Status Update: Educator or Edupunk? Shifting Roles for Museum Educators Embracing Disruptive Technologies


Traditional ‘programming’ and informal ‘community outlets’ have indeed broadened, deepened and diversified audiences in museums. The field must now consider new strategies for engaging audiences with increased expectations as informal learners, both online and offline. The next few posts here are my attempt to grope for new words to articulate how some of the most forward-thinking museum educators I know are pushing boundaries into new, and often uncomfortable, spaces in their institutions.

As traditional museum educators mine the spectrum between formalized and informalized education, a new breed of museum educators are inspired by open-source/DIY/crowd-sourced initiatives, and motivated by “edupunk” methodologies that upturn traditional museum education practices beyond K-12 school visits through disruptive technologies. These include, but are not limited to: on-site laboratory spaces, online courses, expansive social media programming, and community-based practices to reach audiences that rarely otherwise visit museums.

Educator or Edupunk? Shifting Roles for Museum Educators Embracing Disruptive Technologies

Image courtesy Steve Gemmel, Digital Media Specialist at J. Paul Getty Museum (thanks, Steve)
Fitting that the exhibition, “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses” was on view at the Experience Music Project during the opening reception of Museum Computer Network (MCN)’s conference, “Shifting Perspectives, Evolving Spaces, Disruptive Technologies.” I used this image to introduce the panel the following day. Hollah to Steve Gemmel, Digital Media Specialist at J. Paul Getty Museum, for snapping this for me.

Bio… and hopefulness in defibrillation

My background is in new media and museum education, and I started also working with teen programs in 2006 to the present. I’ve been thinking much more about informal learning environments and tech-driven experimental museum spaces in my doctoral studies in Urban Education, which I started while working on the BMW Gugg Lab project last year. I would be thrilled to talk to you about your writing and work, especially if you are researching technology-based education museum spaces.

Rosanna Flouty, Public Programs Manager (2011)

We use the terms ‘social justice’ and ‘civic responsibility’ in my program and more recently in art museums, but I am hopeful that the field at large could benefit from a little defibrillation. I am extremely impressed with what General Assembly here in New York is doing in terms of informal learning environments and technology, and can see how unaware my museum colleagues (and fellow doctoral students, for that matter) are about GA and spaces like it. I am hopeful that even just getting some of my museum colleagues over to GA is already starting to get some great ideas going… including from last night’s pitches at GA, too!

I am also going to post some quick links for a pair of conferences I organized when I was still at the ICA down at the bottom, if you are at all curious. The first, “Generation O,” was very much influenced by my observations about young activists who were too young to vote in the last election, and how they were using museum platforms to become socially engaged.

I greatly enjoyed pulling those ’09 and ’10 conferences together, mainly because teens were invited as the primary speakers to articulate what they gained from involvement in contemporary art museum programs. And especially in multi-year programs like teen new media classes, teen video programs, and teen arts councils. I am starting to re-visit some of the data I collected back in those years because even speech patterns they use around topics like gender and taboo is fascinating to me – and the conference continues to be held after I left the ICA, which is also sounds just super.


This spring, I have begun to circle with some of the teens that participated in those conferences, with the aim of seeing how much the museum field can learn about formative high school experiences in contemporary art museums.

My research interests are in technology-based informal learning environments both online and off, so please do not hesitate to send me links and articles that you are working on! I’d be thrilled to hear from you.

Skype: rflouty
Twitter: @rflouty

And some conference links…

Generation O – Teen Convening Report (2009) –
Overview for Teen Convening (2010):
Teen Convening Full Report (2011) –