Courses from MIT’s 2016 Teaching with Digital Technology Awards Recipients

By Sarah Hansen, OCW Educator Project Manager

2016 marked the inaugural year of MIT’s Teaching with Digital Technology Awards. These awards, co-sponsored by the Office of Digital Learning, the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education, and the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, are student-nominated awards for faculty and instructors who have effectively used digital technology to improve teaching and learning at MIT. The awards recognize the faculty for their teaching innovations and give the MIT community the opportunity to learn from their practices.

This year’s (first ever!) awardees are Lorna Gibson (materials science and engineering), Max Goldman & Robert Miller (electrical engineering and computer science), Chris Terman (electrical engineering and computer science), Peter Dourmashkin (physics), and Kurt Fendt (comparative media studies/writing).

OCW is honored to share courses and instructional insights from several of this year’s recipients.

Lorna Gibson

Rob Miller

Chris Terman

Peter Dourmashkin

Kurt Fendt

Congratulations OPENPediatrics, a Tech Awards 2015 Education Laureate

Image of a computer screen with image of a young patient connected to ventilator, and simulation of the ventilator displays.

Screen shot from a video overview of the OPENPediatrics Virtual Ventilator. (Courtesy of OPENPediatrics.)

The Tech Awards is an annual program run by The Tech Museum of Innovation in Silicon Valley to honor a select group of innovative projects and high-impact young companies working in education, healthcare, economic development and the environment. In 2005, MIT OpenCourseWare was named a Tech Awards Education Laureate.

The 2015 Laureates have just been announced, and as always they’re an inspiring group. See the full list.

Congratulations in particular to OPENPediatrics, a fellow member of the Open Education Consortium that provides “free, online medical education content to pediatric health care providers and is used by more than 800 hospitals worldwide.”  Highlights of OPENPediatrics’ content include:

  • The virtual ventilator, an interactive mechanical ventilation training tool. In the coming weeks, the virtual ventilator will be joined by a new peritoneal dialysis simulator that has already received recognition.
  • A recently released Nursing Cardiac Intensive Care Unit guided learning pathway, including 36 videos and associated assessments, available on their clinician community site.
  • World Shared Practice Forum series of videos that feature world experts on the forefront of pediatric care, structured to foster global asynchronous discussion.
  • A public multimedia library of animations and illustrations drawn from OPENPediatrics’ videos, openly licensed and available for free download.

MIT Biology and Office of Digital Learning Team Recognized for DNA Video

By Lisa Eichel, MITx Community and Outreach Manager


A DNA structure animation created for the MITx course 7.28.1x Molecular Biology: DNA Replication and Repair won the BioCommunications Association Medical Education Award for Motion Video and a Citation of Merit in the Motion Media: Video category at the 2015 BioImages visual media competition. The annual competition honors still, graphic, and motion media projects that focus on life sciences and medicine.

MITx Biology Digital Learning Fellow Sera Thornton and Office of Digital Learning Science Visualization Specialist Betsy Skrip collaborated on the deep dive video, which marries 2D and 3D representations to present a cohesive picture of DNA structure. The video reinforces the key structural and functional characteristics of DNA and illustrates some often difficult-to-visualize perspectives, such as how the flattened view of the structure is derived from the helix and how the major and minor grooves coil in 3D space.

While initially produced as part of the 7.28.1x MOOC for MITx on edX (offered again starting August 4), the team purposely designed the video to be able to stand alone from the full course so that it could be used by a diverse audience of biology students — from high school to graduate level, and on and off the MIT campus.

On the MIT campus, students enrolled in Professor Steve Bell and Professor Wendy Gilbert’s 7.28/7.58 (Molecular Biology) are utilizing this video, along with other videos and online assessment questions developed for 7.28.1x, as supplementary materials to enhance their classroom learning. The MITx Biology team also plans to circulate the clip more widely so that it can benefit a broader scope of science educators and learners. Already, Skrip’s former professor at The College of New Rochelle has made the video a requirement in their undergraduate Molecular Biology course.

“ODL has brought together under one umbrella a group of people with diverse skill sets,” describes Dr. Thornton. “We’ve really taken advantage of that in this collaboration, and it’s allowed us not only to learn from each other, but also to create exactly the teaching tool we envisioned – a video that is both beautiful and biologically accurate.”

Skrip and Thornton worked closely together on both the scripting and the animation. MIT student Ceri Riley narrated the video, Julian Samal refined the sound, and Professor Steve Bell and MITx Digital Learning Lab members Mary Ellen Wiltrout and Nathaniel Schafheimer assisted with script editing and feedback. MITx Media Specialist Caitlin Stier provided additional support for the entire 7.28x course.

Want to learn more about DNA and molecular biology? 7.28.1x starts on August 4 — register now.

NSF video showcase honors two MIT digital learning projects

The National Science Foundation has just announced awards for its 2015 Teaching and Learning Video Showcase: Improving Science, Math, Engineering, and Computer Science Education.  Two projects involving our MIT Office of Digital Learning partners in the Strategic Engineering Initiatives unit are among the winners.

Screenshot of MIT-Haiti video player.

Click to see video for MIT-Haiti Initiative: Opening up education in Haiti: Local language for global impact in cyberlearning and development.

The MIT-Haiti Initiative started in response to the destruction of Haitian universities by the earthquake of January 12, 2010.  They are working to open up education in Haiti, by translating and developing digital learning technologies and active learning pedagogy in the local Kreyòl language.

In many developing nations, one barrier to quality education is the fact that the community language is not used in formal education while the primary language of instruction is a formerly colonial language that few speak fluently. In Haiti, everyone speaks Kreyòl, but the language of instruction is French which is spoken by no more than 5% of the population. This language barrier is: (i) a root cause of academic failure and emotional distress among students; (ii) a chronic violation of human rights; and (iii) a roadblock to socio-economic development. In order to improve and open up education in Haiti, we are developing digital tools in Kreyòl for active learning of STEM, and we are evaluating and disseminating these tools among Haitian faculty through a workshop series that started in March 2012.


Screenshot of video player for Ink-12 project.

Click to see video for Ink-12: Expressive Digital Tools for Elementary Math Education

Ink-12, a collaboration of TERC and MIT, is developing tablet software to support elementary grade students learning multiplication and division. The software, Classroom Learning Partner (CLP),

…allows students to use a tablet pen to create and manipulate mathematical representations and wirelessly send them to the teacher. The complete history of students’ interaction with the computer is saved along with the final representation and is thus available for analysis by teacher and researchers. CLP also performs automatic analysis and sorting of students’ work to help teachers choose appropriate examples for class discussion.

These are just two of the many high-impact projects coming out of MIT’s Strategic Engineering Initiatives unit, spanning innovative digital learning and worldwide education transformation efforts.

Adding up to a big win: MIT dominates at annual Putnam Math Competition (MIT News)

A cylinder shape cut into eight equal-sized wedge-shaped pieces, with four vertical cuts through the center.

It’s easy to see that a cylinder of cheese can be cut into eight identical pieces with four straight cuts. Can this be done with only three straight cuts? For the answer, see OCW’s 18.S34 Problem Solving Seminar.

As reported last week, some MIT math students recently racked up a big honor.

MIT swept the board at this year’s prestigious William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, winning the team award and placing five students among the top six individual spots, an achievement that earns each the title of “Putnam Fellow.”

The Putnam competition, the premier undergraduate mathematics contest in the U.S. and Canada, is notoriously tough: The median score for the latest exam, held last Dec. 6, was just three points out of a possible 120; more than half of the participants did not solve a single problem fully.

Read the full story >

With OCW, you can try some of the same training methods as these stellar mathletes. The course 18.S34 Problem Solving Seminar is geared to “students who enjoy solving challenging mathematical problems and who are interested in learning various techniques and background information useful for problem solving.” In fact, students that take this course are expected to compete in the Putnam competition.

Congratulations to the MIT Putnam Fellows — senior Zipei Nie, sophomore Mark Sellke, sophomore Bobby Shen, sophomore David H. Yang, and sophomore Lingfu Zhang — and the entire MIT team!

Learn from Nobel Laureates!

The winners of the 2014 Nobel Prize have been trickling from Sweden this week, so now seems like a great opportunity to highlight courses on OCW taught by MIT’s own Laureates.

A man standing, holding a large piece of paper with diagrams drawn in crayon.

Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics. Wilczek shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for “the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction.” Photograph by Volker Steger. All rights reserved.

Professor Wolfgang Ketterle, 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics, taught Atomic and Optical Physics II (with video lectures!).

Professor Philip Sharp, 1993 Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology, co-taught Cell Biology: Structure and Functions of the Nucleus.

Professor Frank Wilczek, 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics, has taught both Particle Physics of the Early Universe and Relativistic Quantum Field Theory III.

And a little bonus: Professor Susan Solomon, 2007 Peace Prize winner for her work as co-chair of the IPCC, was a guest lecturer in Modeling and Assessment for Policy (see Lecture 7).

How Math Got Its ‘Nobel’ (The New York Times)

This weekend the New York Times told the story of the Fields Medal, one of the highest prizes in mathematics that is somewhat shrouded in myth:

On Wednesday in Seoul, the International Congress of Mathematicians will announce the winners of the Fields Medal. First awarded in Oslo in 1936, the medal is given every four years to two to four mathematicians. It is considered the “Nobel Prize” of mathematics (even the organizers of the congress call it that), filling a gap left by Alfred Nobel, who did not include mathematics among the prizes endowed on his death in 1896.

Many mathematicians will tell you that Nobel omitted mathematics from his prizes to spite the Swedish mathematician Gosta Mittag-Leffler, a rival, and that the Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields created the award that bears his name to correct the omission. But this is a myth that needs debunking… Continue reading.

While you’re waiting for the results from Seoul, why not browse courses from the Mathematics Department on OCW?

UPDATE: Congratulations to Maryam Mirzakhani, Artur Avila, Manjul Bhargava, and Martin Hairer! Read more about the winners.