The work by Brookwood sixth-graders made it possible for visitors to walk up to an exhibit and watch a video, see pictures, read additional text information, access historical records, or just about anything the museum wants visitors to experience to tell a deeper, richer story. And museum curators can easily update that content as needed.
Thanks to our PHY Platform, those students also may have met all 14 technology education standards for the Alabama State Education Department in just one project.
“PHY.net, it’s so simple, anybody can do this. Children can do this,” said Principal Daniel Bray. “They do it all the time with their Instagram and their Facebook and this and that. They understand this stuff, and so it’s not hard. And because of the full simplicity of how you deploy beacons, it enables projects like this and probably more in the future.”
Bray worked with staff at the four museums to install the 42 beacons in about four hours, which included travel time to two museums that are off-campus.
Brookwood Middle School in Vance, Ala., is part of the Tuscaloosa County School System. The school, led by Principal Daniel Bray, opened in 2003 and has a little over 800 students.
Last year, school leaders deployed 15 BKON beacons in classrooms, in the academic and athletic trophy cases, and in public buildings and popular restaurants. The beacons, built for the Physical Web, broadcast news and information about the school for parents and the public. It supplements other communication tools, like the school website and phone calls home.
Middle school students all over the country visit museums and Brookwood is no exception. “This specific project came about where we’re just trying to figure out how our kids can have real-world relevance, have them do something that means something, through technology,” Bray said. “It didn’t even have to include the university, but when you look at something like that, the museums were a natural fit.”
Brookwood does project-based learning because the school believes in the value of an outcome, a final product. Projects must meet three criteria.
Rigor: Is there high-level questioning, thoughtful work, and academic discussion?
Relevance: Is the project meaningful? Is it authentic? Are students making learning connections that are relevant?
Engagement: What does the educational environment look like? Is it an engaging environment? Is the work engaging? Do the students take ownership of it?
The students started the project by touring the museums and then splitting into teams. Each team was assigned an exhibit to investigate, photograph and document. Once the students got back to school, the teams worked for another two weeks, gathering additional information about their exhibit that was not found at the museums. They then built websites with that complementary information, uploading their own photos and other content.
Beacons at the museums point to the student website URLs. To find enhanced content, visitors can download the PHY.net Physical Web browser, available for iOS in the App Store and for Android on Google Play. The PHY.net browser delivers an image-rich experience, much like discovering content on Facebook or Instagram. Visitors can also find the new content by using Physical Web enabled browsers, such as Chrome, Opera or Mozilla’s Project Magnet.
Enhancing the exhibits: The sixth-graders developed their own learning because they’re creating their own product, Bray said. They also created a deeper knowledge of artifacts. “We even looked at the museum’s website specifically,” Bray said. “They have a couple of the artifacts, but they don’t dig deeper at all. They are basically advertising what they currently have, so there’s no depth. Our students created the depth.”
Authentic, connective learning: Students made real-world connections by learning their exhibit at a very deep level. “And then they learned how to enhance visitorship,” Bray said. “They went to a very, very deep level with learning connections inside the relevance.”
Student engagement: “They went in there with, here’s what I got to do. I’m not just visiting a museum,” Bray said. “I’m visiting a museum and I’m actually going to make the museum better, adding value to this piece, digging deeper in this piece. And that’s what, really, this whole project was about.”
Making it work: Bray created a Gmail account for each museum and a website template in Google Sites for each of the exhibits. Students uploaded content directly. Every student knew that this was their page. “It was basically whatever the website was and then at the end /exhibit11 or /exhibit9 or whatever it was,” Bray said. “That was their page to upload media to. Then I double-checked all the design and sent it off to the museums. And because I had those URLs, I put all the batteries in and set the URLs to each beacon.”
Ship it: When the project finished, each museum director received a PHY.net account and a Google account. “They put the beacons where they wanted to. We handed over the phyIDs and the exhibit numbers they went to, and then the PHY.net username and password and the Google username and password. It was as simple as that.”
Our tools made it simple for sixth-graders to produce a high-level project. “This isn’t just a repeat-after-me type of thing, and we’re talking about 11- and 12-year-olds. Imagine if we had to do something that you had to set the networks up and you had to do all these crazy things,” Bray said.
“The beacons, just by the nature of BKON and PHY.net, just by the simplicity of usage, it allows for this type of project to happen,” he said. “If this is anything else, this probably wouldn’t have been in the hands of sixth-graders, because the technology piece either would have had to be run by somebody else, or the school or the university would have to get involved. But because all you’re doing is pointing a URL set in proximities, it makes it very, very, very easy to do.”