CrossTalk Seminars Renewed

by Amitava ‘Babi’ Mitra, Associate Director, Office of Educational Innovation and Technology

The Office of Educational Innovation and Technology announced a renewal of an informative and stimulating series, CrossTalk, presenting faculty from MIT, and periodically faculty from elsewhere, talking about core issues at the intersection of teaching, learning and technology. The board goal of the CrossTalk Seminars is to share strategies, solutions, and issues related to transformation in educational practice through the use of information technology. The spring discussion kicked off with a panel of MIT faculty addressing the topic "Using Visualization to Teach Concepts in Science and Engineering". This was held on held Thursday, April 19th, with a packed room of participants. Dr. Phillip Long, Associate Director, OEIT introduced the topic and the faculty participants. Dr. Sanjoy Mahajan, Associate Director, Teaching & Learning Laboratory and Lecturer, EECS helped facilitate the discussions amongst the faculty panelists as well as the interactive question and answer session with the audience. The faculty panelists anchoring the discussion were:

  • Professor John Belcher, Professor & Class of 1960 and a MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT. He has been primarily responsible for the development of Technology Enabled Active Learning TEAL. and has developed an award winning Java3D visualization engine TEALsim used for both the physics visualizations and recently biology.

  • Professor Fredo Durand, Associate Professor an associate professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at MIT, and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

  • Professor Graham Walker, the American Cancer Society Research Professor of Biology past HHMI Professor. Prof. Graham has been leading efforts to harness protein structure manipulation software for teaching in biology.

Abstract of the Session:

Visualizations are fast becoming an essential element in teaching science and engineering. Computational tools for creating compelling, attractive, and high fidelity representations of scientific and engineering phenomena are more widely available and becoming easier to use. With all the aesthetic appeal that the current generation of visualizations bring, the question remains, are they more than just 'eye candy'- that is, what evidence is there that they improve learning? Do they deepen intuition about physical processes? What principles make for good visualizations? How do you work them into the course and plan for their use in assignments? How do you measure their impact on student learning?

There are other Crosstalk events being planned for later during this term --- please stay tuned at