The flipped classroom - Museums Association

The flipped classroom

Opening up to innovative teaching and learning practices
Juno Rae
Museum galleries are often considered the best places to learn about the objects on display. But the layouts of cases can make it tricky to accommodate large groups, especially when other visitors are also using the space. And object labels are not always enough to fully engage younger audiences.

At the British Museum, the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre, which is located directly underneath the Great Court, is designed and equipped to serve as an supplementary learning space to the galleries.

Created in 2009, the centre provides a state-of-the-art technological hub for children and young people to learn about and interact with the British Museum’s collection throughout the school year. It also offers family programmes at the weekends.

All activities are free. Since opening we have welcomed more than 60,000 children and families to the centre.

We aim to enhance users’ relationships with the collection, rather than provide experiences that detract from it; the centre can act as a retreat for visitors to continue to learn about the collection in a calm and informal setting.

To make the most effective use of the room space and to support our visitors appropriately we make dynamic use of digital devices within the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre – adjusting their application depending on the needs of the audience and the scope of the session.

For example, our sessions regularly use Samsung tablets and their inbuilt functionalities as well as creative and educational apps to help engage our visitors with objects and themes from the collection.

We often fix tablets to tables using desk clamps to ensure that a group of students or an entire family can all see and have access to the device content.

The 55” LED TV and 75” touchscreen electronic board mounted in the room can be used for teacher-led presentations as well as by participants, as they can be lowered to within reach of even the smallest hands.

The large green-screen fabric we use in many of our sessions enables our audiences to incorporate themselves into the collection. It is on a pulley system, ensuring it’s out of the way and the space can be used when it’s not deployed.

Clever furniture choices also mean the space works effectively as a flexible learning environment.

For example, rather than having tables in fixed locations in the room we use smaller modular tables that can be easily moved into multiple formations, allowing us to cater to individual and larger group work.

The stools we use can be arranged singularly or be stacked. This allows audiences of different ages to sit comfortably in the space.

We also have magnetic boards fixed to the walls on which we can display different images of collection content. These can be easily changed depending on the themes of the session.

By allowing the space to constantly evolve, we’re incorporating elements of the “flipped classroom” philosophy: moving away from viewing the space as a traditional classroom environment and instead leaving the setting open to innovative teaching and learning practices.

Using this range of methods in the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre, we aim to provide a worthwhile learning experience to our visitors, supporting them to discover our collection in new and exciting ways.

Juno Rae is the education manager for the British Museum’s Samsung Digital Learning Programme. She will be co-presenting an MP workshop at the Museums Association Conference & Exhibition on 5-6 November 2015.

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