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Abstract -- Collaboratory : A Virtual Community Users Track
U1: Innovative Designs for Users

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Collaboratory : A Virtual Community

Watts, Margit Misangyi ( watts@uhunix.uhcc.hawaii.edu)


The purpose of this presentation is to introduce COLLABORATORY to a wide audience. This project links together museums, universities, and secondary schools around the world. Students are engaged in meaningful and integrated learning and through exploration, discovery, and manipulation, students work with exhibits to further their critical thinking skills, broaden their base of knowledge, and enhance their understanding of cultures. Museum exhibits encourage intellectual curiosity as well as offer a wide range of opportunities that can tie in with individual learning styles. Museums also offer 'uncommon classrooms', places for learning which are not confined to the traditional school setting. COLLABORATORY moves one step beyond this--making museums available to people not able to access the exhibits throught the front door. Technology has made it possible to recreate museum exhivits in many forms. Students across the country can interact with an exhibit and explore it from many vantage points.

COLLABORATORY is a two strand project--one has students studying exhibits all over the world in real musuems, the other has students creating their own exhibits. Both will ultimately be put onto the Internet into a MOO designed solely for this purpose. This MOO is presently up and running out of the University of Alberta in Canada. Many museums are working with the project; the Smithsonian Institution is working with us and will put information onto our MOO as well as set up hot links to WWW, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is working with us and a high school team in Chicago is helping translate the U-505 submarine (an MSI icon) onto our MOO in text form only and later in multimedia form, and many other museums are participating in the project and plan to be long term partners in the building of this virtual community of museums and exhibits.

Proposed Session

Museum exhibits should be seen as a 'means' not an 'end'. This session will focus on a discussion of COLLABORATORY, the nuts and bolts of the program, as well as the educational philosophy which guides the program. COLLABORATORY helps students develop an understanding of culture and the skills necessary to explore values and make informed judgments. Teams of students around the world collaborate on the Internet in two ways. First they study exhibits in their own community and across the nation; secondly, they actually create their own exhibits which will be displayed in their communities as well as be programmed onto the net. In this session, participants can expect to have a look at the work being done presently by students in Hawai'i, Calgary, Pittsburgh, Alberta, Chicago and Washington D.C.