Fortunately, the majority of our facilitators are 21-Tech trained, and we have at least 8-10 facilitators using tablets each day. Even newly trained facilitators are often enthusiastic about 21-Tech, and can’t wait to use tablets on the floor. However, we’ve found that if we don’t provide a place and time for facilitators to collaborate and share best practices, that enthusiasm can quickly wane. What was once profound can become routine and boring if we don’t provide channels to share learning.
We knew that collaboration was important, but just didn’t know how to weave it into our culture. So, we did what has always worked in the past – we asked our facilitators for advice. Some of them suggested a unique concept of creating a “focus group”, i.e. bringing together a group of facilitators who were already excited about 21-Tech and wanted more responsibility. They said that via consistent weekly meetings, they could share how they’ve used numerous apps and discuss ways to further develop 21-Tech. We thought that was a great idea, and quickly set up weekly meetings.
I think people work harder when they have a sense of purpose and know that their contribution makes a difference. So, after scheduling weekly meetings, we did what they had requested: we listened. We listened to their suggestions about improvement, and involved them in different facets of 21-Tech – they started searching for new digital content, evaluated existing content, role-played, discussed how to approach visitors and aired their frustrations (along with solutions) during their 21-Tech time.
In the three months since we’ve implemented the Focus Group structure, 21-Tech at Children’s Museum of Houston has truly flourished. Though scheduling collaboration time is not always easy, the payoff is well worth the effort! Facilitators have found new apps, shared strategies with one another, collaborated with other departments of the Museum, provided new programming ideas to Educators, and even participated in a virtual call with one of our partners, Sciencenter.
Here are a few comments from some of our facilitators: “The most valuable thing I have experienced with 21-Tech is how powerful collaboration in focus groups can be… we’ve learned new ways of approaching visitors by just talking to each other and we’ve found applications that work with us and the exhibits.” Another facilitator said, “It’s really helpful being able to bounce ideas off each other and I love feeling like my contributions matter.”