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MIT launches web site for high school students

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MIT President Susan Hockfield announces today the launch of a new web site, Highlights for High School, that will provide resources to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction at the high school level.

The web site builds on the success of MIT's revolutionary OpenCourseWare initiative and is designed to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists and to be a valuable tool for high school teachers.

"Strength in K-12 math and science will be increasingly important for America if the nation is to continue to lead the innovation economy," Hockfield said.

"Highlights for High School will provide students and teachers with innovative tools to supplement their math and science studies," she added. "We hope it will inspire students to reach beyond their required classwork to explore more advanced material through OCW and also might encourage them to pursue careers in science and engineering."

Highlights for High School features more than 2,600 video and audio clips, animations, lecture notes and assignments taken from actual MIT courses, and categorizes them to match the Advanced Placement physics, biology and calculus curricula. Demonstrations, simulations and animations give educators engaging ways to present STEM concepts, while videos illustrate MIT's hands-on approach to the teaching of these subjects.

Thomas Magnanti, former dean of the School of Engineering at MIT, chaired the committee that developed the site. "As has been well documented, the U.S. needs to invest more in secondary education, particularly in STEM fields. MIT, as a leading institution of science and technology, has an obligation to help address the issue," he said.

Highlights for High School represents MIT's first step in adapting the successful OpenCourseWare model to secondary education. The web site organizes the course materials currently featured on OCW--including syllabi, lecture notes, assignments and exams--into a format that is more accessible to high school students and teachers.

An estimated 10,000 U.S. high school instructors and 5,000 U.S. high school students already visit MIT OpenCourseWare each month, and MIT expects Highlights for High School to make MIT's course materials even more useful to these audiences.

 Highlights for High School continues MIT's tradition of supporting science, technology and engineering instruction at the secondary level. One of the most prominent previous efforts was the Physical Science Study Committee, a program begun in 1956 as a collaboration between MIT physics professors and high school physics teachers, which dramatically changed the way physics was taught in high schools. MIT has more than 40 K-12 outreach programs, including the Edgerton Center, MIT's Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science and MIT's Educational Studies Program.

With Highlights for High School in place, a broader plan proposed for a secondary education program--OCW SE--may include creating a teacher-in-residence program to develop new open curricula with high school educators and organizing an MIT secondary-education mentor corps.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 28, 2007 (download PDF).

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