LearnPad Content Development at The Postal Museum


Sponsor: The Postal Museum 20180419_201434
Sponsor Liaison: Martin Devereux, Rachel Kasbohm, Sally Sculthorpe
Student Team: Griffin Cecil, Matthew Fortmeyer, Emily Morra, Jack Palmstrom
Abstract: The Postal Museum of London purchased a set of tablets intended to support engagement during primary school group visits. Our team’s goal was to identify how The Postal Museum might deploy these tablets to improve the effectiveness and consistency of the in-gallery experience. We identified industry benchmarks by conducting observations and interviews at museums offering digital programs for schools. Next, we assessed the needs of our target audience through interviews and focus groups. Based on our findings, we created and tested a functional alpha prototype outlining activities for use in The Postal Museum gallery. In addition to the prototype we delivered a set of recommendations detailing how to implement and maintain the tablets most effectively.

LearnPad Content Development at The Postal Museum

LearnPad Content Presentation

Executive Summary

The Postal Museum of London provides many offerings for visiting student groups ranging from a ride on the Mail Rail, an underground train ride, to facilitated workshops. Through feedback from visiting school groups, members of the Access & Learning team at The Postal Museum are aware that primary school students’ level of engagement is variable during in-gallery sessions. The museum attributes variability in engagement to the unpredictable ability of chaperones to be actively involved in the school visit. Recently, The Postal Museum purchased a set of educational tablets known as LearnPads to assist with the student engagement issue they identified. Our team performed research into what potential activities and content the museum should incorporate into a LearnPad application to standardize the experience for visiting students.

The goal of this project was to identify how The Postal Museum might deploy LearnPads to improve the effectiveness and consistency of the in-gallery experience of school groups visiting the museum. To achieve this goal, the team identified three main objectives: (1) Establish current practices in the use of digital technologies for school groups visiting museums and evaluate their effectiveness. (2) Assess the needs and expectations of The Postal Museum and its target audience (teachers and students) for the LearnPad technologies. (3) Design, develop, and evaluate appropriate content and activities for delivery on the LearnPad technology. The team carried out a mixed methodology of desk-based research, gallery observations, interviews, focus groups, content design, prototype development, and user testing to provide an informed recommendation to The Postal Museum on how they should model a potential application.

The team established current practices by identifying connections, interviewing relevant development staff at other museums, and observing school programs that incorporate tablets. Our team coordinated with three museums throughout our project: the British Museum, the Museum of London, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Through these methods, we found that museums often task students with creating a product based on what they have learned. This process refines students’ knowledge, and museums may deliver these products, using proper security measures, to teachers through digital services. Students also work well in small groups, and are adept at using tablets. Tablet use also involves complications in maintenance and the handling of sensitive information. The findings from these museum visits helped us to form our recommendation for the incorporation of LearnPads into The Postal Museum’s gallery sessions.

To assess the needs and expectations of The Postal Museum and its target audience, the team conducted a series of observational studies and focus groups. We found that students were more engaged with interactive exhibits than with text-based exhibits. Students would also skip over an exhibit if it was too crowded or required waiting to use. We produced findings based on student group dynamic, chaperone involvement, and incentivizing tablet use. Teachers agree that students are adept at using tablets, and believe that students should have an experience that is exclusive to The Postal Museum. In order to make tablet use worthwhile, teachers recommended including gamified activities, incorporating resource collection, and delivering post-visit material. Some teachers also held the concern that integrating tablets into the in-gallery session would detract from the rest of the experience by taking away from the time that students would otherwise spend exploring the gallery. Findings gained from this objective allowed the team to enter the development phase of the project.

The designs that our team developed detailed the structure that we believe The Postal Museum should use in their application. The LearnPads should direct students to selected areas in the gallery through the use of a scavenger hunt. Once there, the students should receive activities that relate to the museum content in that area. To expand upon our idea, the team created a detailed paper storyboard. We outlined ideas for specific activities and put them on paper so that we could better analyze them.

The team developed a digital prototype that was functional on LearnPads. The structure of the prototype was a scavenger hunt which directed children to find areas of the museum and complete activities. The activities featured find its, multiple choice questions, and describing the user’s surroundings. It was important for our content to prompt students to interact with the museum exhibits, rather than be entirely self-contained. Our program directed students to look at museum content, read information, and relate it to their own experiences.

We evaluated our prototype during a student focus group at The Postal Museum. Students showed visible engagement and excitement while using LearnPads within the gallery. After the time in gallery, we conducted a feedback session in which the students shared their experience and favorite activities. The students enjoyed a large majority of the activities, and gave us positive feedback. We also asked the accompanying teacher and chaperones what they thought of the students’ experience. They gave us a positive response, saying that the visit engaged the students well, and they had a good time. We used the feedback we received to make changes to our prototype so that we could create a more refined final product.

Our team synthesized our findings into conclusions and a set of recommendations tailored for use by The Postal Museum. Museums may develop original content for tablets or use pre-existing third party applications. Original content allows museums to provide a unique experience closely tailored to their gallery content, however the development process is often costly and time consuming. Pre-existing applications have limited uses in the gallery, but are cost-effective and require less maintenance. We recommend that The Postal Museum develops an original application for use within their gallery.  

In regards to the application’s target audience, we recommend that The Postal Museum develops an application that is flexible and adaptable to both key stage 1 and 2. Implementing tablets in the gallery requires maintenance on both the physical devices and the application. A member of staff at The Postal Museum should be in charge of upkeep to ensure proper use of the devices and timely updates of the software, even if The Postal Museum outsources development to a third-party company.

When school groups visit a museum they want to provide students with experiences they cannot experience in the classroom. Applications developed for in-gallery use must involve the physical exhibits as much as possible and encourage students to explore the gallery. These applications should avoid relying on chaperones, and should generate post-visit material to reinforce learning and provide a memento of the visit. These take-homes should be sent back to the school using methods such as email and storage websites. We believe that by following these recommendations, The Postal Museum can create an application that augments the in-gallery experience for visiting students and maintains a high level of student engagement.