September 1, 2002
As part of its Innovation in Education initiative, Intel is funding the development of the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network in the United States and abroad. The Computer Clubhouse Network provides young people the opportunity to use technological tools to express and explore their own ideas and perspectives while working in collaborative, supportive communities. This program is intended to respond to two of the key goals of Intel's Innovation in Education initiative: to provide under-served youth with increased access to technology, and to encourage female and minority youth to enter technical careers. As of Summer 2002, Intel has funded the creation of 66 Computer Clubhouses.
The Center for Children and Technology (CCT), part of Educational Development Center, Inc., is conducting a three-year independent evaluation of the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network. The first year of the evaluation focused on formative questions about the opportunities and challenges host institutions encountered as they began to develop their Computer Clubhouses. The second year of this evaluation, as summarized in this report, turned to a careful examination of four Computer Clubhouses where we conducted both institutional case studies and an analysis of selected work young people produced. Our goals were twofold:
- To map whether and how Clubhouse members' projects reflect an engagement with the program goals, and;
- To understand which institutional and contextual factors shape members' engagement with these goals and the developmental progression of each Clubhouse.
In a successful Computer Clubhouse environment young people (ages 10-18) and adult mentors share expertise and support one another in using a range of technological tools (including 3-D imaging software, digital video recording and editing apparatus, and music recording and mixing equipment) to explore or express ideas and/or issues of interest to the young people involved. These qualities are summarized in the program goals, which are to improve young people's ability to:
- Express themselves with technology;
- Collaborate and work in teams;
- Solve complex problems;
- Develop, plan, and execute complex projects;
- Develop self-esteem and self-efficacy.
Essential to the Clubhouse model is the idea that young people develop a "technological fluency." That is, they learn to use a range of tools and media by creating original work, and come to understand how these tools can carry important messages about themselves and their worlds.
Our findings show that while many different kinds of activities take place in Computer Clubhouses, some youth, including those with a wide range of technical abilities and interests, are better able to pursue projects that are consistent with the program goals. Youth who come to Clubhouses with a specific area of personal interest and some prior knowledge and interest in technology are better able to engage in sustained design-based activity across a range of stages of Clubhouse program development than those youth that come to Clubhouses without particular interests or knowledge in hand. High level achievement by youth of the program's goals, however, is in part a developmental process. That is, older youth are generally better prepared to engage in the more higher-order program goals, such as problem solving, in an environment in which they are encouraged to do so, than are younger members.
The likelihood that younger and older members alike, who come to Clubhouses without pre-existing knowledge and interests to drive their activities, will engage with the program goals and sustain an interest in pursuing relevant activities is substantially increased when the culture of a Clubhouse is informed by the following:
- A clear and consistent focus on activities that invite youth to engage with the program goals, including collaborating, solving complex problems, and pursuing sustained, complex projects.
- Coordinator expertise with design-based learning, including an ability to draw on a range of resources to support a culture focused on habitual and sustained design-based activity in informal settings.
- Pathways for youth development towards program goals that are developmentally appropriate to the range of ages and abilities of the youth who frequent Clubhouses.
- Audiences youth can communicate with to share and develop ideas over time.
- Youth leadership in Clubhouses and local communities to provide models to newer members and, for more experienced members, opportunities to initiate connections to the larger community.
Our report concludes with recommendations intended to help guide the next phase of capacity building across the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network. These recommendations emphasize issues relevant to the sustainability of Intel Computer Clubhouses in a variety of settings. These recommendations are discussed in more detail in the report.
- Build content and resources that articulate and illustrate not only the core qualities but the core activities (community practices, youth activities, teaching and support techniques, etc.) that distinguish Intel Computer Clubhouses to ensure program uniformity and quality, while acknowledging the need for local adaptation.
- Build and sustain networks among Coordinators by promoting ongoing professional development opportunities and by identifying leadership roles within the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network.
- Prepare for sustainability by forging strategic partnerships with universities, and by developing systemic mechanisms for documenting program activities and supporting local planning processes.