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Smithsonian Goes Digital for Teachers

December 11, 2015

We’ve come a long way since 1900, when the Smithsonian used to distribute “school sets” of resources in print. Fast forward to today’s digital world: the Smithsonian decided to rethink how to make its resources accessible to teachers. The 19 museums, 9 research centers, and the National Zoo pooled their (now) digital materials, and as a result the Smithsonian now has more than two thousand items (and more than a million multimedia resources) available in its digital learning database, the Smithsonian Learning Lab. Best of all, like the museums themselves, all the materials are free.

It’s a huge collection, and it’s growing fast – the Smithsonian digitizes a new object approximately every six seconds. But the Learning Lab is also designed to be easily accessible. Geared specifically towards teachers, the site aims to make it easier for educators to identify, analyze, and extract digital learning content. Users can add their own notes and tags to items, incorporate discussion collections, and create their own collections of materials and share them online. If you’re looking for inspiration, the home page keeps a list of trending searches. The Learning Lab even offers resources for building teaching collections for English language learners.

Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of resources and potential for amazing lessons? Relax, the Smithsonian’s got you covered with stress relief too – here’s a video of playing pandas.