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

How do we pick exhibits?

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The goal for XCL is to explore what sort of information, when provided through a mobile device, is highly effective to help visitors dig deeper into content at hands-on exhibits. But, whether you call them exhibits, interactives, components, etc., the initial question we had to tackle is: which ones? How do we select the exhibits that would best lend themselves towards this type of exploration? What we needed were exhibits that attract visitors and whose function, at least peripherally, is fairly obvious. But, we also wanted to use exhibits that lend themselves to experimentation, that offer deeper examination, and that can generate lots of inquiry-based work. Finally, we wanted exhibits that not only help visitors explore a concept, but provide introduction to other concepts and that can generate enough curiosity that visitors want to continue their explorations after they leave the museum.

So, we decided to focus on exhibits that presented the characteristics of Active Prolonged Engagement (APE) as identified by the Exploratorium which includes:

  • Visitors spend more time at exhibits
  • Visitors ask and pursue questions not mentioned in the label and/or give other indications that they are not fully reliant on the authority of the museum
  • Visitors ask a certain class of questions including “How can I get it to …” and “What if I…” and opposed to “Why does it…”
  • Visitors engage in conversations which clearly indicate that they are inquiring, exploring, playing, observing or contemplating or give other indications that they are doing so.
  • Visitors’ interaction with phenomena is not halted by request for authority
  • Visitors leave for extrinsic, rather than intrinsic reasons

These characteristics, we feel, are strong indicators of exhibits with the flexibility and open-endedness that would allow us to conduct robust research for XCL.

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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: