Digital learning for families: DLNET Chat July 2021

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Sian Shaw

This month’s chat was all about how digital learning had progressed over the last 12 months and what the future holds for digital engagement with families, onsite and online. We were delighted to supported this month by the Families in Museum Network (FiMN)

Our pre-chat poll had indicated that cultural organisations were thinking about how to incorporate digital into family learning but pre-pandemic, it just hadn’t yet happened.


How did lockdown change or develop your digital offer for families?

In short, the thinking turned into actions. It was great to hear how different organisations pivoted their existing programmes to online or spent time broadening the one-off items they had created previously. While there was a clear sense of needing to react, answers clearly showed that this was more planned rather than throwing up content to see what would stick.

There was also an acknowledgement that the pandemic had given organisations the opportunity to try things that might not have been as popular before. The big question being, will this new online audience remain when in-person events are fully functioning?


How can we juggle both digital and physical programming going forward? Should one be more important than the other?

While you might not be surprised on a chat about digital learning, that the answer was never going to be one was more important than the other, these answers highlighted the practicalities we still need to work out as cultural organisations. Workload came up repeatedly, as well as conversations about live and static digital content taking considerable time to produce. These will be the big organisation-wide questions that will happen now that physical sites are reopening to increasingly larger audiences. Rather than either/or, how could digital and physical compliment one another? And is that what our audiences want?


Has the pandemic helped you overcome all your digital fears? Is anything holding you back from engaging with digital now and do you know where to look for ideas and solutions?

We thank our followers for their honesty in what can be a difficult thing to admit! From managing the scale of information to connectivity worries to ensuring high quality, here are a sample of the responses.

And, I think we can all empathise with this one…


Have you tried digital programming on-site? If so, do you provide equipment or ask families to use their own?

We’ll be honest – things went quite quiet on this question! It feels like this could be the big next step, but from experience, it’s going to be about a balance between engaging digital programming vs families who are visiting to have a break from screen time. If I was a betting woman, this would be the thing to watch…


If time and budget were unlimited, what are your wildest dreams when it comes to digital programming and how it can be used to access wider audiences?

This one was for the dreamers – but actually, many of the answers were on the achievable scale (no flying unicorns etc!) International collaboration is one of the most exciting opportunities, fuelled by everyone being restricted to their own space over the last year. This is for both contributors and the audience.

As followers of networks often only based in one country, we should remember that others around the world are likely to be working through the same problems and can be a source of support and inspiration.

And of course, for digital learning, it’s so important to put time into the learning objectives, even when informal learning is not restricted by curriculum.


What does the future look like for digital learning for families? What questions are you asking yourselves when looking ahead?

So, where do we go now? All the responses acknowledged that we are at a moment right now, where things still seem uncertain. I like to think this metaphor sums it up…

We could see lots of people by this point in the chat making connections and arranging follow-up conversations between organisations. We love to see that!


Final takeaway

We are all experimenting and learning about the best way to use technology right now with cultural audiences. It’s easy to forget that change is always happening, even if this change feels bigger than usual. When selecting the best tool to communicate with your audience, be that digital or not, remember this advice from the National Archives Education Service. “Keep it simple.”


Next #DLNET Chat

DLNET Chat is taking a break in August, but we’ll be back on Friday 3rd September 1-2pm, when we’ll be discussing adult learning. Follow @DLNET and remember to use the hashtag #DLNETChat


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