Universeum Conference, July 6, 2023 /

At the 2023 Universeum conference, the Working Group Digital Initiatives organized another workshop about object-based teaching and learning (OBTL), as part of the Erasmus+ project “Teaching With Objects”. 

Divided into four groups, participants first created four personas representing one of the key actors involved in teaching with objects, namely: a teacher, a curator, a student, and a head of department. The four characters created were presented to the other participants, who had the opportunity to write down questions they wanted to ask these personas about their practices, potential challenges, and so on. The workshop ended with a roleplay session during which each persona presented their answer to some of these questions, followed by discussions. 

The characters created were high in colors. The head of the University was on the museum board, whilst disliking museums; the 60 years old educator did not mind occasionally breaking objects, and the student was secretly a hacker. These traits inspired discussions highlighting key issues discussed by the teaching with objects community. Among others, the creation of a safe place for teaching with objects, the preservation of objects, the potential of digital representations of objects, the value of teaching with objects, increased collaboration with students were discussed.

Overall, this workshop has shown that our idea to create an authoritative, safe community platform that showcases and inspires the practice of teaching with objects is the right direction. The workshop has especially stressed the importance for our platform to support and foster communication and collaboration and highlight the value and professionalization of OBTL. Moreover, conference attendees emphasized the importance of creating a safe place, which supports our preliminary ideas for this platform.

However, the workshop has also highlighted a few additional aspects we should take into account. One of the key themes discussed throughout the workshop was students’ experiences and perspectives, how to cater more to their needs and wishes but also how to involve them more in the teaching with objects process. While they are key when it comes to teaching with objects, we still know too little of their perspective. Through this workshop, it has become evident that a platform for teaching with objects needs to have a space dedicated to students. Organizing a workshop with students might be a first step towards giving students a voice to explore what this space might look like. 

Another important topic discussed was the question of how to keep objects safe and the opening collections for others to use for their teaching practices. The idea of creating a policy to help with these questions was brought up. However, while discussing what this policy might be, the complexity of the task and its time consuming nature quickly emerged. Maybe this is something our platform could also contribute to. Our platform could foster communication and collaboration among teachers, curators, students, and heads of departments to create such a policy. It could also be a place that highlights collections available for teaching, speeding up the process of sharing collections without having to jump through several complicated loops. This might also, in turn, help students whose emails go unanswered when they need to access collections and help curators who want to highlight that their collections are available for teaching. 

In relation to the safeguarding of objects, technology became a key topic. As in the literature and our interviews, there has been an overwhelming preference for in presence lessons, this topic has taken a back seat in our project. The importance of this theme during the workshop highlights that this might be something we could address more thoroughly throughout the platform, having more sources, interviews, and other formats expanding on these various technologies and their potential for teaching with objects.

Overall, the workshop generated lively and productive discussions, helping our project to move forward in the building of an online platform for teaching with objects in a direction that reflects the wishes and aspirations of the object-based-teaching community.