Athens Augmented: Design and evaluation of mobile learning activities for the Parthenon sculptures


Shelley Mannion, The British Museum, UK

This paper discusses a year of development and testing of two tablet-based learning activities for the British Museum’s Parthenon gallery: a simple mobile trail adapted from a traditional worksheet and a sophisticated Augmented Reality (AR) game. Although the activities are very different, both are aimed at the same audience of school children aged 7-11 and both involve the use of technology to engage young learners with decontextualized and, in many cases, heavily damaged ancient sculptures.
Celebrating Athens is one of the education team’s most popular education sessions for school children. It includes a gallery trail in which students work in teams to find specific elements of the Parthenon frieze. The trail, which is usually done with paper worksheets, was ported to large-screen Android tablets to be used in the gallery. Evaluation was conducted for both analogue and digital versions of the trail in order to understand the benefits of using digital technology and to refine the content and interface design of the digital trail. Evaluation data from nearly 200 children led to improvements that enhanced learning outcomes and set the stage for development of a more complex digital gaming activity.
Children found the trail easier and more satisfying when provided with a variety clues. Two types of visual clues were most effective: clues highlighting relevant elements of the reliefs and clues showing partial reconstructions of damaged sections. The success of these clues, combined with observations and direct feedback from children, suggests that young viewers have a uniquely challenging relationship to damaged artefacts. This potentially opens a new area of research into the way children perceive archaeological fragments and how digital interpretation can overcome frustration and foster greater appreciation of them.
Other useful findings included the way children recognised (or failed to recognise) multi-layered reliefs in different areas of the frieze, their desir

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