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Provost announces formation of council on educational technology

Provost Robert A. Brown has announced the formation of the MIT Council on Educational Technology (MITCET), which he will co-chair with Professor Hal Abelson, the Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

"The Institute faces extraordinary opportunities and challenges as we evolve our approaches to education in a rapidly changing technical landscape," Dr. Brown said.

The new Council on Educational Technology has been established to provide strategic guidance and oversight of MIT efforts to develop an infrastructure and initiatives for the application of technology to education. The goal of the council will be to enhance the quality of MIT education through appropriate application of technology, to both on-campus life and learning and through distance learning.


Two recent reports form the background of the council's mission. The 1996-97 report of the MIT Educational Technology Council, edited by Professor William J. Mitchell (dean of the School of Architecture and Planning) and Professor Michael L. Dertouzos (director of the Laboratory for Computer Science), was issued in July 1997.

MITCET's primary recommendation was that the Institute undertake "an ambitious five-year project that will make the Institute the recognized leader in the creation and effective application of advanced educational technology and that will create an exportable model for higher education." To advance this goal, the council suggested that MIT initiate "a set of carefully chosen experiments designed to probe the possibilities of the new educational technologies."

The Task Force on Student Life and Learning, charged with undertaking a comprehensive review of MIT's educational mission on the threshold of the 21st century, was led by co-chairs Professor R. John Hansman Jr. of aeronautics and astronautics and Professor Robert J. Silbey of chemistry. Among the recommendations in the report, which was issued in summer 1998, were to encourage educational experimentation, and more specifically, to conduct carefully designed experiments in distance learning and educational technology.

The council will work towards achieving the goals laid out in these reports. The scope of its activities will include providing advice about Institute-wide educational experiments and programs, being involved with potential collaborators concerning MIT initiatives in educational technology and assessing the effectiveness of educational technology experiments. The council will work closely with the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education and the standing committees of the faculty to identify and evaluate potentially promising educational experiments.


One of MITCET's roles will be to solicit proposals and approve funding for educational projects and experiments, most of which are likely to make significant use of educational technology. This process will be handled by the grants subcommittee of the council. These projects will be funded by the Provost's Office, the Alexander V. (1949) and Brit J. (1961) d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in MIT Education and new resources brought into MIT. The call for proposals will be forthcoming to academic units from the council.

In addition to Professors Brown and Abelson, the members of the council are Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow; Professor John W. Belcher (physics); Dr. Lori Breslow (Sloan School); Alex V. D'Arbeloff, chairman of the Corporation (ex officio); Professors Peter Donaldson (literature) and Suzanne Flynn, chair of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program; Brian G.R. Hughes (SB 1977, ex officio); Dr. M.S. Vijay Kumar, director of Academic Computing Information Systems; Professors Richard C. Larson (electrical engineering and computer science), Steven R. Lerman (civil and environmental engineering), Stuart Madnick (Sloan School), Anthony T. Patera (mechanical engineering) and Mitchel Resnick (media arts and sciences); Dr. Kenan Sahin, president and CEO of Kenan Systems, a subsidiary of Lucent Technologies; Jeffrey I. Schiller (Information Systems); Professor Silbey; Professor Rosalind Williams, dean of students and undergraduate education; and Ann Wolpert, director of Libraries.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 29, 1999.

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