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Between Promise and Reality: online education and museums, a case study

Helen Whitty , Powerhouse Museum, Australia
Kevin Sumption , Powerhouse Museum, Australia


Session: Broadening Audiences

AT&T Virtual Classroom Race Across Time (VC RAT) is an online interactive educational game for players aged between 8 and 14 years. VC RAT adopts a challenging self paced format taking its young players on an adventure across time and space in Australia. Whilst they race the clock players send out data probes; zoom maps, hear strange and familiar sounds; study objects and photos in the form of clues; soolve puzzles; send electronic postcards; search the web; get access to Fact sheets and lists of things to do in the real world with their class mates and friends.

The sponsor AT&T wanted a resource to encourage new Internet users internationally, thereby bringing them under the banner of their Virtual Classroom program. The Powerhouse Museum was interested in enhancing web skills whilst looking at innovative ways to take its collection into the community. The result is a game for children about technology, using technology whilst borrowing motifs from other disciplines and practices.

This paper will look closely at how this heady mix of agendas informed the game's development and its outcomes. It will address some of the issues thrown up in its wake. Issues such as the appeal and relevance of material culture for young people; whether the Internet truly crosses cultural boundaries and the distance between the promise and the reality of online education.