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

Exploring the iPad Mini

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CMH has primarily been using iPad 1s and iPads 2s for 21-Tech; however, a few weeks ago, we decided to test the new iPad Mini. The results were overwhelmingly positive: 100% of the museum staff who tested the Mini approved the device!

Here are the details:

  • A total of 12 staff members tested the iPad Mini, and all agreed that the smaller size makes the tablet much easier to hold. Also, since the Mini can be held in one hand, it’s easier to rotate the screen towards a visitor during an interaction. In fact, doing so eliminates the need to hand over the tablet to the visitor which allows the staff to continue monitoring the device, and guide the interaction.  We can’t do that with an iPad2 because it needs to be held with two hands due to its larger size and heavier weight (twice the weight to be exact).
  • Because the Mini is half the weight of the iPad2, our Discovery Guides are looking forward to having the option of carrying the Mini (especially since they’re assigned the iPad for 5+ hours a day).
  • To narrow the focus, we tested the iPad2 and the iPad Mini for the same activities, and noticed no difference in the quality of the interactions. The Mini wasn’t necessarily better, but served the same function as an iPad2. Since most iPad interactions don’t last longer than 1 or 2 minutes anyway, the slightly smaller size was not a major factor for us.
  • Lastly, knowing how to use an iPad to engage visitors in conversation (to extend learning, teach a concept or skill) is the real key. We found that if Discovery Guides can engage kids, they can achieve the same level of success, regardless of whether they’re using an iPad2 or iPad Mini.

One last note: Our staff loved the case we had purchased because it has a strap on the back which allows them to securely hold the Mini in one hand. Also, it’s only $10 on Amazon, and available in various colors (always a plus!): http://amzn.to/UEhyj2

Museum Recommending: Children’s Museum of Houston
Display: 7.9‑inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
Cost: $329 for 16GB
Link: Apple iPad Mini

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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: