Teaching and Learning Lab Collaborates on the 2017 Festival of Learning

Leann Dobranski and Janet Rankin

On February 1-2, The Teaching and Learning Lab (T+LL) partnered with ODL, DUE, and ODGE to host a campus-wide Festival of Learning. This 2-day event celebrated the creative contributions that MIT faculty, staff, and students have made to continuously improving student learning experiences at the Institute. In her opening remarks, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart set the stage for the Festival and introduced the first keynote speaker, Satya Nitta of IBM Watson Education.

In Nitta’s keynote address, titled “Watson and the Future of Learning Science and Technology,” he began with an historical overview of computing systems. He shared his perspective on the evolution of the field of artificial intelligence (AI), from its Minskian foundations in logic and reasoning to its current focus on intelligent tutoring systems through the implementation of statistical calculations and probabilistic answers. Nitta also quoted Daniel Denton, and stressed the fact that although AI systems can, in fact, learn, adapt, reason, analyze, and interpret, they are not intelligent. However, he did point out that by understanding how machines learn, we can gain insight into human learning.

During the “Lighting Round,” MIT faculty and instructors presented short pedagogy talks that highlighted interesting and unique ways they engage students in active learning through the use of technology, project work, and interactive demonstrations. Materials Science professor Lorna Gibson discussed the evolution of her flipped 3.032x (Mechanical Behavior of Materials) class using MITx materials. Professor Michael Cuthbert demonstrated how he uses Artusi, an environment he developed for learning the rote, repetitive, but important skills of music fundamentals and music theory in his 21M.051 (Computer Tools for Music Fundamentals) class. Dean Dennis Freeman explained his use of task-centered instruction in 6.01 (Intro to Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and described how he uses hands-on, lab-based activities to provide context for the introduction of relevant theory in subsequent lectures. Peter Dourmashkin described his use of the The Lightboard in 8.01 (Physics I), which allows the instructor to face front while writing. Professor Ely Sachs discussed the importance of teaching engineering students to be experts in both analysis and synthesis and his use of guided discovery to support the development of those capabilities.

Faculty presenters then joined the “Learning Expo,” in Lobbies 10 and 13, where MIT offices, labs, and individuals showcased a wide variety of teaching and learning projects and activities that exploit educational technologies.

Former MIT student and Founder/CEO of Quizlet.com, Andrew Sutherland, gave the second keynote address, “Empowering Students and Teachers” in which he discussed the open-learning platform, Quizlet, which engages 20 million students and teachers each month. The platform provides free study tools for students, teachers, and learners of all ages that can be used in and out of the classroom, alone, with friends, or in teams. Sutherland discussed the changing landscape in ed-tech. He noted that the increase in internet connectivity and the growing affordability of student devices gives students and teachers more control over the selection of learning tools.

On the second day of the festival, T+LL facilitated a set of microteaching sessions, wherein participants gave brief teaching presentations and were given immediate feedback by their peers and T+LL staff and associates.

Finally, a Hackathon took place during the two days of the Festival. Groups of students came together to engage in collaborative programming to address challenges and problems in the field of educational technology. Focus-areas included edX platform integration, data visualization (both analysis and front-end), and making educational content more easily accessible. Teams worked with mentors and presented their ideas to the judges during the final event of the Festival. Awards were presented in the categories of Impact, Implementation Viability and Audience Choice.

You can read more coverage of the Festival of Learning in MIT News.