The Path to “Play the Past”: An Evaluation Journey

  • Wendy Jones
  • Jennifer Sly


Prompted by a national decline in school field trips and the rise of the “digital native” generation of students, the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) initiated a major evaluation and assessment project in 2010 that resulted four years later in the launch of Play the Past, a new model for field trips that integrates mobile and web technologies into the museum experience. After extensive front-end evaluation, MNHS developed the concept for a game-based mobile application and related “digital backpack” for fourth to sixth grade students visiting its new Then Now Wow exhibit. MNHS then used an iterative, rapid-prototyping design process to build the integrated mobile application, testing it repeatedly with students, parent chaperones, and teachers. The summative evaluation confirmed that Play the Past met its intended goals to deepen student engagement; bridge the gap between classroom and museum; and promote the development of students’ critical thinking and collaboration skills.


Field trips Mobile technology Rapid prototyping 


  1. Goldman, K. H., & Montano, P. A. (2014). Play the Past: An iPod application to engage middle school students in the exhibition Then Now Wow at the Minnesota History Center. Unpublished summative evaluation, Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, MN.Google Scholar
  2. Krueger, R. A., & Casey, M. A. (2015). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wendy Jones
    • 1
  • Jennifer Sly
    • 1
  1. 1.Minnesota Historical SocietySaint PaulUSA

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