The Computer Clubhouse Village: A virtual meeting place for an emerging community of learners
The Computer Clubhouse Network is an international affiliation of organizations that all have a common purpose: providing opportunities for youth from underserved communities to explore their own ideas and become more capable, creative and confident learners through the use of state-of-the-art technology. Clubhouse community members actively engage in learning-bydesigning in an environment created to promote informal coalescing of groups around common interests. Having grown, with the support of Intel corporation, from a few to close to a hundred Clubhouses, spontaneously formed design teams no longer need to share the same physical space. The Computer Clubhouse Village provides a virtual extension of the Clubhouse and takes to a new level the emerging community of learners.
Becoming a virtual community with members from around the world brings new opportunities, as well as new challenges. As of 2004, there are Clubhouses in 20 different countries where more than a dozen languages are spoken. Even though the Network language is English, the Village strives to be a multilingual community where members are welcome to participate in a language they feel comfortable using. As we move to a third phase of development of the intranet, we will facilitate this interchange by providing an interface in languages other than English, whenever it is permitted. Translation is not only time consuming but also complex, considering regional variations in popular languages like Chinese and Spanish, and the lack of terminology in other languages for new technology and ideas. Bilingual members have become crucial to enable communication among those who speak only one language as they spontaneously translate for others, but there is a need for a concerted effort with professional translators as we move forward.
Adapting to the local culture and needs while preserving the Clubhouse guiding principles, is both a challenge and an opportunity. The Clubhouse learning approach has been developing since 1993, in conjunction with the MIT Media Lab, and continues to evolve as the Network grows and incorporates new technologies and new ways of thinking about them. It is based on ongoing research from several fields that revolve around the use of new technologies to enhance learning, taking into account the role of affect and motivation in the learning process, the importance of the social context, and the interplay between individual and community development.
The four guiding principles of the Clubhouse learning approach are: learning-by-designing, following your interests, building a community, and fostering an environment of respect and trust. Both the Network and the Village, reflect the same guiding principles that gave rise to the first Computer Clubhouse. In both cases, applying the principles to the specific needs of each community has been a process only possible with the participation of the local communities, facilitated by Community Based Organizations carefully selected to support each individual Clubhouse. The Network has been greatly enriched with the addition of people from diverse states and countries as they all bring their own perspective to the table. Youth are developing meaningful projects in their communities while at the same time sharing their projects and ideas with people outside of their communities who may provide feedback or even collaborate through virtual environments.