April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Sessions: Abstract

Integrating Visual Thinking Strategies into Educational Web Resources   go to paper

Wendy Ennes, Oriental Institute Museum, USA
Christie Thomas, University of Chicago, USA

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a facilitation technique created by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine that uses art and artifacts to teach visual literacy using communication and critical thinking skills. Although VTS's facilitation strategy is designed for face-to-face instruction in the classroom, we asked the question, "Can these same strategies be used to create an educational Web site for student learners?" Three University of Chicago organizations, Chicago WebDocent, the eCUIP Digital Library, and the Oriental Institute Museum, set out to do just that.

Informed by VTS and funded by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the partners set out to build an educational Web site for teaching and learning about the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia – today's Iraq. Called Ancient Mesopotamia: This History, Our History, our project's intent was to build a site that empowered students to learn about this ancient culture by using virtual images of artifacts in two ways: in a group setting with a teacher as guide, and independently. The challenge was to build a Web site that engages students while allowing them to learn in both instructional settings and to transfer the tenets of VTS from a traditional teacher-led instructional setting to a virtual, student-driven learning environment. The result is a Web site with three major components: a Learning Collection of teacher-selected artifacts from the Oriental Institute Museum's Mesopotamian gallery; an interactive archaeological dig called’Dig Into History,’ and an on-line course for K-12 teachers. Each of these products draws upon the tenets of VTS in different ways to create unique learning experiences that, when used together, provide a rich, constructivist learning experience for the student.

This paper will deconstruct our design process, outlining the decisions we made along the way and showing how those decisions were informed by VTS. We will present each of the three products and explain how each is uniquely supported by VTS and constructivist teaching techniques, and how the three components work together to present a complete instructional unit on Mesopotamia and visual literacy. The paper will share our acquired knowledge so that others wanting to create innovative Web sites that provide instructional and social context for their collections can also use VTS to inform their Web site development and design decisions.

Session: Art Education [Education]

Keywords: visual thinking strategies, constructivism, Web design