• 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.

Interactivity & Connectedness in the Classroom: Digital Tools for Collaborative Learning

Kyle Keane and students

Dr. Kyle Keane, with colleagues Ian Kim Riley, Andrew Ringler, and Mark Vrablic will introduce some digital tools and classroom management strategies for students to learn-by-doing through content creation rather than consumption. Keane's team has built a simple system that allows students to design, create, and publish gesture-based, videogame-like simulations using the Microsoft Kinect. These simulations allow users to 'play and experience' scientific concepts in a more tangible and kinesthetic manner. For example, they have built a 'molecular dynamics' simulation that shows a cluster of interacting molecules; to 'play' with the molecules, the user closes their hand in front of the screen to select a molecule and then drags the molecule to see how it affects the other molecules. This type of simulation can be used to introduce scientific concepts to the general public and incoming freshmen, or it can be used to further clarify the fundamentals for students who have already learned about the concept in a more traditional way.

Keane and his team used this framework to run a nine-day IAP project-based workshop where students formed small teams with diverse backgrounds to collaboratively create their own simulation for the system. They documented and published the workshop on OCW for others to draw from.

During this xTalk, Keane, Riley, Ringler, and Vrablic will discuss their method of engaging students (some with no previous programming experience) in every stage of the ideation, design, creation, and testing of their team¹s project. They will discuss the importance of storytelling and collaboration while demonstrating how they use technology to facilitate this in a classroom. Part of the presentation will be an opportunity to hear about the lead developer's own experience building this project as a UROP and running the IAP workshop.

The entire simulation system will be set up for use after the presentation and there will be ample time for attendees to 'play' with the current set of simulations.

Dr. Kyle Keane is a lecturer in the department of Materials Science and Engineering and leads the Interactive Materials Education Laboratory. Andrew Ringler is an affiliate with DSME. Mark Vrablic is an MIT undergraduate majoring in EECS.