Digital Discovery Centre to expand at British Museum as Samsung renews schools deal

By Culture24 Reporter | 27 November 2013

The popular Digital Discovery Centre at the British Museum will expand its programme in a new five-year agreement with Samsung

A photo of the outside of a huge museum under a blue sky
© British Museum
An in-demand digital centre at the British Museum which has repeatedly inspired children and teachers will forge ahead with cutting-edge classroom sessions after agreeing a new five-year deal with its backers, electronics giant Samsung.

Organisers agreed the deal during the summer, halfway through a three-month revamp of the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre, where dozens of touchscreen tablets are used alongside 24 wireless digital cameras. They are now planning the longest and most in-depth programme since the centre was founded in 2009, contributing to the  National Curriculum.

“Having used a range of mobile technology across our offering for young audiences, we had a good idea of what worked well,” said Richard Woff, the Head of Schools and Young Audiences at the museum.

“For example, we know that revealing tablets in a session always produces gasps of excitement and requests to take the devices home at the end of the day.

“We have also seen that tablet devices can promote collaboration between students, thanks in part to the size of the screen.

“One huge benefit for us is that they can also capture their findings on the same device. The photos, text, videos, drawings or voice recordings that are captured on the tablets in the sessions are instantly uploaded to our cloud storage, making it quick and easy for us to send this work back to schools for further study.”

More than 40,000 children, aged between three and 18, have learnt about Buddhist sculpture, Egyptian paintings and other illuminating collections since the centre opened.

Woff said one particular session, in which children were encouraged to build a virtual temple with all the extravagances of Ancient Greek architecture, encapsulated the power of the portal. Participants vote on how their communal temple will look, with the scores tallied on an e-board, and scan QR codes to find out more about the city state they represent.

“We have kept the overall aims of the session,” he explained.

“The children learn lots about temples, use maths in a practical context, learn collaboratively and get to understand something of the extent and diversity of the ancient Greek world and the politics of temple-building.

“Groups of students that go under budget are usually surprised to learn that this might not delight their city’s rulers any more than going over budget.

“What has changed is the level of engagement through the tablets. The children’s contributions to the session are more meaningful and apparent, all of them are able to contribute equally rather than a small number children dominating.

“They are noticeably even more motivated and enthusiastic than they used to be. The teachers are in no doubt about the richness of the experience.”

The tablets will now be piloted for use with pupils who have special educational needs, creating interactive gallery tours. Families will also be able to make digital sketches of the Neolithic collection in the New Year, allowing them to create new 3-D models of the breathtaking artefacts.

Neil MacGregor, the Director of the museum, said the “world-leading technology” would place the centre “at the forefront of digital education”.

“Families and schoolchildren of all ages have found these superb digital tools irresistible, and for us they have become indispensable,” he observed.

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