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People's Choice:
2 votes
Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Walker Art Center
Design team: Susan Rotilie, Walker Art Center; Robin Dowden, Walker Art Center; Treden Wagoner, Minneapolis Institute of Arts; and Scott Sayre, Sandbox Studios Lead Developers: Nate Solas, Walker Art Center; and Brent Gustafson, Walker Art Center

Newly redesigned with hundreds of added features, ArtsConnectEd, originally launched in 1998, is now an even more powerful tool for teaching the arts.  ArtsConnectEd, which combines the collections and educational resources of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center is a core resource for K-12 educators and their students, serving well over a million users per year.  In 2006, with funding from an Institute for Museum and Library Services grant, staff from both museums began an ambitious redesign project. The goals of the redesign were to improve and expand ArtsConnectEd functionality, empower museum educators and classroom teachers to create and manage educational content using the site’s new online tools, and to redefine the relationship of museum educators at both institutions with the K-12 education community.

After three years of development a totally new ArtsConnectEd launched in September of 2009. The redesigned version of the site features an innovative faceted search; content types not offered in the previous version, such as audio, video, and events; a greatly improved content authoring and management tool, Art Collector; and administrative controls.

ArtsConnectEd was developed in-house and incorporates a range of standards, protocols, and open source software solutions including the Categories for the Description of Works of Art Lite (CDWA) for collections data; Qualified Dublin Core for audio, video and text records; a modified version of the Gateway to Educational Materials (GEM) metadata standard for educational resources, iCalendar for the transfer of event data; and custom RSS feeds for audio and video podcasts, specifically the Walker’s Art on Call audio guide and Walker Channel archives. The Open Archive Information Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) is used to populate the repository, making future expansion--such as including other institutions’ holdings - possible, as well as supporting the option for either collection, or the ArtsConnectEd repository as a whole, to be contributed to other aggregate sites. Symfony was selected as the framework, and a wide range of existing tools to develop the new site’s functionality were incorporated, from media players and presentation tools to image zooming, ratings, and more.

Embracing the new authoring and administrative tools museum educators from both institutions have added over 230 arts-integrated/interdisciplinary educational resources that were not previously available through ArtsConnectEd (100+ text-based resources, indexed over 60 interactive resources, and more than 70 Art Collector Sets designed for instructional use). Content continues to grow as creating content for ArtsConnectEd is an ongoing part of each museum educator’s responsibilities.

Art Collector gives users the ability to collect, combine, annotate, customize, and share the items they find in ArtsConnectEd. Teachers, students, museum educators, and other users can create and share content using the tool. New global features for tagging (community cataloging) and commenting, combined with Art Collector, create a community of users who collaborate and build off each other’s contributions as they use the site. Art Collector is a flexible toolset that supports most pedagogical approaches. An educator can create one Set that contains only images to accompany an inquiry-based student-centered group discussion or a Set that includes video, audio, images, and text to be used for self-paced learning. Published Art Collector Sets and other resources can be browsed in Art Finder by instructional method and/or type further supporting the user’s specific teaching and learning approach.

Art Finder, ArtsConnectEd’s innovative search solution, uses faceted browsing—users start with everything and then use filters, including keywords, to narrow results. Results are displayed in categories and each category can be filtered with global filters and/or category specific filters. Global filters include keyword, institution, instructional methods, and grade level appropriateness depending on the category or type of asset being browsed. Works of art can further be filtered by whether or not the record has an image, or is currently on view in the galleries, as well as by medium, culture, and artist name. The artist name filter auto-completes—allowing users to find artists whose names they may not be able to spell otherwise. A breadcrumb trail shows the user which filters are applied to return the results shown. With this type of search a fifth grade Spanish teacher can find works of art and classroom materials to accompany her lesson about Latin American culture and language or a high school English teacher can find images and writing activities to engage his students.

The homepage of the new ArtsConnectEd serves as a communication vehicle for museum staff and users of the site. Homepage content includes announcements, featured content, RSS feeds, and tools for direct communication such as feedback, contact, and Ask an Educator. The latter is a special section of ArtsConnectEd that invites users to contribute questions, which can be about teaching practice, using ArtsConnectEd, arts-integrated teaching and learning, or using museum collections in the classroom. Users can browse previously posted questions and answers or submit their own. ArtsConnectEd’s administrative tools free education staff from their reliance on technical staff for making changes to site content.  With these these tool, non-techinical staff can feature content from any category on the homepage, endorse user created content, and post announcements about current and upcoming events. Homepage announcements promote new content and features of the site and professional development programs for educators at both the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Walker Art Center.

While the site was designed for the target audience of K-12 educators and their students in mind, anyone can use ArtsConnectEd. Users who want  to use Art Collector or contribute comments and tags must register first. Registration is compliant with the guidelines of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Users may self identify as an “educator”, “student”, or “other” user type. In this way a registered user might be an elementary student or a retiree. Other internal users of ArtsConnectEd include volunteers in the tour guide departments of both institutions who use the site to plan their tours, connect with teachers before and after their tours, and to share the memories of the tour experience with visitors through shared Art Collector Sets. Access for all types of learners and connections with tour guides are a few examples of how ArtsConnectEd is used for non-curriculum-based lifelong learning.


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