(CONTINUED FROM 30/05/13 )
7.2 COMPUTER CLUBHOUSE
•Ciaran McGuinness, Computer Clubhouse Dublin, coordinator;
•Janice Feighery, Computer Clubhouse Dublin, coordinator.
Abstract: the clubhouse is a worldwide initiative launched by Intel to provide a creative and safe after‐school learning environment for young people from under‐served communities.
Young people from disadvantaged communities work with adult mentors to explore their own ideas, develop skills, and build self‐confidence through the use of technology. The clubhouse does not provide basic IT skills, but teaches creative applications of IT. The model of learning was developed by Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Boston Museum of Science.
Using the ʺoriginalʺ Clubhouse as a model, the Computer Clubhouse Network supports community‐based Clubhouses around the world, providing over 25,000 youth per year with access to resources, skills, and experiences to help them succeed in their careers, contribute to their communities, and lead outstanding lives. The ongoing vision of the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network is to proliferate the highly successful Clubhouse learning approach and establish it as a replicable model for technology learning in community‐based organizations around the world.
There are 2 clubhouses in Dublin, of which we visited one located in the Digital District. Its target users are between 8 and 18 years old.
IMPLEMENTATION AND SELF‐REPORTED RESULTS
The project is funded by INTEL, which funds local initiatives of local NGOs for the first three years and seeks to ensure the clubhouse is sustainable after that. It is therefore a partnership between a community organisation and a large corporation.
The centre is equipped with state of the art technology in order to enable youngster to develop creative skills. The focus is not IT but creativity. Youngsters learn advanced IT skills, programming, graphic design, building games etc. This provides invaluable motivation and reward to students often at risk of school dropout. In addition, it equips them with precious IT skills, valuable in the workplace.
The Clubhouse members use industry top of the notch software such as the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Premiere, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver), Final Cut Pro, Google Sketchup, Garage Band, 3D Game Maker and Mission Maker. The Mentors offer one‐to‐one guidance to the members which is invaluable in building their confidence. The programmes are all based around an informal social constructivist approach which allows members the freedom to experiment and explore their own creativity, while availing of the support, experience and encouragement of Mentors. A typical volunteer is asked to commit to 2 hours per week on a designated day for six months.
The project was launched in 2003 when MediaLab Europe was set up in Dublin, in order to bridge the divide with the local community. After MLE left in 2005, a local community organisation took over the management of the Clubhouse.
The projects involved 70 youngsters in the last year, aged between 8 and 18.
Independent studies carried out by SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute confirmed the positive impact of Clubhouses on young users. Members who visit more frequently the Clubhouse consistently score higher in technology skills, school engagement and problem–solving skills.
Anectodically, there is a clear visible change in the self‐confidence of young people, and in their families as well. Often, after starting using the Clubhouse, they have the motivation to subscribe to broadband at home.
Current running costs are about 100K Euros, mainly devoted to the wages of people managing the initiative. Building and electricity is offered for free by local initiatives.
Computer equipments have been offered by Intel together with the Community Gain Funds, while software licenses are offered by Adobe as part of is Adobe Youth programme. The Community Gain Funds cover the running costs. All these funding were one‐off and the initiative is now in a critical moment in terms of finding sustainable funding. Funding for sustainability is expected to come from public sources funding youth work programmes.
All mentors are volunteers. Majority are often university students and people working in local industries. There is a huge effort put into managing this wide network of people. The goal is to achieve one mentor for each youngster.
Key to success is that these initiatives are strongly embedded in the local context, thanks to the partnership with Community Organisations.
Creativity is paramount to learning by doing, trying new things .play and creativity for learning. Digital playground is devoted to engage people not very engaged in traditional school environment, through learning‐by‐doing, playing and fun. Everybody is creative, not only in IT creativity terms: for example, the clubhouse offers other creative activities such as furniture and fashion design. IT is useful to introduce alternative models of learning.
The engagement of local volunteers and their willingness to teach and share is fundamental.
Another important factor is that equipment hardware and software is state‐of‐the‐art, enabling not only creativity but also the learning of state‐of‐the art skills, useful on the labour market.
At the same time, this is a potential barrier as costs are higher. However thanks to additional partnerships with software houses such as Adobe, the price of software licence is already covered.
The project also benefits from being a part of a worldwide support network, which helps by providing intelligence and exchange of good practice, through regular worldwide and regional conference, as well as social networking, competitions, advice on software. It also helps, more concretely, in finding new sources of funding for innovative projects, for example in the partnership with Adobe.
Financial sustainability is obviously the main challenge, but the reason is particularly interesting. The community organisation traditionally gets funding from youth work funding. However, traditional youth work funding mechanisms struggle to acknowledge this kind of activities as eligible for funding. There is a fundamental misunderstanding with funding organisations that are not able to put these kind of initiative in the appropriate policy silo (IT education, youth work). This is a paradox as this kind of initiative is probably the future of youth work, where IT is embedded into daily professional and creative activity.
Also, it is difficult to evaluate achievement as they are often intangible such as presentation skills, trust in themselves.
Finally, IT competences are not yet recognized as a policy priority, also in schools, so the Clubhouse is networking with similar initiative to raise awareness on this.
EU funding has not been looked into because of the paperwork and management burden required.
The main policy recommendation is to raise awareness across government on the importance and the opportunities of this kind of initiative, in order to overcome the artificial barriers to funding due to governmental structure.
Related to that, it is important to reinforce exchanges and interaction between similar organisations, in order to exchange experiences and better coordinate intervention at the local level to avoid blind spots.
There could be the possibility for large‐scale agreement to reduce costs of hardware and software for e‐Inclusion purposes, just as for educational purposes. As a matter of fact, through the HCI program, Intel has worked with industry, government and financial services in Ireland to make the Home Computing Initiative more affordable. This will be soon advertised on the LOL website.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Annalisa De Luca