• xTalks: Digital Discourses

The xTalks series provides a forum to facilitate awareness, deep understanding and transference of educational innovations at MIT and elsewhere. We hope to foster a community of educators, researchers, and technologists engaged in developing and supporting effective learning experiences through online learning environments and other digital technologies. To sign up for the xTalks mailing list, click here.

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Activating Computational Thinking on MITx using Wolfram Technologies

Peter Barendse & Kyle Keane

This xTalk will present a high-level overview from two MIT lecturers in DMSE about their newly-developed framework that combines MITx and Wolfram technologies to let faculty and instructors add creative and contextual computational educational components into their online and residential classes.

Offering a bird’s eye view of what is possible with current technical limits, this talk is not about teaching students to code traditional topics in computing like low-level sorting algorithms (although the framework supports this), but instead, it will aim to broaden the conversation around computing in education to accommodate the importance of learning to think computationally within the context of (and without distracting from) the core subject matter.

A wide range of working examples of functioning MITx components that have been deployed using the framework will be presented, including details about how to find more information and instructions to adapt the framework for different subjects. Examples such as:

  • A component where students upload data they collected from measurements on a field trip; the uploaded data is then automatically graded within some tolerance.
  • An app that lets students record and annotate images that they submit for credit; the images are then automatically compiled and deployed onto an interactive map.
  • A framework that auto-grades code submitted in response to open-ended coding and visualization challenges; students then get their solutions to the problems.

This talk will summarize what is currently possible when combining the delivery power of MITx with the creative power of Wolfram Language, including components such Mathematica and other related tools and modules, with the ultimate hope that this will spark further interest and exploration among faculty and instructors.

Dr. Kyle Keane has been a Lecturer in DMSE since 2015. His main charge has been to infuse contextual computational instruction throughout the core undergraduate curriculum. Before joining MIT, Kyle worked for three years as a programmer at Wolfram Research (Makers of Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha). 

Dr. Peter Barendse is a Visiting Lecturer focused on helping to bring contextual computing into the freshmen year at MIT. He teaches a Freshmen Advising Seminar called “Code your GIRs!” and is working to bring weekly coding assignments into 8.02. Before joining MIT, Peter was a Lead Developer at Wolfram|Alpha focusing on the automated step-by-step math solution generator.