Computer Clubhouse

General Project Description:
"The Clubhouse was founded in 1993 by The Computer Museum in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab as a model learning environment, where youth from underserved communities work with computer equipment to develop computer-based projects inspired by their own ideas" 1. Young people and adult mentors work together on projects, using new technologies to explore and experiment. The main goal is to teach youth basic computer techniques (such as keyboard and mouse skills) and basic computer applications (such as word processing). At the same time, the goal is for participants to learn to express themselves fluently with new technology, becoming motivated and confident learners in the process. The participants use leading-edge software to design and create computer-based products such as artwork, simulations, multimedia presentations, virtual worlds, musical creations, Web sites, and robotic constructions. "Rather than playing games with computers, young people learn how to use professional software for design, exploration, and experimentation" 2. The Clubhouse represents a learning environment that is not in a formal school setting. For this reason the learners are not referred to as students but as members or participants.

Multiple perspectives X
Student-directed goals X
Teachers as coaches X
Metacognition X
Learner control X
Authentic activities & contexts X
Knowledge construction X
Knowledge collaboration X
Previous knowledge constructions X
Problem solvingX
Consideration of errorsX
Exploration X
Apprenticeship learningX
Conceptual interrelatedness X
Alternative viewpointsX
Scaffolding X
Authentic assessment X
Primary sources of dataX

The following list indicates the way in which the characteristics were accommodated or supported:

  1. Multiple perspectives:
    The environment supports a great diversity of possible projects and paths. Members can see how a tool such as the computer can be used to support projects in many different domains: music, art, science, math.

  2. Student-directed goals:
    Members' activities and projects are totally driven by their personal goals and interests. "Once inside the Clubhouse, participants continually confront choices on what to do, how to do it, and whom to work with. The Clubhouse helps these youth gain experience with self-directed learning, helping them recognize, trust, develop, and deepen their own interests and talents" 2.

  3. Teachers as coaches:
    Teachers serve as mentors and collaborate on projects with the participants. In fact, teachers is somewhat of a misnomer since the mentors are participating engineers, researchers, graduate students and professionals in fields such as art, science, education or technology who share their experience and serve as role models. "Mentors act as coaches, catalysts, and consultants, bringing new project ideas to the Clubhouse" 2.

  4. Metacognition:
    Design activities provide a context for reflection and discussion, enabling youth to gain a deeper understanding of the ideas underlying hands-on activities 2.

  5. Learner control:
    Members work on projects related to their own interests. They are given the support and freedom to discover their interests and to pursue and apply their own ideas.

  6. Authentic activities & contexts:
    Mathematical and scientific ideas are not directly taught. Through designing their projects members naturally engage in thinking about important scientific concepts such as mechanical advantage and feedback. "And as students work on computer art projects, they need to develop a working understanding of scaling, perspective, and symmetry" 2.

  7. Knowledge construction:
    Design is used a means for students to acquire and build knowledge and skills which they can apply to express their interests. Students construct new knowledge as they engage in constructing personally-meaningful products 2.

  8. Knowledge collaboration:
    "The Clubhouse aims to create a sense of community, where young people work and learn together with one another with support and inspiration from adult mentors 3

  9. Previous knowledge constructions:
    Members are encouraged to work from their personal interests and to build on their particular strengths.

  10. Problem Solving:
    Design represents a complex process of problem-solving and fosters the development of higher-order thinking skills of planning, organizing and evaluating.

  11. Consideration of errors:
    "Design activities encourage creative problem-solving avoiding the right/wrong dichotomy prevalent in most school math and science activities, suggesting instead that multiple strategies and solutions are possible." Students are encouraged to consider alternatives when things go wrong and to use the errors as a means to learn and improve their design Risk-taking is encouraged. 2.

  12. Exploration:
    Experimentation and exploration are key features of the environment. Students are provided with the resources required in order to pursue their goals independently.

  13. Apprenticeship learning:
    Students work as designers, inventors, and creators with mentors to guide them through the completion of tasks, skills and knowledge acquisition necessary to complete their projects. They learn how to manage a complex project from start to finish 2.

  14. Conceptual interrelatedness:
    The Clubhouse constitutes a multi-disciplinary environment containing ingredients of an artist's studio, biology laboratory, television newsroom, architect's office, robotics workshop, and music studio. 4.

  15. Alternative viewpoints:
    Through working with others and through risk-taking, members gain an appreciation for the different ways in which a particualr project can be approached. Members are encouraged to consider multiple solutions and strategies.

  16. Scaffolding:
    Participants are given the option of multiple entry points for getting started. The Clubhouse provides a library of books, magazines, and manuals filled with project ideas to help students. Participants can begin by mimicking a sample project, then work on variations on the theme, and then develop their own personal path or project based on their personal interests.

  17. Authentic assessment:
    Not applicable. Students are not formally assessed.

  18. Primary sources of data:
    Participants work with the real tools that designers would use. They learn concepts in forms that represent their 'real-world' complexity.


Computer Clubhouse
Available at:

(1) About the Computer Clubhouse
Available at:

(2)Resnick, M. & Rusk, N. (no date provided) The Computer Clubhouse: Preparing for Life in a Digital World. Available at:

(3)Philosophy. Available at:

(4)History of the Clubhouse. Available at:

Return to Application of the Constructivist Checklist

This site was created by Elizabeth Murphy, Summer, 1997.