Innovation in Education
This page presents news about educational innovations developed and implemented
within MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.
INSIDE THE MIT SHASS CLASSROOM
100% of MIT undergraduates study the humanities, arts, and social sciences — and our graduate students earn masters and doctoral degrees in seven world-class fields. MIT excellence, innovation, and multi-disciplinary initiatives makes all these studies and classroom experiences like no other. Explore a selection of class stories and student profiles.
INNOVATION | DIGITAL HUMANITIES
The MIT Digital Humanities Lab unveils its Sonification Toolkit. Created by MIT students in the Digital Humanities Lab, the Toolkit is a set of digital tools that enable conversion of almost anything — from data to drawings — into sound that is aesthetically satisfying and analytically illuminating.
MAKING A JUST SOCIETY
In a unique IAP workshop, MIT students explore and honor their personal histories
BE YOUR WHOLE SELF AT MIT
"From climate change to poverty to disease, the challenges of our age are unwaveringly human in nature and scale; and engineering and science issues are always embedded in broader human realities, from deeply-felt cultural traditions to building codes to political tensions."
In the spring of 2020, as people around the world confronted the daily reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, many wondered how previous generations navigated similar crises. At MIT, an interdisciplinary team of humanistic faculty explored this question in a course that broke ground as a live, free MIT class, held in an open public webinar format so that anyone who wanted to attend could do so, from anywhere in the world.
HONORS AND AWARDS
The James A. and Ruth Levitan Teaching Award, given annually by the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, honors the superlative teaching staff across the School. About the award, Dean Nobles says, "This prize honors instructors in our School who have demonstrated outstanding success in teaching our undergraduate and graduate students. These great educators, who are nominated by students themselves, represent the very best academic leadership in the School."
In this interview, Patricia Saulis, MLK Visiting Scholar and Executive Director of the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council, discusses drawing on both Indigenous and Western knowledge systems to develop more sustainable ways to live on the planet.
MEET THE MIT BILINGUALS
With her dual degrees, Soh is prepared to make new tools in computational linguistics. Potential applications include improving speech recognition software and making machine-produced speech sound more natural.
INSIDE THE CLASSROOM
MIT history class explores the roots and complexities of revolutions across the globe. From early printing presses to changing fuel sources to the reach of global social media, the technological contexts of revolutions are intrinsic to understanding them.
COMPUTING AND AI: HUMANISTIC PERSPECTIVES FROM MIT
"Language and culture learning is a gateway to international experiences and an important means to develop cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity. Such understanding is essential to addressing the social and ethical implications of the expanding array of technology affecting everyday life across the globe."
MIT HISTORY SERIES ON DIGITAL HUMANITIES | 2
"Weekly podcasts, a virtual reality experience involving Che Guevara, and a learning game with zombies are among the digital platforms a history professor has used to enhance her teaching and make the subject engaging, especially for large classes of hundreds of students."
MIT HiSTORY SERIES ON DIGITAL HUMANITIES | 1
“This seminar series is part of our ongoing exploration of computational methods and digital media for research and teaching in the history field. Writ large, this new series is a space for us to reflect on our engagement with the new MIT Schwarzman College of Computing" — Jeffrey Ravel, head of MIT History
In yearlong program MIT undergraduates apply computer science to research in humanities, arts, and social science fields.
The SHASS Research Fund supports research in the areas of humanities, arts, and social sciences that shows promise of making an important contribution to the proposed area of activity. The School is pleased to announce ten recipients for 2018.
TEACHING AND LEARNING
Michel DeGraff, MIT-SHASS Professor of Linguistics, is a founding member of Haiti's newly created Haitian Creole Academy (Akademi Kreyòl Ayisyen) and Director of the MIT-Haiti Initiative.
Discover the MIT-SHASS courses available online at edX — free, for anyone, anywhere.
RESEARCH TO POLICY: EDUCATION
Numerous strategies to improve student learning have been evaluated by J-PAL, and found to have widely different impacts. These different strategies also incur drastically different costs, and some programs therefore achieve learning gains with much greater cost-effectiveness than others.
RESEARCH TO POLICY: EDUCATION
Six veteran educators from Haiti — two biologists, two physicists, and two mathematicians — were on campus recently to work closely with MIT faculty to develop and hone Kreyòl-based, technology-enhanced pedagogical tools for STEM education.
RESEARCH TO POLICY: EDUCATION
For students in New York and Boston, who have a range of options beyond their neighborhood school, choosing a high school used to be a maddeningly complicated guessing game. Just a decade ago, it seemed like an intractable problem. But that has changed, thanks in part to a graduate student — now an MIT professor — named Parag Pathak.
RESEARCH TO POLICY: EDUCATION
With his MIT-Haiti Inititiave, MIT-SHASS Professor of Linguistics Michel DeGraff is creating a historic new model for reaching science-hungry students around the world who speak local languages. A revolution in education is underway that will touch populations across the globe.
EDUCATION: HUMANITIES MOOC
“Visualizing Japan”—a massive open online course (MOOC) co-taught by Shigeru Miyagawa and others—has been nominated for the Japan Prize, a prestigious international prize awarded to educational broadcast and digital media programs selected from around the world.
MIT SHASS-based MISTI, the Institute’s groundbreaking program in applied international studies, presented its annual Excellence Awards to five students on Friday, June 5, in a ceremony in Kirsch Auditorium. MISTI prepares students to become informed, engaged participants in work and research opportunities in more than 20 countries. Training includes everything from workplace etiquette to the language, politics, and history of the country.
EDUCATION: INCREASING DIVERSITY
The academic pursuit of philosophy (like many other fields) has a serious diversity problem. To help remedy the issue, three MIT philosophy graduate students have organized an innovative program that brought a diverse cohort of undergraduates to the MIT campus this summer, where the students explored the full range of options for pursuing an academic career in philosophy.
HEALTHY PLANET | THE ROLE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION
Meet five MIT Knight Science Journalism colleagues and one oak tree. By closely observing the phenology of trees and other plants — the seasonal changes in their physical characteristics — researchers are identifying a trend toward longer growing seasons. Winter is arriving later, and spring earlier.
EDUCATION: STEM + SHASS
A national competition for high school students, founded and led by MIT undergraduates, held its inaugural conference in April 2015 at MIT. The competition was for research in the humanities, arts, and social science fields.
Wherever you may be on the space-time continuum, it’s time to celebrate. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and to honor the occasion faculty from SHASS and Physics have organized "Celebrating Einstein," a series of panel discussions, performances, and other events that will take place throughout Cambridge this April as a special feature of the 2015 Cambridge Science Festival.
MISTI associate director David Dolev and literature staff member Daria Johnson were both recognized for their exemplary efforts to strengthen and enrich the MIT community when they each received an 2015 MIT Excellence Award.
Ensuring that elections are fair and equitable is fundamental to democracy—yet easier said than done, as MIT students discovered in a new class called "Elections and Voting Technology." The class is taught jointly by Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science, and Ronald Rivest, Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
"What does it mean to converge science and humanities? why do we want to do this? and what would it take to succeed? Here I will sketch out the beginnings of an answer."
Travel beyond MIT to pursue an independent project in an HASS field, or to collaborate on a humanitarian project, can have a transformative impact on a student's life and career.
Dean Fitzgerald has announced the recipients of the 2014 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Warmest congratulations to these nine educators and colleagues, who represent the very best academic leadership in the School.
Every year, the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program recognizes a handful of professors who are exceptional undergraduate teachers, educational innovators, and mentors. This year’s awardees included Heather Anne Paxson, an associate professor of anthropology.
MEET THE BILINGUALS
In the fall of 2013, after having taught "Medieval Literature: Legends of Arthur" at MIT for six years, Arthur Bahr took a leap of faith. Instead of a final paper, he gave his students the option to turn in a creative project about Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. “These are MIT students," says Bahr, Associate Professor of Literature."They’re makers. Mens et manus, right?”
EDUCATION: ENGAGEMENT WITH SCI/TECH
This fall, MIT gathered 75 top practitioners from across the field at the "Evolving Culture of Science Engagement" event to take the measure of the potentials in the convergence of science, education, and entertainment.
INNOVATION + EDUCATION: DIGITAL HUMANITIES
The work going on in digital humanities and new media is one expression of the innovation that characterizes the Humanities more broadly. Using computational tools and methods, MIT humanities scholars are opening new lines of research and discovery, revitalizing the study of objects from the past, and asking questions never before possible.
INNOVATION: EDUCATIONAL + ARTS TOOLS
Annotation Studio, a digital humanities project developed by HyperStudio, promises to improve upon traditional techniques for entering marginalia and side notes in books — enabling readers not only to annotate texts across media, but also to share comments with others and to enhance them with links, images, video, and audio.
INNOVATION + EDUCATION: HUMANITIES MOOCS
A little philosophy could go a long way toward making the world a better place, says Damien Rochford, Ph.D. ’13, who has co-launched the Wi-Phi, an online, interactive philosophy website. The site presents more than a dozen short entertaining video animations to accompany talks by top scholars on such timeless questions as whether humans have free will, whether god exists, and what is it for a sentence to be true. The goal is for people to learn how to do philosophy, rather than simply learning what philosophers have thought, so the site focuses on developing critical thinking skills.
Several hundred MIT students gathered on September 5, 2013, for the inaugural TOUR de SHASS—a new academic expo showcasing MIT's wide range of fields and classes in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity has selected MIT Professor Emma Teng as one of Ten Outstanding Faculty honored nationwide for her "passion for inspiring [her] students, as well as [her] dedication to [her] own personal values."
"Analytic philosophy gives you a way to think about [challenging] questions in a rigorous and organized way. In a very concrete sense, it teaches you life skills, because most of the problems you face in life do not have an instruction manual."
An important dimension of the Kelly-Douglas Fund is support for undergraduate education in the humanities, arts and social sciences; travel beyond MIT to pursue a project in an HASS field, or to collaborate in a humanitarian project, can have a powerful and lasting effect on students.
“Graham is a talented scholar with an unquenchable passion for teaching. His deep intelligence, breadth of knowledge, and commitment to excellence are apparent in everything he does.”
Dean Fitzgerald has announced the recipients of the 2013 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Warmest congratulations to these seven educators and colleagues, who represent the very best academic leadership in the School.
Consistently ranked among the top ten philosophy departments in the country, MIT’s small Philosophy section—just 12 full time professors—has extraordinary success in placing PhD graduates in tenure-track positions at top philosophy programs nationwide. The Leiter Reports placed MIT second in grad student placement. (New York University, a program nearly twice as large, was first). Because obtaining a faculty position in philosophy is notoriously difficult—often 700 applicants for every appointment—many are wondering: what is the secret of MIT’s outsized success?
The single best thing about college for MIT Professor of History Anne McCants was "exploring ideas ravenously." It was like being in a candy store for four years,” she says. Now, as newly appointed director of Concourse, a learning community for MIT freshmen, McCants says her goal is to give today’s students the same heady experience of intellectual adventure and discovery within the context of a supportive group.
RESEARCH TO POLICY: EDUCATION
Michel DeGraff, Associate Professor of Linguistics, is the Principal Investigator for a five-year project that will help develop classroom tools to teach science and math in Haitian Creole for the first time.
MIT medievalist Arthur Bahr describes the Babel Working Group's conference, “Cruising in the Ruins" at which scholars from several fields explored large, compelling questions—as a way of advocating for more cross-discipliinary work, and the proposition that today's great universities could generate even better research and pedagogy by encouraging a “rhythm of disciplinary attachment and detachment."
Acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates will join the School community for the 2012-13 academic year as a MLK Visiting Scholar in CMS/Writing.
CORE + EDUCATION
MIT linguistics professor Shigeru Miyagawa has been selected to receive the President's Award for OpenCourseWare Excellence (ACE) for his contributions to the global OpenCourseWare and Open Education movements. Miyagawa, a key member of the faculty team that nurtured the development of MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), has contributed a significant amount of his own course materials to the site, and has traveled extensively to spread the practice of openly sharing educational materials globally.
Four professors have been named 2012 MacVicar Faculty Fellows for their outstanding undergraduate teaching, mentoring and educational innovation. Three are from SHASS: William Broadhead, the Class of 1954 Career Development Associate Professor of History; David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science; and Nancy Lin Rose, the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics. The fourth professor honored is Leslie Pack Kaelbling, the Panasonic Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.
CORE: MIT'S FINEST TEACHERS
Photographs, research areas, and commentary from SHASS faculty who are among the Institute's finest educators
CORE: MIT'S FINEST TEACHERS
The SHASS MacVicar Faculty Fellows discuss the significance, the goals—and the sheer fun—of teaching MIT students.
The School's Teaching Award Selection Committee has announced the recipients of the 2011 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Warmest congratulations to these educators and colleagues, who represent the very best academic leadership in the School.
RESEARCH TO POLICY: TRANSFORMING HAITIAN EDUCATION
Linguist Michel DeGraff is on a quest to give Haitian Creole its due as a respected language — and to help Haitian schoolchildren learn in their native tongue.
The Smithsonian Institution and MIT's Comparative Media Studies program have announced the April 4, 2011 launch of vanished, an 8-week online/offline environmental disaster mystery game for middle-school children, designed to inspire problem-solving and collaboration through science.
Two new MLK Visiting Scholars are joining the School community for the 2010-11 academic year: Isaac Mbiti in Economics, and Reuben Buford May in Anthropology. Following a year of inspiring teaching and acclaimed performances, Donal Fox, MLK Visiting Artist in Music and Theater Arts for 2009-10, will be continuing for a second year.
This yearlong seminar, which explores how social sciences and humanities scholars study the unseen, is organized around six species of the subject: The Elusive, The Unaccounted, The Occult, The Invisible, The Evanescent, and The Obscure.
The School's Teaching Award Selection Committee has announced the recipients of the 2010 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching.
In ten years, CMS has grown from a modest proposal by Professor Henry Jenkins and Dean Philip Khoury into a preeminent international program with the most talented media graduate students; with partnerships established with governments, film producers, Pulitzer Prize winners, and others; and groundbreaking projects that shape the future of everything from childhood education to government accountability. Celebrations begin April 23rd.
MARCH 9, 2010 — "Four professors were honored for outstanding undergraduate teaching, mentoring and educational innovation when they were named as the 2010 MacVicar Faculty Fellows: Annette (Peko) Hosoi, of mechanical engineering, Krishna Rajagopal, of physics, Rajeev Ram, of electrical engineering and computer science, and Norvin Richards, of linguistics and philosophy." — MIT News
RESEARCH TO POLICY: CHARTER SCHOOLS
MIT economists researching why some Boston charter schools have been able to produce stunning results. What they discover could serve as a lesson for America’s struggling public schools.
EDUCATION: GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT
A September 2009 report from the MIT Global Council outlines an historic opportunity to deepen international learning at the Institute, and to make international education a core component of an MIT education.
Anne McCants, MacVicar Faculty Fellow, Professor of History and Section Head, has received the Elizabeth Topham Kennan Award, given only periodically, by Mount Holyoke College, to an outstanding alumna educator. McCants received the honor on the occasion of her 25th reunion at Mount Holyoke.
The first annual James A. and Ruth Levitan Award to honor extraordinary teaching has been presented to these members of the School community: Faculty members Chris Capozzola (History), Sally Haslanger (Linguistics and Philosophy) and Stefan Helmreich (Anthropology); Lecturers Laura Harrington (Music and Theater Arts), Martin Marks (Music and Theater Arts), and Douglas Morgenstern (Foreign Languages and Literatures); and Teaching Assistant, Brandon Lehr (Economics).
MIT ranks ninth among 604 universities from around the world included in the 2008 Times Higher Education-Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings released today. The School's humanities, arts, and social science disciplines also rank high.