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Games, Videos Continue to Make Big Gains in Classrooms, Survey Finds

By Leo Doran

The number of American teachers using games in classrooms--particularly with younger students--has doubled over the past six years, according to a large survey released last week that measures national ed-tech use.

In 2015, 47 percent of K-12 teachers and almost two-thirds of K-5 teachers reported using game-based learning environments in their classes, up from 23 percent of K-12 teachers in 2010.

The use of online instructional videos in classrooms, meanwhile, has risen over that stretch from 47 percent to 68 percent.

The 2015 Speak Up survey findings are the latest in a series of reports released each year by the Irvine, Calif.-based nonprofit Project Tomorrow. This year's report draws from an online questionnaire of more than 500,000 students, teachers, educators and parents. It suggests that after years of reticence among many teachers to invite certain types of ed tech into their classrooms, the landscape could finally be changing.

"The explosion in teacher interest and usage of videos and game-based learning could be a harbinger of a new awakening for digital learning" said Julie Evans, the CEO of Project Tomorrow, in a statement.

Nevertheless, the survey found that while a vast majority of principals believe that effective use of ed tech is important to student success, 54 percent still say their biggest digital learning challenge is getting teachers to adapt their classroom practices to make better use of the new resources.

Many school leaders (57 percent) also say that a lack of teacher training is the biggest barrier to expanding their ed tech offerings.

A growing number of teachers, meanwhile, are hungry for PD on how to integrate games in their classrooms.  Speak Up found that 50 percent of teachers were looking for such resources, up from 27 percent in 2012.

Whether or not districts support the move towards digital learning by offering PD or by curating content, an increasing number of teachers are taking the initiative and seeking out Khan Academy, YouTube, and Ted Talk videos to supplement or "flip" classroom learning.  Some teachers, particularly computer science and career-and-technical education instructors, have taken to making their own videos, according to the survey. 

The full report offered a variety of reasons for why students grade 6-12 see value in online educational videos. The videos appeal to students because they

  • Can be watched as often as needed (61 percent)
  • Make it easier to understand difficult concepts (55 percent)
  • Connect what they are learning to the real world (54 percent)
  • Fit their learning styles (53 percent)
  • Are easy to find and easy to access on mobile devices (53 percent)
  • Are engaging and keeps their attention (48 percent)

For their part, more than half of teachers cited better student engagement to the curriculum, the ability to address different learning styles and the ability to craft more relevant lessons as the primary benefits of using videos in class.

Last year's survey underscored the large numbers of high school students using their own devices in classrooms, a practice often called BYOD.

In its larger context, this year's survey adds urgency to the chorus of experts stressing the importance of focusing efforts to improve students' out-of-school internet connectivity, or closing "the homework gap," as schools' overall reliance on technology increases.

Despite the increasing prevalence of ed tech in classrooms, nearly 70 percent of teachers told Project Tomorrow they are reluctant to assign homework that requires Internet access, Evans said, because they are worried about digital inequities. 


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