21-Tech

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

21-Tech Training Tip: Provide facilitators time to explore apps

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The word “training” conjures images of boring lectures, but our training is anything but that. After explaining the basics of iPad usage and approach, we explore apps together. We allow facilitators to think about the app-exhibit connection, and share possible facilitation strategies. While the facilitators talk, we mostly listen. We only jump in if someone has misunderstood a concept; otherwise, we give them time to play with the different apps. Giving facilitators time to explore is crucial because they must know the apps before they can use them with visitors. Also, they must know HOW to discover the app-exhibit connections for themselves. We cannot teach them every single app (we currently use 66 apps), but we can equip them with tools to discover the connections for themselves. As long as they understand the technique, they can duplicate it for any app.

It is important to note that during the first two phases of our training process, we do not require facilitators to interact with visitors using iPads. Again, how can they use an app with a child when they don’t know it themselves? For this reason, we usually let a week or two pass before the next 21-Tech training to be sure facilitators have had time to explore.

To provide “iPad play time”, we do the following:

  • As mentioned, during training, we provide ample time for facilitators to explore apps.
  • Facilitators have the option to check out iPads during their shifts.
  • We hold 30-minute 21-Tech meetings a few times each week where facilitators have time to explore new apps, and share facilitation techniques in small groups.
  • Some of our trained facilitators are scheduled as “21-Tech” for 30 minutes to an hour; during this time, they are able to interact with visitors using the iPad, explore new apps, or find new digital content.

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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: