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

Choosing Categories

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Our categories at OMSI have changed and evolved since we first started the project.  We began using most of the categories Children’s Museum of Houston (CMH) used in their App (What do I do? What happens if…? Big questions, Do this at home! Dig deeper!).  As we moved deeper into our own content development and visitor testing we modified, combined and removed some of the categories.

0021 – What do I do? – This was a straight forward choice as it is where we put the instructions.

2 – Changed “Try this!” to “Challenges”…and then changed back to “Try this!” – When we first changed “Try this” to “challenges” it was to make the section more exciting – get the user engaged! – and see if wording of categories affected the experience. It did and does! We had numerous visitors who tried the App tell us that the challenges sections either wasn’t challenging enough or there weren’t enough of them.  After this we returned the category heading to “try this!” and labeled appropriate posts specifically as challenges and the rest as things simply to try.  The responses we received after the change improved and it has remained since then.

3 – Combined “Big questions” and “Dig deeper” – Initially “Big questions” was the category where questions directly related to the exhibit were put (why did it do that, how does it work?) and “Dig Deeper” was where the more detailed or tangentially related questions went (newton’s 3rd Law, buoyancy, etc.). We decided after hearing feedback from visitors and discussions amongst ourselves that these two categories weren’t different enough to warrant separate sections. By combining them we reduced the number of places to look for content and made the appearance better (no longer needed to scroll through categories)

4 – Added a “Real Life Applications” section – We decided to add a section that showed how the science related to the exhibit is applied to the real world. We felt that this could be a great section to help people understand why it is important to know this information and how it affects their everyday life. We also asked for people to make their own suggestions to add to this category using the comments section.  We will see if it is utilized as more people are able to use the App.

5 – Changed “Do this at home!” to “Try this…at home!” – This was a cosmetic change that hasn’t thus far shown to either positively or negatively affects the visitors experience with the App.

So far the categories we have now seem to be working well.  The only complaints have been in regards to the format of the app itself, which we can’t control during the testing.

  1. October 22, 2015


    Hi Aaron, I don’t think we have formally been introduced. I am the new XCL Project Manager at CMH. First, I want to thank you for providing us with updates! Second, I’m glad you used the More CMH categories in the initial process and happy to hear that you have adapted to your needs!! I like all of your changes, especially number 4! What a great idea! Personally, when it comes to math and science, I would definitely want to know how something can be used in real like application! Maybe CMH can also apply this category to our science related components.

    Please keep us updated on how these changes are working out for OMSI.

    • October 22, 2015

      Aaron Nash

      Nice to meet you as well! Fore sure, feel free to use our ideas! Let us know how they work there. We added #4 towards the end of cycle 1 so we don’t have much feedback yet, but we’ll definitely be letting everyone know what we find!

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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: