15 years ago, the big idea was announced

People hear about OpenCourseWare for the first time every day (I see the comments on Twitter!), but can you believe that the idea of OCW was announced 15 years ago?!

Screenshot of a New York Times articleIf you’d like to learn about MIT OpenCourseWare’s origins, read the story in the New York Times that announced the big idea to the world.

Nine awesome STEM college classes (HuffPost Tech)

A six-legged walking robot, from the side, showing the gears that move the legs.

This six-legged walking robot is one of the projects built in MIT’s Lego Robotics course.

MIT OpenCourseWare is honored to have two (!!) classes in HuffPost Tech’s new list, “9 College Courses That Will Have You Geeking Out And Rethinking Your Major,” plus another course in the lead paragraph:

Colleges across the country are getting creative with their curriculum. Each year, universities are inspiring new generations of students to debate the meaning of symbolism in literature by reading the Harry Potter series and to learn about engineering and robotics by playing with Legos [OCW’s Lego Robotics course]. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) departments in particular are turning over a new leaf and embracing unconventional methods to increase student interest.…

1. Street-Fighting Mathematics
While the students don’t actually get the chance to spar, they do learn “the art of guessing results and solving problems without doing a proof or an exact calculation.” It provides student with real-world mathematical applications to take on the world and their futures. Think of the streets as the many practical mathematical problems you face outside the classroom, and your weapons are the skills acquired in this class to overcome them.…

6. Advanced Kitchen Chemistry
Any successful chef would agree that becoming master of the kitchen is about understanding chemistry. To perfectly torch a creme brulee demands an understanding of ingredients’ properties and how they react. In MIT’s Advanced Kitchen Chemistry, students perform weekly “scientific edible experiments” and discuss important subjects such as “cheese making”, the “joys of tofu” and “the science of spice.” Sounds delicious.…

Read the complete article >

Ten Years of Photographing Strangers on the T (Boston Magazine)

Photo of two people in a laundromat facing away from each other.

Students in B. D. Colen’s course 21W.749 Documentary Photography and Photojournalism: Still Images of a World in Motion learn to see the world clearly and tell stories with photographs. This laundromat, from a student project, seems to share the same “alone, together” social order found in the Boston subway system. (Photo courtesy of MIT student.)

“Alone, together.” It’s become common wisdom that technology like smartphones and iPods are driving us apart, that we’re losing human interaction in public spaces.

But maybe it’s not really about the technologies, and also not really such a new thing—rather it could be something more fundamental to human nature. In his project “Alone, Together,” MIT’s B. D. Colen, who teaches photography and science journalism, shows how Boston subway riders were plenty willing to act this way with older, purely analog means.

Last week, Boston Magazine published an interview and photo feature about this project, “concerns with the current state of street photography, and issues of privacy in the golden age of surveillance.”

You started shooting this project in 2005, before the advent of iPhones, Twitter, and Kindles. Did you see people isolating themselves more intensely or more frequently as technology proliferated over the past decade?

On the T [Boston’s subway system], I don’t think so, because people would either have Walkmans or books or newspapers or magazines beforehand. They were just as isolated when I started doing this, as I saw it. It was print initially, and then the electronic devices took over.

If you go back and look at the first subway project of Walker Evans—he had a camera sewn inside his coat and was surreptitiously shooting people—they look just as isolated as my T riders do. I’m not comparing myself to Walker Evans, but he sort of saw the same thing. It’s not like people sat down and chatted with the people next to them. They were just sort of in their own world.

Read the complete story >

B. D. Colen’s OCW course 21W.749 Documentary Photography and Photojournalism: Still Images of a World in Motion is all about these topics. The class emphasizes “thinking about why people photograph, what photographs do and do not mean to us, and on doing documentary work, on telling stories with photographs.”  The OCW site includes several student projects, including one called “The Lost Sock – Lonely Laundromat” that finds laundromats share common social ground with the subway.

Five of the Best Computer Sciences Classes in the U.S. (Bloomberg Business)

Image of man pointing to a chalkboard diagram.

Prof. Patrick Winston teaching about goal trees and rule-based expert systems, in a lecture video from his OCW course 6.034 Artificial Intelligence.

Thanks to Bloomberg Business for the recognition that MIT offers some of the best computer science education in the country:

Five of the Best Computer Science Classes in the U.S.
This is where the smartest coders cut their teeth
By Peter Reford

Plenty of adults wander the professional world hiding their ignorance about how computers work, a knowledge gap that can now be closed in a few hours. But in the modern workforce, to shun programming is to likely get left behind, and young learners have gotten the message. The number of college graduates who got degrees in computer science in 2011 was 2,000 percent higher than it was in 1970, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Some legendary classes at the country’s best CS programs have elevated professors to idols, and classrooms to cultural phenomena. Here are five courses where the coding elite hone their skills…

MIT’s 6.034: Artificial Intelligence 

Professor: Patrick Winston, PhD

Notable alumni: Early Googler Wesley Chan, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, Internet entrepreneur Brewster Kahle

Professor Winston, a pioneer in artificial intelligence, teaches students how to apply its core concepts. He “has a style all his own that you either love or hate, but you have to give it to him, he gives it to you straight,” writes an anonymous student reviewer on RateMyProf.com. Michael Connell, CEO and co-founder of education startup Native Brain called Winston’s class “one of the best courses in the major” on Quora.

Read the complete story >

What they don’t tell you is that the materials of 6.034 Artificial Intelligence are available to the whole world, free of charge, on MIT OpenCourseWare. The OCW site includes complete lecture videos, assignment and exam problems, videos of teaching assistants working through quiz problems for the class,  and online demonstrations. Check out what the buzz is all about!

MIT in new collaboration to transform teaching in the digital age

Photo of professor speaking to a classroom.

MIT Professor Eric Klopfer is co-leading MIT’s new teacher training initiative, along with ODL’s Vijay Kumar.

MIT does not have an education school, but it’s just announced a big new initiative with the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation on elementary and secondary teacher training.  From MIT News:

MIT, through its Office of Digital Learning (ODL) and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, today announced a new collaboration aimed at supporting teachers in their efforts to use emerging digital learning tools and environments, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The effort will promote new ideas, technologies, and curricula along with research related to educator preparation with a focus on STEM subjects for students from pre-kindergarten through the senior year of high school.

Specifically, this collaboration brings together the Woodrow Wilson Academy for Teaching and Learning (WW Academy) and a new research effort within ODL called the MIT PK12 Initiative. It is designed to fill a growing need in education by providing new capabilities to teachers as they transform their classrooms into the technology-enhanced learning environments of tomorrow. The MIT PK12 Initiative has been created with $9.9 million in seed funding from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation to bring together educators and researchers at MIT interested in learning from infancy through the secondary level.

“Hands-on, problem-focused, curiosity-driven learning is squarely at the heart of an MIT education, and it will be central to MIT’s work with the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Together, we will combine MIT’s ‘mind and hand’ approach to learning with recent breakthroughs in cognitive science and digital learning to inform the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s efforts to develop and support excellent STEM teachers and school leaders,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “We are thrilled to begin this effort to reimagine the classroom experience.”

Read the complete article >

The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that

The venture also builds on some of the ambitions for greater educational experimentation that MIT articulated last year in its report on [The Future of MIT Education]. That plan called for MIT to become more involved with elementary and secondary education; to make greater use of competency-based teaching, blended learning, and simulations; and to develop new roles for professors and new kinds of credentials. The new academy is “a chance to apply it all to teacher education,” said [Woodrow Wilson Foundation President] Arthur Levine…

The teaching academy will start out small; 25 students will attend free in the first class, beginning in the fall of 2017. After that, the academy hopes to enroll about 200 students who will each pay about $15,000 for a degree earned by satisfying the required competencies set out in several modules. The program will focus at first on training teachers for mathematics, and the sciences, working directly with two MIT professors: Eric Klopfer, an expert in the use of computer games and simulations to understand science, and Vijay Kumar, MIT’s associate dean of digital learning.

Professor Klopfer has long been an enthusiastic champion of online learning. Learn more about him in this faculty profile, and check out some of his courses on OCW and MITx.

OCW courses by Eric Klopfer

MITx on edX courses by Eric Klopfer



Photographer has front-row seat for big scientific discoveries (Boston Globe)

A collage of some of Felice Frankel's photographs.

A collage of some of Felice Frankel’s photographs.

Photographer has front-row seat for big scientific discoveries
By Nidhi Subbaraman

Ansel Adams earned renown for his landscape photography. Annie Leibovitz became famous with her portraits of the rich and famous. Felice Frankel has staked out her own small corner of the photography world: science.

For two decades, Frankel has claimed a front-row seat to some of the biggest discoveries emerging from both sides of the Charles, photographing experiments from within the labs that created them.

When top chemists and engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard are preparing to reveal new research in the world’s premier journals, they call Frankel. Her subjects have included yeast colonies shaped like daisies, rainbow-colored quantum dots, and soft flexible electronics that can be tattooed onto the skin.

“That one shot can be so compelling that it gets people to not only recognize what’s going on, but excited about it,” said Paula Hammond, an MIT professor who has collaborated with Frankel on several projects. Read the complete article >

Now you can learn some techniques and tips directly from the master. Sign up now for her MITx on edX course Making Science and Engineering Pictures: A Practical Guide to Presenting Your Work. The course begins on June 15.


You can also preview the first week of this course, about using a flatbed scanner to create wonderfully detailed photographs of 3D objects, in the OCW resource Making Science and Engineering Pictures.

More female engineers: a shout out to MIT D-Lab

A young boy pointing a shining flashlight at the camera.

A proud student shows off the flashlight he just built in a workshop run by D-Lab I: Development students working in Kolkata, India. (Photo courtesy of Brooke A. Jarrett on Flickr.)

Meaningful work.  Isn’t that what we all want?

Meaningful work—specifically, societally meaningful work—might also be a key to increasing women’s participation in engineering careers. (Not to mention making our world a better place for everyone, regardless of gender.)

Countless studies have noted that only about 15 to 20% of engineers are women, and despite many efforts to raise that percentage, it hasn’t been rising much. In 2014, U.C. Berkeley launched a new Ph.D. minor in development engineering, with thesis work on solutions for low-income communities. Dr. Lina Nilsson, innovation director at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, was surprised that the program enrollment was 50% women, without any targeted outreach toward that end.

Interesting, right? As Dr. Nilsson describes in her recent New York Times opinion piece:

Women seem to be drawn to engineering projects that attempt to achieve societal good. Curious to learn whether that was true at other universities, my colleagues and I contacted the dozens of universities that have programs aimed at reducing global poverty and inequality. What we found was consistent and remarkable…

At the interdisciplinary D-Lab at M.I.T., which focuses on developing “technologies that improve the lives of people living in poverty,” 74 percent of over 230 enrolled students this past year were women. This makes the D-Lab one of the few engineering initiatives in the country that has a severalfold higher enrollment of women than men.

Read the complete story >

Beyond MIT and U.C. Berkeley, Dr. Nilsson recounts similar results in programs at University of Michigan, Arizona State, University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University, Santa Clara University, and Princeton.  Perhaps we’re seeing the start of a healthy transformation.

What’s a MIT D-Lab class like? Anchored by hands-on projects with community partners around the world, students use their math, science, engineering, social science and business skills to tackle global poverty issues. You can see more in these D-Lab classes on OCW:

The D-Lab program website has lots of great content, with the latest news and blogs and videos by students about their projects and learning experiences.