iPads at Museums: ‘History in Place’ for Year 9


A ‘Nasho’ being interviewed about WWI by year nine students

I am incredibly inspired by the History in Place Project (HIP).  HIP  provides a template for creating activities for students with iPads at museums to create movies about their  experience.  Jo Clyne from History Teachers Association of  Victoria’s (HTAV), delivered a paper in conjunction with Culture Victoria,  at the Museums Australia conference in May.   So when the year nine history teachers from Southport High approached the Light Horse museum, I knew just what could be done for them.  I briefly blogged about the day earlier here.  In this blog I’d like to discuss a little more about how it came together.  I thought this could be helpful to museums who might be trying out a similar program themselves.

My starting point was the History in Place toolkit released by HTAV in perfect timing for the year Nine visit.  The kit is really well thought out.  It is written as a ‘do-it-yourself’ guide for museums to put their own program together.  The kit includes an outline of the approach,  a suggested schedule for the day, form letters  to the school, including a permission slip home to parents, rubric for assessment and logistical information useful for planning the day,  with invaluable tips.

BTW: best tip,would have to be ensuring one has the right connectors for the data projector of each species of iPad/tablet students might be using.

Also included in the kit is a PowerPoint presentation – an overview to run through with students when they arrive on the day.  HTAV had thought of everything.  The PowerPoint even included sample video clips  to show students the key design elements of a video story.

It was all there, what more could a museum want?  Well, the main challenge for our project was that the HIP kit was aimed at grade six.  We had grade nines.  A different level of sophistication in terms of content, and possibly a different level of experience with the technology itself.   The year nines who were visiting were not using tablets in their every day schooling, whereas in the year below them, each student had their own iPad mini at school.  The light horse was also a different museum with different things to offer, so we had tailoring to do in that regard as well.  I have elaborated on these and other points below.

The specific topics covered here are:

  • The schedule
  • Expectations and motivators
  • World War I content
  • About the iPad and iMovie
  • Digital Movie Examples
  • Culture shock of year nines
  • Its a challenging task for students

 The Schedule

The schedule is really the crux of the day and is the starting point for preparation.  Any museum introducing this program will need to work out their own program.  Key things to consider are obvious, but worth checking off.

  • Arrival and Departure:  Specific times the school will be arriving, and the time they need to leave.  The time required to take in the museum, create the movie, have lunch and morning tea, and present the students work at the end, really needs as much of a full school day as you can crib.  Our school was 30-40 minute bus trip away.  They were able to arrive at the museum at 8.45 and leave at 2.15.
  • Welcome and overview: We allowed an hour and that was sufficient
  • Breaks: We scheduled 20 min morning tea and 30 min for lunch.  Students brought their own food. The museum just provided a place to fill up water bottles and some bottles of water for students who were without.  (Next time the museum plans to throw in a sausage sizzle lunch to help parents with the cost of the excursion).  The museum also provided tea/coffee and morning tea for teachers and volunteers.
  • Live Demonstrations: The museum scheduled in its live demonstrations: a flag raising ceremony with firing party (the bang of the rifles never fails to surprise me).  The museum also does a live horseback tent pegging demonstration.  Together these activities take 30 minutes.  They were an experiential and photographic highlight!
  • Round Robin Talks: We scheduled in a  round robin tour of the museum.  There were 8 stations each manned by a volunteer, ready to explain that area of the museum.  They covered topics relevant to students’ studies which we  confirmed  with their teachers prior.  Students were in four groups for this part  and spent 7 minutes at each station. They  were started at even numbered stations, the idea being that the volunteers would get a break every alternate session.  Timing, communication and a map of where to go next are critical to this working. One volunteer blew a whistle signalling to move on.  Next time we will have just 5 stations and 12 minutes at each so there is more time for photographing and relate fewer stories to greater depth.
  • Making Movies: The bulk of the time was for mind mapping, story boarding, capturing more photos and interviews,  and creating the iMovie.  Students broke into 9 groups of 3-4 for this.  One iPad for each group.  Student had just under  two hours for this.  Most students just kept working through their lunch time on their movies.
  • Show and Tell: Its really important to allow time at the end for everyone to come back together and show off their work.  We had eight groups presenting and allowed 30 minutes.  It was all go!

Expectations and motivators

We really wanted to get the students excited about the day and were pleased to discover that the iPad movie approach tied in nicely with the Qld Premier’s ANZAC awards.  The possibility of being able to enter a digital presentation as a result of the day, and being in the running to win a study tour to Gallipoli was a great motivator.  To take advantage of this, we aligned the aims of the student activity  directly with the premiers award.

So there was also an immediate reward on the day, we had a panel of three of the museum volunteers assessing the students presentations at the end of the day. The students were told there would be a chocolate reward at the end of the day for the winning team.  The students were really impressed to receive a block of chocolate for each member (thank-you Mr Cadbury for your perfectly timed special).

Overview Presentation: World War I Content

The topic for year nine was World War I.  The students had already been learning about Gallipoli.  Since this was a Light Horse museum we needed to set up the context of the Light horse, and how the light horsemen really came to the fore in the battle of Beersheba and the desert campaigns. So instead of the kit content about what is a museum, we introduced the Light Horse with a five minute overview of the museum delivered by one of the Nashos (National Servicemen), and WWI snippets wove their way through the overview sessions, with the photos on the slides.

 Overview Presentation: About the iPad and iMovie

This group of students didn’t have their own ipads.  They were borrowed from the special ed unit.  When I asked them who had used an iPad before, only one had put up their hand.  I’m not sure that was truly the case, but certainly the majority of students had not used an iPad before, let alone iMovie.  In the overview, I allowed for an 11 minute YouTube clip on how to use iMovie.  That was all it took to get them up and running with it.

Overview Presentation: Digital movie examples

The History in Pace kit suggested links to some digital stories for showing as examples to the students.  There were a couple of issues.  One is I wouldn’t have WiFi at the museum.  The video clips needed to be something I could download to my iPad.  And secondly I wanted to include an example of an emotionally charged topic.  Because of the seriousness of the topic of WWI – I wanted to show one example of how to deal with such a subject.  I didn’t want to show an actual WWI example, it seemed important to let them navigate their topic without a preconceived notion of how to do WWI.

In the end I went with two examples.  The first was a light ‘Beast from Below’ (Australian Museum) example from the kit.  There’s something about that one – and it’s a great example of how to create a digital story with just stills.  The students got a few laughs from it too.  The clip was on YouTube, so easily downloadable. (I used the ‘MyTube’ app on my iPad).   The other example I chose was a South Sea Islander story by Sonia Minniecon of young people being grabbed of the beach, shoved in ships holds and taken to Australia.  It was something shocking they might relate to, and being the 150th South Sea Islander anniversary so very appropriate.

Culture shock of Grade nines for museum volunteers

I didn’t anticipate this, but of course it is obvious when you think about it.  Previously the museum had only had through tour groups and year threes.  It was a big adjustment to move from the curiosity and vocalisation of eight year olds to the coolness, and often  unresponsive fourteen year olds.  A number of volunteers came up to me during the day, worried because the kids weren’t talking to them or asking questions.  It was totally opposite to the volunteers experience.  They realised though that, as long as the year nines are engaged in the activity – you’ve got them.  And students did find the activity engaging.  I think everyone loosened up too as the as the day progressed.

Its a challenging task for the students

Whilst the activity is fun and engaging, it is quite a challenge.  And as with any creative endeavour, it’s frustrating staring at a blank page.  The group dynamics add to it as well.  the students need a lot of support at that critical formative design stage.

In all, a great day, a great experience, and not half as daunting to put on as you might imagine.  Many thanks also to the staff from HTAV who were so supportive .


Author: Janis Hanley

Janis Hanley creates education programs for museums. She has a strong interest in digital engagement. Her programs have received several Queensland National Trust awards. Janis is the Queensland representative of the Museums Australia Education committee, and founder/coordinator of MAEdQ - a Queensland Network for Museum Educators . Janis is currently researching the value of digital story telling in community museums.

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    • Thanks Anne. It turned out a great day – something other museums can replicate.

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