Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Big Picture AND The Fine Details: An ASTC 2014 Recap

This year's ASTC Conference was a wonderful combination of discussions and sessions on "big picture" topics like Community Engagement, and the science behind Maker Spaces, as well as "fine details" like the best tech tools to use in our work, or the coolest educational demos.

This balance of philosophical and practical permeated the conference and all of my conversations and experiences outside the formal conference sessions as well. I'll comment on a few of the sessions I attended or presented at here, along with some links to follow-up resources. On the "Big Picture" side, the session “Where is the Science in a Maker Space?” tackled the tensions inherent in the paradigm shifts that the popularity of Maker Spaces, Maker Faires, and Design Education are forcing museums to confront. You can find a nice recap of the session here on the ASTC blog. (There are also descriptions of other sessions and activities there as well.)

Panelist Lisa Brahms from the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh also provided a link to research and resources about building a framework for Making in Museums and Libraries. Check out the makingandlearning.org site!

Troy Livingston and Kate Tinworth presented the “20+ Trending Tech Tools” session with some great apps and digital tools to help every museum person work smarter, not harder. Kate and Troy posted their presentation slides here, but they will also be updating that webpage with additional notes and content from their session. Great stuff!

A fun session (pictured at the top of this post) was “Twist and Shout: Using physical movement in STEM education.”  As the name implies there were lots of movement activities, but panelists stressed research connecting the importance of physical activity with learning. A true microcosm of the big picture/fine detail dichotomy at this year's conference!  (Here's another blog post describing the session --- with bonus video and references!)

While I could detail quite a number of other memorable conference experiences (including the "Science Busking" session that featured the World's second biggest whoopie cushion!) I'll finish up this post with a big tip of the hat to Keith Ostfeld, from the Children's Museum of Houston, and his fellow presenters for putting on the eight annual "Indie Style" session --- this year with a HOMAGO (Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out) twist.

The session featured multiple low-cost, high impact activities guaranteed to help advance museum visitors’ curiosity, creativity, and comprehension. Even better, all the participants shared the directions and materials for making the activities at your own museum. You can download a Dropbox folder of all the documents by following this link.

Looking ahead to 2015, the ASTC Conference will be in Montreal.   Since I'm part of the Conference Program Planning Committee, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that if you'd like to submit a session proposal just click on this link.  Also, if you attended this year's Conference in Raleigh,  PLEASE take the time to fill out evaluations about the conference in general, as well as specific sessions you attended. Your comments can help make next year's ASTC Conference even better!

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