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J-WEL names spring 2018 grant recipients

Education Innovation Grant program for pK-12 and higher education awards $400,000 to MIT faculty to support education innovation both at MIT and globally.
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Colombian farmers demonstrate the coffee-growing process to D-Lab students.
Colombian farmers demonstrate the coffee-growing process to D-Lab students.
Image courtesy of MIT D-Lab

The Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) at MIT has selected 10 projects to receive grants as part of its program to support educational innovation. J-WEL grants support initiatives that impact MIT education, with the broad potential for impact in global settings. They are awarded bi-annually to MIT faculty, with spring and fall rounds.

Grant recipients, pK-12 projects

J-WEL Grants in pK-12 Education Innovation were awarded to the following projects:

"Teacher Practice Spaces for Equity Teaching Practices" — Justin Reich, professor of comparative media studies/writing. Equity Teaching Practices are classroom strategies that counter the pernicious effects of structural inequality. Reich’s team will use their simulation platform, TeacherMoments, to help teachers from all disciplines, with particular emphasis on STEM fields, rehearse for and reflect on these practices.

"Tailoring STEM for Girls with Social Impact: Curricula, Self-Efficacy Change and Factors of Success in Multi-Week Interventions" — David Wallace, professor of mechanical engineering, and Larissa Nietner, postdoc in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. To increase their participation in STEM, girls need to experience STEM content as socially impactful. This project will develop and test adequate curricula, materials, and generalizable principles, which can be shared and transferred between schools across both the U.S. and the developing world.

"High School Global STEM Project-Based Learning, Leveraging MIT BLOSSOMS" — Richard Larson, the Mitsui Professor of Data, Systems, and Society, and Dan Frey, professor of mechanical engineering. This project will leverage MIT BLOSSOMS, a resource library where educators can find teaching materials, to create and evaluate compelling project-based learning (PBL) lesson plans for secondary-school STEM teachers and students. Working with MIT students and selected educational partners, the team will utilize existing BLOSSOMS lessons well-suited for PBL follow-up.

"The Compassionate Systems Framework and Network Development" — Peter Senge and Mette Miriam Boell, J-WEL. In 2016, Peter Senge and Mette Miriam Boell began working with the international baccalaureate (IB) network to develop and prototype a “Compassionate Systems Framework,” connecting systems thinking with mindfulness practices and social-emotional learning across the pK-12 spectrum. In this project, their team will assess impact and identify best practices that can be extended beyond the IB.

"XRoads: Building Educator Capacity in XR" — Patty Maes, professor of media arts and sciences, and Eric Klopfer, professor of comparative media studies/writing. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) — collectively known as “XR” — have great potential as educational tools, but few attempts have been made to integrate educators into the design and delivery of relevant experiences. Building upon their work in the Education Arcade and the MIT Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces group, research scientists Meredith Thompson and Scott W. Greenwald will work closely with teachers to adapt their work in room-scale VR for K-12 STEAM contexts and pilot the experiences with teachers and students.                 

"Modular Curriculum With Hands-On, Low-Cost Biology Educational Activities" — Jim Collins, the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science and professor of biological engineering. Collins and his team, led by biological engineering PhD student Ally Huang, previously developed a hands-on, low-cost synthetic biology educational kit based on freeze-dried cell-free reactions, which demonstrate biological concepts in an engaging manner. This project will develop a database of modular lessons using these activities, allowing educators to create their own curriculum suited for their students’ needs.     

Grant recipients, higher education projects

The four higher education recipients for the spring 2018 grant round are:

"Technology Design for Coffee Production in Colombia: A Co-Design Experience" — Dan Frey, professor of mechanical engineering. Frey, PhD student Pedro Reynolds-Cuéllar, and their team will develop an Independent Activities Period course for both graduate and undergraduate students from all five MIT schools. Students in the course will co-create or re-design, along with Colombian coffee farmers, technologies for different stages of the coffee production process in Colombia in the context of climate change adaptation.

"Advancing Socially-Directed STEM Education" — Christine Ortiz, the Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. This project will focus on the development of course materials to be implemented in the MIT fall term class 3.087 (Materials, Societal Impact, and Social Innovation). The materials will not only be applied within MIT, but also to historically marginalized and underserved students nationwide and globally through a new nonprofit educational organization, Station1, founded by Ortiz.

"'Social IT Solutions' Workshop in Tanzania" — Lisa Parks, professor of comparative media studies. The “Social IT Solutions” workshop will equip computer science students at the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT) and the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) with interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in the areas of information communication technologies for development, digital media, and design learning. The MIT team, which will include four students, will work alongside faculty from DIT and SUZA to facilitate a two-week workshop for Tanzanian computer science students.

"Skicinuwi-npisun: A Community-Centered Project for Documentation and Teaching of the Passamaquoddy Language" — Norvin Richards, professor of linguistics. This project supports the work of linguistics graduate student Newell Lewey, from the Passamaquoddy nation of northern Maine, to support language teaching and curriculum development to help preserve the severely endangered Passamaquoddy language. It also provides funds for MIT linguists to work with the remaining speakers of the language, both to help with the creation of pedagogical materials and to further understanding of the grammar of the language. Copies of all records and materials will be provided to the Passamaquoddy tribe, as well as being archived at MIT.

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