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

Educational Outreach Reaches New Levels with iPads

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Hi everyone! My name is Katie Sniegowski, and I am an Outreach Educator with the Children’s Museum of Houston. My background includes eight years as an elementary educator, teaching in diverse districts within the cities of Detroit, MI and Denver, CO. I moved to Houston this past summer, and my career change to the museum and community outreach has been both rewarding and inspiring. I currently run two programs with the museum, Houston’s Kids and an after-school kit program as a part of A’STEAM (after-school- science, technology, engineering, art, and math). Houston’s Kids is an after school program, partnered with YMCA, in which the ‘best of the best’ math and science activities from CMH are brought to two elementary schools and one intermediate school in Alief ISD, serving grades K-6, four days a week.  The after-school kit-based program (A’STEAM) is used in 14 local community centers where educational math, science and cultural activities are brought to the sites where the staff is then trained to use these activities (kits) in their own after-school programs.

The 21-Tech team and I have been collaborating to bring more technology into the programs I run, and thanks to a wonderful support system, I have been able to take 8 iPads to the Houston’s Kids program once a month. Last month, the 5th, 6th and 8th graders had the opportunity to use iPads to enhance their learning during a science experiment in which they built a model of the human heart as a pump.

The description below is an original e-mail I sent to my colleagues in the Education department. It provides more detail about how the iPads were used, and what a great success they were with my group of intermediate students:

Wow! The iPads really took HK learning to the next level with the heart activity! I had a very small group yesterday, but the overall iPad experience worked out perfectly in that each student got his/her own iPad.

In December, we were studying PowerPlay and the human body. We explored the basics of the heart in a 45 minute lesson. The kids each got an iPad to start the lesson, and used the Pocket Heart app to explore a real-time beating 3-D model of the heart. They were able to explore the exterior and interior of the heart while watching the flow of blood and electrical signals. There was a glossary that corresponded with different pins of important veins, arteries and chambers, and the heart itself could be rotated, enlarged and manipulated every which way. This was a great model for the students to get a visual before they created their own model. The iPads remained out (but at a safe distance from the water) as the kids designed their own heart model (The Heart as a Pump experiment:  http://www.smm.org/heart/lessons/lesson5a.htm). Using a cup, straws and balloon, the kids replicated a pumping heart, and were able to draw a lot of connections between their model and the iPad app (“Look! This valve is like the one on the iPad!”). This was exciting and engaging in so many ways and a great model for older students.

After this, we talked a bit about heart rate and why it increases, and did a modified version of the Feel the Beat activity. The students used the Heart Rate app to calculate their resting heart rate, using the ‘tap’ button. This was a lot of fun! We then did several physical activities that ranged from marching to jumping jacks, from 30 seconds to a minute, and after each activity, kids recalculated their heart rate using the app. We discussed intensity, time and the affect on heart rate. I can see this app being a great addition to museum exhibits as well as to personal iPads at home. The kids LOVED the whole experiment, and can’t wait for the return of the iPads next month!

Overall great connections, and between the hands-on experiments, technology and kinesthetic movements, I think a lot of different learning styles benefited from this experience.

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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.

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