Frequently Asked Questions
What is Smithsonian Learning Lab?
Smithsonian Learning Lab is an interactive website for the discovery and creative use of the Smithsonian's digital collections and tools – more than a million images, videos, texts, audio recordings, and activities. With a wealth of resources at your fingertips, you can explore your interests, discover new ideas and knowledge, and create personalized collections and resources. Best of all, you can easily share what you've learned with friends, teachers, colleagues, and other learners around the world.
The Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, a central office of the Smithsonian Institution, developed and manages the Learning Lab. The Learning Lab is accessible through desktop, laptop, and tablet devices. Teachers and learners can access digitized assets from the Smithsonian's museums, galleries, research centers, libraries, archives, and The National Zoo through targeted search or serendipitous exploration. The Learning Lab is rich with multimedia resources and tools to aid users in customizing the content for personalized learning experiences. It is also a community of experts and users, both within the Smithsonian and across the world, who collaborate, create, and share with each other new resources for learning.
How can I find out news about Smithsonian Learning Lab?
We post the latest information and research about the Smithsonian Learning Lab on our Learning Lab Blog. You can also receive news about the Learning Lab and other great educational opportunities from the Smithsonian each month by subscribing to our e-newsletter, or following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
- Search for and Store Smithsonian learning resources (e.g., lesson plans), learning experiences, and digitized museum collections, videos, and blog posts.
- Create and Share with learners and peers personalized collections and learning experiences you build using a variety of resources available in the Learning Lab, or ones you upload and link to from other non-Smithsonian sources.
- Participate in online learning experiences created by Smithsonian educators, or those created by other users, yourself, or in collaboration with others (e.g., teachers and students).
Do I have to be an educator or a student to use the Learning Lab?
No. The Learning Lab is an educational interactive website for learners of all ages, for school or personal use. Although we have designed many features in the Learning Lab with teachers and students in mind, it is open to anyone interested in exploring the Smithsonian's vast digital assets.
Privacy, Safety and Security
How do I know that the Smithsonian Learning Lab is safe to use in schools and with children?
The Learning Lab is certified yearly by iKeepSafe, through the COPPA Safe Harbor Program, to ensure that parents remain in control of personal information collected online from their young children, and with the iKeepSafe FERPA Assessment Badge. The badge indicates to schools that a website, app, data management platform, or other technology product could be used in compliance with FERPA, applicable state laws, and local policies that govern the privacy of student education records. It also allows parents and eligible students certain rights related to review, control, and privacy of those records. The organization's consumer complaint address is COPPAPrivacy@ikeepsafe.org.
As a teacher, may I include a class photo of my students within my Learning Lab collection?
No. Please do not post a photograph in which any minors (under age 18) are recognizable, unless you have parental permission from each minor's parent.
What personal information does Smithsonian Learning Lab collect from its users and how is it used?
Learning Lab is an educational interactive website for users of all ages. Anyone may use Smithsonian Learning Lab without registering for a user account, and if preferred, users are able to enjoy features anonymously. No personal information is requested from anonymous users. However, to use the more robust features, such as saving, creating, and sharing resources, users must register for a user account.
So, if you are at least 13 years old and register for an account Smithsonian Learning Lab will only collect personal information that you knowingly and voluntarily provide, for example, completing a user account registration. We use this information to allow you to create, save, and repeatedly access your personal dashboard, and to post comments. For full information on our policies and practices, please refer to our Privacy Statement. Also, we may contact you to ask you to participate in a voluntary research study by the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access about your use of the Smithsonian Learning Lab. We only would share your name and email with third parties if that would be allowed under our Privacy Statement; for example, you could give us express permission to do so during a research study.
You may cancel your Smithsonian Learning Lab user account at any time.
What non-personal information is collected from my visit to Smithsonian Learning Lab and how is it used?
Consistent with our Privacy Statement, Smithsonian Learning Lab automatically collects the following information about visitors to the Learning Lab site:
- IP Address and name of the domain
- Web browser and operating system
- Date and time of access
- Referring domain
- User's activity including the pages and resources visited
This information is used to understand Smithsonian Learning Lab's site usage, traffic trends, functionality, and how to make technological and programmatic improvements.
How can children under age 13 use Smithsonian Learning Lab?
Children under 13 may browse the website anonymously, but if they would like to use the create features, they will need a parent or legal guardian to set up the account for them. In addition, the functionality for such accounts is appropriately limited: We only request information necessary to participation (such as age, location, school); and responses to quizzes are limited to multiple choice and true or false. Please read the Smithsonian Kids Online Privacy Statement (SKOP) for complete information on our policies and practices.
How this works: As part of the registration process, we ask for registrants to provide month and year of birth. Users that identify themselves as under 13 are not permitted to register and must either arrange for a parent or guardian to register them for an account or must use Smithsonian Learning Lab as an anonymous user. Thus, we initially ask the child for a user name and parent or legal guardian's email address in order to contact the parent or legal guardian. We will notify the parent or legal guardian about the child's request to participate in Smithsonian Learning Lab, explain what information we need and why, and ask the parent or legal guardian to provide verifiable permission before the child may participate in the full range of features. The parent or legal guardian provides consent for their child to use the Learning Lab as a click-through agreement in the same e-mail.
Parents or legal guardians without access to e-mail may print, sign, and mail or fax back to the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access a downloadable consent form. Teachers may print out this form and distribute to families, but may not sign on behalf of the child. Child users who reach age 13 will have their accounts auto-upgraded to full-service accounts.
In what circumstances does Smithsonian Learning Lab share or disclose personal information from someone under the age of 13?
Consistent with the Smithsonian Kids Online Privacy statement, we may share personal information collected from a child with our service providers who have a legitimate, business-based "need to know" and have agreed to maintain its confidentiality, integrity, availability, and security.
We also may be required to disclose personal information we obtained from a child to: (1) protect the safety of a child; (2) protect the security or integrity of the Smithsonian websites and services; (3) respond to judicial process and take precautions against liability; (4) the Department of Justice or in certain legal proceedings when the Smithsonian, an employee of the Smithsonian, or the United States is a party to litigation or has an interest in the litigation and the use of such records is deemed relevant and necessary to the litigation; (5) a Committee of Congress in response to a formal request; and (6) any other person or entity as the Smithsonian believes is required by law. Any further sharing or disclosure requires permission from a parent or legal guardian. You may also contact the Privacy Office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, fax at 202-633-0179, mail at: Privacy Office, PO Box 37012, MRC 041, Washington, DC 20013-7012.
How can parents, guardians, or schools review and request changes to or deletion of their child's/student's personal information?
Consistent with the Smithsonian Kids Online Privacy statement, parents or legal guardians, and school officials under agreement, can review personal information collected about their child, request changes to or deletion of the information, or refuse to allow further collection or use of the information. In other words, to the extent feasible, Learning Lab gives parents and legal guardians access to the data and files that relate to their child.
To make a request, a parent or legal guardian, or school officials under agreement may contact the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access. Such requests will be subject to the Smithsonian's verification, to its satisfaction, that the requestor is in fact the child's parent or legal guardian. You can reach us by filling out the form on the Contact Us page.
You may cancel, review, or amend your Smithsonian Learning Lab user account and records at any time by filling out the form here, which will be reviewed by the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access.
For child account verification purposes, please include the parental e-mail address used to register the child, as well as the child account anonymous user name and description of the icon associated with the child user account. Upon termination or cancellation of a user account, Smithsonian Learning Lab will delete all personally identifiable data from its records. It will retain aggregate, non-identifying usage information for the purpose of reporting, analytics, and improving Smithsonian Learning Lab product and services.
Account requests that remain unverified (i.e., the parent does not log into the system to provide verifiable parental consent for their under-13 child for more than 31 calendar days), will have the personally identifiable data (parental e-mail address) deleted. Smithsonian Learning Lab will retain aggregate, non-identifying usage information for the purpose of reporting, analytics, and improving Smithsonian Learning Lab product and services.
Inactive data is purged on a regular basis. The Smithsonian Learning Lab's current data retention practices are to keep each student's data for 36 months, or longer if the account is in an active status. (An active status is considered to be an account that has one or more log-ins within a 1-year period.) Smithsonian Learning Lab anonymizes certain information provided so that it can no longer be attributed to you if it will be retained longer.
From time to time Smithsonian may update our Privacy Statement, the Smithsonian Kids Online Privacy Statement, and the Smithsonian Learning Lab FAQ. When this happens, we will notify our visitors of the new provisions by publicly posting them on the Smithsonian Learning Lab site. If the change is material, we will send notice to the parents and legal guardians whose email addresses we have on file, and schools, libraries, or education-based organizations with whom we have an agreement.
Does Smithsonian Learning Lab link to or integrate with third-party sites?
Additionally, the Learning Lab gives users the option of signing in via Google+ or Facebook; doing so will provide Learning Lab with your email address and basic profile information. Integration with Google+ and Facebook are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only, and they do not indicate the Smithsonian's endorsement, sponsorship of, or affiliation with the third party or content of the linked website, including any advertisements that may be posted. The Smithsonian has no control over, makes no representation or warranty and bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the externally linked sites.
In the unlikely event of the merger or dissolution of the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, the Smithsonian's Office of the Chief Information Officer retains general responsibility for the website and the data handling practices of the site, which comply with the Smithsonian Privacy Statement.
How does the paper Smithsonian Learning Lab ensure security?
As described in the Smithsonian Privacy Statement, the Smithsonian takes reasonable steps to design and manage our websites to ensure that their information technology systems, applications, and information technology infrastructure are secure. Suspicious website activity, including privacy or data breaches, are reported to the Office of the Chief Information Officer, and responded to promptly following established policy directives.
Resource Evaluation, Effectiveness and Attribution
How may I use Smithsonian content in my research paper or other class work?
We hope you'll use Smithsonian Learning Lab to create a school project, but in doing so, make sure to follow good cyber citizenship guidelines, such as these:
- Identify the author and source of the content as you would material from any printed work;
- Identify the relevant Smithsonian website as the source of the content; a sample citation for Smithsonian Learning Lab might be: Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, Botany and Art: Their Roles in Conservation, http://learninglab.si.edu/collection/XXX, accessed June, 2015;
- Do not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices including attribution information, credits, or notices that are placed in or near the text, images, or data that you use; and
- Please note that with respect to materials that are, or may be, subject to copyright protection, you are responsible for determining whether your use meets the test of fair use and for responding to any person or entity who claims that your use has violated their rights. Organizations such as the Library of Congress and Common Sense Media can help students learn about copyright and fair use.
May I put Smithsonian Learning Lab content on my personal website, blog or my Facebook (or other social networking) page?
Yes, so long as you do the following:
- Comply with all terms or restrictions that may be applicable to the content. For example, specific instructions for giving credit might be found in the "metadata" or additional information, associated with the content;
- Identify the author and source of the content;
- Do not remove any copyright, trademark, or other notices that are placed in or near the content you use;
- Do not use the content to promote, advertise, or sell your own products or services or for any other commercial or unauthorized purpose; and
How may I use Smithsonian Learning Lab content in my lesson plans?
There are boundless opportunities to include Smithsonian resources from the Learning Lab in your teaching. Go to the For Teachers section to learn how to get started and use it your classroom.
Content created in the Smithsonian Learning Lab may be used for educational and teaching purposes provided that such use falls within the concept of "Fair Use" as defined by United States copyright law Unless otherwise restricted by information included in the metadata, content may be re-mixed and re-used for educational purposes as long as you:
- Identify the author and source of the content as you would material from any printed work;
- Identify the relevant Smithsonian Institution website as the source of the content;
- Do not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices including attribution information, credits, or notices that are placed in or near the text, images, or data;
- Do not use the content to promote, advertise, or sell your own products or services or for any other commercial purpose;
- Do not use the content for any unauthorized purpose such as, but not limited to, uses that contain personal attacks or expletives or is otherwise abusive, threatening, unlawful, harassing, discriminatory, libelous, obscene, false, pornographic, or infringes on the rights of any third party;
- Comply with any other terms or restrictions that may be applicable to the content; and
Please note that you are responsible for determining whether your use meets the criteria of fair use and for responding to any person or entity who claims that your use has violated their rights. Organizations such as Common Sense Media can help you and your students learn about copyright and fair use.
If you have any complaints or objections to content posted on the Smithsonian Institution websites because it was not properly credited, or it was posted without permission and you are the copyright owner, please contact the Smithsonian Office of General Counsel, with your contact information and a link to the relevant content.
How should I conduct myself within Smithsonian Learning Lab?
The Smithsonian is not responsible for any user-generated content (resources or collections) that are posted on the Smithsonian Institution websites or for any failure or delay in removing such content. Accordingly, Smithsonian Learning Lab encourages you to review our expectations for conduct and interact with Learning Lab subject to the following conditions:
- You are fully responsible for the content you submit, so be respectful. Other Smithsonian Learning Lab users may see your content.
- Put your best effort forward. By posting content, you are giving the Smithsonian and those authorized by the Smithsonian permission to use it for any educational, promotional, or other standard museum purpose.
- Stay on topic and be respectful. Don't post any content that is off topic, partisan-political, contains personal attacks or expletives, or is otherwise abusive, threatening, unlawful, harassing, discriminatory, libelous, obscene, false, pornographic, or infringes on the rights of any third party.
- Only post content that is yours or for which you have received permission from the person or entity that owns the content and the related intellectual property rights.
- Please don't spam us or use us to promote a business or commercial website. Do not insert your own or a third party's advertising or promotional content into your posting.
- Understand that Smithsonian staff monitors or reviews discussions, postings, user-generated content, or any other postings from time to time behind the scenes.
- Smithsonian assumes no responsibility or liability arising from the posting of your content or for any error, defamation, libel, omission, obscenity, danger, or inaccuracy contained in any posted information or from any failure or delay in removing such content.
- Please help to keep our platform software safe and virus free. Don't introduce worms or other programs designed to damage software, hardware, or telecommunications equipment.
- Use discretion. Do not collect information about the users of this website or use such information for any purpose.
- Please do not post content if you are under the age of 13.
How does the Smithsonian evaluate Smithsonian Learning Lab for educational effectiveness?
An extensive, research-based history of the Smithsonian Learning Lab project can be found on our project blog. Our primary means of evaluation has been through in-person and online user testing of teachers and students engaged with early versions of the Smithsonian Learning Lab.
Like any process of invention, we've tested hypotheses, refined our method, and developed content using feedback from staff and teachers. From time-to-time we may contact you (or parents/guardians in the case of child users), to ask if you would like to be a part of a focus group or a more extended research study if we've partnered with your school. These studies are separate from the anonymous data we collect from you during normal use of Smithsonian Learning Lab and analyze to improve function of our website. The studies are Smithsonian Internal Review Board-approved and led by Smithsonian researchers, and require separate consent in addition to the consent that you've given us to set up your user account and use the Smithsonian Learning Lab.
What do I do if a resource in Smithsonian Learning Lab concerns me?
If you encounter inaccurate or concerning content, we invite you to click on the "Flag as Inappropriate" icon within Smithsonian Learning Lab, or fill out the form on the Contact Us page. When doing so, please bear in mind:
The primary commitment of Smithsonian Learning Lab content is to the integrity of knowledge and the welfare of teachers and students. However, inevitably there may be mistakes or inaccuracies in content that we post or that is posted by users. We invite you to contact us if you see inaccurate information associated with Smithsonian collections.
Resources within Smithsonian Learning Lab are drawn from many sources, including Smithsonian digitized images; collections records; original field notes; catalog records; documentation; lesson plans; videos, and websites.
Smithsonian Learning Lab cannot guarantee resources will not contain unintended or objectionable content and assume no responsibility for any of the User Submission posted on the Learning Lab. You understand that the Smithsonian assumes no responsibility or liability arising from the posting of user content or for any error, defamation, libel, omission, obscenity, danger or inaccuracy contained in any posted information or from any failure or delay in removing such content.
Disagreement with a specific idea or message, and personal objections to materials on religious, political or social grounds do not provide a legally permissible ground for removal, exclusion, or restriction of Smithsonian Learning Lab materials.
Please let us know if you encounter content within the Smithsonian Learning Lab that is off topic, partisan political, contains personal attacks or expletives, or is otherwise abusive, threatening, unlawful, harassing, discriminatory, libelous, obscene, false, pornographic, or that infringes on the rights of any third party.
Where can I obtain more information about Smithsonian Learning Lab?
If you would like more information about Learning Lab, you may contact us by filling out the form here.
Are all Smithsonian collections and resources available in the Smithsonian Learning Lab?
While the Smithsonian is working tirelessly to digitize its resources, its collections contain more than 138 million objects and specimens, more than 2 million library volumes, and more than 150,000 cubic feet of archival material. What you will find here are only those resources that have (so far) been digitized or resources that began as digital content (such as videos). As we continue to digitize more objects, they will automatically appear for your use so there are exciting new resources every time you visit.
However, some digitized museum objects are not available. For a variety of legal, ethical, and policy reasons, it is sometimes necessary to restrict access to and use of the Smithsonian's digital assets. To learn more about this, please see Smithsonian Directive 609: Digital Asset Access and Use.
The individual museums and archives of the Smithsonian prioritize what to digitize based on a number of factors, including alignment with mission, scope or depth of the collections, uniqueness, preservation factors, importance, as well as level of use. So, your usage of the collections and resources found on the Learning Lab will contribute to our understanding of what we should digitize next. For more information on the Smithsonian's digitization efforts, see the Smithsonian Dashboard.