Project Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization focused on education, just released a national study on the use of technology by teachers and students called, “From Print to Pixel: The Role of Videos, Games, Animations, and Simulations within K-12 Education.” For the past thirteen years, Project Tomorrow has provided these annual “Speak Up” research reports to help schools and elected officials (and I’m including museums and historic sites) better understand the trends in technology in the K-12 education field. This year’s report incorporates responses from 415,686 K-12 students, 38,613 teachers and librarians, 4,536 administrators, 40,218 parents and 6,623 community members representing over 7,600 schools and 2,600 districts in the United States and around the world.
From “Print to Pixel” highlighted these major findings:
- Simulations are more widely used by teachers in virtual classes (23%) and teachers who have implemented a flipped learning model (26%) or a blended learning model (17%). [don’t be misled here: for teachers using virtual classes, or flipped or blended learning, simulations are used most frequently; most teachers (90%) don’t use simulations.]
- Over three-quarters of middle school students (78 percent) are tapping into online videos, and 6 out of 10 (61%) are playing online games, all in service of various types of self-directed learning goals.
- School principals (84 percent) are almost unanimous in their belief that the effective use of technology within instruction is important for student success. However, they do acknowledge challenges or barriers to meeting the expectation of effective technology usage. Five out of 10 administrators note that the implementation of digital content resources such as videos, simulations and animations was already generating positive student outcome results
- Almost 60 percent of technology leaders say that one-quarter of instructional materials in their schools today are digital, not paper-based; 26 percent say that their level of paperless-ness is 50 percent.
- The top subject areas in which the students in grades 6-12 watch videos to support homework, research projects or studying are science (66 percent), math (59 percent), social studies/history (53 percent) and English/language arts (45 percent).
- When asked what was holding back further expansion of their digital learning visions, 57% of principals say the lack of teacher training on how to integrate digital content within instruction is their top barrier.
Obviously, this is highly focused on what’s happening with technology in the classroom, so how’s it help museums and historic sites better engage with teachers, students, and parents? Here’s what I gleaned from the report that might suggest new projects or pursuits:
- Teachers are expecting that resources and materials are available online, including curriculum and textbooks. Are all of your teacher materials, including lesson plans, handouts, activity sheets, photos, maps, and videos, available via your website? It’s also time to rethink the traveling trunk filled with books and videotapes. Hmm…would your staff or volunteers also prefer to have your interpretive training materials online?
- Teachers prefer to learn in school because of convenience and context. Consider providing some of your teacher training on campus and include peer coaching (teachers teaching teachers) and demonstrations (observing an activity). Your teacher training should also explain your online resources, not just the field trip and activities.
- Video is growing in popularity with teachers and students. Consider creating short videos for your school programs, especially if they can introduce a lesson, connect to student’s knowledge, or prompt a discussion. Slow and inconsistent Internet connections are the biggest technology barrier at schools, so find out about your school’s capacity. Science currently commands the lead in video content, so history organizations need to get producing. The good news is that 53% of students in grades 6-12 watch videos to learn about history and social studies. Hmm…could these videos also be used in staff or volunteer training?
- Games are growing in popularity with teachers and students. That doesn’t mean more three-legged races, but using game-based techniques such as role-playing, puzzles, and quests to engage students and explain complex subjects. Remember “Oregon Trail“?
- Be aware of digital divides. Most teachers are reluctant to assign Internet-based homework because they fear some students do not have safe access outside of school. Make sure your materials are all designed to work in the classroom, not exclusively at home.
- Virtual field trips are experiencing slow growth with only 17% of teachers participating in 2015, which is only three percentage points higher than 2012. In comparison, 68% of teachers use online videos, up from 47% in 2012.
- Parents support the use of technology as a learning tool, but most (71%) want it to support classroom instruction, not as standalone or self-contained learning activities. This suggests that museums and historic sites need to be sure their student activities are closely related to, not separate from, what’s happening in the classroom.