April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Demonstrations: Description

Spectacular success of web based, interactive learning

Ingrid Beazley, Dulwich Picture Gallery, United Kingdom

For 3 years Dulwich Picture Gallery has been using PDAs linked to the web as an interactive learning device for schools (and more recently, the general public) and the results have been spectacular.

Using StreetAccess software, trails are created in house and implemented on the web. A wireless network enables participants to access these in the Gallery where they respond by recording their thoughts and ideas using the PDA keyboards.

What makes this completely different is that all the responses are saved automatically into personalised files which can be accessed later for further research and follow up.


Educational: This child led, interactive learning leads to extreme focus, motivation, the acquisition of skills as well as knowledge; it encourages thought, discussion, discovery, and the making of independent critical judgements in a self directed way. Its also great fun.

The trails are infinitely flexible. They can cover different ability levels, languages, topics, they can be funny, challenging, always thought provoking. They can give multi layered information which can be accessed or not. The trails can be linked to other relevant museum websites so that comparisons can be made. Trails can be created for temporary exhibitions, visiting adults, for families, for corporate events, for parties, they can be tailor made for school visits.

Practical: Since the creation of these trails is web based, it can be done at any computer at any time, instantly. Dulwich constantly refines the input after evaluating school trips, or talking to adult participants. When works of art go on loan, it takes minutes to adapt the content.

Financial: The initial set-up costs are not huge. They are - wireless networking and the PDAs and then the annual licence fee.

Aesthetic: This technology is not intrusive, in fact, it is not visible at all, an important consideration for small museums in beautiful buildings.


Teachers and children have universally praised this system of learning. Pupils work at their own pace with their chosen friends. Everyone has a chance to record their ideas. They can get up close to the works of art and look at them for as long as they like. They can choose where to go next.

This is not a one off museum visit. The saved responses are used for review and extension, for portfolios and exam work.

Families enjoy discussing the paintings together. Total strangers often find themselves talking about the trails with each other.

The only restrictions on this form of museum learning is the limit of the content creator's imagination.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 1 [Close-Up]

Keywords: web-based, interactive, learning, interpretation, PDAs. independent