OUTDOOR VIRTUAL MUSEUM
The information era is characterized by the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) revolution in schools and the emergence of paperless schools, e.g. digital books, notebooks and virtual labs. Accordingly, students deal mostly, not with the physical world, but rather with its representation. However, this creates a parallel world, rather than a merging of the two worlds: virtual and physical.
CT may be used to collect information, organize it, store and share it so that, ICT tools serve to mediate between man and world phenomena
The core notion of Vygotsky's cultural-historical activity theory states that individuals do not act directly within the environment, but rather artifacts mediate relationships with objects in the physical world (Vigotsky 1978). Tools, as well as ICT applications and the Internet itself, may facilitate higher order skills and thus mediate learning, in schools and beyond. Indeed, Engestrom (1991) argues against the separation between schooling and other learning experiences; he refers to it as the encapsulation of school learning. To overcome this encapsulation, he offers emphasis on the role of mediating artifacts in human cognition and learning.
Environmental programs may combine real-world experiences with ICT, being international in nature. Moreover, educational design and evaluation should reflect cultural-historical aspects of human activity. Effects of these programs should include indicators measuring sustainable changes (van Eijck and Roth, 2007). The project described herewith, “Outdoors Virtual Museum” was designed in the spirit of the cultural-historical activity theory.
The project: “Outdoors Virtual Museum”
A section of the Tel Aviv coast (Israel), in which Levinsky College of Education as well as Alterman High School are located, includes a natural wild area with a sandstone ridge and a wetland with some vernal ponds. It is the habitat of several species of plants and animals, some rare and endangered. This region is planned to undergo massive development as part of the city plan – high-rise buildings for housing, roads, shopping malls and entertainment quarters.
The project involves 7th grade students and college students documenting the nature life of the environment and changes due to the development process planned by the municipality. The project aims are to promote an activist-ecological agenda and to facilitate authentic learning in a technology-rich environment.
Building the “Museum”
College and High school students, together with an ecologist and their science and science education teachers, toured the area several times and designed 7 stops representing diverse ecological niches. The exact locations were pinpointed using Google Earth. Each stop was then visited once a month by a group of students, measuring temperature and shadowing, and taking photos of the area, animals and plants. Each location was accompanied by a website constructed for displaying information, including photos. Websites were constructed using Google Sites by the students and updated on a monthly basis. In each physical location a QR code was incorporated, allowing visitors to access information on the websites.
This project achieves overcoming the encapsulation of school learning by using ICT tools to mediate the environment to the students, as well as to expose the products to the community.