MIT and Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Collaborate to Transform Teaching in the Digital Age

MIT, through its Office of Digital Learning (ODL) and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, today announced a new collaboration aimed at supporting teachers in their efforts to use emerging digital learning tools and environments, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The effort will promote new ideas, technologies, and curricula along with research related to educator preparation with a focus on STEM subjects for students from pre-kindergarten through the senior year of high school.

Specifically, this collaboration brings together the Woodrow Wilson Academy for Teaching and Learning (WW Academy) and a new research effort within ODL called the MIT PK12 Initiative. It is designed to fill a growing need in education by providing new capabilities to teachers as they transform their classrooms into the technology-enhanced learning environments of tomorrow. The MIT PK12 Initiative has been created with $9.9 million in seed funding from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation to bring together educators and researchers at MIT interested in learning from infancy through the secondary level.

“Hands-on, problem-focused, curiosity-driven learning is squarely at the heart of an MIT education, and it will be central to MIT’s work with the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Together, we will combine MIT’s ‘mind and hand’ approach to learning with recent breakthroughs in cognitive science and digital learning to inform the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s efforts to develop and support excellent STEM teachers and school leaders,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “We are thrilled to begin this effort to reimagine the classroom experience.”

The WW Academy was developed by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation to change educator preparation in the United States. The WW Academy will begin by launching a teacher preparation program first and expanding later to school leadership preparation. Candidates will engage in blended learning modules, simulations, and intensive clinical experiences grounded in program competencies and curriculum. Multilayered assessments will be used to determine proficiency.

“As we transition from a national, analog, industrial economy to a global, digital information economy it is essential that all of our institutions, particularly those in education, adapt,” Woodrow Wilson Foundation President Arthur Levine said. “Through the WW Academy, we seek to transform the existing model of teacher and school leader education by focusing on the competencies, content mastery, assessments, and technologies that are necessary for success. As we chart a new course for educator preparation, we can think of no stronger partner than MIT.”

“This effort resonates with MIT’s own goals as set out in the final report of the Future of MIT Education Task Force,” said Professor Sanjay Sarma, MIT’s Dean of Digital Learning. “Drawing upon existing MIT programs such as the Scheller Teacher Education Program and the Edgerton Center’s work in K-12 curricula to advance pre-K-12 education, the collaboration will provide a foundation upon which we can build world-changing approaches to this challenge.”

The WW Academy will serve as an innovation lab, where work from the MIT PK12 Initiative can be put into practice in both teacher education and K-12 instruction. The WW Academy will build on the academic coursework/clinical experience/mentoring model that the Woodrow Wilson Foundation has developed for its Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship and Woodrow Wilson MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership programs.

Led jointly by Professor Eric Klopfer, director of the Scheller Teacher Education Program, and Vijay Kumar, associate dean of digital learning, the MIT PK12 Initiative will build on the guiding principles of the MIT pre-K-12 faculty white paper. “Those principles are to change the world through learning with access to quality STEM education for all, and to change the world of learning through rigorous research,” explains Klopfer, adding that he and Kumar “look forward to working with Deborah Hirsch, executive director of WW Academy, and foundation staff—and the opportunity for both institutions to learn from each other through this exciting new venture.”

Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation identifies and develops the nation’s best minds to meet its most critical challenges. The foundation supports its fellows as the next generation of leaders shaping American society.

The mission of MIT’s Office of Digital Learning is to transform teaching and learning at MIT and around the globe through the innovative use of digital technologies.

This story was originally published in MIT News on June 16, 2015.

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