Making science and engineering cool – Inspiring the next generation

Oh now this is interesting, MIT has launched an initiative in collaboration with Khan Academy founder Salman Khan called MIT+K12. OK, you know about MIT right, but who is Salman Khan? Mr Khan is a chap who has set up a free online education platform and nonprofit organization called the Khan Academy. It contains over 3100 videos that cover a wide spectrum of academic subjects, mainly mathematics and the sciences, and has 300,000 subscribers, so go check it out.

Here is Mr Khan talking about it all during his TED talk …

Anyway, back to the initiative, it has been setup to encourage MIT students to produce short videos teaching basic concepts in science and engineering. Now that makes a heck of a lot of sense, because the videos — aimed at students in grades from kindergarten through high school — will be created by folks who are passionate. Once ready they will then be accessible through a dedicated MIT website and YouTube channel, but some will also be available on Khan Academy.

Ian A. Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering …

We wanted to help inspire young people to change the world through engineering and science, and realized that the 10,000 superstar students we have at MIT are uniquely positioned to do that,”

Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Our students have responded with all the energy and enthusiasm we knew they would. We worked with them to design the program, and the results are fantastic.”

Dean Waitz conceived of the initiative — known as MIT+K12 — to help address the growing education challenges that science, technology, engineering and math now face.

What do the Students Do?

Under MIT+K12, MIT students produce videos that are five to 10 minutes long on topics of their choosing, but they can also develop video concepts requested by teachers, K-12 students, and other users. In the three dozen MIT+K12 videos posted so far, students have focused on topics ranging from flying robots (see below) to basic chemistry to Earth’s rotation.

MIT+K12 also offers opportunities for K-12 students and teachers to communicate with the MIT students making the videos, and vice versa.

From the outset, MIT students wanted to know their videos would be useful to the students watching them, the only way to really figure this out is to put the groups in touch with each other.” – Dean Waitz.

Connecting …

The videos appear to be striking a chord with younger students: In a survey of 300 K-12 students who viewed some of the initial MIT+K12 videos, 73 percent indicated that the videos … “showed me that science and engineering could be cool.”

The MIT+K12 project has been developed in collaboration with Khan Academy founder Salman Khan. During a visit to campus last November, Khan gave a special tutorial to MIT students and shared his experience on delivering online educational content via short-form video.

MIT’s collaboration with Khan Academy has continued since Khan’s visit, leading to an agreement through which MIT+K12 video content will be integrated with Khan Academy’s existing offerings. Khan Academy, launched six years ago, offers an online library of some 3,100 videos that have already received more than 140 million views.

After receiving approval for a video on a given topic, MIT students can qualify for financial support, the use of equipment, some training and professional editing services. So far, MIT students have generated approximately 75 videos for MIT+K12, half of which have already been made public through the program’s YouTube channel.

Ultimately, Dean Waitz hopes MIT students will make hundreds of videos, on a wide range of topics, for students at every level. There are also plans to use these videos in support of the Institute’s online college-level learning initiative, MITx

To get an idea of what they will be producing, here is a sample …

Now if that is not enough, then try this …

Impressed and inspired? … I am.

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