Smithsonian Museum Virtual Tour
Smithsonian Museum Virtual Tour. I want to thank I Love EdTech for making me aware of this free online resource. The Smithsonian is a well known museum and historical organization that most teachers are familiar with. I remember wanting to visit the Smithsonian as a child, and I would still love to do so. They are now making their museum collection accessible to students around the world by offering virtual tours of their collections.
To access the tours you need internet access and at least Adobe Flash Player version 9.0.28 or higher. If you are missing the necessary Adobe player, it will ask you to update the software. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. They offer two different tours: the comprehensive, which covers the whole museum, and individual rooms.

When entering the comprehensive tour, there is a brief guide to the icons that appears while the tour is loading. You begin in the rotunda of the museum, from there you can choose which collection to enter. The controls for all the rooms are the same, and very self-explanatory. The icons are the same as those one finds on remote controls or DVD players. The user is able to change the direction of the scan, zoom in or out and change the camera angle. You can stop the camera movement to look more closely. Camera icons indicate a detailed photo. There are also icons for videos and audio files, though I didn’t see either of these icons in the tour themselves. When you click on the camera icon there is a picture, but the object in the picture isn’t identified or labeled.

The tour will automatically move to the next collection if you do not pause or stop the tour. If you wish to pause without hitting the stop icon by simply hovering the mouse over any clickable icon on the screen. In full screen mode you can use a map that is in the upper right hand corner to move from room to room, or you can close it so that it doesn’t interfere with the view. The map also indicates what rooms you have visited and which you have not. The controls change when you switch to full screen mode, so make sure you experiment with both formats before using them in the classroom.

If you are interested in looking at particular rooms that match your unit of study, the Smithsonian offers you a list of individual rooms to focus on. The image quality is a bit higher when looking at the individual rooms then when viewing them in the comprehensive tour. However, the multimedia options aren’t available, so there are no close up pictures of any items.

As for in class use of this resource, I think it would be most useful as a unit introduction. A way to give students a quick visual exposure to the upcoming topic. I understand that they are likely limiting the content included in the tours to ensure that people will still come to the museum itself. I was hoping for more interactivity in the tours to allow them to be used as a scavenger hunt to jump start research projects or as a more in depth unit introduction. I am hoping that they will add more content over time, providing more information about the collections that they are allowing us to view from a distance.

Source: techforclassrooms

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