OCW YouTube Subscribers: Because you mean so much to us.

Dear YouTube Subscriber,

We ♥️ you! Thank you for hitting our subscribe button. You are an amazing community of learners.

Passionate, opinionated, grateful, and inspirational, you watch and learn and become experts of your own knowledge. You are fiercely loyal and ‘get’ that sharing makes us better for one another and for the world.

You mean so much to us. Let us count the ways:

  1. You really watch our videos! You’ve watched them more than 187 million times!
  2. You discover us and want to learn more. More than 3 million of you have dived into our resources.
  3. You ♥️ us more than you troll us.
  4. You helped make us the #1 dot.edu channel.
  5. You tell us how we’ve changed your lives.
  6. You have some of the most interesting handles.
  7. You make us want to be better.
  8. You share us with your friends and family.
  9. You inspire us.
  10. You show how learning can happen along side great entertainment videos.

Thank you for being an incredible community and a strong force for learning.

Sincerely,

The MIT OpenCourseWare Team

 

M. Amah Edoh on Creating a Supportive Academic Culture

Close up photo of woman in blue shirt standing in Killian Court at MIT

M. Amah Edoh, Assistant Professor of African Studies (Image courtesy of Jonathan Sachs Photography.)

Educators can’t just be providers of information, Professor Edoh argues; they have to be nurturers of their students’ intellectual growth.

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

Assistant Professor M. Amah Edoh is a young faculty member, young enough to remember what it felt like to be a student. Her approach to teaching reflects this fact. The Instructor Insights section of the OpenCourseWare site for her course 21G.026 Global Africa: Creative Cultures provides interesting details about how she taught that specific course, but it also offers a generous helping of observations about pedagogy in general and the role faculty members can play in helping students move from mystery to mastery. Here are a few highlights.

Course Planning

Every academic course has a central topic or idea, but Professor Edoh emphasizes that the instructor should also consider what the central question is, so that the course can be an exploration rather than a mere transfer of information:

“It’s crucial to be clear on what the core issue is, what the question is that animates this class….As long as the core question is clear, you can tailor the building blocks to your interests.”

Of course, students will bring more energy to the classroom if their work there also draws on their own interests, not just their professor’s. So Professor Edoh used the final project assignment in 21G.026 to draw on the different creative skills–cooking, drawing, horticulture, creative writing, and so on–that each student brought to the course.

“I had no idea how it would turn out, because I didn’t know what they were bringing to the table, what particular creative skills they had. But I want to believe—this is something I try to enact in my own life—that we all have creative skills, and that whatever you have, we can do something with it.”

The Need for Flexibility in Teaching

New faculty members, Edoh suggests, may not immediately realize that successful teaching depends on not always having every moment of every class planned in advance, and that lecturers need to be able to revise their teaching plan constantly in response to the needs of the moment. Doing this effectively doesn’t necessarily come easily, but it’s a core competency for a master teacher:

“When you’re a student, the professors up front seem to know exactly what they’re doing and what they’re talking about; you don’t fully appreciate the fact that it’s a lot of intuitive and improvisational work. You can be surprised at how taxing it is.”

Teaching at MIT

To counteract the tendency of the university to become a closed circle or the proverbial ivory tower, Professor Edoh asks her students to attend cultural performances out in the world to supplement and enrich their in-class learning:

“Even the experience of leaving MIT is really useful. Part of our duty as educators is to help broaden our students’ horizons, not only in the classroom but also by encouraging them to explore beyond campus.”

She also seeks to show students that the humanities have something to say about technology, and that we can fruitfully examine the meanings and cultural implications of technical systems and practices, not just the details of their operation or their practical potentials:

“At MIT in particular, we tend to fetishize technology and consider it as existing in a realm outside of other material practices, other ways of knowing. One of my personal missions is to show that technology is no different from these other practices—they’re all objects, ways of doing, ways of knowing. So whether we’re talking about plant healing or developing the next nano-technology, we can think about these things next to each other, no matter where they’re happening.”

Academic Study and the Wider World

As Professor Edoh sees it, the so-called ivory tower is an illusion; it’s neither possible nor desirable for the academy to remain divorced from the wider world. At its best, she suggests, academic work exists in constant dialogue with real-world experience, with each enriching the other:

“What we do in the classroom is not separate. Academic work isn’t separate from life, and it’s not something that’s only accessible to some people. We’re always theorizing. Making sense of our experience is about theorizing. If we can help students make links between what they’re reading for school and what they’re experiencing in the world around them, we’re in great shape as educators.”

Nurturing Student Growth

Professor Edoh distinctly remembers what it was like to be a student struggling to make sense of the often-obscure writings one encounters in academic life:

“When I was in grad school for my PhD, I was frustrated by the fact that academic texts often feel like they’re written to not be understood. This made me really angry. I thought, ‘OK, I’ve been in school for many years. How is it that this still makes no sense? If it makes no sense to me, what are we doing here? What is the point of the academic enterprise if we produce work that can’t be understood?’…The danger when you’re a student, especially at elite institutions, is that when you don’t understand, you think there’s something wrong with you: you’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough. But it’s actually a structural issue, and it’s the writers’ responsibility to write better work, to write more clearly.”

She feels passionately that it’s a professor’s job to make academic discourse less intimidating, and to encourage students as they take their first tentative steps toward being confident participants in scholarly and intellectual work:

“What made the biggest difference for me in the classroom as a student was instructors who made me feel like I had something to offer. Having instructors who make you feel you have nothing to offer is not just neutral, it’s damaging. It’s really important for me to valorize students’ voices, to show that I’m taking their work seriously.”

“My teaching philosophy stresses the importance of using classroom time to build students’ confidence, to instill in our students a sense that they’re capable of doing this work, to undo some of the damage that academic work has done for so many people—to try to make it less alienating. To say, ‘We can do this. And we know how to do this. It’s OK not to know this particular material, because we’re in school to learn. We’re not supposed to know everything when we come here. But we know how to learn and that’s what we’re here for.'”

 

 

 

 

Bridging the digital divide

Students learning to use eTekkatho at Taungoo University

Duyen Nguyen | MIT Open Learning

Myanmar’s education landscape is changing, thanks in large part to the efforts of the  Tekkatho Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that uses digital technologies to bring world-class educational resources to local institutions and communities. Supported by a grant from the Omidyar Network, Tekkatho sets up free, self-contained digital libraries—eTekkatho—and other education infrastructure across the country, making access to materials like MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) possible even in places with little to no connectivity.

eTekkatho is able to include OCW content among its many resources through OCW’s Mirror Site Program, which delivers free copies of the OCW website to over 400 non-profit educational organizations working in under-resourced parts of the world, for installation on their local networks. Currently set up in 23 universities and six community libraries across the country, eTekkatho’s impact on learners in Myanmar has been remarkable. Over 10,000 people—from students to educators—have attended an eTekkatho training course, where they learn how to access, browse, and download educational and research materials. With thousands of resources now at their fingertips, students grow confident in taking the initiative in their education, becoming proficient in self-study and independent learning. As of 2017, over 100,000 individual ebooks, video lessons, datasets, lectures, and other educational content have been downloaded from eTekkatho library.

OCW is one of the most popular resources that eTekkatho provides. At Phaung Daw Oo, a monastery school in Mandalay that offers free education to over 7,000 children, students like Kyaw Win Khant turn to the eTekkatho digital library to research their assignments, develop their IT skills, and prepare for college and work. “Of course I use eTekkatho! It’s really useful for my studies,” says Kyaw, who was motivated to study chemistry after finding resources on the subject through the digital library. Through watching OCW lectures, Kyaw says he also improved…

>Read the complete story on OCW

Study Aids for Students Taking the Joint Entrance Exam

Instructor writing on a light board

Ankur Gupta solves mathematics problems at the light board.

By Welina Farah, MIT Open Learning

This month, students across India are prepping for the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), a two-part rigorous and thorough national-level standardized test for future engineers.

Twice a year, these test takers hope to do well enough to be accepted into top-tier undergraduate engineering programs at elite institutes across India. These institutes include the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), National Institutes of Technology (NIT), Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), and various other Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs) across the country.

The first round of exams (JEE Main) took place from April 7 to April 12, 2019. Students that passed the first round move on to the second round, (JEE Advanced) taking place on May 27, 2019.

At OpenCourseWare, we have two resources available for those studying for the JEE: a series of videos on the “Highlights for High School” website titled “IIT Joint Entrance Exam Preparation” and a quick blurb on the exams themselves.

These videos came to the OCW page in a great way, stemming from “somebody who knew somebody” and blooming into a much-used and vital resource.

The Senior Educational Technology Consultant at MITx Residential built a lightboard (also known as a learning board). At the time, the technology consultant was helping then-grad student Ankur Gupta to use the lightboard to make the videos, as you may have guessed, hosted on the OCW site.

Gupta decided to continue making these videos as a side project.

There are many more videos on their YouTube page, but putting them on OCW’s YouTube page helped amplify their efforts.

The 9 videos hosted by OCW and created by Gupta have been viewed over 66,000 times.

> Check out the “IIT Joint Entrance Exam Preparation” videos

Tech tools for teaching and learning

Close up of hand holding a clicker device

A clicker of the sort used in MIT classrooms. Photo: Gina Randall/USAF (public domain).

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

Technology is the T in MIT, so it’s not surprising that MIT faculty are quick to implement technology in and out of the classroom. Want to find out how MIT instructors use technology to improve the teaching and learning process? The Instructor Insights at many of the course sites published on MIT OpenCourseWare include descriptions of ways faculty members have implemented such tools in recent years.

Promoting active learning in the classroom

One of the most popular forms of active learning is the use of so called “clicker questions” to poll students’ opinions or gauge their knowledge of specific concepts. Unlike asking a question and calling on individual students to answer it, using clicker questions gives an instructor a sense of how well the classroom as a whole understands the concept being discussed. It also allows the instructor to engage students in the material without putting them on the spot.

In many classes, including 5.111SC Principles of Chemical Science, 8.421 Atomic and Optical Physics I, and 18.05 Introduction to Probability and Statistics, the instructors issue dedicated wireless devices as clickers that students use to register their responses; those responses are then aggregated and displayed on a screen. But most students are already coming to class with their own wireless devices–their mobile phones. So in other classes, such as CMS.701 Current Debates in Media, the instructors ask students instead to download an app such as Mentimeter, which enables their phones to act as clickers, avoiding the need for a separate device.

Supporting and assessing student performance outside of class

Outside the classroom, too, digital technology can help students learn while aiding instructors in tracking the pace of learning. In 6.01SC Introduction to Electrical Engineering and Computer Science I, for instance, the instructors set up an online tutor—an environment that can automatically check student-written code. Students feed a piece of code to the online tutor and it checks the functionality of that code by running various test cases.

The instructors for 18.05 Introduction to Probability and Statistics provide their students with an online problem set checker run through the Residential MITx site. By checking their answers as they work through the problems, students can notice and correct their mistakes before submitting their completed problem sets.

The course format for ES.S10 Drugs and the Brain incorporates online quizzes hosted at a website the instructor created for the course; it allows students to receive their grades immediately upon completing the quiz. Along with the quiz grades, the website shows which answers were wrong and why they were wrong.

In 21G.107 Chinese I (Streamlined), students use the web tool Lingt (developed by two MIT students) to record themselves speaking sample words and sentences outside of class; the instructor can then listen to their recordings and offer feedback on their progress. This frees students from having to go to a traditional language lab for pronunciation drills and assessments.

Specialized tools for specific subject matter

Instructors in other fields have found other tools helpful. For example, Annotation Studio, a suite of collaborative web-based annotation tools developed at MIT, has proven especially useful for courses in the humanities, such as 21L.501 The American Novel: Stranger and Stranger and CMS.633 Digital Humanities. Annotation Studio allows an individual, a small group of collaborating students, or even a whole class to produce a marked-up version of a text, with notes, links, and embedded images adding depth and richness to the reader’s experience. In 21L.501, the instructor also developed a project using Locast, an interactive mapmaking application (also created at MIT!), to help students make sense of the vast geographical range of the storyline of Moby-Dick. And in CMS.701 Current Debates in Media, students used software called CMap Tools to create conceptual maps showing relationships between the key ideas in a difficult text they were reading.

To learn more

If you’re interested in finding out more, you can use the OCW Educator Portal to search for Instructor Insights on the topic “Teaching with Technology.” For regular updates on what’s new in MIT OpenCourseWare, subscribe to the OCW newsletter. If you’re an MIT faculty member or instructor looking for ways to integrate technology into your teaching, visit the IS&T Teaching with Technology landing page for tools and resources.

***

This entry was originally published on the Information Systems and Technology (IS&T) News blog on April 9, 2019.

Happy Birthday, Herb Gross!

a middle-age man standing in front of a blackboard with mathematical figures on it.

Herb Gross, making math make sense in a video recorded at MIT in 1970. (Image by MIT OpenCourseWare.)

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

Today we’re delighted to wish a very happy birthday to Professor Herb Gross, who is turning 90. When he was a senior lecturer in mathematics at MIT in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was recruited to film a series of instructional videos under the title of Calculus Revisited. In the digital era, these videos have reached a much larger audience than might originally have been expected; between 2010 and 2011 MIT OpenCourseWare worked with Professor Gross to publish them as a trilogy of special supplemental resources on our website: Single Variable Calculus, Multivariable Calculus, and Complex Variables, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra.

The videos might seem to have a lot going against them: they’re nearly fifty years old, they’re in low-definition black and white, and they have no special effects or flashy visuals. (Their content consists purely of Professor Gross standing in front of a blackboard, explaining math.) But collectively, these resources have been accessed well over a million times at the OCW website, and they’re also extremely popular and much loved on YouTube.

Herb Gross’s time at MIT was part of a long career in teaching math, often to those students most in need of patient encouragement and support. He taught for many years at community colleges, and starting in the late 1970s he was also involved in prison education, creating math programs for inmates at correctional institutions in Massachusetts and later in North Carolina. In 1988 he instituted his Gateways to Mathematics video course at several prisons in North Carolina. (The material for the entire course has been preserved at the Internet Archive.) He enjoys making teaching videos and regards them as offering some advantages not available to live teaching; he explains that “You can pause, rewind, and/or fast forward the lectures as you see fit—not to mention that the boards are written in a much more orderly way than how I wrote in the live classroom!”

Professor Gross has always maintained that the best mathematicians don’t necessarily make the best math teachers, and likewise that you don’t have to be a great mathematician to be a great math teacher. As he puts it, “There are many examples of great athletes who failed as coaches; and there have been great coaches who were at best mediocre players.” He has returned to this analogy again and again throughout the years, most memorably in another video series, Teacher as Coach, produced in 1988 by the North Carolina Department of Community Colleges. He sees his vocation in life as being the best coach he can be for the most vulnerable and “mathephobic” of students. And he has always been dedicated to the idea that the best teaching materials should be made freely available to as wide an audience as possible. To further this goal, not only did he work with MIT OpenCourseWare to put the Calculus Revisited videos online forty years after they were originally recorded, he also has created his own website, where all his work in arithmetic, algebra, and calculus is available free of charge.

Writing in reply to YouTube viewer comments on one of the Calculus Revisited videos, Professor Gross says, “It took several days to prepare each lecture. While this seems to be a very long time, the beauty lies in the fact that the lecture is there forever and is available to any viewer, in any place and at any time. In my case the reward is that it would have taken me several lifetimes to reach the same number of students if I had been teaching in a traditional classroom.” Though he’s now retired, he sees his online lectures as allowing him a sort of pedagogical immortality: “I feel very blessed that thanks to the Internet, I will be able to continue teaching for years and possibly generations to come.”

We’re so grateful to Professor Gross for sharing his knowledge and love of math so generously, with so many students, over so many decades. Happy birthday to you, Professor Gross!

Gender diversity leads to better science

Photo by Christopher Harting

By Welina Farah | MIT Open Learning

The value of diversity in the workplace, especially as it pertains to women in STEM, can have a profound impact in advancing science and research.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) published an article in February of 2017 titled, “Gender diversity leads to better science” where 10 researchers sought to add empirical data to the truism “gender diversity enhances knowledge outcomes.” What they found was that “teams may benefit from various types of diversity, including scientific discipline, work experience, gender, ethnicity, and nationality… [that] gender diversity matters for scientific discovery [by] broadening the viewpoints, questions, and areas addressed by researchers.”

For Women’s History Month, we celebrate contributions by women in the field, including those from the past, current scientists, and future innovators of science, technology, engineering, and math.

The following course offerings—from two day-long workshops to a semester of history—provide a lens into the roles women have and can play in STEM.

  • WGS.S10 History of Women in Science and Engineering – This course provides a basic overview of the history of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Students will learn about the specific contributions of women across a variety of disciplines and will gain a broad perspective on how these contributions played a larger role in the advancement of human knowledge and technological achievement. The class also discusses how both historic and modern biases within the STEM disciplines, as well as in representations of women and girls in media and popular culture, can affect outcomes.
  • RES.2.006 Girls Who Build Cameras: One-Day Workshop – In this workshop, high school girls have a one day hands-on introduction to camera physics and technology at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Beaverworks Center. The workshop includes tearing down old dSLR cameras, building a Raspberry Pi camera, and designing Instagram filters and Photoshop tools. Participants also get to listen to keynote speakers from the camera technology industry, including Kris Clark who engineers space cameras for NASA and MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and Uyanga Tsedev who creates imaging probes to help surgeons find tumors at MIT. During lunch, representatives from the Society of Women Engineers and the Women’s Technology Program at MIT will present future opportunities to get involved in engineering in high school and college.
  • RES.2.005 Girls Who Build: Make Your Own Wearables Workshop – This workshop for high school girls is an introduction to computer science and electrical/mechanical engineering through wearable technology. The workshop, developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, consists of two major hands-on projects in manufacturing and wearable electronics. These include 3D printing jewelry and laser cutting a purse, as well as programming LEDs to light up while walking. Participants learn the design process, 3D computer modeling, and machine shop tools, in addition to writing code and building a circuit.