Filling the pail or lighting the fire? The opportunities and pitfalls of digital heritage in education

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


In these turbulent times access to and knowledge of our public cultural heritage is being challenged. It appears problematic to broaden existing audiences and to legitimise public funding in times of financial crisis. Nonetheless, digital access to cultural heritage is argued to be an instrument to sustain and support participation. Indeed, sustainable access to digital cultural heritage has become an important long-term objective of cultural heritage institutions and policy makers throughout Europe. Moreover, increasing amounts of audiovisual content and cultural heritage are becoming available online (e.g., European Commission, 2009). Parallel, the educational field has become increasingly digitised, with teachers ever more being invited to apply digital practices to engage their 'digital native' pupils (e.g., Parker, 2010). The presentation of digital cultural heritage in classrooms can be a means to introduce heritage to the pupils in a way that is close to the social reality of youngsters.
Scholars have, however, pointed to the distinct character of cultural content, i.e., requiring guidance, knowledge and skills to be able to comprehend and appreciate it (e.g., Bourdieu, 1979, Stavlot, 2005), as such requiring additional efforts from educators.
Drawing on own research obtained in the Flemish research project Epics (E-learning Platforms In the Cultural heritage Sector), the main research question is: How does the postulated 'embeddeness' of digital heritage in education correspond with teachers' practices, needs and expectations when it comes to using digital heritage in classrooms?
We set out a multi-method qualitative research design in which a mixed (age, gender, subject) group of 19 teachers spread over 2 demo sessions assessed an e-learning environment in a pre-structured form and were interviewed in focus groups.
The majority of participants indicated to feel inadequately trained to educate young people in digital culture. Moreover, some expressed reservations on cultural e-learning environments, e.g., because of the lack of clarity about the (legal) status of own content in environments where commercial players (e.g., educational publishers) prevail.
Subsequently, we propose recommendations to facilitate cross-sector collaboration, respond to curricula and support pedagogies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2011
EventUnknown -
Duration: 8 Sep 2011 → …


Period8/09/11 → …


  • digital heritage
  • education


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