In our eagerness to see all facilitators using iPads, for a time, we required them to carry an iPad throughout their shift. Our intentions were good. We thought – the iPad is a tool which will help facilitators improve their interactions with visitors, so we want everyone to have that opportunity. However, what we had imagined didn’t happen. In fact, to our dismay, this angered many facilitators. Some rolled their eyes as they picked up an iPad at the start of their shifts, and others simply refused to carry it. For a while, we couldn’t figure out why there was so much negativity towards the iPad. Was it the weight? If so, we can purchase iPad Minis, we thought. If it’s the apps, we’ll clear the iPads of unnecessary apps. We went through 5 rounds of eliminations, cleared almost 200 of the 280+ apps, and organized apps into folders, labeled by exhibit. We even began re-testing the remaining apps to be sure they were easy to use, and had a clear app-exhibit connection.
There was a slight improvement in attitude, but not as much as we had hoped. Quite a few facilitators began to come around, and started using the iPads in various galleries. Some liked that apps were now easier to find, and some were attracted by the new lightweight Minis we had purchased. A few even began to approach us with questions, and became almost giddy when they successfully used the apps. However, there were still those who remained steely in their resolve to never use an iPad, no matter what.
It finally dawned on us that if some facilitators don’t want an iPad, maybe we should just listen, and not give them one. And finally, that worked. Resentment started melting away because now they weren’t being forced. Those who didn’t want iPads were happy to be relieved of the additional responsibility, and others who loved it were glad they could use it freely, without negative attitudes weighing them down.
Things are not perfect, but we have definitely seen a pendulum shift in attitudes. I guess in our enthusiasm, we had forgotten one of the two key purposes of 21-Tech – that the iPad is used to extend the museum experience, and that it’s a tool for facilitators. In order to implement 21-Tech effectively, facilitators must be given that choice to decide whether or not they want to use the iPad as a tool. Asking that one simple question has really made all the difference for us.