App review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2014
Smithsonian Channel
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Smithsonian Channel

Short video clips might pique interest but don't deliver much content

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Subjects & Skills
Social Studies, Critical Thinking
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Pros: Create Your Channel feature offers an engaging path through the Smithsonian's video library.

Cons: Tracking progress through videos can be unwieldy, and video quality is inconsistent.

Bottom Line: A nice glimpse at a range of topics, but look elsewhere for deeper insights.

Teachers might use clips from the app to instigate conversation and discussion in the classroom. Several clips might make great teasers for introducing a lesson or concept, or could work as a pre-class activity in a flipped-classroom setting. Teachers might also encourage students to create their own channels on a variety of subjects and then compare channels with their classmates. Do the different channels tell different stories? What connections emerge when different topics appear side by side?

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The Smithsonian Channel app is a tablet extension of the cable TV channel of the same name. Users can browse clips from shows and search local cable listings to find out how to access full episodes from their home televisions. The app’s best feature might be the Create Your Channel section, where users can select up to three categories (like Archaelogy or Insects) and view a series of clips related to those topics.

With a focus on clips, this app doesn’t allow users to take a deep dive into the content; most selections are only 2-3 minutes long. While these videos might offer a good starting point for learning and exploration, the app’s developers mostly invite users to go further by viewing full episodes on television or downloading them from the iTunes Store. With the guidance of a thoughtful parent or teacher, kids might find their interests piqued here and look elsewhere for further information and exploration. Unfortunately, the available content is limited, making this a good gateway to other learning, rather than a source of new information.

Overall Rating


The custom channel feature is visually appealing and consistently engaging; it's exciting to see how a user's choices impact the video lineup.


Videos are interesting and feature solid content, but are brief and lack deep insight. Provides limited opportunities to extend knowledge or explore further.


Hard to get a sense of progress going through the video clips. Unfortunately, it's easier to find out where to buy full episodes.

Common Sense reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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Featured review by
Brandon B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Huntington East Middle School
Huntington , United States
Overall solid app but needs improvement for student users
This app could be extremely helpful if the videos provided more information. Unfortunately, the videos are extremely brief in time and information. I did like how the app is set-up. Very user-friendly for teachers and students. For kids, the app provides a small supplement to what is being taught in class. It benefits them because the information is coming from another source other than myself.
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