Advancing the Use of Digital Museum Assets in Schools

Stephanie Norby (Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access)
Mark Warschauer (University of California, Irvine, School of Education)

Nicole Gilbertson (University of California, Irvine, History Project)
Doron Zinger (University of California, Irvine, School of Education)

Project funding:
Carnegie Corporation, grant number B9092.

Project duration:
October 1, 2015, to September 30, 2017.

Most students will never visit Smithsonian museums; however, they may experience some of the Smithsonian’s collection digitally in their classrooms through the Smithsonian’s Learning Lab. The goal of this project is to advance the use of digital museum resources and tools in K-12 classrooms. This research will investigate how teachers use curated digital assets in their classroom, as how they design and use lessons created from museum digital assets. Teacher learning will be supported through professional development, by building a network of educators that create and review lessons, providing tools for customization, and supporting a community of practice.

Objectives of the study include:

  • Identify strategies for making it easier to find teacher-created digital sets.
  • Analyze the characteristics of teacher-created digital sets and how teachers use specific tools.
  • Determine types of supports needed by teachers having various levels of skills, interest in digital media, and access to technology.
  • Document student experience using digital teaching resources.

The study is taking place in Pittsburgh in collaboration with the Allegheny County Intermediate Unit (Part of Pennsylvania’s public education system and offers teacher professional development and other educational services to Allegheny County’s 42 suburban and rural school districts) and the Heinz History Center (A Smithsonian affiliate and Pennsylvania’s largest history museum) . A cohort of 30 middle school social science teachers  are participating initially, with an additional cohort of high school social science teachers participating in the second year of the study. Participating teachers will initially attend a professional development on the use and navigation of the Smithsonian Learning Lab, and then receive additional ongoing support. As part of the study, the Smithsonian Learning Lab will be made available to other teachers who will use it online.

Data collected for the study include teacher navigation, and use of the Smithsonian Learning Lab, lesson plans created, used, and modified by teachers from the collection available at the Smithsonian Learning Lab, teacher feedback, and classroom observations. The Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework will be used to identify and analyze barriers and challenges to teacher use of the Smithsonian Learning Lab, and to assess teacher change through the study. A mixed-methods approach will be used to analyze teacher navigation of the Smithsonian Learning Lab and teacher feedback and classroom practice.

Research results will be used to make further refinements and enhancements to the Smithsonian Learning Lab, to create supports for assisting teachers (e.g., training modules, short videos or animations, frequently asked questions).



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