Bridging the Gap: Connecting Cultural Institutions and Learners in the Digital Age

Exhibitor Briefing
Henry Blue, Alchemy Learning, USA, Henry Blue, Alchemy Learning, USA

Education globally is undergoing massive disruptions that have direct ramifications on museums’ and cultural institutions’ ability to connect with and impact younger generations of learners. A sharp rise in the percentage of wirelessly connected schools is creating environments ripe for adoption of student laptops and devices in the classroom and, as result, a high demand for digital educational content. Concurrently, an increasingly competitive global workforce is driving countries to adopt and enforce standards and test-driven educational frameworks. The result of these disruptions for museums and cultural institutions is an environment that is threatening to existing education programs, but that also creates opportunity for unprecedented scalability in educational impact.

Cultural institutions are quickly realizing that bolstering their educational programming with digital curriculum can both offset losses in onsite school traffic due to shifting school budget emphases, and, thanks to the digital revolution in education, reach educators and learners far beyond their institutional walls. Furthermore, via digital education initiatives, cultural institutions can readily align their unique expertise and assets to learning standards that allow them to compete with traditional publishers in the classroom. This paper, supported by dozens of interviews with cultural institutions’ education directors and a widely disseminated survey, provides analysis on current trends- as reported by museum professionals- on how museums are approaching digital education initiatives to not only maintain relevance among younger generations of learners, but achieve impact and reach far beyond previously achievable levels.

Much of the content within this paper stems from original research consisting of interviews with over a dozen directors of education of museums on the U.S. east coast as well as a survey distributed nationally. Additional sources of information, primarily centering on technology and regulatory shifts in primary/secondary education include but are not limited to the following (full citation available upon request):

Justin Ferriman, “History of Classroom Technology,” Learning and Collaboration Blog, LearnDash, last modified 9 October 2013,

Camille Bautista, “73% of Teachers Use Cellphones for Classroom Activities,” Mashable (Blog), last modified 28 February 2013,

Eric Larson, “How Many Teachers Use Technology In the Classroom?,” Mashable (Blog), last modified 5 February 2013,

Rachel Simmons, “Now on iTunes, LWM Encounters, A New Wildlife Educational Mobile App Created by Saint Mary’s College of California Students,” Lindsay Wildlife Museum Blog, accessed 25 July 2014,
Dian Schaffhauser, “Will Gaming Save Education, or Just Waste Time?,” T.H.E. Journal, last modified August 2013,

Kentucky Department of Education, “Digital Learning 2020: A Policy Report for Kentucky’s Digital Future,” December 2011,

BMO Capital Markets Education Technology Report 2013