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

Why are we going digital?

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Lately, there has been a lot of research and popular press about the benefits of limiting screen time for children (and ourselves). A few examples:

So, how do we reconcile our choice of media–mobile technologies–with this digital conundrum? Well, the short answer is we’re not sure, yet. Parents and caregivers, especially of very young children, are concerned about using digital media in front of their kids. They are concerned with the device distracting them from meaningful time interacting together. This question has come up a number of times during our evaluation, and we’re still trying to figure out how to make this a useful tool rather than a digital distraction.

Our content categories for Sciencenter’s Explore More prototype app focus on things adults can do to encourage their children to play with an exhibit component (Try This); a short description and explanation behind the early childhood research that supports that action or the content at the exhibit (What the Research Says); and additional links to online resources so that visitors can learn more on their own time (More Resources). Our hope is that the short suggestions in the Try This section will be helpful prompts on the floor of the museum, and that the other content might be more useful as contextual information for caregivers to use and consume either in preparation of the visit or once home.

How are other project partners or museums dealing with this issue? Do you get pushback from visitors about promoting digital content and screen time?

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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: