The Teaching and Learning Innovation Grants program, funded by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and administered by the MIT Teaching Systems Lab (TSL), supports projects with the potential to make a significant impact on teacher education and support innovative ideas from the MIT community related to the future of education.  “TLIG is a direct collaboration channel to engage the broader MIT community and bring MIT’s innovative models of STEM teaching and learning to the design of the WW Academy. We are very excited about the powerful collaboration that we will have with these groups, with regard to both research and immediate application to the Academy,” says YJ Kim, a lead research scientist with the MIT TSL and WWA partnership.

This year’s recipients tackle a range of innovations in education from using the Unhangout Platform to support teachers’ professional development to using artificial intelligence to make students’ mathematical problem solving visible to the teachers. The proposals funded this year include: Participant-driven online workshops for STEM educators: Developing strategies and formats to empower teachers and promote teacher retention (Philipp Schmidt, Media Lab), Making Students’ Mathematical Thinking Visible Using Machine Analysis of Visual Representations (Kimberle Koile, CSAIL), and Learning Supported by Making (Kim Vandiver, Edgerton Center).

Participant-driven online workshops for STEM educators: Developing strategies and formats to empower teachers and promote teacher retention.  The project, led by Philipp Schmidt, Director of Learning Innovation at the Media Lab, will develop and test a new type of online workshop for pre-service and early-career STEM teachers.  The workshops use Unhangout, an open source video-conferencing platform developed at the Media Lab, and are designed to foster a sense of community and connection among teachers. Philipp Schmidt said, “This project aims to use technology to give teachers more agency in their own professional learning, and provide more opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and support in online spaces.”

ink-12 in the classroom

Making Students’ Mathematical Thinking Visible Using Machine Analysis of Visual Representations. Research Scientist Kimberle Koile’s project aims to make students’ mathematical thinking visible to teachers by means of machine analysis routines: “In this new project, our aim is to develop machine analysis routines that reveal trends in students’ multiplication and division problem-solving strategies as reflected by their use of our ink-based digital tools ( Such information will provide both pre- and in-service teachers with insights into how students learn, how to gauge student understanding, and how to guide instruction based on what students are thinking.”

Learning Supported by Making.
Kim Vandiver, Director of the Edgerton Center and MIT’s Office of Experiential Learning, is focusing on helping teachers, students, and parents to integrate 3D printers and other “Maker” technologies in the classroom. They will develop a methodological framework to give teachers the tools to create and carry out classroom maker projects without sacrificing the content learning goals. They will curate a collection of project ideas, a process by which educators can adapt them, and examples of custom implementations that can be incorporated into professional development workshops, etc.  According to Vandiver, “Through this project we will be able to work with teachers from a wide selection of schools, and learn how to best support their efforts to motivate a desire to learn with the satisfaction of “making.”

Project leaders will have the support of both the Teaching Systems Lab and Woodrow Wilson Academy.  “We are so excited about this year’s grantees,” said Deb Hirsch, Executive Director of WWA.  “Their research and action projects –  which are tackling issues at the cutting edge of STEM teaching and learning –  will drive innovation at the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning.   We are looking forward to collaborating and learning from them over the next year.”  Research findings and developed activities may be integrated into the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning, an independent, competency-based teacher education program, starting this summer.

“Each year, I am impressed by the quality of proposals that we receive,” said TSL Executive Director Justin Reich.  “There is an incredible amount of work going on at MIT to improve education, and we are excited to see what these groups develop.”

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