Recently, Edudemic posted an article about critical mistakes schools make when integrating iPads in classrooms. I couldn’t help but notice the many similarities to iPad integration in museums, and how museums, too, can avoid critical mistakes in order to have a successful 21-Tech program.
My next few “21-Tech Tip” posts will focus on challenges we’ve faced at Children’s Museum of Houston, and advice we’d like to offer to help guide other museums.
21-Tech Tip: Communicate the rationale behind “Why iPads?”
Putting a techie device in the hands of facilitators is actually a trivial detail of the 21-Tech implementation. Even if the tablet is loaded with kid-friendly, content-related apps, that doesn’t mean facilitators will use the device. It is absolutely crucial to be transparent, and explain why your museum has chosen to use tablets, and exactly how the technology will deepen and extend visitor learning. If your facilitators aren’t convinced, it will be almost impossible to proceed!
Let me explain why. Most children’s museums are interactive spaces where families have a multitude of hands-on experiences, even in the absence of technology. That’s why facilitators are often baffled when they learn of the technology integration. They are confused as to why we are choosing to replace authentic hands-on experience with something that’s “fake.” Some facilitators think they are supposed to detract visitors by saying, “What you’re doing is great, but I have an app for that!”, and others think the tablet is to be used on busy days as a substitute for the exhibit components. Yet others think the tablet is to help visitors find the nearest restaurant. Of course, these are some (of the many) misconceptions which can be clarified if the 21-Tech goals are made clear from the beginning, and reiterated along the way. Facilitators should know that technology will be used very briefly to enrich and extend the visitor learning experience, and used only as a tool to help start a conversation about the exhibit content.
If possible, allow facilitators to ask questions, raise concerns and anticipate challenges – not just in the beginning, but all along the way! Providing a channel for feedback will give facilitators ownership and help them feel part of the process.