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Title:Creating an Interactive Student Medium for Learning about the Holocaust
Authors:David Klevan
Publication:MW99: Museums and the Web 1999

Beginning in late 1995, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum launched an effort to create an interactive student resource for use by secondary school teachers and their students. A guiding idea was to offer both a useful resource to students and to demonstrate to teachers, by example, what the Museum viewed as effective teaching methods. In order to reach the greatest number of schools at the least cost, the project was built as a web site. In addition to presenting a variety of historic materials from the museum's collections, the web site provided opportunities for students to share ideas and ask questions among themselves, with their teachers, and with Museum staff. Over the course of two years, three branches of the Museum worked together to develop the design and interface, determine and collect content, and prepare it for web publication. In a pilot project the site was tested at seven schools across the country. Three members of the creative team that developed and tested this website will share information about their experiences working on this project. They will address the following topics, discussing both continuing problems and creative solutions developed along the way. 1. Interface design: What are potential limitations (the practicalities of computers capabilities in the school classroom/connectivity)? What is appropriate for serious content? How do you present linear history in a multi-pathed environment? What obstacles does one encounter in moving from print to electronic media? How can the interface engage without being only entertaining? 2. Interdepartmental Teambuilding: Collections, Historians, Graphics, Learning Center, Education, Technology. Project management. 3. Creating the site: The Development Process Form vs. Function. Design and implementation of the messaging functions. 4. On-line Activities: Designing on-line projects to elicit critical thinking about historic source materials, and exploring the challenges of learning in a non-linear environment. 5. The Educational Pilot: Testing the Product. Creating a classroom-friendly educational model for the web. 6. The Future: Achievements, Lessons learned, Continuing Problems with technology, history, and education -- who has the final word? Copyright, historical integrity, interactivity, and other "problems" that museums encounter when designing publications for the on-line community.