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Game Plan Call for Applications! Professional Development for Museum Educators

Category: Alliance Blog
Barry Joseph tests out a new game at the 
American Museum of Natural History
Barry Joseph tests out a new game at the American Museum of Natural History

In 2008, Dr. Jane McGonigal delivered the inaugural lecture for the new Center for the Future of Museums. McGonigal, who is both a professional futurist AND a ludologist, made the case that museums could learn a lot from games design. (AAM members can revisit her article on “Museums as Happiness Engineers.”) Today on the blog, long-time CFM collaborator Barry Joseph shares a grant-funded opportunity for museums and museum educators to learn how to apply games design to their work.

Games for Change, with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and General Motors, is looking for innovative museum educators to sign up for Game Plan. Game Plan is a new professional development program, designed for our current era of social distancing, to raise museum capacity for using games and game-like learning within youth programming. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis. You can find more information on the program and apply here.

Game Plan will select 40 museums to receive a modest stipend ($3k) and three online professional development courses (around 25-30 hours in total). Participating museums will adapt the curriculum in their own ways, around their own needs, and offer programming this spring and summer.

Museum Educators at Participating Museums Will Receive:

  • Membership within a new, nationwide community of games-based museum educators
  • Online professional development training (3 courses; 25-30 hours)
  • Downloadable curricular materials for localization within each museum
  • Virtual game jams and office hours for interactive learning and skill building
  • A nation-wide student competition, themed on resilience in the age of COVID-19
  • Culminating events exhibiting youth games that celebrate student achievement with juried prizes
  • Subsidized admission and potential to present at the 2021 G4C Festival (July 12 – 14)

Personally, I am grateful to be in the privileged position of searching out museums to receive funds, particularly given the challenge so many face today. At the same time, immersing myself in the current state of museums has been heart-breaking. For six glorious years I was the Assistant Director of Digital Learning at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). But I left because, like many I knew advancing digital engagement within museums at the time, I found myself over time a round peg in a square hole.

Leaving AMNH meant leaving museums all together, as my new position as VP of Digital Learning at the Girl Scouts of the USA took me into a wholly new sector. But I felt the absence in my life of every AAM, MCN, MW conference I had to skip. Every exhibit premiere still felt strange being viewed as an outsider. Ironically, pandemic workforce reductions have given me the opportunity to return to museums via consulting, most recently through helping support Game Plan.

We are specifically looking for museums in Detroit and Atlanta, as well as New York City and Los Angeles. However, any museum in the U.S. with youth-facing education programming should consider applying; if you don’t make it into the initial cohort you will still be eligible to join a larger pool of Game Plan museum educators who will have access to the full game design curriculum, a new nationwide student game design challenge and, more importantly, each other.

Reading applications for the program, I can appreciate why Game Plan will be such a gift for museums at this time. With nearly one-third of museums still closed to the public, and so many turning to remote learning, we are in a liminal moment, a state of transition. And in such times innovative people are willing to challenge assumptions and look for new solutions. Games-based learning is one of them. For many it offers a new pathway to engage with youth audiences, the potential to increase the relevancy of museums within their communities and, yes, a potential new source of revenue.

I have seen so much heartbreak during the pandemic—jobs lost, whole departments on pause. But I have also seen much that is good—museum programs moving successfully online and creating programs that might outlast the pandemic, educators developing new skills to prepare themselves for a more mobile workforce, and education departments challenging themselves to find new pathways to connect with their audiences. Game Plan is part of this creative response by the museum field to these challenging times, and I feel renewed by the hope it brings for the future of museum learning. I hope you will consider applying if you feel it is a good fit for you. Please feel free to contact me on LinkedIn if you have any questions.

Barry Joseph recently launched his consultancy leveraging his 25+ year expertise in digital engagement — combined with his boundless energy, vast network, and strategic thinking — to support museums and others using digital media to advance mission and reach business objectives. Connect on LinkedIn, follow on Twitter, and buy his book on seltzer.

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