MIT BLOSSOMS, OER for High School STEM Classes

MIT BLOSSOMS, OER for High School STEM Classes

Presented by Richard C. Larson and M. Elizabeth Murray

Be a high school math or science student in our session!  That's how we start, in introducing MIT BLOSSOMS, an 8-year-old OER program to help create critical thinking skills among high school STEM students.  BLOSSOMS = Blended Learning Open Sources Science Or Math Studies.  BLOSSOMS is both domestic and international, with ten country partners and multiple languages.

The typical BLOSSOMS lesson has four to six short video segments, each followed by a live active-learning session in the classroom, guided by the in-class teacher. The students are sitting in their regular classroom seats with their own laptops and mobile phones in the OFF position.  The only technology in use is the teacher’s laptop, connected to a projector that shows the video segments on a screen in front of the class.  No in-class Internet is required, as the teacher will have downloaded the lesson from the MIT BLOSSOMS web site. The class starts with segment 1 of the BLOSSOMS video. Towards the end of that segment, a challenge is given to the class.  In our workshop, we will start with this arrangement, and YOU will be a member of the class!  As the video fades to black, the in-class teacher takes the teaching baton and guides the students in an active learning exercise. The in-class exercises are quite varied— ranging from small group discussions, to student team contests, to active human simulation of scientific processes (such as spread of infectious diseases), to assembling and testing objects (for example, boomerangs), to undertaking experiments and measuring and interpreting results. Once the learning objective has been achieved, the teacher passes the baton back to the BLOSSOMS video teacher, who presents BLOSSOMS segment 2.   

This interweaving, baton-passing process— a "Teaching Duet" — continues throughout the entire lesson, half of the teaching carried out by the students’ regular teacher and half by the BLOSSOMS video teacher.  Teachers love the fact that they, not computers, are still in charge of the class!

 The major goals of BLOSSOMS video lessons are

(1) To show students how mathematicians, scientists and engineers think and— in their learning process— to have them act as scientists and engineers;

(2) To teach them the skills required for critical and creative thinking;

(3) To show them the relevance of STEM in their daily lives;

(4) To make STEM subjects fun; and

(5) To develop within the students an awareness and appreciation for diverse cultures around the globe.

You will walk away from this session with a knowledge and appreciation of a totally different way of teaching STEM, away from scripted lectures, away from test-focused memorization/regurgitation and towards active learning that fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills.  Don't worry if your math or science is rusty!  That is not the point here!  Hope to see you at our session.


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