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Your world is about to change. Cause . . . Smithsonian Learning Labs

head blows off

You may have seen the TV commercial where the tops of peoples head blow off because of the amazing new tool the ad is trying to sell.

The brand new Smithsonian Learning Lab is like that. This will change how you and your kids collect, organize, share, and analyze primary evidence. It is seriously that good.

The Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access created the Smithsonian Learning Lab to inspire the discovery and creative use of its rich digital materials—more than 1.3 million images, recordings, and texts. And Darren Milligan, head of the Learning Lab, says that they are digitizing a new resource every six seconds.

It is easy to find something of interest because search results display pictures rather than lists. Whether you’ve found what you were looking for or just discovered something new, it’s easy to personalize it. Add your own notes and tags, incorporate discussion questions, and save and share. The Learning Lab makes it simple. By encouraging users to create and share personalized collections of Smithsonian assets and user-generated resources, the Learning Lab aspires to build a global community of learners who are passionate about adding to and bringing to light new knowledge, ideas, and insight.

There are three basic parts to Learning Lab:



The thrill of discovery awaits you in the Smithsonian Learning Lab. From the Discovery space shuttle to the Star Spangled Banner to dinosaur fossils, the Learning Lab gives everyone with a desire to learn the opportunity to explore the Smithsonian’s rich resources anytime, anywhere.



Free your imagination – create personal collections using the Smithsonian’s vast resources and add your own resources or those from other sources. Add notes, develop quizzes or create complete lessons or artistic collections, and build upon each for more personal and memorable learning.

Creating your own collections and customizing resources to fit your needs makes the Learning Lab a one-of-a-kind resource for efficiency and creativity. Free your imagination – you can create collections using the Smithsonian’s vast resources, add your own resources or those from other sources, annotate the objects you collect, develop your own quizzes and more. Create complete lessons or artistic collections, and build upon each for more personal and memorable learning.

What can this look like?

Here is a collection about Alexander Hamilton and the recent Broadway musical. How about one that asks students to compare and contrast information about Pocahontas?

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Quiz your students on the U.S. presidents; awe your friends with handpicked photographic art and share your personalized collections. Become part of a collaborative, global community of learners who are passionate about bringing to light new knowledge, ideas, and insight. You can share individual resources or collections with others. Create quizzes for students using artifacts. There is even a Google Classroom tool.

To take full advantage of the site, you need the full account. You can use Facebook or Google to quickly create your account or use the traditional email and password. Once you’re in, you will be able to collect and save resources, create collections, copy & edit collections created by others, create class rosters, generate quizzes, develop assignments, upload your own documents and resources, and receive notifications from others (think students and fellow teachers) about their stuff.

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I literally just found out about this tool 60 minutes ago so I’m still trying to wrap my head around the possibilities but it seems to like an incredibly powerful tool for finding, organizing, and sharing thousands of historical evidence. Your collections can be published publicly for others to view and access. You and others can copy these public collections and then edit / adapt those to fit your grade and content. Or feel free to simply share your unpublished collection URL with students to keep it a bit more private.

Kids can view your collections without an account. But how cool would it be for them to create their own collections, sharing them with you with annotations and edits?

There are multiple ways to edit both your saved resources and saved collections. One of the coolest is being able to create hotspots ala ThingLink on your photo, text, or resource – including embedded YouTube videos, other web inks, or writing prompts.

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I’m still learning all the ins and outs so be sure to view all of the embedded help videos. And be prepared to have your world changed.

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