Common Sense Review
Updated June 2014

Smithsonian Channel

Short video clips might pique interest but don't deliver much content
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 3
  • Users browse clips from the Smithsonian's tv channel.
  • View a random playlist and click through clips with easy onscreen navigation.
  • Each clip includes information about viewing full-length episodes.
  • Create Your Channel feature lets users create a custom playlist of clips.
  • Throughout the app, users are reminded of options for purchasing or viewing full episodes.
Create Your Channel feature offers an engaging path through the Smithsonian's video library.
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.
Patricia Monticello Kievlan
Common Sense Reviewer
Foundation/Non-Profit Member
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

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

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

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

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

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

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

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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What's It Like?

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.

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Is It Good For Learning?

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.

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