Tonight I had the wonderful opportunity of running an AMNH table, coordinated by Hive NYC, at the Grantmakers For Education conference in New York City. It was my first opportunity to a) talk publicly about my work, 2) work directly with a youth involved with an AMNH program, and c) drive a human and a monkey skull through Manhattan! Quite an exciting evening, any way you slice it.
Through the museum, Priscilla is active in YouthCaN, a youth led organization that uses technology to inspire, connect and educate people worldwide about environmental issues. She shared with many visitors to our table how they used the iPad app, LeafSnap, to identify leaves, put them in their digital collection, and then locate their finds on a map.
I brought along, as table decorations, a human and a monkey skull. To be honest, I’ve never really handled anything like that before, so it was a little exciting/icky. But I wanted to offer something to contrast with what Priscilla would show. She was talking about the past and I wanted to show something about the possible future. So before I put the skulls in the car I grabbed a different skull – one available to be checked out for educational purposes – and after a few snap, snap, snaps with my iPhone camera, I turned it into a 3D model I could twirl and spin. Using the remarkable 123D Catch, which I started using yesterday, I was able to demonstrate tonight how easy it is now to not only create 3D models, but suggest the steps that can follow: modifying those models as desired then printing them on a 3D printer. Imagine youth digitizing assets in our collections, modifying them, then printing them out to build their own educational dioramas. Or a teacher being able to print out and pass around their own examples from the museum. Or youth able to digitize an animal and then modify it to show how it might evolve differently in different environment. The list goes on and on.
Eventually it was time to wrap things up. Priscilla headed home (delighted she had no homework) and I packed the skulls and tech back into my car. But on the way out I had what would certainly be a definite highlight of the evening – the cherry on top of the sundae, so to speak – by running into Connie Yowell, from the MacArthur Foundation. I will say more about this in a future post about my new position, but it was exactly six years ago this month that MacArthur announced their (at the time) 5-year, $50m Digital Media and Learning Initiative. I was at that launch. And that launch was held at the AMNH, just down the hall from where I now sit. Little could I have guessed at the time that six years later the work I would have done as a result of that Initiative would have prepared me to take on my new position at that very museum.
It has been QUITE the journey.
(for more photos from the event, click here)