Title:A Multiplicity of Voices: Encouraging and Developing On-Line Collaborative Projects for Schools
Authors:Nadia Arbach
Publication:MW2006: Museums and the Web 2006

We know they're keen to work with museums, so why don't more schools participate successfully in collaborative on-line museum projects and why aren't more museums encouraging this kind of collaborative venture? This paper will examine the relationship between schools and museums with regard to e-learning, focusing on a small but increasing number of collaborative projects that have schools working together, learning from each other, or sharing multiple perspectives via a museum web site.

Schools are ideal audiences for collaborative projects, and have become accustomed to taking part in in-gallery museum events and projects that involve multiple contributors. When moving towards a similar collaborative approach to on-line learning, though, the risks of a project failing become much greater. Although collaborative on-line projects have the potential to be incredibly rewarding, they are also challenging to manage: any ICT undertaking which relies on the ability and willingness of the participating schools or pupils to communicate with each other online will be at risk of losing participants through situations such as difficulties working with technology, varying levels of familiarity with ICT, changes in scheduling, decreased motivation due to lack of face-to-face contact, and other technical and personal elements that prevent participants from communicating with each other.

The paper will examine recent examples of school-based museum e-learning projects, including Tate's 'Our Picture of Britain' collaborative project ( and the schools contributions section now being created as part of the Moving Here website ( It will compare these on-line resources to successful in-gallery projects such as the National Gallery's 'Take One Picture' schools programme (

The paper will consider the expectations and challenges associated with online collaborative ventures (drawing on perspectives from museum, educational, and socio-cultural theories), examine the issues surrounding the use of technology to encourage multiple voices and interpretations, and suggest how this knowledge might help museums to encourage and develop successful on-line collaborative projects for schools.