New Models for Teaching and Learning, Grow Up with

New Models for Teaching and Learning Grow Up with

MIT’s Program in Comparative Media Studies Launches Efforts to Explore the Future of Educational Media FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, 27 August 2001 CONTACT: Alex Chisholm, MIT Comparative Media Studies Phone: 617-253-6447; E-mail:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—As a new generation of students heads “back to school”—from pre-kindergarten through college—broader uses of interactive technologies such as web-based applications, DVDs, video and computer games are becoming increasingly integral to teaching and learning. Researchers in MIT’s Program in Comparative Media Studies today announced plans to launch three new efforts that integrate classroom experience with web-based instruction, create digital media archives for teaching humanities subjects, and expand definitions of educational media to include “games-to-teach.”

NEW COURSE: MEDIA, EDUCATION, AND THE MARKETPLACE The first venture is “Media, Education, and the Marketplace,” a new course that explores how emerging forms of interactive media fundamentally transform the learning process. Fuji Xerox is providing platform and technical support for this new course, which integrates both classroom lectures and on-line learning and provides a first-hand example of how the potential of new interactive and telecommunications media are being harnessed to support teaching and learning.

“This is one of our first attempts at integrating theory and practice in teaching a course on educational media,” said Professor Shigeru Miyagawa, who designed the course following his own experiences in developing several educational media properties. “With the arrival of broadband and other delivery platforms, educators will have at their fingertips a broader set of tools to teach. Our goal is to develop that toolkit,” Miyagawa added.

Through Miyagawa’s 14-week course, students will explore effective media design, educational theory, and existing and anticipated methods for distribution, as well as the business concepts behind such issues. Star Festival, a multimedia curriculum that encourages users to explore issues of cultural and ethnic identity, serves as the primary case studey for the term. Developed by Miyagawa over the past five years, Star Festival was adopted in 2000 by the Boston Public Schools as its first “interactive textbook” for district-wide use. George Takei, Lieutenant Sulu from STAR TREK, narrates the media-rich project based on the young life of Miyagawa.

On-line lectures by business leaders, educational theorists, and media scholars will supplement students’ exploration of Star Festival and classroom discussions. Anticipated guest and on-line speakers include:

  • Bonnie Bracy, Advisor on Education and Digital Divide, Clinton Administration; Lucas Fellow
  • Henry Jenkins, Director of MIT’s Program in Comparative Media Studies
  • Steve Lerman, Director of MIT’s Center for Educational Computing Initiatives
  • Robert Metcalfe, Venture Capitalist; Founder of 3Com
  • Livia Polanyi, Senior Researcher at FX Palo Alto Laboratory, Inc.
  • John Vaille, Internet2 K-12 Team in California
  • Toby Woll, Director of e-Learning at Sloan School of Management

By the end of the term, students will develop a project that shows an understanding of the types of business models that facilitate educational technology in the classroom. And, many students will become part of an on-going e-learning project in Sloan School of Management, CMS, and other groups at MIT.

“We’re bringing together world-class thinkers and practioners with MIT-quality students who’ve grown up in an intensely rich mediascape,” said Miyagawa. “We expect the projects to chart a course for future work in developing and producing those all-important ‘killer apps’ in educational media.”

Digital technologies allow educators to create more robust tools for teaching by integrating a wide variety of media in a single archive. The Meta-Media Project aims to create such media-rich archives so students can explore broader notions of specific subject areas across media and over time through “expanded texts.” Created by Peter Donaldson, professor of literature and director of the Meta-Media Project, the Shakespeare Electronic Archive was one of the first explorations in integrating images, audio, and video clips for use in humanities education.

“We want to take what we’ve learned in the past few years and apply that to the development of a larger suite of mini-archives for use in humanities education,” said Donaldson. “Shakespeare was a good starting point because his work has been represented in all media that’s existed for more than 400 years.”

Donaldson and other researchers, including Dr. Kurt Fendt, who developed the language and culture teaching archive ‘Berliner sehen,’ will collaborate with other MIT faculty in literature, writing and humanistic studies, foreign languages and literature, anthropology, music, and comparative media studies to develop archives for use at the secondary school and undergraduate levels. Although the first projects have yet to be identified, researchers are considering a broad range of topics, including:

  • The Evolution of the Declaration of Independence
  • The Detective across Media
  • Chaplin, Montage and the Poetic Image
  • Billy Budd: Manuscripts and Film
  • Virginia Woolf and Contemporary Theater and Film
  • Marlowe’s Edward II, Texts, Film and History
  • Utopian Visions of the Future City
  • Teaching Hong Kong Cinema
  • Interfaces for Communication
  • Tools for Teaching Writing
  • Fundamentals of Music Composition
  • Photography
  • Theories of Evolution

“We plan to look at not just what information and media go into a subject area, but how to exploit the potentials of interactivity and expand both pedagogies and models for collaboration,” Donaldson added. He and his colleagues hope to have the first modules deployed in classes at MIT as early as this fall and spring.
The Meta-Media Project is funded in part by a grant from the Alex and Brit d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in MIT Education.

The third major initiative involves an interdisciplinary collaboration of faculty, staff, and students across the humanities, sciences, and engineering that will develop a series of conceptual prototypes for “games-to-teach” science and engineering subjects at the advanced high school and introductory college level. As part of Microsoft i-Campus, a five-year research alliance between MIT and Microsoft, the Games-to-Teach Project intends to explore best practices in game design and production, current educational theory, and emerging technological platforms and to apply such understanding to new models for presenting and exploring educational content in computer and video games.

“Until now we’ve seen so-called ‘edutainment’ that has all of the entertainment value of a bad lecture and the educational value of a bad game,” said Henry Jenkins, director of Comparative Media Studies and principal investigator on the project. “Our goal is to reverse that polarity by combining MIT-quality science and engineering subjects with state-of-the-art game design.”

Jenkins and his colleagues believe computer and video games are emerging as a powerful new teaching medium that enables robust interactivity, providing for new pedagogical models and stronger collaborations across disciplines. Pointing to an industry that this year will report domestic sales totals that are roughly equivalent to Hollywood’s take at the box office and a battery of new creative products, Jenkins sees an industry that has finally begun to understand its basic building blocks and is now stretching out on new directions, experimenting with new forms, and diversifying audiences. “Teachers need to take notice of such industry changes and explore ways to leverage this new medium in their teaching strategies, thus allowing for new learning exeriences among a broad range of student abilities and media literacies,” Jenkins said.

Through weekly lab seminars and creative development workshops, Jenkins and his team plan to explore the “best practices” of interactive teaching tools, define corresponding pedagogical models, and begin to test assumptions through the development of a dozen conceptual prototypes that will focus on subjects from biology to physics, from mechanical engineering to chemical engineering, and from applied mathematics to materials science.

“As humanists at one of the world’s leading technological institutions, we’re in a unique position to think about the intersection of science and culture,” said Jenkins. “The challenge of the Games-to-Teach Project will be to create science and engineering content in a compelling narrative form that students want to engage with, where they want to explore, and where they can experiment with new ideas.”

Jenkins hopes the conceptual prototypes developed within the project provide the games industry and government agencies with the blueprints for exploring full-scale development, production, and release of “games to teach” in coming years.

Comparative Media Studies is the humanistic and social scientific examination of media technologies and their cultural, social, aesthetic, political, ethical, legal, and economic implications. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, students in the program are trained to think critically about the unique properties of different media and about the shared properties and functions of media more generally. More than 30 faculty from a wide variety of disciplines in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences aim to teach the next generation of leaders in industry, journalism, government, the arts, and the academy to think across media and investigate issues central to the role of media in today’s world: current research topics include, interactivity, narrative, and hypertextuality; childhood and adolescence in a mediated culture; informed citizenry and cultures of democarcy; and, media in transition.


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