Five minute interview: Mia Ridge

Mia RidgeWho are you?

Mia Ridge, lead web developer at the Science Museum, London

What are your areas of interest?

Online access to collections, lightweight (agile) technologies, user-focused development. Travelling – I love sitting in a coffee shop in a strange country people-watching.

What idea are you working on here?

We’re working on a lazy lecturer idea that helps academics collate online resources during the lecture development process, tag them and then collect and dump them into a powerpoint presentation.

What’s the major challenge in education software right now?

There’s no interaction between museum content and educational software that I know of. There should be more active use of museum objects or collections in teaching at all levels. The challenge is that we only have ad hoc connections with teaching staff at educational institutions and they only have ad hoc connections with educational software developers so there is no real discussion and collaboration.

And in museums?

People don’t know how to do the right thing in putting collections online. The main challenges are institutional and cultural rather than technical. Resources for content curation can be an issue but lack of technical staff is a big issue because low salaries means that we can’t necessarily attract the smartest unless they have a real love for museums. We need to change institutional priorities to acknowledge the size of the online audience and the different levels of engagement that are possible with the online experience. Having talked to people here, museums also need to do a bit of a sell job in letting people know that we’ve changed and we’re not just great big imposing buildings full of stuff.

What are the most exciting developments in education software?

The fact that it exists. I’m doing a part-time Masters and the last time I was studying there were no VLEs and if you missed a lecture that was it – there were no slides or podcasts. For all their faults, the world is better because VLEs exist.

And in the museum sector, online?

For digital collections, going outside the walls of the museum using geo-location to place objects in their original context is amazing. It means you can overlay the streets of the city with past events and lives. Outsourcing curation and negotiating new models of expertise is exciting. Overcoming the fear of the digital surrogate as a competitor for museum visits and understanding that everything we do builds audiences, whether digital or physical.

What have you learnt so far / interesting things have you heard?

I’ve learnt that the HE sector and the museum sector face similar issues. And that we could perhaps collaborate, especially in terms of working with users to enhance our development processes and outcomes. It’s nice to see this event really grounded in the constraints that institutions face – it’s been free, there have been lots of afterhours events so that people can mix and continue discussions – all the good things about an unconference.

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