How to Speak, How to Live

Photo of Patrick Winston, with chalkboard highlights of the talk in the background.

Professor Patrick Winston and some highlights of his How to Speak talk. (Image by Brett Paci. Photo by Azeddine Tahiri. Used with permission.)

Watch this one-hour master class on effective presentations by the late Patrick Winston.

By Curt Newton, OCW Director

“Your success in life will be determined largely by your ability to speak, your ability to write, and the quality of your ideas, in that order.” — Patrick Winston

MIT Professor Patrick Winston (1943-2019) was a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). He literally wrote the book on AI, and his AI course on OCW has been one of our most popular courses since it was published.

Beyond the considerable quality of his ideas, he’s been celebrated at least as much for how he went about it all. The website A Memorial to Patrick H. Winston includes rich history, fabulous stories, and a gallery of photos. The tributes offered there show clearly his positive impact on the thousands of lives he touched.

One striking way Professor Winston expanded his circle of impact beyond the AI field was through an hour-long talk he gave annually at MIT, called How To Speak. For over 40 years, every January during the MIT Independent Activities Period, people flocked to hear it. Word spread year by year, and the room was frequently overflowing.

Now on OCW, you can join the audience at one of his last How to Speak talks, given in January 2018. How to Speak is full of insights and tips for job interviews, lectures, persuasive talks, and even getting famous. Professor Winston also follows his own advice here: How to Speak demonstrates everything he says we should know and do, a classic embodiment of the principle “show, don’t tell.” It’s a master class in engaging an audience with essential information, at once expansive and crystal-clear, delivered through a rich and deeply human tapestry of stories.

“I believe that we are storytelling animals. We start developing our story understanding and manipulating skills with fairy tales in childhood and continue on through professional schools like law, business, medicine, everything. And we continue doing that throughout life.”

Professor Winston lived this belief, continuing to develop and refine his storytelling skills, and kept sharing what he was learning, throughout his life. OCW is deeply honored to share the How To Speak tradition with you.

Fantastical New Advancements

Web network technology

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Welina Farah, MIT Open Learning

The capacity to do what was once only “in the movies” has transformed conversations. Instead of asking “Is this possible?” we are now asking, “When will this be possible?” The perception of ability, the bandwidth of feasibility… New technologies are emerging faster than one can say “Beam me up, Scotty.”

Calestous Juma, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, explores resistance towards new technology in his latest book, “Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies.” Juma says that much of the reluctance toward these new technologies comes from supporters of the previous product or way of doing things: “The biggest lesson from the past is if a new technology has superior properties, overwhelmingly superior to its predecessors, chances are that technology will get adopted no matter what.”

Fortunately, hot topics like artificial intelligence, robotics, and blockchain are woven throughout MIT and shared with you in many OCW courses. Below are a few that highlight the technical foundations and real world applications for a few of these fantastical new advancements.

6.034 Artificial Intelligence – This course introduces students to the basic knowledge representation, problem solving, and learning methods of artificial intelligence. With complete lecture videos and other resources, you’ll learn how Upon completion of 6.034, students should be able to develop intelligent systems by assembling solutions to concrete computational problems; understand the role of knowledge representation, problem solving, and learning in intelligent-system engineering; and appreciate the role of problem solving, vision, and language in understanding human intelligence from a computational perspective.

16.412J Cognitive Robotics – This is a class about applying autonomy to real-world systems. The overarching theme uniting the many different topics in this course will center around programming a cognitive robotic. This class takes the approach of introducing new reasoning techniques and ideas incrementally. We start with the current paradigm of programming you’re likely familiar with, and evolve it over the semester—continually adding in new features and reasoning capabilities—ending with a robust, intelligent system. These techniques and topics will include algorithms for allowing a robot to: Monitor itself for potential problems (both observable and hidden), scheduling tasks in time, coming up with novel plans to achieve desired goals over time, dealing with the continuous world, collaborating with other (autonomous) agents, dealing with risk, and more.

MAS.S62 Cryptocurrency Engineering and DesignBitcoin and other cryptographic currencies have gained attention over the years as the systems continue to evolve. This course looks at the design of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and how they function in practice, focusing on cryptography, game theory, and network architecture.

15.395 Entrepreneurship Without BordersThis course examines the opportunities and problems for entrepreneurs globally, including Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Linkages between the business environment, the institutional framework, and new venture creation are covered with a special focus on blockchain technology. In addition to discussing a range of global entrepreneurial situations, student groups pick one particular cluster on which to focus and to understand what further development would entail. Classroom interactions are based primarily on case studies.

Discovering math and physics through MIT OpenCourseWare

Photo of Kyle with his parents, outdoors on a grassy hillside.

Now a PhD student in physics at SUNY Stony Brook, Kyle Lee’s journey began online with MIT OpenCourseWare

By Duyen Nguyen | MIT Open Learning

Within two weeks of taking his first college-level physics course, Kyle Lee knew that he wanted to be a physicist.

Now a PhD candidate at SUNY Stony Brook, Kyle says that the way physicists think, combining physical intuition and mathematics to find creative solutions to problems, is what drew him to the field. He would quickly learn to problem-solve like a physicist. While he enjoyed his first physics course, Kyle found the classes at his community college to be insufficient and began looking online for other resources. That’s when he came across MIT OpenCourseWare, and his newfound dream started to become a reality.

“OCW and MIT’s digital resources have definitely changed the way I learn and my educational experience,” he says.

After graduating from high school, he wasn’t sure about what he wanted to study — or even if college was the right path for him. His family came to the United States from South Korea when he was young so that he could have better opportunities. But despite doing well in school, Kyle received little guidance. He owned a telescope and would drive to the California deserts to look at the stars, but his interests in exploration hadn’t yet taken shape. He took a semester off before enrolling in a nearby community college.

“I became desperate to find something to be passionate about,” he says. “I didn’t think about grades and just took classes I thought I would enjoy.”

An aptitude test pointing him to electrical engineering — a career he’d never even heard of — landed him in the physics class where he’d find his calling.

“I knew I had to distinguish myself if I wanted to be a physicist,” he recalls.

Through OCW, Kyle discovered not only MIT’s physics and math courses, but the world of free and open digital educational resources. With the advanced knowledge he gained from the lectures and other course materials on OCW and similar platforms — and the confidence that this gave him — Kyle knocked on the door of a physics professor at UC Irvine to ask for a research position.

After that, the doors continued to open for Kyle. He was accepted to Chapman University’s newly established physics program, where his excellent grades and the research he was doing at UC Irvine earned him a full scholarship. For Kyle, coming from a working-class immigrant background, this was the only path to affording an education at a four-year institution. It’s a path that he’s worked hard to pave.

But along the way, OCW has been there to help. Today, Kyle still consults OCW resources to remind himself of certain concepts. “During my PhD, I took Effective Field Theory,” a graduate-level course available on both OCW and MITx, “which has had a huge impact on my work,” he says. And recently, the MIT department of physics invited Kyle to speak at the Theoretical Physics Seminar on campus, where he shared his work on quantum chromodynamics, a theory of the strong nuclear force. There, he met many of the leading physicists whom he’d admired for years.

As he prepares to complete his PhD, Kyle reflects, “I strongly believe in OCW’s mission to make this sophisticated knowledge available globally. It really has changed the entire path of my educational career.”

Explore the New MIT Open Learning Library

Now even more opportunities to learn from MIT at your own pace.

Screenshot of Open Learning Library webpage.

MIT Open Learning Library (OLL) is a new home to selected educational content from MIT OpenCourseWare and MITx on edX courses, available for free to anyone in the world at any time. We’re glad to share this prototype, combining some of the most important characteristics of the OCW and MITx experiences.

Interactive Assessments and Progress Tracking

One advantage to using the MIT Open Learning Library is that, by creating a free account, you will be able to keep track of your progress as you work your way through a course and to see the answers you’ve submitted to problems within the course – just as you can with MITx on edX courses. However, Open Learning Library does not include discussion forums, certificates, or the ability to transfer your progress to MITx on edX. 

How OLL Compares to OCW and MITx

You can think of OCW, MITx, and OLL along a spectrum of learning scenarios, in which MIT content is presented in different formats to meet different user needs. 

  • MITx courses on edX are end-to-end course experiences with optional certificates available for you to earn, live teaching support and interaction with other learners in discussion forums, and start and end dates.
  • MIT OpenCourseWare offers a completely self-guided experience with published content from MIT courses that is open all of the time and licensed for download, remix, and reuse, but does not offer certificates nor interaction with teachers and learners. 
  • MIT Open Learning Library sits in between MITx on edX and OCW. As in many MITx courses, OLL provides interactive course experiences that include auto-graded assessments that give you instant feedback and allow you to track your progress as you work your way through the subject matter. Like OCW, this content is always open and self-guided and includes no live support, discussion forum, or certificates.

Open Learning Library resources designated as OCW content are free to download, remix, and reuse for non-commercial purposes.  Resources designated as MITx content have varying licenses: some are All Rights Reserved, others Creative Commons, and some have mixed licenses. You will see the license type indicated on the About Pages.

Take a Closer Look

6.042J Mathematics for Computer Science is an example of an OCW course on OLL. As taught at MIT, Professor Albert Meyer used MIT’s residential version of the edX platform to deliver short videos interspersed with interactive concept questions that checked and effectively reinforced student learning — in other words, a structure very similar to MITx courses. This structure was reflected in the the openly licensed OCW version of this course, although OCW’s current platform is not able to track a learner’s progress through the course. Now with the new OLL version of the course, learners have a “best of both worlds” experience where the platform keeps track of their progress, while preserving OCW’s always-available openness.  

This version of Open Learning Library is an evolving prototype. Watch for new content, new site features, and an enhanced user experience. We welcome your feedback on the site, including your thoughts on areas for improvement.

A Mission to Mongolia

Professor Michael Short travels from MIT to Central Asia—and finds that OCW is already there.

A grassy hillside with a city in the distance

A hillside outside Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Photo courtesy of notthatdark on Flickr. License: CC BY-NC-SA.

By Peter Chipman, OCW Digital Publication Specialist and OCW Educator Assistant

In early June of this year, Professor Michael Short returned from a trip to Mongolia sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. His mission? To work with the National University of Mongolia to assess and improve its nuclear education curriculum. The university has a small nuclear science sub-department within its School of Engineering, and the administrators there are eager to update the nuclear science program.

When he got to Mongolia, Professor Short learned that the country’s educational system has a strong emphasis on theory, a legacy of its Soviet past. As he describes it, “The lecturers blast you with theory, fill blackboards with information, and it’s up to the students to figure it out. And the professors aren’t always that accessible, either in terms of being available to answer students’ questions, or in terms of the way that they present the material. They explain it the way they know it, and it makes sense to them, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense to today’s students. The current folks in the nuclear department there recognize this. Mongolia has classically been a powerhouse of nuclear science and theory, and they want to hold on to that. But they know they want to change, though they don’t exactly know how to do it.”

A needs assessment

Professor Short’s goal was to help his Mongolian counterparts figure out another way of doing what they want to do, to articulate their learning objectives and see how many of those objectives they’re meeting. He guided them through an exercise to figure out what Mongolia wants out of a nuclear program. “They’re not necessarily going after a fusion program,” he says, “but they do have major initiatives for which knowledge of nuclear science can help the people.”

First, there’s the development of nuclear power. Even in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, many people burn coal in their houses, and at present most of the electricity supply is generated in coal-fired power plants. As Professor Short learned, many policymakers in Mongolia see nuclear power as a way forward. But outside of Ulaanbaatar the population is widely scattered, so instead of gigantic, gigawatt-size power plants it would be useful to have a larger number of much smaller reactors. There’s thus a need to train people to build and operate reactors for Mongolia’s partly-urban, partly-nomadic society.

Mongolia has also suffered environmental contamination in many areas, from current and past mining and industrial activities. “Sampling soils and checking radiation contamination levels is of paramount importance for purposes of public health. The people need to know they’re safe and that there are experts trained to monitor the environment and remediate any contamination,” Professor Short says. Lastly, there are the issues of nuclear materials and nuclear medicine, both of which call for specialized training in the nuclear science curriculum.

“So we assessed their needs,” Professor Short explains. “We examined which of their courses are teaching what.”

Sharing innovations in nuclear science education

Professor Short says that when he started looking into the courses in the Mongolian nuclear science program, he noticed that the first thing on the required reading lists for many of them was MIT OpenCourseWare materials—lecture notes, problem sets, exams, and the like. “So OpenCourseWare has already strongly influenced Mongolian science education in the older teaching system, and it’s about to do that more in the newer system,” he says. “I’m really excited that everyone at the National University of Mongolia is so forward-thinking, so interested in reaching out for help. They know what they don’t know, but they know where to get it. At first when I went on this mission I was wondering why they chose me. I’m just 35. I’ve only been at this job for six years. Who can call me an expert? But by the end I understood why they asked me. Because they saw what we’ve done at MIT, and they said, “Yeah, we want that!”

“OpenCourseWare has already strongly influenced Mongolian science education in the older teaching system, and it’s about to do that more in the newer system.” –Professor Michael Short

Professor Short’s courses on OCW

Whether you’re a nuclear science instructor (in Mongolia or elsewhere!), a student, or a self-learner, you might like to check out Professor Short’s courses on OCW:

A wealth of OCW content from Nobel Prize-winning MIT economists Duflo and Banerjee

MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. (Photo by Bryce Vickmark.)

The Nobel Prize in Economics just awarded to MIT economists Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee (along with Harvard colleague Michael Kremer) recognizes the transformational results of their antipoverty research and relief efforts. Their work exemplifies the power of creative and practical new approaches to the world’s biggest problems, backed with experimental rigor and analytical insight—all qualities found in much MIT research and the MIT education.

As MIT News wrote:

The work of Duflo and Banerjee, which has long been intertwined with Kremer’s, has been highly innovative in the area of development economics, emphasizing the use of field experiments in research in order to realize the benefits of laboratory-style randomized, controlled trials. Duflo and Banerjee have applied this new precision while studying a wide range of topics implicated in global poverty, including health care, education, agriculture, and gender issues, while developing new antipoverty programs based on their research.

Duflo and Banerjee also co-founded MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)  in 2003, along with a third co-founder, Sendhil Mullainathan, now of the University of Chicago. J-PAL, a global network of antipoverty researchers that conducts field experiments, has now become a major center of research, facilitating work across the world.

J-PAL also examines which kinds of local interventions have the greatest impact on social problems, and works to implement those programs more broadly, in cooperation with governments and NGOs. Among J-PAL’s notable interventions are deworming programs that have been adopted widely…

Duflo, 46, is the second woman and the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel in economic sciences.

“We’re fortunate to see this kind of work being recognized,” Duflo told MIT News, noting that their work was “born at MIT and supported by MIT.” She called the work in this area a “collective effort” and said that “we could not have created a movement without hundreds of researchers and staff members.” The Nobel award, she said, also represented this collective enterprise, and was “larger than our work.”

MIT OpenCourseWare is proud to share with you these courses and resources by Professors Duflo and Banerjee.

  • 14.73 The Challenge of World Poverty
    This undergraduate course, featuring complete video lectures, is for those who are interested in the challenge posed by massive and persistent world poverty, and are hopeful that economists might have something useful to say about this challenge. The questions we will take up include: Is extreme poverty a thing of the past? What is economic life like when living under a dollar per day? Why do some countries grow fast and others fall further behind? Does growth help the poor?…
  • 14.771 Development Economics: Microeconomic Issues and Policy Models
    This graduate course, featuring complete lecture notes and taught with co-instructor Benjamin Olken, covers the productivity effects of health, private and social returns to education, education quality, education policy and market equilibrium, gender discrimination, public finance, decision making within families, firms and contracts, technology, labor and migration, land, and the markets for credit and savings.
  • Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Executive Training: Evaluating Social Programs 2009
    This five-day program, led with co-instructor Rachel Glennerster, provides a thorough understanding of randomized evaluations and pragmatic step-by-step training for conducting one’s own evaluation. The OCW site features complete lecture videos (including one lecture by Nobel Prize co-winner Michael Kremer) and a set of case studies.
  • Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Executive Training: Evaluating Social Programs 2011
    A complementary version of the J-PAL five-day program, with other case studies and exercises.

OCW also has two other courses by Professor Duflo:

  • 14.74 Foundations of Policy Development
    This undergraduate course explores the foundations of policy making in developing countries. The goal is to spell out various policy options and to quantify the trade-offs between them. We will study the different facets of human development: education, health, gender, the family, land relations, risk, informal and formal norms and institutions…
  • 14.11 Putting Social Sciences to the Test: Field Experiments in Economics
    This undergraduate course, co-taught with Prof. David Autor, is about field (that is, ‘in situ’) and laboratory experiments in the social sciences – both what these experiments have taught and can teach us and how to conduct them.

And if all this great content on OCW leaves you wanting even more, there’s the MITx MicroMasters Program in Data, Economics, and Development Policy, specifically focused on the methodologies and teaching of Professors Duflo and Banerjee.

Shake Up Your Teaching with OCW Instructor Insights

When you’re faced with an unexpected teaching challenge, OpenCourseWare’s Instructor Insights can help.

lecture seating

Photo courtesy of ladylong on Flickr. License: CC BY-NC

By Peter Chipman, OCW Digital Publication Specialist and OCW Educator Assistant

Imagine: You’re an experienced math instructor at a respected university, and you’ve just heard some alarming news. The university’s president has announced a new initiative to improve students’ communication skills by incorporating writing assignments into the curricula of introductory-level courses in all departments. One of your standby courses, Intro to Non-Euclidean Multidimensional Geometry, falls under the new policy.

What are you to do? For the past fourteen years you’ve taught the course in a tried-and-true format that works for you, with straightforward lectures, weekly problem sets, and regular quizzes and exams. How are you supposed to go about incorporating writing assignments?

Acting on the advice of a colleague at another institution, you pay a visit to MIT’s OpenCourseWare website. At the OCW Educator portal, you search for Instructor Insights on the topic of “Teaching Communication”⁠—specifically, on the subtopic of “Writing.” To your surprise (and delight), the search results turn up three OCW math courses featuring Instructor Insights on that very topic:

screen shot of finder tool

Structuring the Course

The Instructor Insights page for 18.310 Principles of Discrete Applied Mathematics includes links to three subpages on which Michel Goemans, Peter Shor, Lorenzo Orecchia, and Susan Ruff discuss aspects of how they designed the course to teach students the fundamental principles of writing papers in mathematics. They explain how the course’s recitation sections help students develop a critical appreciation of writing in mathematics by examining the mathematical content of a writing sample and discussing how the content is communicated. They also reveal how they’ve structured the final term paper assignment in the past and how they might change it in the future. Finally, they discuss how they use norming meetings and other techniques to ensure consistency in assessing students’ writing.

Giving Feedback and Encouraging Revision

In the “Writing” section of the OCW site for 18.821 Project Laboratory in Mathematics, Professor Haynes Miller and Lecturer in Writing, Rhetoric & Professional Communication Susan Ruff describe the criteria for good mathematical writing and the components of the writing workshop, and they explain how students use feedback on earlier drafts of their writing to improve later drafts. This section also features links to two actual student papers from the course, including the first drafts, Miller’s and Ruff’s comments on those drafts, a video of a “debriefing meeting” for the first draft of one of the papers, and the final versions of both papers.

Teaching the Elements of Mathematical Style

Dr. Andrew Snowden, the instructor for 18.904 Seminar in Topology, shares his insights into ways of teaching students to give mathematical presentations and write mathematical papers. As added resources, he includes links to two .pdf documents that he provided to his students: a guide to writing papers using the LaTeX document preparation system and a general style guide to common student mistakes in writing math papers and how to avoid them.

Moving On to Future Challenges

The resources above represent OCW’s offerings on a very specific topic, the teaching of writing in math courses. We hope you’ll return to the Educator portal many times in the future when you’re facing a new pedagogical challenge or even when you just feel the need to shake things up and enrich your teaching with new techniques!