MOW 2008

Here it is a week after my return from the 2008 Museums on the Web conference and I have not written (yet). First- the location. Bonaventure Hilton in Montreal. The entrance to the building is on the street level, but the lobby is somwhere above 8- it was difficult to tell. There big piles of snow all over and the weather hovered around 40 degrees. It was cold. But, Montreal is a neat town to wander about it- all sorts of surprises, like murals, good graffitti and a child’s wading pool, filled with ice, sitting dejectedly behind a chain link fence in a lot on a busy Montreal street corner.

The conference was amazing. Of course, I am a fan of the conference, but there seemed to me a lot of electricity in the air. This year. There were about 660 people there from 27 countries and most of the people that I spoke to all agreed that this is not so much as a conference as a community. Newbies, oldbies, museum folks, educators, designers, and lots of geeks shmoozing and sharing. I heard some and some some very interesting things and people this year, including (this is a selected list from what I remember right now, sans-notes):

  • Michael Geist of Canada, the opening plenary speaker who spoke about “Hands on the Web”. I do not have my notes nearby, so will have to write about him later.
  • Patrick Schmitz and Michael Black from UC Berkeley doing really interesting work with taxonomies and real language searching tools for the Hearst Museum at UCB. They have created this neat searching mechanism in a faceted browser that allows the user to go through the collection in a way that promotes serendipity in discovery, like in a library.
  • Ray Shaw of Think Design, always a pleasure to meet and hang out with him. Always good ideas.
  • Other Web 2.0 papers by Gail Durban, Jonathan Bowen and the gang from the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation- we are all describing the elephant (reference: the story of the blind men and the elephant)
  • Michael Wilson’s  (Natural History Museum of LA County) neat little interactive hologram where the user chips away at a virtual rock that reveals a dinosaur bone. When the bone is completely revealed, another hologram of the dinosaur with the found bone is displayed. Very cool.
  • Dina Helal’s stuff at the Whitney
  • David Schaller and Steven Allison-Bunnell and  eduweb who did a great workshop on developing educational games and demonstrated their game “Wolfquest”
  • The folks at the Exploratorium always doing cool stuff
  • Paolo Paolini’s talk about creating an international Web 2.0 type collaboration for students –
  • Shelly Bernstein’s great work with Facebook at the Brooklyn Museum
  • Allison Farber’s Living History project at Museum of Jewish Heritage (done with Ray Shaw)
  • Bruce Wyman of the Denver Art Museum showed me this cool project that he built involving a horizantal, flat screen monitor that emulates the multi-touch input screens being developed in New York and Microsoft (and I am sure at other places). Really clever and fun.

There were lots more interesting conversations and fine people, but that is what remember now. Oh yes, my own presentation “Now that we have web 2.0 tools, how do we use them” also went well. I was expecting 20  people, but had over 100. It was pretty cool- it was really SRO- there were people sitting in the aisles and standing in the back. I gave a short presentation on my ideas about specific learning theorists (Papert’s Community of Learners, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence, Schank’s Narrative as Intelligence and Robinson’s work with promoting creativity in schools and the work place). I look at these ideas as  being directly related to the social network of web 2.0 and promoting collaboration by engaging learners of different styles. I then opened up the presentation for discussion. We had great dialogues about practice, theory, application, technology and  issues of intellectual property. It was really encouraging to see the liveliness of the discussion and to receive such good feedback.

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