MIT’s Teaching Systems Lab (TSL), with support from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, is excited to announce the recipients for the 2018-2019 Teaching and Learning Innovation Grant (TLIG). This year, TSL invited the MIT community to envision Computer Science education for K-12 schools, focusing on both what students and teachers need to know. With the rapidly changing technology and economy, computer science competency is increasingly becoming a new basic skill to be productive in the 21st Century. In spite of the high demand for computer science education in K-12 schools, most schools do not offer a single course in computer science and programming, and the student population of the existing classes often do not represent diverse backgrounds and interests (Google & Gallup, 2016).

TLIG aims to bring MIT Computer Science educators together to tackle the problem of CS teacher licensing and teacher competencies–i.e. what are skills, concepts, dispositions that teachers need to have in relation to the licensure agency’s requirements. This year’s recipients aim to address these problems with the following proposals: Cultivating Creativity through Coding: An Online Course and Community for Educator (Mitchel Resnick, Media Arts and Sciences), Improving and Assessing Computer Science Equity Training Practices Through Online Practice Spaces (Justin Reich, Teaching Systems Lab), Firefly: Enabling Computational Bio Assay Design Using Open Source Swarm Robotics (Jose Gomez-Marquez, MIT Little Devices Lab) and Explaining The Key Ideas Of Deep Learning By Examples And Videos (Gilbert Strang, Mathematics ).

Cultivating Creativity through Coding: An Online Course and Community for Educator
Mitchel Resnick, a LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab, proposed to build on two big projects. First at the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab: the Scratch programming language and second at Learning Creative Learning online course/community. “Our goal is to support and spread new approaches for introducing coding that provides children with opportunities to express themselves creatively and develop as creative thinkers. In particular, we will develop an online course that helps teachers learn, develop, and share strategies for facilitating creative coding experiences” said Mitchel Resnick. “We believe our project will address an important need: Although schools around the world are adopting the Scratch coding language across grade levels, many educators do not know how to use it to support creative learning. We are excited about providing new ways to fill this growing need, offering ideas and strategies for introducing Scratch to foster and encourage creativity.”

Improving and Assessing Computer Science Equity Training Practices Through Online Practice Spaces
“Equity is a serious concern throughout the entire Computer Science K-12 education pipeline: girls and students of color are under-represented from AP courses all the way back through elementary school CS opportunities. Policy, curriculum, and lesson planning all play a role in addressing these challenges, but the “last mile” of equitable teaching will always involve the improvisational interactions between teachers and students. Individual interactions with teachers can profoundly shape student pathways, and either reinforce or disrupt the strong societal biases about who belongs in CS” said Justin Reich, a learning scientist who studies online learning and practice-based teacher education, the Director of Teaching Systems Lab and Assistant Professor of Comparative Media Studies. “This project proposes to develop and test a suite of practice spaces to help CS teachers rehearse for and reflect upon equity teaching practices, and to help CS teacher educators assess competencies around equity teaching practices.”

Firefly: Enabling Computational Bio Assay Design using Open Source Swarm Robotics.
Jose Gomez-Marquez, Co-Director at Little Devices Lab, proposed to show how biology can be used as a computational platform. “We want to introduce the use of nature’s biochemical toolkit of programmable objects into learning vehicles that students can use to reimagine their approach to what they see as computational thinking. We created a robotic platform that is an intermediary between the system design of an assay and the biochemical elements used to remix and invent. We want student’s to start thinking about life sciences automation and computational as early as possible since it is a growing element of tomorrow’s research and industry. We will co-design strategies to make the material intelligence of biological programming evolve into an everyday literacy that students can master.”

“Biology and chemistry has an exquisitely diverse set of construction blocks that can build living devices that outperform some of the most advanced mechatronics systems. By combining these construction blocks with the computation power of our affordable robots, we can enable kids of every type of socioeconomic background to thrive in a league of their own.”

Explaining The Key Ideas Of Deep Learning By Examples And Videos
Gilbert Strang, a Professor of Mathematics, proposed to “bring neural nets and machine learning into classrooms. The success of deep learning is in the news and it is amazing – to recognize images and spoken sentences, to enable driverless cars to interpret camera information, to translate text, to understand the data from bio and medical experiments, and much more. We know that this revolution is important. But do we know how a computer can learn to hear and see and reply? Communicating the meaning of these words is the first object of this proposal.”
Gilbert aims to develop simple apps that show how a computer can develop a rule for understanding data (handwriting and images and videos).

Congratulations to all the recipients!

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