April 9-12, 2008
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Demonstrations: Description

smARTkids Refreshed: an Online Tool for Learning About Art

Melissa Holbert, The Smart Museum of Art, USA

Over the past year, the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, in conjunction with Peel Interactive Media (Seattle), worked to design a new and improved smARTkids website, live in January 2008.

First created in 2003, smARTkids is the Smart Museum of Art’s website for children, fostering interactive learning through ways of looking at, thinking and writing about art through the Smart Museum’s collection. During its first four years, the site has become the most frequently visited page on the museum’s website, second only to the Museum’s homepage and is the first (un-sponsored) site retrieved by a Google search for "smart kids." The site was a finalist in the 2004 Flash Film Festival and was recognized as a Site of the Week by the SBC Knowledge Network Explorer.

The new version retains the four interrelated sections of the original site: Look and Share, Art Speak, Art Detective, and Artist Studio, but features increased interactivity, simplified navigation, and the addition of dynamic content. The art glossary, Art Speak, has been expanded to include both textual and audio pronunciations, definitions, and examples of 76 key art terms. The new Art Detective game invites users to explore museum galleries in first person, choosing artworks to explore more closely, and answering questions to correctly complete the label information about each object. The Artist Studio component provides a unique opportunity to access a contemporary artist in the Chicago area through short video clips of the artist speaking about his/her work, studio, and practice. Additionally, the entire five-year archive of the Artwork of the Month feature is now available on the site’s main navigation window, offering focused contextual information about many objects in the Museum’s collection, and a wealth of art project ideas for home or classroom use.

A significant revision goal was making the site easier and more effective for teachers, particularly those participating in the Museum’s multi-session programs for 3rd and 5th graders (Art in Focus and Smart Explorers). The curricula for these programs were reworked this year, providing a perfect opportunity to streamline the website’s integration into the programs. Training on the new version was provided in conjunction with annual teacher training sessions, and the site was presented to the entire faculty of the Museum’s four partner schools. In the future, the Museum will begin a more comprehensive evaluation of exactly how teachers (and families) are making use of the smARTkids website.

As smARTkids enters its second phase, the Smart Museum of Art seeks to broaden awareness of the site as a unique and valuable tool for learning about art, and as evidence that through technology, a small-midsize museum can extend its collections and content well beyond physical or programmatic constraints.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 1 [Demonstrations]

Keywords: online, learning, art, children, interactive, Flash