Digital games and videos are becoming more popular in classrooms as teachers look for ways to help students learn.
Back in 2012, just under half of teachers integrated online videos into their instruction, and slightly less than a third used digital games, according to the annual Speak Up 2015 report from the nonprofit Project Tomorrow. But those numbers have increased dramatically over the last three years for a number of reasons.
First off, teachers watch YouTube videos on their own time as they look for visual answers to their questions about how to change a light bulb in a car or how to decorate a wedding cake. Then they realize that their students could benefit from watching online videos as well, said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow.
"As teachers become personally familiar with these devices outside of school, they start to go, 'A-ha! I think I could use this in the classroom,'" Evans said. "I think that's what's going on with videos and games."
The quality of videos and games also has increased over the last few years, making their use much more valuable to students.
Finally, teachers look to videos and games to help students get excited about complex subjects including chemistry and algebra, Evans said.
Thanks to these reasons, 68 percent of nearly 36,000 teachers now incorporate online videos into their classes — a 21 percent increase from three years ago. Similarly, the use of games jumped 18 percent to 48 percent.
But even though more teachers are mixing in digital resources, not everyone has caught on. The No. 1 challenge for administrators is to figure out how to help all teachers adopt digital resources, according to the survey.
In conversations with teachers, Evans discovered two ways in which administrators can tackle this challenge. First, it's important for them to understand what it takes to integrate games and videos into a real classroom environment. Second, it's time to provide teachers with professional development that works for them: peer coaching and mentoring.
"This model of an instructional coach that has a strong base in digital learning is a really smart idea," said Evans. "But it requires an investment."