Smithsonian will study digital learning practices

Carnegie Grant funding supports research on digitized museum resources, digital learning in K–12 education

digital-learningThe Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access was awarded a $500,000 grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York to fund a two-year research project on digital learning.

Findings from the study will be used to enhance the Smithsonian Learning Lab, which is launching in public beta this fall, and to advance digital learning and teaching strategies throughout the education field.

The research project will be conducted by the center in partnership with Mark Warschauer, professor of education and informatics and interim dean of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine, and participating classroom teachers.

They will analyze teacher and student use of more than 1 million digital learning assets and tools from the Smithsonian’s collections that are available through the Learning Lab. Designed for learners of all ages, the Learning Lab is an engaging digital destination for the discovery, creation and sharing of new ideas and knowledge and supports development of critical, lifelong skills.

“Many educators recognize the value of Smithsonian learning experiences, but few have the opportunity to bring their students to visit Smithsonian museums and talk with experts behind the scenes,” said Stephanie Norby, director of the center. “Through the Learning Lab, we are bringing the world to learners everywhere in ways that were never before possible to expand their horizons.”

“By digitizing and making available the Smithsonian Institution’s vast holdings of resources to everyone, especially educators, SCLDA will empower learners to explore their own interests and collaborate with others to bring ideas to life,” said LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, vice president of the National Program and program director for Education at Carnegie Corporation. “We believe these resources will help educators across the country to implement more personalized learning aligned with higher standards and real-world context.”

The research project will address and build on the findings of previous studies to ensure educators effectively find and use the digital resources that cultural institutions are increasingly making available and have the potential to improve student outcomes. The major focus of the work will be on how K–12 teachers and students use the Learning Lab, based on those who receive professional development and mentoring at pilot sites and those who access the material online independently without support.

User activity in the Learning Lab will be collected for analysis in the study. Teacher training at the pilot sites will be conducted by SCLDA, the Senator John Heinz History Center and Allegheny Intermediate Unit, which serves the county’s 42 suburban school districts and Pittsburgh Public Schools, and is made possible by a Grable Foundation grant.

To learn more about the Learning Lab, visit

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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