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Evolving the Learning Lab

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch has put a bold stake in the ground- reach every U.S. classroom "to be the place that matters."

The Smithsonian Institution is 21 museums, 21 libraries, over 150 million artifacts and home to many of the world's experts on an array of subjects that impact our daily lives- who we are, where we came from, how the world works and what's next. The Smithsonian’s Office of Educational Technology is laser-focused on breaking through the barriers to equitable access for all school-aged children. Wondrus has been thrilled to support this vision for OET, and play a role in crafting an updated approach to reaching classrooms nationwide.

As a first step in this process, the OET is taking a hard look at the Learning Lab, a tool designed to give teachers and others digital access to the Smithsonian's vast collection. In order to design an effective approach to improving the Learning Lab and increasing its use in classrooms, OET crafted four initial research questions to better understand the ecosystem of PK-12 educational technology and how teachers make decisions about supplemental content for students, especially as we are emerging from the pandemic:

  1. What other organizations or platforms provide educators with the ability to create customized interactive learning experiences for their students?

  2. What authoring/creation tools or functionality exist on other learning websites or platforms that are not currently employed by the Learning Lab?

  3. What organizations or platforms could Smithsonian partner with to increase our reach to educators and the PK–12 community?

  4. What interactive tool sets or learning platforms are available to possibly incorporate into the Learning Lab or to build Learning Lab 2.0 around?

Leveraging our background as K-12 public school teachers and edtech curriculum product developers, the Wondrus team conducted an environmental scan aimed at answering these, and other, questions.

In the resulting report, Wondrus' research illuminated a larger reality: in order to compete in the PK-12 educational technology market place, the Learning Lab needs more than new features and well-positioned partners. We believe that to capture the hearts and minds of a diverse and widespread teaching force and deliver on the Smithsonian’s goal of reaching every American classroom, Learning Lab 2.0 must be reimagined. Today’s edtech products are exciting tools, but at their most basic, the best of them do two things:

  1. they solve pressing, real-life challenges, and

  2. they honor the reality that U.S. teachers have much to do and little time to do it.

To scale their reach with teachers, students and families, the majority of whom will never visit in person, the Smithsonian must shift the paradigm from "everything under the sun" to "just right" for me.

Learn why by reading the full report, "Positioning the Smithsonian to be in Every Classroom: An Environmental Scan of the PK-12 Educational Technology Market," now available here.

Want more? Catch my colleague Posie Wood, along with OET Acting Director Darren Milligan and Learning Lab Product Owner Stephanie Greenhut speaking about the project at the MuseumNext Digital Learning Summit on June 20th.

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