Smarthistory

Website review by
Conny Coon, Common Sense Media
Smarthistory Website Poster Image
Multimedia presentation makes art history come to life.

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The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Educational value

Kids can learn about arts and humanities, their role throughout history, and their influence on culture and civilization. Kids can see painting, sculpture, photography, and architecture from around the globe and throughout the ages as it's described, explained, and discussed. Easily searchable, Smarthistory provides clearly defined visual timelines that help kids visualize the evolution of art and history. Kids can develop a better understanding and appreciation of different cultures as they see the art that each has produced. Smart history is a living, growing museum of art history that's accessible, engaging, and easy to use.
 

Positive messages

A love of learning, an appreciation of art, and its influence on history (and vice versa) is fostered throughout.
 

Violence

Art spans the ages, from ancient civilization through contemporary society, so there are bound to be images that depict violence in various forms.
 

Sex

Paintings and sculptures frequently feature nude subjects, sometimes in various embraces. Text explaining art and its historical relevance occasionally includes colorful, descriptive language that some may consider inappropriate.
 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Smarthistory is a multimedia web-book from the nonprofit Kahn Academy that's led by two of its accomplished deans of Art and History. The site's mission is to work toward a free world-class education to anyone anywhere by offering an abundance of no-cost multimedia content designed to go beyond the classroom and the basic art history text book. The site is cleverly designed, easily searchable, and highly academic. With rich text, an historical timeline, and hundreds of art images (painting, photography, sculpture, architecture, and more), it's accessible to all ages but probably appeals to older teens, college students, educators, museum-goers, home-schoolers, and those with a specific interest in history and art through the ages. As with all art, there is the potential for some nudity and violent images.
 

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What's it about?

Like an enormous digital museum, there's so much to explore on SMARTHISTORY, it's easy to wander and get lost among the text, videos, podcasts, and images. The online art history textbook is a valuable resource for educators and students alike and provides hundreds of critiques, conversations, and lessons about art history, from postwar Germany to postmodernism to pop art. With more depth and breadth than a standard text book -- and the ability to expand infinitely -- Smarthistory provides a deep, rich look into history through the study of art and architecture and allows for (moderated) conversation each step of the way.
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Is it any good?

Art history can be a somewhat static topic in a school setting, but Smarthistory brings it to life in a way only the Internet can. Its smart, searchable structure lets kids, parents, and educators choose a time period (ancient cultures, industrial revolution, baroque), style (Babylonian, cubism, dada), or artist (from Jean Arp to Frank Lloyd Wright) and discover the story and images related to each. The essays, videos, and images give a glimpse into the paintings, sculpture, and architecture of the time and work together wonderfully to explore how art describes history and history informs art. Links to additional sites lead visitors to museums, essays from professors, and similar artwork, all designed to provide relevant, supplemental information and aid learning. Although the language leans toward the college- or high school-aged student, younger kids could gain a good grasp of art history by browsing through the timeline and images.
 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the historical role of art and how it has evolved as civilization has.

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  • Talk about the humanities -- including art and history -- and why it's important to study them to gain a deeper understanding of cultures around the world.

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  • Talk about how the Internet can be a valuable tool for school and a good place to find information and answers. Discuss the importance of making smart decisions about available technology and being savvy about using and trusting sources such as Wikipedia.

Website details

  • Subjects: Social Studies: cultural understanding, global awareness, history
    Arts: painting, photography, sculpture
  • Skills: Communication: asking questions, listening, multiple forms of expression
    Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, asking questions, thinking critically
  • Genre: Educational
  • Topics: History
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free

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