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Teaching demos, panel slated for MacVicar Day celebration Friday


Find out how a group of freshmen planned a trip to Mars. Discover how you can learn Japanese and French using smart technology. Learn what goes on at the Edgerton Center. Try your hand at the latest developments in physics education.

Five faculty members will discuss their classroom experiences and demonstrate their teaching techniques as part of the MacVicar Day celebration on Friday, March 2 in Rm 34-401 from 3-4pm. The theme for the fifth annual MacVicar Day is "New Teaching/New Learning at MIT."

MacVicar Day is named for Dean Margaret Mac-Vicar, a physicist and one of MIT's most dedicated educators and scientists until her death at the age of 47 in 1991. She founded and guided MIT's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), and as MIT's first dean for undergraduate education, she played a key role in rethinking and reshaping the overall undergraduate program at MIT.

A panel discussion on the topic "Are We Succeeding?" is scheduled for 4-5pm in Rm 34-401. It will be chaired by Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine.


"Inciting the Learning Process: Can Solving Complex Problems Invigorate the Freshman Year?" by Professor Kip V. Hodges of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences.

Last fall, Mission 2004 inaugurated a cross-disciplinary problem-solving collaborative learning experience for freshmen. The problem given to 49 freshmen was to develop a viable mission plan for the exploration of Mars with the aim of finding evidence for the present or past existence of life. In teams, the students tackled technical, scientific and policy issues that would affect a Mars mission. The demonstration will feature the video of the students' final public presentations, the class web site with details of the final design and an opportunity to talk with Professor Hodges about Mission 2004 and future efforts of this kind.

"Force Field! Visualizing the Unseen With Modern Animation Techniques: The TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning) Project" by Professor John Belcher of physics, named a MacVicar Fellow last year.

The goal of the TEAL project is to develop a prototype for a reform of physics education at MIT which is designed to help students develop much better intuition about, and conceptual models of, physical phenomena. This reform is centered on an "active learning" approach in a highly collaborative, hands-on environment, with extensive use of desktop experiments and modern visualization techniques. There will be desktop experiments centered around electromagnetism, and Java applets and 3-D animations related to those experiments.

"Can Technology Transform the Way You Learn Japanese and French?" by Professor Shigeru Miyagawa and Senior Lecturer Gilberte M. Furstenberg, both of foreign languages and literatures.

Participants can discover how students get fully immersed in the language and culture of Japan and France through smart use of technology by trying award-winning programs:

* "Star Festival," a multilinear story program about cultural identity, and "Japan -- Who am I? Where did I come from? Where do I fit in?"
* "A la Rencontre de Philippe," an interactive story filmed in Paris, in which users help the main character find an apartment in the city, and "Dans un Quartier de Paris," an interactive documentary that allows users to explore a neighborhood of Paris.
* Cultura, a web-based cross-cultural project in which students interact with French students at the Institut National des Telecommunications with the goal of building an understanding of each other's cultures.

"What Goes On in the Edgerton Center?" by the center's director, Professor J. Kim Vandiver, and members of the staff.

Carrying on the legacy of Institute Professor Harold E. Edgerton, the center creates opportunities for students, especially freshmen, to engage in challenging activities and projects in engineering and science. In seminars, students learn new skills through the design and fabrication of interesting devices, some with public service applications.

The K-12 Outreach Program lets MIT students introduce students from neighboring communities to the excitement of science and technology. The center also sponsors the efforts of student contest teams. Examples from Edgerton Center subjects, outreach program projects and student contest teams will be featured in demonstrations and provide hands-on learning opportunities for guests.

The demonstrations and the panel discussion are open to the public.


Earlier in the day, the 2001 MacVicar Faculty Fellows will be named. The MacVicar Faculty Fellows program, established in 1992, recognizes excellence in undergraduate teaching. Faculty members who are outstanding teachers of undergraduate students are selected annually to be MacVicar Faculty Fellows for a 10-year period. The Fellows form a small academy of scholars committed to fine teaching and innovation in education.

MacVicar Day is sponsored by the Offices of the President, the Provost, the Chancellor and the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 28, 2001.

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