The 21-Tech initiative has allowed me as a Discovery Guide to push myself further on how much information I can process and share with each visitor I encounter.- Odis Garrett, Children’s Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech is a bridge between our museum guides and the visitors in that it creates connections between educational concepts and the real world.- Shawn Waxali, Children’s Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech has helped Discovery Guides engage visitors by extending their experience through the apps and applying it to the exhibits.- Ian Tibby, Children's Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech is a way of ‘hiding the vegetables in the fruit’ where the kids do not realize they are learning, but instead having fun and being fed knowledge that intrigues their minds.- Lauren Bell, Children's Museum of Houston Discovery Guide
21-Tech provides a new outlet for our Discovery Guides to interact with the visitors in a way that further enhances their experience and makes the visit overall extra enjoyable.- Sylvia Garcia, Children's Museum of Houston Discovery Guide

What is the 21-Tech: Extending and Customizing Learning (XCL) Project?

The XCL Project Team have studied methods to provide prompts, tools, and information through mobile devices to families, esp. parents, for use at hands-on exhibits to deepen their experience. The initial three years of XCL (2013-2016) are funded in large part through a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project is led by the Children’s Museum of Houston in partnership with the Lawrence Hall of Science, Museum of Life + Science, New York Hall of Science, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and Sciencenter.


  • Using mobile technologies to provide information at pre-existing exhibits that encourage active prolonged engagement (APE) behaviors.
  • Exploring different methods to disseminate information and engage visitors at hands-on exhibits.
  • Studying the types of content and content delivery through mobile devices that families find most useful at hands-on exhibits.
  • Understanding the types of information that are most useful to families at hands-on exhibits.
  • Helping families to engage together while interacting at an exhibit./li>
  • An opt-in, supplementary tool that families can use to dig deeper into their experience at an exhibit.
  • Guiding, explaining, prompting, and encouraging experimentation and inquiry at exhibits.


  • NOT building specially-tailored exhibits that utilize a special interface.
  • NOT creating a one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf, open-source app.
  • NOT making a “traditional” app that provides information about the museum, schedules, programming, etc.
  • NOT developing an open-source library of content.
  • NOT trying to find a replacement for the museum facilitator.
  • NOT replacing the hands-on visitor experience with technology.
  • NOT teaching and testing for content expertise.

More XCL Platform Available on GitHub

More XCL is an open source mobile platform for museums developed as a part of the XCL Project. The source code will allow museums to build apps similar to those used in the XCL Project to test how mobile apps may be used to extend and customize learning at hands-on exhibits. Museums can now use the More XCL open source codes and documentation to develop their own fully customizable mobile app and Content Management System (CMS) to upload and maintain content on the app.  If you are interested in exploring how the Children’s Museum of Houston uses the app, the More CMH version of the app is available as a free download on Android Google Play and iOS App Store.

The More XCL platform is now available on GitHub. Please click here to access all the necessary files.

XCL Summative Evaluation Report

The XCL Summative Evaluation Study led by the Garibay Group reviews the collaborative work between the XCL Partners (CMH, OMSI, Sciencenter, NYSCI, and NCML+S) to design an effective system for museums to provide visitors with mobile access—through smartphones and tablets—to digital media content (apps, videos, and wikis) that can help visitors extend and customize their learning experiences. The iterative, formative work focused on exhibit components across the partner institutions.  The evaluation examined visitors’ experiences at nine of the exhibits to assess outcomes. The summative evaluation also examined the museum partner experience in order to identify lessons learned that could be applied to future collaborative technology projects.

Open Summative Report

Project Staff

Children’s Museum of Houston http://www.cmhouston.org

Cheryl McCallum – Director of Education

Keith Ostfeld – Director of Educational Technology and Exhibit Development

Rizwan Manassya – 21-Tech & XCL Project Manager

New York Hall of Science http://www.nysci.org/

Priya Mohabir – Deputy Director, Science Career Ladder

Truck McDonald – Manager of Explainer Training and Content 

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry http://www.omsi.edu/

Sean Rooney – Senior Educator of Life Science 

Sciencenter http://www.sciencenter.org/

Ali Jackson – Director of National Collaborative Projects

Museum of Life + Science http://lifeandscience.org/

Elizabeth Flemming – Director for Learning Environments

Lawrence Hall of Science http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/

Darrell Porcello – Chief Technology Officer

Frank Kusiak – Technical Project Manager/SW NISE Net Coordinator

Garibay Group

Cecilia Garibay – Principal at Garibay Group

Jane Schaefer – Project Director

Katie Smiley – Researcher

Do you have an inquiry regarding XCL?

For questions about the XCL project, please contact please contact Rizwan Manassya at rmanassya@cmhouston.org

Project Brief

21-Tech partners study and share the effective use of Personal Mobile Technologies (PMTs) by gallery facilitators in their work with visitors. The initial three years (2011-2013) of 21-Tech are funded in large part by a 21st Century Museum Professionals award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project is led by the Children’s Museum of Houston in partnership with Lawrence Hall of Science, New York Hall of Science, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and Sciencenter. For more information, please visit the About page.

Major funding provided by:

Additional support provided by: