Topics: College of Fine Arts, Immersive Learning, Honors College

December 29, 2009

Ball State English instructor Beth Dalton poses with her team of 13 students who spent the fall 2009 semester participating in the "Art to Go: Ball State Museum of Art Online" seminar at the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry.
Most people take five to 10 seconds to examine a work of art. It's what they might miss about the objects in that fraction of time that prompted Beth Dalton and her team of students to spend the semester making the interactive Web site Art In Sight.

Art In Sight makes resources of the Ball State University Museum of Art available to high school students and their teachers. Its online offerings include a downloadable audio tour of the museum, an interactive art history timeline, instructional materials for educators and a section called "Art Exploration," where visitors are given prompts about objects in the museum that facilitate discussion of the work.

"Our goal was to make the Ball State Museum of Art more accessible to area high school students by giving them online resources to help them carefully consider art in the collection. Ideally, this Web site should be used in conjunction with a class visit to the museum itself," said Dalton, an English instructor who also teaches courses in the Honors College.

Dalton and her team of 13 students have spent the past few months working on the project as part of a semester-long immersive learning experience at the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry. The seminar, Art to Go: Ball State Museum of Art Online, was an enriching experience for many of the students who participated.

"In a traditional classroom, you come to class, take your notes and get your grade," said junior Michelle Manzo, a telecommunications major. "With an immersive learning course, it's rewarding to know you have something to look forward to — this finished project you're turning over to the community — that's more than a seven-page paper you'd turn in to your professor."

The audio tour featured on the Art In Sight Web site has been downloaded onto MP3 players now available at the museum. Dalton said the tour also can be downloaded from the Web site to individuals' MP3 players. Visitors also can look up information online while at the museum thanks to Ball State's wireless Internet connection.

Prior to working on Art In Sight, senior advertising major Kelly Laffin said she'd given little thought to how art museums operate.

"The last time I stepped foot in an art museum was in the eighth grade," Laffin said. "I had no idea how much behind-the-scenes work goes into running a museum, and I have such a greater appreciation for the people who work there."

Tania Said, the museum's curator of education, said the museum staff looks forward to using Art In Sight as a catalyst for future Web-based projects for the museum.

"All along, the site was considered a prototype for what kinds of Web resources we might offer in the future," she said. "Now that we have something we can see, I hope that we can garner the financial and staff support we need to integrate new media into the educational role of the museum."

Dalton said she and the students now will work to promote the Web site to high school educators in the area. The class met with Monroe Central High School art teacher Jeff Wagner and his students while working on the project to solicit ideas and feedback on components of the project.

"Knowing there was a greater purpose to this project beyond the class, we felt a greater responsibility, not only to the students we hope will use the site, but to the art museum and to one another that we'd get the work done," Dalton said.