Academic Time vs. Real Time

The other way I’ve described this phenomenon is something like: software development on academic time. In academic time, there’s rarely a deadline, nor a reason to complete a project. This can drag out any project, and especially software development/educational technology projects indefinitely. I’ve worked hard over the last 15 years to keep from doing this, and hope to continue doing so. It’s a definite challenge.


(Title from: http://getorganized.franklinplanner.com/node/1080 Academic Time vs. Real Time

By |2017-04-23T12:55:57+00:00April 23rd, 2017|Professional|Comments Off on Academic Time vs. Real Time

Teens don’t twitter? What does this mean for Stellar?

A lost post, likely from 2010-2012, publishing now as a historical artifact.

Well, there’s my catchy title. This post has relatively little to do with that, but rather it leads to some things the folks at OEIT should be considering.

OEIT is responsible for developing and transitioning promising educational and learning technologies from research to production. As such, we should make sure that we’re at worst implementing technologies of today, and at best technologies of tomorrow. That’s where the rub comes, academic technology groups and educators are typically behind the times when it comes to technology used and needed by our students. We tend to resurface the last cow path that we covered over, rather than look for the current path.

Why now? OEIT started participating in a series of discussions that will lead to a change in MIT’s learning management system, Stellar. It could be replaced by a commercial vendor (think Blackboard) or might use an open or community source system (think Sakai) or might be re-built on a open source content management system (think Drupal) or might be maintained and extended (think modify existing code).

To me, and a number of others here, that leads to the questions: Do we need an LMS? What is the LMS really doing? And how much “learning” is actually going on in the system?

Now, add in the recent Sakai conference held in Boston (Cambridge really) last week. Jeff Merriman and I organized a discussion there that we hoped would explore the sentiment, “We don’t need no stinkin’ LMS.”

Beyond the Boundaries: What if there was no LMS/CLE?

Is there still value in an enterprise CLE/LMS in the age of Web 2.0? We live in an age of social media like Facebook, widget environments like iGoogle, blogs as content management like WordPress and applications in the cloud. What does this mean for enterprise systems? Are there radical departures from our CLE/LMS that we really should be considering?

Ok, coming back to the title, “Teens don’t twitter?”

Recently a story hit TechCrunch about an internal report done by a 15-year old intern at Morgan Stanley in the UK. First, let’s acknowledge that this is one report, done at an investment bank, by a 15-year old intern. So there are lots of potential problems with the report itself, let alone the “news” coverage I’ve read.

What’s interesting, however, are the sentiments expressed in the report, even if they’re only partially true.

But why not Twitter? Well, because Twitter is a different type of social network than Facebook. Facebook is about connecting people, and sharing information with each other. The way my friends and I see it, Facebook is a closed network. It’s a network of people and friends that you trust to be connected to, and to share information like your email address, AIM screen name, and phone number. You know who’s getting your status messages, because you either approved or added each person to your network.

The real question is what are teens doing online. If no to Twitter, but yes to Facebook, why? These are our future students! What can we learn from what they’re doing? How does what they do impact their learning styles and preferences? And what do we need to do to support their academic activities. (Ok, so none of this is really rocket science, many countless people have talked about this before.)

What concerns me is that as educational/learning technologists, at OEIT we may not really be paying attention to the current online activities nor the trends on the Web-at-large and how they relate to our students? I believe the pace of change and the changes that have occurred in the last few years have pushed us into a territory we’re even less prepared for than the Web of the late 1990s.

Turning back to the LMS, I’m still left with a series of questions:

  • Do we need the next iteration of what we’re calling an learning management system (or collaborative learning environment)?
  • Do we need a monolithic system? Or even a modular system but one that is almost wholly controlled by colleges and universities (think Sakai 3.0)?

During our discussions at Sakai, Mark Norton might’ve said it best, “it’s all about control.” Whether they acknowledge it or not, universities have implemented LMS’s for control–control over distribution of materials, control over enrollment, and so on. Some of these functions I think are necessary, and should be controlled by the university. There are lots that I don’t think need to be–especially in an age of OpenCourseWare, social media and Web 2.0. What should we be doing centrally? Especially in light of how are students are currently interacting with one another and the Web/social media.

Lastly, of relevance, are the issues that we began to explore at COSL. We had local experience with, and noticed a trend more widely, in the development of “education-specific” learning technologies. Namely, by making the tools, services, whatever “education-specific” the developers were effectively giving the project the kiss of death. So, instead we started asking the question, of all the Web 2.0, social media, and so on tools and services that exist in the world-at-large, which ones can have a positive impact on learning. And then, how can we loosely join them. Basically taking the David Weinberger “small pieces, loosely joined” approach. There’s a lot more to explore here I think.

But enough for now. This is all stuff for us at OEIT to think about.

By |2017-04-23T12:55:00+00:00April 23rd, 2017|Professional|Comments Off on Teens don’t twitter? What does this mean for Stellar?

Project Strategy at OEIT

A lost post, likely from 2010-2012, publishing now as a historical artifact.

When I was researching OEIT in 2008, one of the things I found most interesting was its organizational strategy. If one looks at the cycle of innovation, OEIT wants to operate in the experiment and incubate quadrants, and work to transition incubated projects. On the whole, OEIT believes that there are other organizations on campus that are better suited to on-going service.

I think most academic technology organizations see themselves in the experimental space, and have unknowingly or as a result of circumstance taken on service roles for enterprise (i.e., running the learning management system for campus) and other campus-wide services. OEIT evolved from the typical academic technology organization at MIT and is about two years old. I think it’s a bit too early to tell what will be our long term impact.

We’ve been spending some time on my team recently examining our current projects and what we’re doing with them. Previously we had taken the approach of working with a client, and helping them meet their needs and goals. All completely reasonable and client-focused activities. However, is this the best thing for our team? We’re starting to temper this customer-focused with a renewed focus on what we as OEIT want to promote and focus on. We’re starting to develop a process, within the team, of better understanding how what we work on advances our larger thematic foci (i.e., content and the curriculum) and takes better advantage of our skills (i.e., while we can develop HTML-based input forms, that doesn’t necessarily

What we’re trying to do is better communicate how we work in partnership with clients on campus. And that we want to do create win-win scenarios for all involved.

By |2017-04-23T12:53:17+00:00April 23rd, 2017|Professional|Comments Off on Project Strategy at OEIT

Tips for Traveling in India

I’ve visited India often enough now for work at MIT, and I expect to continue to help colleagues prepare for trips to the country that I thought it might be best to post this list of practical tips on my website.

(Last updated 2/21/16)

  • Drinking Water:
    • Always drink bottled or purified water. If you’re especially concerned stick with bottled water, I’ve been fine with purified water. Be careful about ice, make sure it comes from a purified source. I usually use bottled water to brush my teeth, even in the upscale hotels.
    • I use every opportunity I get to make sure I have a bottle of water with me. Whether this be coming off the plane, from the airport before getting in a taxi, when leaving the hotel, etc.
  • Electricity and Plugs:
    • India uses 220V and 50Hz alternating current, most modern electronics have power supplies capable of using either 110V or 220V, which covers most use cases you’re likely to run into.
    • I’ve found a mixture of U.S., European and British plugs in India. It’s best if you bring at least one U.S. 2-prong to European 2-prong adapter.
    • Just like a light switch, you need to turn on each wall outlet. They’re on when you can see an orange colored mark on the top of the switch and/or the top of the switch is rotated out toward you.
    • Brownouts and blackouts / power failures are common. I don’t have a UK surge protector, but probably should get one.
    • Have a miniflashlight or headlamp. These can be quite useful when a power outage occurs at night in your hotel. Yes you could use your mobile phone, but then you’re running down that battery too. If you use a headlamp, it keeps your hands free. *Shrug*
  • Hotels:
    • When you check in the front desk will make copies of your passport including your visa page.
    • In-room power (lighting and wall outlets) is controlled by a switch at the entrance to your hotel room. You need to place a card of the approximate size of a room key to activate the power. I usually travel with old room keys, or a business card or two will work in a pinch. I do this just so I don’t forget my room key *and* when I want to leave something charging when I go out for a few hours. (I’m good and turn off the lights so this is a push from an environmental standpoint.)
    • Sometimes rooms have a plug-in bug repellant doohickey. Sometimes I unplug these as I’ve had an allergic reaction to them in the past, though the downside is a greater potential for mosquitos and other bugs in the room.
    • Bathrooms, like in Europe, have their light switches *outside* the bathroom. And showers can be just as complicated as everywhere else in the world!
  • Uber:
    • Uber if it exists in the city you’re in is a godsend, if you enter in an exact destination that’s where they’ll take you cutting down on communications challenges! There are other competing car services also, but Americans (and Europeans) are more likely to have Uber already installed on your phone.
    • I use Uber from my regular U.S. mobile phone, Uber is tied to your phone number and it wants to be used from the phone with the corresponding SIM. You could put in a different (local) SIM, but then you’d have to change the phone number on your Uber account.
    • Most of the time Uber will come right to where you drop the pin, though sometimes you’ll have to look around more for the car than you would in the U.S. About 2/3 of the time I needed to contact the driver to tell him I was ready for pickup and to sometimes confirm the location.
    • As with the U.S. everything’s included in the Uber fee, no need to tip.
  • Maps:
    • They’re great for us, they’re not necessarily useful when communicating with locals. *Shrug*
  • Money:
    • I always get some local currency before leaving the airport. Just enough to pay a taxi ride or grab a bottle of water is sufficient.
    • Usually I’ll go to a Cash Machine (aka ATM) to convert a larger quantity. Though these days I change U.S. Dollars to Rupees in the hotels. The rates have been pretty good recently (this trip I paid Rs. 63 when the exchange rate is Rs. 67 / 1 USD).
    • It’s better to have smaller denominations. Sometimes people don’t have, or pretend they don’t have change for Rs. 500 and 1000 notes. So make sure you have a mix of 100’s and a few 50’s, 20’s or 10’s.
    • There are also Rs. 1, 2, 5, 10, 25 and 50 coins. I usually don’t have very many of these unless I buy from a street vendor or food shop.
    • Merchants will sometimes turn their noses up at well worn bills, like the Rs. 10 and 20 bills. Your mileage may vary.
  • Credit Cards:
    • You can use credit cards in hotels, as well as fancier restaurants and shops. Otherwise I expect to use cash with taxis.
    • Due to the brilliance of the merchant associations in the U.S., your new fangle credit card with a chip still requires you to sign for a purchase *even if you have a PIN assigned to the card*. Seriously this is just dum. <- Yes, I did that on purpose.
    • I let my credit card and ATM card companies know when I’m traveling outside the U.S. They’ll still flag and suspend your card if they think they detect suspicious activity, but this might help prevent that. Credit Cards:
  • Tipping:
    • Tipping isn’t really commonplace in India. I rarely see the locals do it. As an American I do feel compelled to do it sometimes. But keep in mind Rs. 100 is on the order of a $1.50. Though now I usually tip more on the order of Rs. 10 or 20 on the advice of local colleagues. But at the end of the day a buck fifty is not going to break the bank.
  • Toilets:
    • There are  a mix of western and squat-style toilets. Most have trashcan intended for toilet paper (if any is provided) and also a hose, nozzle and small plastic container for washing/rinsing. To be honest I still don’t think I’m using the squat-style toilets right.
    • Oh yeah, always carry your own toilet paper. Even guys. And remember to use the trashcans if provided.
    • For the over achievers among you, take a look at this Six Toilets in India and How to Use Them.
  • Showers:
    • In the TMI category, I usually take two showers a day. On particularly hot and humid days, it’s three or more. I’m happy when it’s only two…
    • If you’re staying in a guest house, you might have to turn on a switch to heat the water so you get hot water. And/or the water is heated naturally on the roof, and once it’s gone it’s gone. Though this isn’t usually bad on hot days. *Shrug*
  • Travel Clinic and Medicine:
    • Visit a travel clinic or your doctor before visiting India. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
    • See the State Department’s page on India for up to date details.I usually get a malaria prophylaxis and also a strong anti-diahrreal from the MIT Travel Clinic.
    • Take enough of your regular medicine with you. (duh) I also usually have Tylenol, Advil, melatonin, and day and night cold and flu (Robitussin equivalents).
    • It’s important to note that Tylenol and Acetaminophen are not common names in India, you want to ask for Paracetamol at pharmacies.
  • Mobile Voice and Data Services:
    • I usually put a limited international voice and data plan on my U.S. mobile phone so I’m sure to have some connectivity. I watch my usage very carefully. For a week the 120MB AT&T plan is just about sufficient for me; for two weeks I get the 300MB AT&T plan. Your mileage and costs may vary.
    • Getting a local SIM is also difficult as a visitor (you need to have a local address and it’s a pain to do). I know there are services where you can rent a SIM from your home country, but I’ve never tried them.
    • Your mobile will need to be unlocked to use another SIM. You’ll need to use this in advance especially if you use AT&T.
By |2016-12-22T20:59:06+00:00February 21st, 2016|Professional, Tuesday Tips|Comments Off on Tips for Traveling in India

Recap of the Big Things I did at work in 2014-2015

Similar to 2013-2014, 2012-2013 and 2011-2012, here’s a list of the big things I accomplished at work from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 that were part of Strategic Education Initiaitive’s contribution to the MIT President’s Report.

Developing Collaborations

Developing collaborations in support of Institute strategic initiatives, including:

  • Working with MIT’s Office of Resource Development on a large initiative with Saudi Aramco including digital learning,
  • Working with the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Electronics Research Laboratory on the AIM Photonics project that proposed the development an Integrated Photonics-Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (with SUNY Polytechnic Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Rochester, University of Arizona, and others), and
  • Proposing a collaboration with the Jet Propulsion Lab to propose a project to support the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s education programs.

Connected Learning Initiative

The Connected Learning Initiative (CLIx) is a collaboration among MIT, the Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS) and with funding from the Jamestji Tata Trust that aims to improve the professional and academic prospects of high schools students in underserved communities in India. The initiative aims to reach a total of approximately 1,000 schools and 150,000 students in 4 states during 2015–2017, as well as conduct professional development for approximately 2,700 teachers.

At MIT, SEI is collaborating with Prof. Eric Klopfer and his team in the Education Arcade to design and develop modules in English, science and mathematics for Grades 8, 9 and 11. The MIT team is leading the design on a number of modules and is mentoring the development of a number of additional modules through capacity building efforts based on the 11.132x MITx course on the Design and Development of Educational Technology and through an annual design camp.

Learning Sciences and Online Learning Symposium

On May 21-22, 2015 SEI convened a Learning Sciences and Online Learning Symposium with support from the National Science Foundation that brought together faculty and researchers from across the United States and at MIT to discuss the intersection between the Learning Sciences and Online Learning. It is expected that the outcomes of this symposium will not only inform digital / online learning activities at participants’ institutions but also influence development policy, practice and scholarship in an area that is becoming central to the discourse on educational change. In particular, the symposium will focus on how online learning might help meet the persistent challenges that discipline-based educational researchers have identified in teaching within their disciplines. The symposium focused on three themes:

  • Threshold and difficult to learn concepts, as well as common misconceptions, that online and digital environments can address
  • Unique and different opportunities that are afforded in online and digital environments
  • Community and community interaction in online and digital learning experiences

Transformation Agenda Collaboration

SEI collaborated with the Massachusetts Community Colleges and Workforce Development Transformation Agenda (MCCWDTA) project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Act. In collaboration with several Massachusetts Community Colleges partners SEI design and development of innovative technology enabled learning modules in advanced manufacturing and created a proof-of-concept for integration between community colleges and career centers.

Data Bus

SEI collaborated with Quinsigamond, Bristol, and Middlesex Community Colleges, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE), and Department of Career Services (DCS), and representatives of MA One Stop Career Centers, to prototype innovative software services for increased data-sharing and streamlining of processes among colleges, DHE and the workforce system. The Data Bus has been designed, piloted and demonstrated to partners and stakeholders, who recognize the large-scale impact and great potential of shared services, data and tools. The initial project was completed and successfully demonstrated to Transformation Agenda partners and stakeholders conference in August 2014. The Data Bus promises large scale potential and is garnering interest from other states and government organizations. SEI is collaborating with Quinsigamond Community College to extend the data bus and is in discussions with a number of other colleges and universities across the United States.

Online Case Studies

SEI developed two online case study modules: Introduction to Problem Solving and Improving Observation Skills. The goal of the case studies is to help provide students opportunities to integrate their knowledge and tackle real-world issues that face advanced manufacturing companies. Both case studies are designed to supplement existing curriculum. The case studies being are designed to be used as homework assignments to get student to thinks about the importance of soft skill, followed with an in class discussion.

  • The Problem Solving Case Study outlines the importance of problem solving skills, introduces students to different strategies for tackling problems, and incorporates an interactive choose-your-own-adventure activity.
  • The Improving Observation Skills case study introduces how observation skills and mindfulness are emphasized in shift changes, in workplace safety awareness, and for a company’s financial stability.


SEI developed a module to help improve students’ 3D visualizing skills. 3D “thinking” skills are required for many of the kinds of things advanced manufacturing students and employees are expected to do, whether its understanding a technical drawing or programming routing paths to send to a multi-axis milling machine.

The Ortho-to-3D Online Learning Module is a set of assessments in which students are tested on whether they can find the correct 2D projection based on analyzing an interactive 3D rendering of an object and vice versa. For this project, an online assessment environment was developed in which students are tested on their 3D “thinking”.

iCampus Student Prize

The iCampus Student Prize is an annual competition that recognizes innovative and creative applications of technology that improve living and learning at MIT. The Prize is endowed through the iCampus research collaboration between Microsoft Research and MIT. In 2015, the competition asked students to explore living and learning at MIT thirty years from now.

SEI, on behalf of the MIT Council on Education Technology, awarded the grand prize of the 2015 iCampus Student Prize competition to, William Li, ‘G and Dhruv Jain, ‘G for AccessMIT, a vision for a more accessible MIT. The competition also recognized Colin McDonnell, ‘16; John Peurifoy, ’18; Gabriel Ginorio, ’18 and Sam Van Cise, ’18 of Team a14z for an exploration of the exponential future provided by computers and virtual reality to change the campus experience.

By |2016-12-22T20:59:06+00:00July 10th, 2015|Professional|Comments Off on Recap of the Big Things I did at work in 2014-2015

muraPOI: February 2, 2015

From Amin Torres’ comment on the AVC.com post, Hiring Mobile Engineers vs Training Engineers On Mobile on 2/1/15.

– Designers still think they are doing graphic design and not UI design.
– They have a hard time wrapping their head around designing for human interactions vs a computer mouse.
– They have a hard time understanding mobile web vs web.
They have a hard time understanding the mobile web vs mobile app ui, specially when it comes to dealing with multiple screen resolutions.
-They think that because it displays okay on mobile, that makes it a mobile design.
– They have a hard time understanding modularity and responsive.
– They do not preview their designs on a mobile screen enough during the design process.
– They do not work close enough with developers to streamline processes.
– They have a hard time understanding graceful degradations, specially when it comes to not having to rely on desktop specific interactions like mouse over.
– When dealing with element sizes, specially buttons and type sizes, most designers struggle to understand the implications of 1x vs 2x screen pixel density.
– Designers do not work close enough with copywriters to streamline content or make it mobile friendly… particularly when it comes to the use of progressive enhancement., same for media: mobile phones are often loading assets that are optimized for desktop screen and not for mobile which not only drives people crazy but consumes unnecessary resources.

By |2016-12-22T20:59:06+00:00February 2nd, 2015|Posts of Interest, Professional|Comments Off on muraPOI: February 2, 2015

Tuesday Tips: Mac OS X 10.10 – Yosemite

Yosemite Tips


Good news! You can add contrast easily:
1. Open System Preferences
2. Click Accessibility (bottom right corner)
3. Check “Increase Contrast” in the Display section (it’s the first thing you see)
All major interface elements get much stronger borders, and it also turns on the “reduce transparency” option (so the menu bar and Dock are no longer see-through). The Finder’s list view zebra striping is stronger, too.
It’s weirdly reminiscent of the original Mac 1-bit, black-and-white-no-grey UI. I rather like it. I’ll give it a day and see if I still do.

Luis Sequeira
I have two tips for the readers who have complaints about the way “Save as…” works:
1) By default, documents are saved automatically, so if you want to keep the original version and make changes, do a Save As… first, and *then* make the changes.
You can change this default in the System Preferences, so that the pre-Lion behavior is nearly restored.
2) You can easily have “Save As…” back in the File menu!
(This was not possible in Lion, but is easy in Mountain Lion, Mavericks and Yosemite).
Just re-add the traditional keyboard shortcut Cmd-Shift S to it.
Go to System Preferences->Keyboard->Shortcuts. Click App Shortcuts, choose All Applications, click the plus button to add a new shortcut, type the exact name of the command “Save As…” (must be capitalized exactly as it appears in the menu).
It works immediately.

For those complaining about changes constantly being saved rather than waiting until one taps ‘Save’ or ‘Save As”:
This behavior dates from the introduction of versioning in Lion and the refinement of it in Mountain Lion. The paradigm introduced there is that updates to a file occur immediately; however, you can recover past versions of an active file at any time. To do that, click on Revert To-> Browse All Versions in the File Menu. You will be presented with a Time Machine-like interface with the current version of the left, a cascade of previous versions on the right, and a timeline on the right edge of the screen. You can navigate back to the appropriate version and promote it to the current one.
If this explanation is unclear, open the help for the application (Preview, Pages, etc.) and search for ‘versions’


Gary Mason was having trouble with the default behavior in Preview (and other apps) of automatically keeping any changes you make, without asking, when you close the open document–basically iOS style. From a design decision perspective, the idea is presumably to relieve users from having to remember whether they saved or not — it’s always saved, automatically.

If you don’t want it to do this, just go to the General System Pref and check “Ask to keep changes when closing documents”. It will then behave the way you’re used to — if you modify a document and close it without explicitly saving the changes, you will be prompted whether you want to keep or discard them.

Note, also, that if the file isn’t stored on a server, previous versions are automatically retained by apps that do this sort of auto-save, even without Time Machine running — in Preview (for example; Text Edit is another app that has this), have a look at the File–> Revert To… menu to browse previous versions or revert to them.

So even for things that have been inadvertently auto-saved this way, you can still get back to the original. Again, this feature does not rely on a Time Machine backup — the previous versions are stored “in the background” on the same drive as the original document.

By |2017-04-23T13:00:32+00:00December 30th, 2014|Professional|Comments Off on Tuesday Tips: Mac OS X 10.10 – Yosemite

muraPOI: December 29, 2014

  • What’s wrong with the movie industry’s release model? That artificial scarcity thing, is, well, artificial!

    “But what’s clear is that every other form of entertainment is getting easier and cheaper to consume, except theatrically released movies. And this is absolutely going to catch up to the industry sooner or later.”

    (Via @wfvanvalkenburg, Forbes, What ‘The Interview’ Accidentally Taught Us About Digital Film Distribution, December 27, 2014)

  • If the research in the IEEE Spectrum article titled “The STEM Crisis Is a Myth” by Robert N. Charette is to be believed, the “STEM Labor Shortage” is not one simply of numbers. There are more than enough graduates each year to cover the annual vacancies.
    Supply vs. Demand

    Source: IEEE Spectrum, used under fair use

    STEM Workforce Supply vs. Demand

    Unfortunately, after that clearly presented fact, the author wimps out and doesn’t draw the connections he probably should and inserts his personal opinion at the end of the article. If you combine the obvious number of vacancies (and assume that companies aren’t padding their openings for other reasons, which is possible), with radical change in the way companies do (or don’t as the case may be) provide training and try and retain employees the way they used to, I think it’s reasonable to understand the problem as that there is a shortage of the “right” STEM competencies. While the need to learn on one’s own has been an aspect of software development for at least the last twenty years, I’m beginning to understand more of the scope and scale of the problem in all other industries. I’ve been doing more work in engineering education again, and have been collaborating on community college and workforce development projects and see the efforts underway to address this lack of the “right” preparation.
    (Via IEEE Spectrum, The STEM Crisis Is a Myth, September 2013)

By |2017-01-28T19:40:56+00:00December 30th, 2014|Personal, Posts of Interest, Professional|Comments Off on muraPOI: December 29, 2014
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muraPOI: December 28, 2014

  • Truly meeting a user’s needs:

    “The goal is to give people a solution that matches their reality.”

    (Via Fast Company, Tigo Helps Remittances Go Mobile, April 2012)

  • If we replace Facebook, with say “the next conference you host” or the next website you build, what does this mean for how we design?

    The biggest thing that’s different is that Facebook is not about human-computer interaction,” says Cox. Most designers in the computer industry have focused on helping humans interact with machines. But Facebook is about human-to-human interaction. “We don’t want people to remember their interactions with Facebook,” says director of design Kate Aronowitz. “We want them to remember their interactions with their friends and family.”

    (Via Fast Company, Thank Facebook’s Design Team For Every Warm And Fuzzy Moment You’ve Ever Had On The Social Network, April 2012)

  • My goal?

    “How many times in your career have you been told, ‘Go create your own team, your own plant, your own process—from scratch?’ How many times in your career do you get to do that?”

    (Via Fast Company, Why Tesla Motors Is Betting On The Model S, April 2012)

By |2015-05-27T17:59:50+00:00December 28th, 2014|Posts of Interest, Professional|Comments Off on muraPOI: December 28, 2014

Recap of the Big Things I did at work in 2013-2014

Similar to 2012-2013 and 2011-2012, here’s a list of the big things I accomplished at work from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 that were part of the MIT President’s Report. This year represented a transition of our organization from the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology to Strategic Education Initiatives within the MIT Office of Digital Learning.

Office of Educational Innovation and Technology

Embedded Assessment

OEIT is developing a set of tools and infrastructure to enable MIT faculty to embed any assessment (e.g., quiz questions or concept questions for formative feedback) in any web accessible content. As OEIT has been collaborating with MIT faculty it recognized that faculty needs are beginning to revolve around continuous formative feedback especially as MIT faculty “flip” their classrooms and develop more online content to support their subjects. The embedded assessment tools allow instructors and authors to place assessments directly in any content thereby providing a richer learning experience.

Two use cases illustrate the potential of these tools and services: OEIT has been working with Aero/Astro faculty who have developed a comprehensive set of lecture notes. As part of their course redesign efforts, they are switching to a “flipped” classroom model in which they require students to read the lecture notes and complete the embedded assessments before coming to class. These faculty use embedded assessment to gauge student understanding before they meet with students in class, allowing the faculty to tailor the classroom experience to address misunderstandings. Also, consider the case of OpenCourseWare that is a static publication of MIT course materials. OCW could be extended by embedding assessments, using questions and problems that already exist in the course materials, as live assessments directly in course pages. This has the potential to extend the value of OCW and enable self-learners using OCW to better check their mastery of the materials.

The OEIT technical approach differs from current practice used by most learning management systems and other tools because existing tools require either a system that presents both content and assessments together as part of a typically complex and fully integrated system, or a system in which the learner is required to leave the content to take an assessment in a separate quiz system, which breaks the flow of learning. The OEIT approach enables assessment as a service allowing any assessment to be embedded in any web-accessible content, freeing the instructor to design the learning experiences they want.

Modular Course Support


OEIT continued its collaboration with Mechanical Engineering and Professors Pedro Reis and Ken Kamrin to extend the work on i2.002 from the MIT Council on Educational Technology (MITCET) Modularity Experiments first begun in 2011-2012. This year, OEIT developed a prototype video concept browser to link the lecture videos recorded in Spring 2012 with key concepts in mechanics and materials to enable students to find specific video segments. Students are able to easily find the 10-minute segment on a particular concept among a sea of 90-minute videos. OEIT will be further developing the technology and using it in additional classes beginning in Fall 2014.

In addition, OEIT worked with faculty to develop “Virtual Office Hour” videos, in which teaching assistants offer video segments to help students get started on problem sets, just as if they had attended a virtual office hour. This new experiment began to explore how a “traditional” MIT subject might develop technology-enhanced support for fully online or hybrid courses. Work on i2.002 is an example of the collaborative relationship that OEIT develops with the faculty and demonstrates a commitment to a long term experimentation to evolve MIT subjects.


OEIT continued to collaborate with 3.003: Principles of Engineering Practice, providing web support to enable collaboration with a similar course at the University of Tokyo. Students in 3.003 at MIT use the course website to access special lectures by MIT and University of Tokyo faculty. And the course website documents the progress MIT students make on the class project. As the University of Tokyo term begins two months after MIT (April versus February), University of Tokyo students use the website as a sort of class diary to understand the work that MIT students have already completed to help launch their class. The collaboration is capped with a site visit in which MIT students join their University of Tokyo peers in Japan for a joint symposium.


D-Lab is a program of “development through dialog, design, and dissemination,” which creates technologies for underserved populations in developing regions of the world. OEIT collaborated with D-Lab Energy and D-Lab Design to enable real-time participation by D-Lab students located remotely (in Brazil) with the classroom in Cambridge, MA. Most of the infrastructure at MIT that supports video recording and video conferencing assumes a presentation-mode delivery, whether it is in a Level 5 classroom or a departmental conference room. Cameras are typically fixed on the presenter at the front of the room, and it is usually only lecture theaters with fixed seating that have audience cameras. D-Lab needed the ability to conduct a traditional lecture with both whiteboard and projected computer display, along with small group activity with a team distributed between Cambridge and Brazil, in the same physical space at the same time. The D-Lab pedagogy has instructors moving from presentation-mode to collaboration-mode throughout any given class session.

OEIT collaborated with D-Lab to use consumer-level USB video cameras, MIT’s WebEx subscription and a laptop to originate the lecture video feed and also simultaneously use Skype and a separate laptop/iPad. The configuration worked to enable real-time participation by the remote MIT students. Further work is needed to improve the experience, and allow for team members from multiple teams to remotely participate from multiple sites from around the world.

iCampus Prize

OEIT, on behalf of the MIT Council on Education Technology, awarded the grand prize of the 2014 iCampus Student Prize competition to Daryl Neubieser, ’16, and Michael Everett, ’15, for OfCourse, an online tool that provides a centralized place to learn about classes and discover what to take next. The competition also recognized Aidan Bevacqua, ’16, for the development of MIT Locate, a mobile app that provides a location service enabling students to locate each other on campus.

The iCampus Student Prize is an annual competition that recognizes innovative and creative applications of technology that improve living and learning at MIT. The Prize is endowed through the iCampus research collaboration between Microsoft Research and MIT.

Online Teacher Education

OEIT is collaborating with MIT faculty to develop aspects of online teacher education courses that highlight the pedagogies favored and developed by MIT faculty. Over the last few years, OEIT has had discussions with private foundations and governments to help develop an online teacher education program. These discussions have paralleled an interest by MIT faculty to develop such a program for MIT.

OEIT received a grant from the Education Development Center (with U.S. Agency for International Development funding) to prototype aspects of an online teacher education program for Pakistan, based on the teaching techniques and approaches used by MIT faculty. These courses, currently under development, will highlight:

  • Games and simulation-based learning
  • Use of mathlets—applets highlighting mathematical, engineering and physical principles
  • Visualizations for learning
  • Best practices in teaching and learning
  • Digital learning toolkit featuring best practices for online learning

In addition the project is developing tools to enable faculty to design and develop concept maps along with an infrastructure to support the back-end. Participating faculty along with OEIT plan to use these courses and tools after the close of the project to conduct additional online teacher education.

Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT)

OEIT, on behalf of ODL and MIT, is taking the lead in collaborating with community colleges in the development of curricula in areas such as advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurship and in online learning using edX and other MIT/OEIT-developed technologies. The curricula will also reflect MIT’s philosophies to blend online/virtual with hands-on learning.

Along these lines OEIT has begun a collaboration with the Transformation Agenda, a consortium of 15 Massachusetts community colleges that received Round 1 TAACCCT funding. OEIT discussions with the Transformation Agenda have revolved around development of blended courses in advanced manufacturing in collaboration with these community college partners in Massachusetts.

OEIT is currently planning to collaborate with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the TAACCCT Round 4 proposals. This would lead to the development of a software tool that integrates proactive advising linked to labor market information (for jobs outlook) and courses. The community college application of this tool will likely focus on college completion, whereas MIT might use the same tool to better track progress toward flexible degree programs such as Course 2A or 16-ENG. This proposal will also likely focus on advanced manufacturing, non-nursing healthcare, and perhaps information technology.

Strategic Education Initiatives

International Collaborations

Strategic Education Initiatives (SEI) has been involved in the development of four international collaborations:

  • A proposed initiative with Brij Mohan Lall Munjal University (BMU) will be a five-year academic collaboration between MIT and BMU to develop, deliver and support approximately 18 engineering courses. The courses will be delivered in a blended format using MITx for online course delivery combined with hands-on and project-based learning that is the hallmark of a MIT education.
  • SEI collaborated with the Education Development Center, Inc. to propose a five year program to strengthen the competence of skilled workers in the fields of STEM + Accounting and tourism across the Lower Mekong Initiative partner countries and to catalyze increased global competitiveness of firms across the sub-region.
  • SEI is working with collaborators in India to develop an operational plan for a three-year program to be supported by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust to improve science, mathematics and English preparedness for traditionally underserved students in grades 8-12 in India. This program is intended to ensure students in India are prepared both to go on to further education as well as to enter the workforce with strong career opportunities.
  • SEI developed a concept note for a multi-year collaboration with Al Dabbagh Group Saudi Arabia for an endeavor termed “Virtual Philantropy University.” This collaboration will develop and deliver approximately ten courses using MITx and will provide capacity-building professional development at scale to support philanthropic activity and institutions around the world.

iOS IAP Workshop

OEIT continued a collaboration with Apple to host an annual iOS Workshop during IAP in January. The iOS Workshop introduced MIT students to development of iOS apps.

Learning Sciences and Online Learning Symposium

SEI submitted a proposal to the NSF for a symposium to engage leading researchers and educational practitioners in a discussion on how learning science, in particular Discipline Based Educational Research (DBER) findings, can inform the development of meaningful online learning experiences, particularly for STEM. Participants representing the learning sciences, discipline-based education and online learning will identify and address the opportunities for research and practice of DBER to online learning initiatives. The symposium will address key challenges and opportunities for inquiry in DBER research and practice posed by online learning, particularly for STEM disciplines, leading to a set of recommendations for future design, development and research of online environments informed by DBER.

By |2016-12-22T20:59:06+00:00October 31st, 2014|Professional|Comments Off on Recap of the Big Things I did at work in 2013-2014
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