In the fall of 2015, the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access will launch a minimum viable product of a platform for the discovery, adaption, creation, and sharing of classroom resources based on museum collections.
The Smithsonian Learning Lab (learninglab.si.edu) is the result of a substantial rethinking of how the diverse digitized collections and digital resources from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, the National Zoo, and more, can be used together, for learning. It is a big dream, an aspiration to make these resources more accessible and more useful to teachers, students, parents, and anyone on a lifelong quest to learn more. It hopes to deliver the Smithsonian in ways that make learning joyful, personal, and shareable.
The Learning Lab will be a web-accessible digital platform that enables the discovery of millions of digital assets from the Smithsonian’s galleries, museums, libraries, and archives as well as platform-authored learning resources presented in highly-adaptable and easily-sharable formats. It combines these assets (1.3 million digitized collections, articles, video and other rich media; and more than 2,000 learning resources; previously not available in a unified way) with tools that allow for object- and collection-level annotation and assessment. It too, we hope, will become a community, both within the Smithsonian and around the world, who collaborate, create, and share with each other new resources for learning.
The Smithsonian now receives many more digital than in-person visits, a trend likely to continue across the museum sector. We are committed to understanding and serving the unique needs of these diverse digital visitors and enabling them to access and use our content. While the Learning Lab’s features are anchored in three years of research (published in a peer-reviewed paper by Museums and the Web in 2015) and best practices in both K–12 and museum education, as well as national needs and trends in education, what we are beginning to observe is users demonstrating use of the collections in ways our own educators might never imagine. As research has shown, these uses (often characterized by format and subject disambiguation) may not be wholly novel for how our collections and the information around them have traditionally made their way into the classroom (a space more and more, in the United States dominated by pressures for alignment to core standards), however with the data provided by the Learning Lab, the Smithsonian can now observe, quantify, and understand these behaviors, such ashow cross-disciplinary resources are aggregated,how non-Smithsonian resources are used in conjunction with our own,how assessments are used alongside collections, andhow students demonstrate understanding through teacher-led and autonomous resource creation.
This MCN presentation will share how insights gained from initiatives, like the Learning Lab, can improve our institution’s ability to connect digitized collections to the challenges and opportunities of the classroom. It hopes to illuminate the possibility that we may get exactly what we asked for in creating platforms like these, ones designed to encourage creative and unexpected uses of our collections and resources. Are we on the verge of a whole new utility for museums and the collections they house?
Senior Digital Strategist, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access
Friday November 6, 2015 3:15pm - 3:45pm
Hyatt Regency Minneapolis 1300 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis, MN 55403