Rusk, N., Resnick, M., & Cooke, S. (2009). Origins and guiding principles of the Computer Clubhouse. In Y. B. Kafai, K. A. Peppler & R. N. Chapman (Eds.), The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and Creativity in Youth Communities (pp. 17 - 25). New York: Teachers College Press.
Our team is researching the topic of technology in informal/non-formal education settings and this article discusses a particular program that is based specifically on the use of technology. The program, called Computer Clubhouse, was started over 15 years ago in response to youth's interest in a hands-on program that had taken place at the Computer Museum in Boston. In the article the authors discuss the principles that were used to found the program and which still heavily influence it today. These principles speak directly to our course topics of community, identity, and design.
The first principle is to support learning through design experiences. The authors believe that "too many educational initiatives try to transmit or deliver information to learners" (p. 18) so this principle, based on constructionism, seeks to allow learning to be a creative process, where learners are creating something that is meaningful to themselves or others around them. The authors include the creative design spiral (see below) to illustrate the process that Clubhouse members use when working on projects.
The second principle of the Clubhouse is to help members build on their own interests. As the authors state, "helping youth develop their interests is not just a matter of letting them do what they want... they need support to make [their] fantasies come true" (p. 20). Under this principle, technology (specifically the computer) is used in many different domains, allowing students to try out a variety of things like music, art, math and science. Students are encouraged to develop their own identities through exposure to a wide variety of activities.
The third principle is to cultivate an emergent community of learners. The typical computer lab closely resembles the first of the two pictures that we (Team 1) posted in class on Tuesday. Computer Clubhouse spaces are designed to have the feel of a creative design studio and to facilitate students (and students and mentors) working together. Communities emerge over time based on common interests and students are able to "float" in and out of communities at any time as their interests develop/change. The communities include mentors from diverse cultural and academic/professional backgrounds, which allows students to be exposed to people who are working on things that they care about. This may be something that these students do not get to experience outside of the Clubhouse environment.
The final principle of the Clubhouse is to create an environment of respect and trust. None of the other principles can be put into practice without this type of environment. Students need a place where they feel safe to try new things and where they will not be criticized for their ideas or mistakes.
The Clubhouse provides a good model for a successful informal/non-formal education program that integrates technology. In my opinion, it also provides a good model that formal education should try to embrace. I often wonder why some schools/teachers tend to see things like respect for students and their interests and the development of community as less than important in the traditional school setting. If these principles were applied in "regular" school settings, perhaps more students would be successful and see school in a positive light.