Members of the Arts: On-Site and On-Line group drafted the following seven broad categories which were used as criteria for evaluating on-line and electronic educational materials. The bulleted points represent the recommendations the group felt characterized promising practices within these seven key categories. This outline, one of the main products of this pilot project, can be used by museums developing educational resources on-line, and by teachers developing collaborative projects with arts organizations. This can be used as a framework for planning and as a list of recommended practices.
1. Quality of content and its interpretive presentation
The quality of electronic educational material is reflected in the care taken in selection of the content and its interpretive presentation. Information followed by a good bibliography aids the teacher, student, or user in further research and data gathering. Accurate information is imperative for the integrity of academic material and its presentation, as is thoughtful and trustworthy interpretation of historic facts, theories, and events past and present. A site orientation and overview of the contents is extremely important for letting users know quickly what kinds of materials and information are contained on the web site, and how they can be used. Credibility is reflected in the reputation of the institution disseminating the information, and is bolstered if a "quality control and review" policy has been adopted. Clear definitions of terms, pertinent vocabulary, and concepts will help make the knowledge accessible and readily useful to teachers, students, and the general public. Finally, the quality of on-line educational content and its interpretive value is elevated when the author of the body of work presented is clearly stated, and he or she has the qualifications and authority to competently address the topic.
2. Diversity of Information
It is important that electronic information be diverse, in that the content and
interpretation there of reflects a range of perspectives. Presenting
information that helps voice the experiences of all cultural participants and
their diversity, is essential for serving multicultural audiences. Showcasing
multiple view points allows for rich understanding from a number of vantage
points. Likewise, when material has been well researched and prepared, it will
have breadth of interrelated topics across a wide area, and it will have enough
depth in each topic so as to substantially contribute to the learner's
understanding of the materials. Our group found two web sites which are
exemplary for diversity, both culturally and informationally. They are: The Media Literacy On-Line Project at the University of Oregon
http://interact.uoregon.edu/medialit/homepage (see Case Study # 5) and Walker Arts Center's Arts Net Minnesota, the Claes Oldenberg section
http://www.walkerart.org/artsnetmn/whatsart/oldenb.html (see Case Study # 2).
3. Graphic Design
Individuals responsible for graphic design should strive for pleasing
aesthetics that make information easy to understand and access. Thoughtful
consideration should be given to choices of background, color, text blocks and
their location, image size, multimedia features and other aspects of web page
layout. Simplicity is usually better than complexity. On another level,
graphic design should include a well-designed information architecture. Good
design presents material in a logical format and will have intuitive
navigation. Because hypertext links allow for rapid non-linear Internet
exploration, it is easy to lose one's bearing while searching a web site.
Therefore, a hierarchical information structure, for example, with navigational
menu bars on each web page, can make information much easier to locate.
4. Applicability for Teaching
In order to make on-line educational materials more applicable for teaching in the K-12 system, it is essential to consider curricular guidelines mandated by the State Educational Frameworks. On-line materials that help achieve Framework objectives are more likely to be used by teachers and students. Perhaps the best materials are those designed by or with "working" teachers intimately familiar with the classroom and State Frameworks. The goal for producing educational resources should be to make them as useful and easy to apply in the classroom as possible. Information must also be comprehensible to students, which means text and materials are age and grade-specific, and appropriate for a defined target student audience. Although not a case study for discussion, teachers in our group felt that sites such as the SCORE (Schools for California Online Resources for Education) http://scorescience.humboldt.k12.ca.us/ site exemplified a site with materials directly applicable for teaching.
5. Links and Related Resources
All associated links placed on a web site to outside resources must be fully researched to establish that they are credible, accurate and have content and interpretive presentation of high quality. Linked resources should reflect a philosophy of diversity, and thus tie into information long-established, as well as alternative sources which have academic merit--such as sites that address current events and current analytical thought on the topic. Both The Media Literacy On-Line Project at the University of Oregon http://interact.uoregon.edu/medialit/homepage and the Walker Arts Center's Arts Net Minnesota, the Claes Oldenberg section http://www.walkerart.org/artsnetmn/whatsart/oldenb.html sites were considered to have excellent links and related resources.
6. Engaging and Stimulating
For on-line materials to be engaging and stimulating for students, teachers, and the public, the content must be credible and of significant quality (points 1 through 4 above). Scholarly works supported by professionals in the field help foster bodies of information that are authoritative. In essence, when materials are authoritative, the user is intellectually and academically challenged by well-researched and tested content, and this engages the individual and stimulates learning and awareness since the arguments are believable. When authoritative information has integrity the user can identify with, and the materials have applicability to established learning objectives at hand, then the user builds a stronger relationship to the content. Materials which are engaging and stimulating also excite curiosity, and thus motivate the user to self-learn, to journey on their own, finding answers to personal questions they form along the way. Fascination with a topic is often sparked by pondering thought-provoking questions that users can relate to their own experiences.
7. Enhancing the Real Experience
For performing arts organizations and museums developing electronic educational resources, a primary objective should be to enhance the "real" experience for on-line audiences. Usually, the virtual experience cannot replace the real experience (except in cases where the virtual material has been created purely as a digital expression, and is an entity with no physical or material counterpart). Most often however, the virtual interaction of physical objects and performing arts events can offer substantial information toward a deeper appreciation for the "live experience" when that moment arrives. Experts in the cultural arts fields, those professionals who work and research within arts organizations, can offer rich bodies of knowledge that may best aid students, teachers and the public in how experience the arts in the most rewarding ways. Learning materials these institutions and their in-house experts can share electronically via the Internet and other technologies will help society to more fully appreciate the wonderful cultural offerings they have to share. On-line materials should have ample links to other credible web sites that support the topic, as well as to local resources with related themes so individuals, teachers, and students can pursue community involvement in the arts. Finally, the real experience should be integrated with the virtual to the greatest extent, in such a way as to encourage people to partake in the physical, direct and live experience of museum and performing arts presentations.
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