Exploration kits

Martin Wolske has written, in Technology is NOT the focus:

we need to be developing community technology centers (CTC) differently. Right now, they are developed with the idea that people are coming to the CTC for the technology. As such, traditional desktop or tower cases and larger LCD monitors dominate. Maybe the CTC of the future instead needs to be a place with lots of tables and chairs that can easily be rearranged, and laptops for checkout.

One step in that direction is to think of a CTC as a community media lab (CML). The focus then is on the community and communication, not technology. A CML is an excellent way to promote and learn about digital media use. It also provides a venue for people from a variety of organizations and with diverse technological interests to work together.

logitech-backpackHow about complementing the CML with exploration kits? These would be available to individual youth, or to organizations such as community centers, after-school programs, boys and girls clubs, 4-H, and so on. They would allow youth to take tools into many different settings, thus promoting ubiquitous learning.

Lisa Bouillion-Diaz from Extension has suggested that the kit might take the form of a backpack, which could be easily transported. It might contain things such as:

  • GPS receiver
  • camera
  • video camera
  • audio recording equipment if higher quality is needed than on the cameras
  • physical maps, images, texts, …
  • activity guides to support community mapping, journalism, history, …
  • hands-on STEM learning objects, such as magnifying glass, weights, compass, magnets, …
  • possible: distant measuring tool (electronic or mechanical), temperature probes, motion sensor

All of this would be linked with a website, showing how to make your own kit or to modify the standard one(s) for specific purposes or groups. What else might go into such a kit?

I see kits as intermediate between the indigenous media experiences youth have through mobile phones, Facebook, video games, etc. and the formal learning that occurs (or not) in classrooms. We’re working on them for the Youth Community Informatics project, but their scope could be expanded to include learners of all ages.

2 thoughts on “Exploration kits

  1. Pingback: Citizen Professional Toolkits « Martin Wolske’s Weblog

  2. I think the backback model is a GREAT idea. However, as one who both cares very much about youth media production and one who runs a checkout room with $.5M worth of equipment in it, i can tell you that there is a significant logistical consideration to this model. We can’t even count on our college students to keep up with everything in the kits they check out – it requires 1 FTE just to manage, repair, and maintain the equipment. I imagine high-schoolers and younger will be even less responsible. If a case or map gets lost every time a kit goes out, that could add up pretty quickly. Will you hold the kids or their parents financially accountable? Will the equipment be insured?

    One advantage of the CTC model (with tower computers and the like) is that it is much easier to maintain on a limited budget. Computers can be maintained centrally, and security and safety of the equipment are less of a concern.

    This is NOT to say it can’t be done. It’s just something to think about in terms of creating a sustainable model or applying for grants. Just remember that checkout rooms tend towards entropy!


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