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An Invitation to Dream; an Imperative to Act

As part of a work-related project, I was reading the Smithsonian’s Strategic Plan entitled, A Smithsonian for the 21st Century. Under the heading of Broadening Access, I was inspired by the following excerpt:

…we will leverage the power of technology using new media and social networking tools to deliver information in customized ways and bring our resources to those who cannot visit in person <via> next-generation technologies that speak to “digital natives” who expect to be reached online.

The Smithsonian sees itself as a “holder of remarkable and scientifically important objects and home to world-class expertise, to expand knowledge and add meaning to our world.” and as such, uniquely positioned to Revitalize Education. The Smithsonian is quite possibly the world’s single largest collection of informational assets and expertise, consisting of 19 museums, and 9 research centers containing 138 million physical objects of which nearly 9 million are digitized and published online. In 2013 alone, 30 million people traveled to one or more of the Smithsonian’s sites while 140 million visited the website. Consider learners and educators gathering, in a classroom, in a library, at an after school program…consider a young mind wanting to know more, curious to know why, struggling to know how and parents working to support and foster that sense of inquisitiveness around dinner tables all across the country on any given night. Then consider the expansive value of tapping all the items, information, knowledge, and expertise collectively known as the Smithsonian.

(Video from the Smithsonian:

We are in the midst of beginning a year-long journey with the Smithsonian’s Center for Learning and Digital Access starting next week. We will be considering the classrooms and dinner tables described above. We will consider teachers and students and families and institutions of learning big and small, formal and informal alike. This week we have been preparing for our first visit and planning meeting in Washington DC with our partnering team from Philadelphia and our education and research colleagues from the Smithsonian itself. We have taken a look at their existing educational materials, content, activities, and outreach methods and will spend the first few months dreaming and prototyping new approaches to help innovate and revitalize the role the national treasure known as the Smithsonian plays in the educational process.

We have distilled over two years of research, findings, and data and combined it with over 15 years of experience working in this field with and alongside teachers and students the entire way. However, our biggest challenge will be to balance 168 years of the Smithsonian’s work with the needs of a single learner. Both will need to be held equally reverent in our processes if we want to do this right. We will be calling on many of you to help us this coming year. Together its time to let the DREAMING begin…but only as a precedent to ACTING. Talk soon…

(This is a sample of one of the prototypes we have been working on this week to capture and redeploy an existing Smithsonian Learning Quest for students)

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