Since 1993 the Computer Museum in Boston, MA has housed the Computer Clubhouse, an innovative after-school learning center where young people from Boston's underserved communities can explore their own interests and become confident learners through the use of technology. In 1996 the Computer Museum is launching satellite versions of the Computer Clubhouse in two Boston communities, enabling hundreds more inner-city youths to get their hands on powerful computer tools and create their own projects.
The Computer Museum is providing expertise, training, and support for Clubhouse satellites at Roxbury's John A. Shelburne Community Center and United South End Settlements, both opening in early 1996. Crystal Houston, Shelburne's program director, says that young people at Shelburne are eager to explore the latest software and computers. "Above everything else, having a Clubhouse here in Roxbury will expand their creativity and tap into resources they didn't know they had," she predicts.
The Computer Museum founded the Computer Clubhouse three years ago in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab. The Clubhouse has enabled more than 1,000 young people from Boston's underserved communities to be introduced to sophisticated professional software and computer technology. Guided by adult mentors, youths aged 10-18 work in a community of their peers on their own creations-from a computer-controlled laser light show to robots and computer games. They experiment with scientific simulations, mix music in the Clubhouse sound studio, and create multimedia presentations.
Setting up satellite Clubhouses in Boston communities is the first step in the Museum's broader plan to establish a network of Clubhouses around the country and the world. The Computer Museum Clubhouse is developing workshop and consulting materials to offer to museums and other organizations around the world interested in serving as Clubhouse "hosts." These "hosts" in turn would then set up their own Clubhouse satellites.
"The Clubhouse is a new kind of learning community, where young people develop new skills and new ways of thinking about learning and themselves," noted Clubhouse Advisor Mitch Resnick, assistant professor, MIT Media Lab. "The best way to develop the skills and attitudes needed to succeed in a digital world is to live in a 'digital community,' interacting not only with computers but with people who know how to explore and express themselves with the technology."
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