyclopedia Smithsonian. Is this a current and fully supported program? Is it stale and not supported? Do we know anything about visitor satisfaction? M.E. 4/24/09]
    • [I think it is pretty stale and it has some bad links. Last time I talked to VIARC--6 months ago--it had an uncertain future. Will investigate. Smoot, 4/29]
    • VIARC maintains the site. The links are all current as of last week, but that is always subject to change with all of the different places linked to! Anyway, OPA/VIARC would love to see the site become interactive and database driven like Folkways album seach by topic. Whatever happens in the future will be part of the redesign of the SI Portal following the outcome of the web strategy process. - D. Small
  • need to make decisions, be clear, define things. If we don't have a definition for education, someone needs to define it (like branding and marketing).
  • ["Education," as someone expressed in the workshop, isn't exactly exciting and fun. But if we use "Knowledge," which is specified in our mission, we broaden the scope while including educational efforts. As far as SI's home page, we could begin to define Smithsonian for online visitors by emulating the appearance of touchscreen phones: represent each unit, as well as "Science and Technology," "Art and Design," and other functions of SI, as "apps" using popular images (panda for NZP, Elephant for NMNH, etc.). Each "app" could link to that unit's individual site. The Visual Identity Program did this with their SI-logo site and it feels much more 2.0. GS, 5/5]

Q: Does anyone know what the Smithsonian stands for (in the mind of the public)?

  • museums on the Mall
  • study from Web Trends back in 90's. The public equates the Smithsonian brand with trust, quality, excellence, education.
    • From tourist standpoint, most people think of a place to see the "real stuff". If education on top of that, OK, but looking for the stuff.
  • American History: Some assume we are an encyclopedic resource, knowing everything about everything. Within our museum, there is sometimes a tension between aspiring to be the resource for American history, or admitting that we have strengths in certain areas and focusing on those (which is increasingly necessary as we continue to bleed curatorial expertise and resources). It seems like that is an issue for the wider SI, and is a factor in how we brand ourselves as an educational resource. The Web gives us an opportunity to be a trusted broker to bring together good people and resources that exist all over the place, not just within SI, and my sense is that our audience would find that very useful. [updated and expanded 5/12, MacArthur]
  • [A safe and trusted brand. We should leverage this brand by creating a safe harbor on the website where parents feel comfortable letting their children explore on their own. As more information goes online, not all may be age appropriate especially if we ramp up our digitization and access to these digital assets. Options could include creating a kids zone like PBS kids or when searching our collection by default return content lableed family friendly as the default, with an option for older visitors to see all of our content. PSmith 5/5]

Q: How do you move from artifacts to education?

[This Q/A came out a little fragmented. Action Required: can somebody flesh this out a little? M.E. 4/24/09]

  • 33: instead of listing all our artifacts and word "education" on Home Page, ask "what do you want to learn today?" [I'm wary of the word "learn," too. Don't you think it's just as off-putting for young people as "education" is? We should be leaning more towards discover/explore/experience/interact language. Oh, and FUN :) GBG]
  • 41: the way a lot of websites are laid out, it's from visitor's perspective. Yes, serve visitor audience, but just a tiny fraction of our audience.
  • Bran Feran indicated in his SI 2.0 keynote a direction for thinking about this: artifacts/objects are the bearers of stories. Unpack the stories to engage the audience in a learning/sharing experience. Interestingly, he also pointed to the value of wading through the raw data in the archive and making discoveries on one's own as a valuable learning experience. [NP 5/12/09]

Q: How well are you using the Web today?

  • "D"... [Note: lots of heads nodding up and down and mutterings of agreement. M.E. 4/24/09]
  • It's not interactive. It's Web 1.0. People want interaction.
  • Leo: people are coming to your websites to get what THEY want, not a certain demographic.
  • We have a hard time communicating what we do have. Getting our stuff out there in it's digital form.
  • From top down, everyone's job is not focused on getting it out there. We're focused on our own portion of it. It's not in our job description to communicate with each other.
  • [Our sweet spot is the breadth and depth of knowledge at the Smithsonian. Right now much of it is hidden. How do we open it up and create dynamic and nimble educational experiences with true 2-way dialogs, versus just telling? PSmith 5/5]

Q: Pick a subject, Lincoln, you have content across so many museum and research centers. Is that happening today (are you bringing that content together for your visitors)?

  • Yes, for the Lincoln Bicentennial - the "SI Connections" pilot project is trying to do this.
    • (Another participant said that this did not come off well. It's challenging to find it on the Web.)
    • Another said she's not sure how collaborative it was. Not a lot of pan-institutional discussion. More like silos gathered on one page. [To clarify, the collaboration for coordinating exhibitions and events was great. The web piece was challenged by a very short timeframe, lack of internal development team, and late start. If collections were more readily available across SI, this site could have given people access to the
    • [I think if you ask the Public Affairs staff, you'd hear that is was VERY successful. All of the RAP Lincoln programs sold out. There was tons of publicity generated. Note that the Lincoln Bicentennial celebration was a city-wide effort, i.e. not just a Smithsonian effort. I thought there was a lot of SI collaboration; at least much more than normal. Smoot, 4/29]

Q: Pan-Institutional Search?

  • We should collaborate internally, but allow others in community to collaborate as well. We have to think of ourselves as experts in process, before we know everything about everything.
    • How does that work with trust, value to brand identity?
      • Trust is not something you can shove down people's throats.
  • The nature of the different SI sites is very fractured. All general SI sites serve public very badly, not highlighting what we're really good at.
  • Objects are great carriers of stories. We should research this storytelling area. Also inspiration of the archive / feeling like you can be an expert and explore the knowledge on your own. We need to open the door to the attic - fun things to explore!
  • SI has this amazing giant collection, not all with experts, but this is what Disney and Nat Geo don't have. If I want to learn about Civil War, I can check out a million books at library, but SI has actual photographs and artifacts. That's why we're here.
  • Including the broader community enlists public's services. Gets their feedback.
  • When we ask people "do you like what we're doing?" Generally results are high, but saying give me more of it, and let me sort through it. Still, museums have tiny fraction of collections online. THEN talk about what else we can do with that.
  • For the things that we don't have curators to interpret, why do we need a curator to interpret some of that stuff? Put it out there and let the people interpret it.
  • We need more people who are professional storytellers, effective communicators. Help the public build that story.
  • 10: empower the visitor to learn about their visit, but also empower them with collections themselves. Relies on their skill set to ask their own questions. We have this stuff... how would you like to use it? We have all kinds of teachers and students using the same stuff, all for their particular needs. Public Ed at Natural History[It would be wonderful to give teachers and lifelong learners online access to newly digitized collections along with some simple tools - slideshow and movie making applications, annotating/commenting capabilities - and see how they want to do with them. EffieK]
  • There are those having rich experiences, and are thrilled whether brief or long. We don't tell story about successful educational interactions. McDonalds... "they're lovin' it!" Disney... showing us people having a good time. [Is this a story we tell? As in advertising or marketing? Or is this a story we let visitors tell each other, as in through community? M.E. 4/24/09] [Action Required: get Effie K to weigh in with insight from Flickr Commons and Click! sites. M.E. 4/24/09][
    • SI Archives recently asked the public to help them identify some of the portraits in the Science Service Records. First, it educated the public about their work and the time and care it takes. Second, it gave the public the satisfaction of being part of that process. Third, portraits were successfully identified!
  • 71: From SI Library, which has cross searching capability. [See the new Collections Search Center ( ), which provides easy "one-stop searching" of records from archives, library, museums, and research units at SI (LSF from SIA on 4/22/09)]
    • [Action required-- a few more sentences about the cross-search program and why it's important. I'll ask Ching-Hsien to weigh in. M.E. 4/24/09]
    • [The pan-SI collections search is a perfect base on which to build so many things, including educational tools. Imagine the Learning Times online conference SCEMS hosted about Lincoln built on top of a pan-SI database of collections; curators and researchers could easily pull in collections from across SI into their presentations, teachers/students/lifelong learners could us these same collections for personal and educational use. EffieK]
  • 98: Using Web to try to find out what people want to know. Everyone loves themselves first. Ask them what they want to know, give them the ability to search. Creating learning opportunities.
    • [The general tone of this in the meeting was about metrics, and I related it directly to Tim O'Reilly's ideas about understanding your customers as your co-developers. In What is Web 2.0? O'Reilly writes
      • "Users must be treated as co-developers, in a reflection of open source development practices (even if the software in question is unlikely to be released under an open source license.) The open source dictum, 'release early and release often' in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, 'the perpetual beta,' in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. It's no accident that services such as Gmail, Google Maps, Flickr,, and the like may be expected to bear a 'Beta' logo for years at a time.
Real time monitoring of user behavior to see just which new features are used, and how they are used, thus becomes another required core competency. A web developer at a major online service remarked: 'We put up two or three new features on some part of the site every day, and if users don't adopt them, we take them down. If they like them, we roll them out to the entire site.' "
    • . M.E. 4/24/09]
  • Starts dialog.

Q: How are you engaging the younger audiences today? Those are your life-long learners...

[Action Required: We got away from this basic/fundamental question. Need to flesh-out and hammer away at this question. M.E. 4/24/09]

  • [Wouldn't it be cool if every SI classroom/meeting space was filled on the weekends with kids in classes learning? RAP Summer Camps are almost always sold out--with paying customers, but that is only in the summer.
  • people are following Twitter, and finding out what's important to others. We can [use Twitter to] point our info to where stories are already being told well.
  • shouldn't be afraid to admit when we're wrong. Facts may not be absolute correct, but can always correct that info later on. Delighted when she found an error in SI info, and got a thank you back from SI saying they corrected it thanks to her input.
    • [Visitors are also very impressed whenever we change on-line content in response to their comments. It makes them feel part of something and (I think) makes the Smithsonian a little less intimidating. GBG]
    • [Since it's part of an archivists job to make sure they have their facts straight, we should make it easier for them to put collections out that aren't fully researched by including a disclaimer. Powerhouse Museum has a good example- "This object record is currently incomplete. The information available may date back as far as 125 years. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records." EffieK}
  • keep passion in mind. Internal collective passion about what we're doing. When I'm connecting to online communities I'm connecting to like-minded passionate people.
    • [absolutely critical, and resonant with what I'm reading in Crowdsourcingby Jeff Howe right now. We'll be successful if we're honest and passionate with the public, who are, as noted above, our co-developers in all of this. Not to mention our employers, patrons, etc. M.E. 4/24/09]
  • providing facts isn't the same as storytelling. We could be an encyclopedia, but it's not the same as education.--- -
  • What's the difference between learning and education? Maybe should be known as a learning institution. A place where knowledge happens.

Q: What's the difference between posting info vs. turning info into experiences? Which are we doing now?

  • M.E. - "I want to assert that we've been thinking about this - - perpetuating - - a false dichotomy. That our strategy and behavior has to be at one extreme (publishing raw data) or the other (curating everything). In fact, what we'll be doing is defining a rather broad range of acceptable/necessary behavior between the two extremes. There are some instances in which we'll be serving well if we just publish raw data: some instances where we'll be doing the best work if we carefully sift and curate. (Though I'll assert that we'll need unfettered access to data just to get our jobs done internally as a knowledge institution, and heck, if the tools are good enough for us, why wouldn't the tools be good enough for the public?)
    • This goes to an important digression that has huge implications for our strategy: the lines between intranet, extranet, and internet are almost completely blurred. Tools that are necessary for us internally (intranet) will also be necessary for us to work with partner institutions (extranet), and those tools will also be extremely useful in interacting with the broad public (internet). We should architect the toolset with the understanding that tools that are useful for us will also be used publicly, and visa-versa. [Rant above added ex post facto by M.E. 4/24/09]
    • [We also need to provide the user with better tools so that they can "curate" the raw data themselves. GBG]
  • others want to interact with our expertise, not just see the content.
  • We have a concept of ourselves we should put aside. Do we see how we communicate ourselves, the tools we use, as informational tools? We don't provide toolset to others. Our unit doesn't engage with tools because it's a flat engagement. We see ourselves as solely information, therefore our audiences see us as solely informational.
  • need to provide tools to users (object based learning). SI is a place to go to learn about objects. Not enough discussion around how people learn with objects. We could help provide that knowledge / tool kit. We're experimenting with how to do it online. It's a process. Differentiating fact from other competitors.
  • artists are coming in teaching about something that's not exactly in our collection. Thinking about our "objects" more broadly.
  • All other institutions have their own claim to fame, example Lincoln. If others can come together, along with us, they can localize content better than SI.
    • Access to experts at SI was rated as the most valuable thing via survey post [Lincoln] conference. We keep talking about web as if it's main purpose is research, but audience these days want to interact. Web is more than a database. Replicate what happens in the gallery. An experience. Not just a data or knowledge search.
  • There's not enough time in the day to answer all questions posted in a forum. Especially if opening up to a national audience.
    • The whole community answers, not just SI... who's the authority? Who moderates? If you have enthusiasts, they will correct the content automatically. [The whole SI community should be invited to help with the answers. Not jut the curator from the holding unit, but related-subject curators, trained docentws, and educators come to mind. We should embrace multiple voices, engage in debates, and let people participate to grow the knowledge and not just deliver the knowledge if we want to be a learning community. This will require that we be able to help our visitors distinguish between who the voices are. PSmith 5/5]
  • Certain things should not be put out there without moderators.
    • It won't be one person moderating the website, it will be the community.
    • wants to tailor website to specific audience, with login. Have a platform to contain specific learning to that audience.
    • there's always someone out there that knows more than you do. Foolish to think SI knows about everything. Previous example of [a user] finding an error [and getting SI to make a correction] is actually a success metric.
    • [we do] Chat similar to washington post chat - curator for 1 or 2 hours. Managed resources in timeframe. Can't allow community to moderate themselves. Not responsible of SI to do this. We need to be there, to be responsible to subject. [If we always moderate, how do we scale this given that we have 137.2 million objects? PSmith 5/5]
    • Beauty of web community is that it is diverse. A lot of things are happening. ID some successful models across the institution. Everyone has some experience in one piece or another and have success and failures.
    • Leo (moderator) says - -COMMUNITY-CREATED CONTENT - to be discussed further on wiki

  • One of greatest successes: great answers to questions that curators take time to provide. People are so pleased and surprised that we wrote back.Qs get answered once. Even those browsing FAQs is a rich experience. BUT! This interaction goes away. Should have knowledge based system where
    • [in most forums the] audience is answering questions. If it gets asked enough times, authority can step in.
    • [Good example of this is from our experience in the Flickr Commons. M.E. 4/24/09
    • [While direct contact is to be encouraged, we should also look at using technology to have standard replies to basic questions that are automated. Industry has been doing this for years. For example, when I worked as an interpreter at the zoo the public often asked me the same questions over and over again. This could reduce the number of questions that need a personal response. While talking of volunteers, we should also use our volunteers to do this dialog. PSmith 5/5]
  • NASA - he posted an artifact on social media site, public contributed, and he actually learned something from the public.
  • need to do more with less, need a common platform so we can all use the pieces we want in the ways we want. Everyone is doing their own thing. Platform should be flexible to accommodate multiple tools and needs.

Q: (M.E.) Let's do a thought-experiment. Start with a given that our focus is on education... Does having a thriving "online community" count as being part of education? What if we made creating online communities our total, 100% educational focus - not teacher programs, curriculum development, etc - but just having the best online community - - the best crowd of customers in the world? Even if they just did stuff with/for each other and we provided access to collections & research but minimal subject-matter expertise. Is that enough?

  • [Observation: general crowd reaction was Hmmmmm... M.E. 4/24/09]
  • social media tools are needed
  • [This happens all the time and we put a lot of effort into it in the bricks & mortar museum] Groups coming into museum, having a tour, asking questions and engaging in conversation. Why is that a problem that it would happen online with a lot more people? Choosing not to do it [catalyze online community] is saying "no" to our mission to diffuse knowledge.
  • 28: it's a valid form of education, but people learn in different ways. Demand for different depth of involvement. Needs prioritization, but also room for "all of it", not excluding.
  • SI tends to live in past. If we're looking for sweet spot, maybe this should be our focus; we should do it like no one else can.
  • we don't have online forums. We do want to see it developed, but have to be careful.
  • [Need to be careful that we don't go too far the other way and start neglecting the on site experience. Nina Simon talked about the disconnect between the on-line (transparent, interactive, innovative) experience at the IMA and how disappointed she was with the on site comparison (passive, traditional, non-transparent) Yes, create loyal communities on-line and stop expecting them to ever visit you in person, but be careful about disappointing those who do make a visit! Social technology can be applied to the physical space as well as the virtual one. GBG]

Q: What else do we need to talk about?

  • $$$. Esp if centralized platform. Need budget from top-down, like SI calendar, so platform is available to every single unit.
  • Platforms must be heavily integrated with existing social sites. Not have separate sites with different logins.
  • We feel most comfortable when we do it ourselves [down in the units]. If budget carries through from top-down, investment must be strategic, need diff components to play with each other to make money go as far as possible.
  • [Centralized strategy/funding/platform need to be established without removing the freedom to experiment within the individual units. No-one wants to go through yet another layer of review in order to implement something new. GBG]

Q: How will we pay for this?

  • We need support from content experts, aside from budgets. This is part of their job. Not just curators.
    • [i.e., this is not just about technology. Arguably, the technology is the easiest part.M.E. 4/24/09]

Q: Should people who benefit from SI education pay for it?

  • if worthy, successful don't mind paying.
    • But if on the Web, expectations are that it will be free.
      • But NASA has auto sponsorship welcome center.
  • Sponsors are recognized online. Rules as far as how they get recognized is still in development.
  • Problem when charging people for info produced by federal employees.
  • We charge for classes, lectures, so special offering might be able to charge a fee.
  • [Observation: in all workshops we've see a lot of confusion about what is and isn't allowed, why that is, and who has decision authority over advertising, sponsorships, charging money for stuff. Need to make this more visible as a problem and fix it. M.E. 4/24/09]
  • [Learn from the open-source software model, and add a "If you like this, donate!" button to every single web page. Need to start researching and implementing more micro-donation options. Web 2.0 does a lot to support peoples' vanity - figure out a way to make money from this! People love getting their name on something, even a virtual something. GBG]

Q: How would you feel about putting a portion of budget into a pool for creating a centralized platform?

  • Mike E. warns that this question is not part of a hidden agenda to take your money. "I understand that this is a hot-button issue. Leo Mullen [the moderator] is from out of town and can ask questions like that." [...general laughter...]
  • of course we know we'll get a lot more for our money if we pool our funding together.
  • IT has just recently been centralized and still a lot of territorial issues.
  • Lots of shared services already - CMS, Sharepoint, email, telephone systems, calendar, etc
  • Important to define rules for HOW people can contribute. ROI would be different among all.
  • [Observation 1: I've been surprised at how tolerant people at the workshops have been towards the idea of centralization. This tolerance does not reflect my experience which is that centralization is a radioactive topic. I'm pleased by the turn around, but wondering if we've just been hearing from the wrong (or right!) people. M.E. 4/24/09]
  • [Observation 2: When discussions of centralization become contentious, it's usually because we tend to equate centralization with bad centralization - - disastrously bad centralization, as in "XYZ failed because it was centralized." In my experience, the couple of failures I've seen have been because of poor management and stewardship, and ambiguous decision authority, rather than centralization per se. Also, it's easy to beat up on centralization, but we don't generally see, hear about, or talk about failures at the unit (museum, research center, departmental) level. M.E. 4/24/09]

Q: If you could deliver one message to Sec Clough, to support role of education (besides $), what's the one thing you need?

See Tell The Secretary

Index of Workshops