An Unsung Educational Hero- 11/2/19

Who has visited a museum recently?

The past two weeks, I have been asking this question quite a bit as I began coteaching with my fourth grade classes at my school. Almost all my students raise their hands. I then ask them how they got there. Students share modes of transportation from car, metro, airplane, bus and even Uber.

So what if I told you that you could visit a museum right here in your classroom?

The students look at me with questioning eyes. I then explain to them that the Smithsonian has digitized its collection and tell them we are going to look at one small collection of its artifacts using the Smithsonian Learning Lab to learn about Jamestown. Next, I share with the students that each of them will select just one artifact and use a thinking routine called See Think and Wonder to analyze this resource.

Students then logged in and got to work. They entered the Jamestown- See Think Wonder collection that I had curated and paired down using another Virginia history Learning Lab collection and then magic started to happen.

Students learned the power of zooming in to see details in a new way. They used this power to first make observations, then inferences and finally ask questions. They were so engaged and as their teacher and I walked around, the conversations we had were magical. We really got to discuss and interpret these primary resources.

  • Why do you think that?

  • What do you notice?

One of my fourth grade teachers summarized the experience best afterwards. It warmed my heart to see this email. It shows how technology can truly transform learning. Without sharing this resources with my students and teachers, this experience would never have been possible on a Tuesday morning in a portable classroom.

But this unsung educational hero isn't just for consumption., students can also curate their own collections. As we finished the lesson, I demonstrated how in future lessons, we could explore the Smithsonian Learning Lab collection and create a class. As part of this class, students could favorite items and make their own collections. Even better, this resource has a Cite button that students can use for easy citations as they use these resources outside of the Lab.

If you haven't explored this unsung educational hero yet, you should. For my FCPS colleagues, it is now on our Digital Resources Permission Slip. Plus, the staff that works on the collection are amazing. All of the 100 teachers at my school now have a Learning Lab sticker waiting in their mailboxes for them after I reached out to Tess Porter who works there and I met at WISSIT 2 summers ago.

But don't take my word for it, check this out.

There is a wealth of FREE resources available at your fingertips. You can even add assignments and more. I can't wait to further explore.

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