It’s surreal writing this as it will be my last blog for the Digital Inclusion Pilot Corps. I’m humbled to have been a part of this pilot and I’m proud of what I and my colleagues have been able to accomplish in the course of a year. That being said I want to make my last blog post one about the future and about opportunity. You’ll forgive me if it’s more conversational than other posts, but I think the tone is appropriate for the topic.

The benefits of having a Discovery Lab in the field are the same as (and please forgive the militaristic metaphor) dropping paratroopers in advance of a major push. The reconnaissance is outreach and the trenches we build to hold our ground are the relationships we develop. Discovery Labs and fun family science nights with a digital inclusion theme are not enough to sustain or create real progress in an area, I will admit. But what they do is create a solid foundation for us to continue or expand what work we have already done.

If we want to get involved in a school district in a rural area of NM, for example, I would suggest we take the time to identify or build our relationships with people on the ground, to find those local champions, and recruit them to being digital inclusion warriors in their area by equipping them with a Discovery Lab and providing the training to use it to the fullest potential. This alone is an improvement but with time their knowledge grows and the word of Explora’s involvement grows, and we as an institution are suddenly able to sustain decent numbers at events we hold in the district, and have a readymade partner for us to rely on to be the boots on the ground for whatever we need to promote the cause of STEM literacy.

Suddenly our pedagogy and teaching style is out in the public and working while we’re not even there, and it only gets better with time. The more events we put on and the more training we are able to provide for our lab administrator the better they are able to help us and the more people are aware of the resources we have made available. At this point we’re able to advocate for our Lab Administrator on an organizational level; to focus attention on the needs that still exist and the gaps that are all too likely to still exist in the communities ability to access broadband and internet enabled devices for education, job creation, research and for entertainment.

Eventually the hope is that our efforts will outgrow the Discovery Lab. Good. Send it along to even more remote areas. This is not the liberating army of digital inclusion, that’s still coming, this is just the tip of the spear: focused, precise; to the point. In language more familiar to a Science Museum, the Discovery Lab is a discrepant event: an event that makes you question what you knew before and look beyond for new and exciting possibilities to test a new unknown. How better to introduce Digital Inclusion than by cracking open a door to the digital world, and letting the community open it wide to wherever they want to go.

Again, this has been a pleasure. I appreciate all of those who have stuck this series out. If you have any questions or want to know how to emulate any step in this process, please don’t hesitate to contact me at my Explora email address:

Dlauderdale@explora.us

Thank you one last time for reading.

Drew