Monthly Archives: November 2018

The Knowledgeable Object

The Knowledgeable Object workshop and symposium was held on the 27th and 28th November 2018 at Macquarie University. Despite weather – “described as the worst storm to hit Sydney in decades“, which saw cancelled flights and flooding events impacting some intended participants, we had a near capacity crowd attending both days, with presenters discussing some amazing OBL programs and projects.

Published Abstracts: TheKnowledgeableObject_PublishedAbstracts

The program was the result of a year curriculum mapping project funded by a Learning and Teaching Priority Grant at Macquarie University.

The aim was to unlock the resources buried in the university’s museums and maximise their value to our teaching staff and curriculum developers. It was all about removing barriers between the learning and teaching community and the university’s collections.

We undertook a series of workshops with unit convenors to discuss how they could find new uses for museum objects in their teaching programs.  As this was a pilot program, we only investigated objects from the two Faculty of Arts museums at Macquarie, the Museum of Ancient Cultures and the Australian History Museum.

We were greatly encouraged as an increasing number of unit convenors discovered the resources of the two museums and investigated new applications in their teaching practice. These colleagues formed our growing Object-Based Learning Community of Practice, or #OBLCoP for short.

Convenors running Marketing units in the Faculty of Business and Economics discovered objects relevant to the history of commerce in the Australian History Museum. Convenors of units in the Faculty of Human Sciences’ Department of Cognitive Science discovered they can use objects from both museums in teaching programs around cognition and memory and units in Early Childhood Education found new uses for objects to inspire creativity in trainee teachers. Historical health related items in the Australian History Museum found new teaching uses in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. General Science units in the Faculty of Science and Engineering discovered objects in both museums that help their teaching. In the Faculty of Arts, units in Sociology discovered a rich vein of material on activism and social change and units in the Law School material on heritage and government in the Australian History Museum.

These new pedagogical uses of objects are being recorded in the combined museums database so that we have a history of the teaching uses of objects from our museum collections. This includes data such as subject categories/hierarchy, technology (image, 3D surrogate, original object), and pedagogic application (lecture illustration, tutorial task/discussion, assessment task, etc). The project is therefore developing new interdisciplinary capabilities for both teachers and students across all five faculties at Macquarie. We see a future where unit convenors search our museums database to select objects that challenge, ask questions, provoke curiosity or develop skills for our students.

The culmination of the project was the two day Knowledgeable Object event. It consisted of workshops on the first day designed for secondary and primary teachers who want to access the collections as part of their teaching practice through the two museums engagement programs with schools. Groups conducted workshops with objects from both museums and reported back on results. There were also a number of short presentations on the pedagogic power of teaching with objects and summaries of the mapping project results to date.


Telling Stories – Objects and history with different audiences. Leonard Janiszewski (photo: G Hammond 27/11/2018)

The second day of the Knowledgeable Object was a symposium that explored Object-Based Learning more broadly. It attracted 22 presentations from a variety of speakers led by our keynote speaker Alistair Kwan from the University of Auckland on “The Matter of Education, Thoughts on History, Teaching and Learning.”


Keynote: The Matter of Education: Thoughts on History, Teaching and Learning. Alistair Kwan (photo: G Hammond 28/11/2018)

The symposium attracted 160 registrations, although some were kept away by Sydney’s apocalyptic weather on the day. They were an interesting mix of people. There were representatives from Sydney University, the University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, Charles Sturt University and the University of Auckland in attendance. There were also people from the Australian Museum, National Maritime Museum, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney Living Museums and the National Trust, plus a number of heritage consultancies and private galleries. We also had a delegate from the Keio University Art Centre in Japan. There was also a large cohort of past and present students of Meadowbank TAFE’s Museum and Library skills program.

The symposium was structured to report on our project from a number of different perspectives. A paper on the project was recently published covering project results to date in the journal Education for Information. The symposium also included sessions on archaeological material and practice in education, the application of new digital tools, empowering the collection for engagement and creative discipline linkages.

We are now looking at producing a volume of peer reviewed papers from the symposium and how to continue growing our Object-Based Learning Community of Practice. We welcome discussion and ideas from new participants and external organisations.


The Object Cafe. Beverley Miles and Alistair Kwan (photo: E. Banaag 28/11/2018)

#OBLCoP #TheKnowledgeableObject #PowerofPedagogy #OBL  #ObjectBasedLearning


The interest in this area shows a real need within the sector. The 2019 #CAUMAC Symposium will explore this further in Melbourne next February … Expression of Interest call out closes on 14th December – more details:


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized