Tech Talk: Discover, Create, & Share with Smithsonian Learning Lab

I don’t know about you but I image paradise as a never-ending museum that I can wander and explore for days, having adventures amongst the archives. Maybe I read the From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler a few too many times as a kid.

As an adult, I know that my chances of getting lost in backroom stacks of a museum are pretty slim. However, the Smithsonian Learning Lab gets me pretty close.

The Smithsonian Learning Lab lets you explore the digital artifacts and content across 19 museums, 9 research centers, and 1 national zoo. Not only do you get to explore the content, you can take on the role of a museum curator and create your own personal collections and share them with the world. Dream. Come. True.

Explore Content

Exploration of the Smithsonian Learning Lab starts with a simple keyword. You can search through the Smithsonian’s digital content as well as collections created by other Smithsonian Learning Lab members.

A search gives you a list of images, weblinks, videos, and other digital content that matches your search. Select an individual artifact to get detailed information about each item.

More info
Detailed information about museum items.

You can also search for collections. These are created by other members of the community. Below is an example of a collection created by  STEM in 30 at National Air and Space Museum. You can add this to your favorites, share it through social media and Google Classroom, or copy it into your own set of collections.

Mars collection
Learn about Mars with this collection created by STEM in 30 at National Air and Space Museum.

I will warn you, be prepared to lose hours here. I intended to spend a few minutes casually perusing the content, just to check in out. I emerged about an hour later. There is a lot of amazing stuff to see.

Creating Collections

I would have been perfectly happy just knowing that I could explore Smithsonian content in the comfort of my own home. Image my delight when I started creating my own personalized collections! This is the powerhouse feature of the Smithsonian Learning Lab. Any registered member can assemble and share their own collections.

Learning Lab Collection
My Futurist Collection (work in progress)

Every collection created can be tagged with useful information including, description of the collection, subject areas, age level, educational features, and standards. Yes, you can tag your collection by standard!

Classroom Connections

It’s clear that Smithsonian designed the Learning lab with educators in mind. There are so many different ways an educator could use this in their classroom. All ages, all subjects.

  • The teacher could create a collection containing artifacts related to the historic period they are studying.
  • Students could create collections as part of a research project. They would write about their collection and how each piece is connected to their collection theme.
  • Teachers and students could create collection related to the fiction books they are reading. For example, if students are reading a piece of historical fiction, they could curate a collection of artifacts, images, or information that connects the story to the actual events or time period.
  • Have students create a collection of artwork based on a color or a different art principle. Or, what about a collection of art based on a mathematical concept.

The possibilities are endless. I love the idea of letting students create content. This gets them thinking critically about content. As curators, they have to explain the theme of their collection and how their chosen pieces relate to that theme. Thus building critical thinking and information literacy skills!

Learn more about how to use Smithsonian Learning Lab in your classroom with their Getting Started Guide for Teachers.  The guide answers your questions about classroom use including how to create students rosters and assigning collections to students. If student privacy is a concern (and it always should be), check out the Smithsonian Kids Online Privacy Statement

Smithsonian Learning Lab is a fantastic site for all ages. Whether you are an educator, student, or curious mind who just loves to explore new information, you need to set aside some time to explore.

Are you using Smithsonian Learning Lab? Tell us how in the comments!


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