MIT-UTM BLOSSOMS PROJECT

Kickoff – January 7, 2013

Dr. Zaini Ujang, Vice Chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), and Professor Richard C. Larson, Director of the BLOSSOMS Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts USA, are pleased to announce the kick-off of the BLOSSOMS Project in Kuala Lumpur starting on January 7, 2013.  BLOSSOMS is an educational project of MIT, aimed at high school classes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (“STEM”).

BLOSSOMS = Blended Learning Open Source Science Or Math Studies. http://blossoms.mit.edu.

Photo:  Prof. Dr Zaini (second from right) with Professor Richard C. Larson (second from left) during his visit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge,  USA

The project creates interactive video lessons for high school STEM classes. This initial one-year collaborative effort with UTM and MIT is viewed as Phase I of an anticipated larger multi-year program.

BLOSSOMS has these goals:

  • Excite young people about math, science & engineering, and STEM careers.
  • Show relevance of science and mathematics to their real world.
  • Develop critical and creative thinking skills, moving away from rote memorization and teaching to a test.
  • Introduce the in-class teacher to technology-enabled education in a supportive way that allows her/him to stay in charge of the class.
  • Encourage teachers away from a lecture format to a more active, problem-based style of teaching.
  • Develop an awareness, understanding and appreciation for other cultures.

With this new project, Malaysia, through UTM, will join other BLOSSOMS country partners:  Jordan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and the USA.

The BLOSSOMS videos are all freely available worldwide, to be shown to the class by the live in-class teacher — with all students in their regular seats and with all their electronic devices turned off.  Each BLOSSOMS video is delivered in short 3 to 4-minute segments, where during the breaks between segments the teaching baton is passed to the in-class teacher who engages the students in active hands-on activities. We call this shared teaching a “Teaching Duet.”  Over half of the lesson time involves in-class problem-focused learning with the students, with the video turned off.  Each BLOSSOMS lesson is accompanied by a complete lesson plan.  All slides, handouts and materials for each lesson are freely available to the teacher on the BLOSSOMS website.

Implementation of the MIT-UTM BLOSSOMS project will strengthen UTM’s contribution to society, particularly to STEM Education in Malaysia. UTM will seek out additional Malaysian partners, from the education sector, from NGO’s and from the private sector.  This idea is to develop a broad and rich stakeholder constituency supporting the program, leading to a high likelihood of sustainability going forward.  From the MIT perspective, such important new  international collaboration continues a tradition of furthering international education, extending its educational mission that has been growing for decades.

The activities to be undertaken in this one-year project are extensive, exciting and challenging.  The MIT Team will be at UTM to train UTM faculty members and selected graduate students in developing BLOSSOMS lessons.  All participants will be invited to enter a contest, with the winners to be selected to create new BLOSSOMS lessons.   This training will also become a “Training for Trainers” whereby those selected will be appointed as trainers for new video teachers in following years.  The stretch goal is to design and create 20 UTM-produced new BLOSSOMS lessons, to be posted on the MIT BLOSSOMS web site and to assist Malaysian high school teachers in their teaching of math, science and engineering.

The MIT team will also train 100 Malaysian high school STEM teachers selected from throughout the country in the use of BLOSSOMS in classrooms.  In order to participate, these teachers will pledge to use BLOSSOMS at least twice in their classrooms and to complete an evaluation form for each.  The MIT BLOSSOMS team will also train UTM faculty and staff as a “train the trainers’ exercise, so that these UTM individuals could provide continued support, training and encouragement to participating high school STEM teachers.  More locally in Johor Bahru, UTM will select three or more high schools near UTM’s campus as participant-BLOSSOMS high schools in this project.  The project will seek guidance from STEM teachers in these high schools and will require their cooperation in using BLOSSOMS lessons in their classrooms, and providing feedback.

UTM and MIT will seek to answer basic questions about student learning, especially in STEM subjects.  Malaysia will become a primary country of focus, with a goal of up to ten (10) co-supervised UTM PhD theses written on these and related topics, assuming a continuation beyond Year 1. The program will also facilitate limited faculty visitations to MIT, to learn the “MIT way” of teaching from fundamentals.

At MIT, Professor Richard C. Larson will serve as Principal Investigator (PI) and Professor Dan Frey as Co-PI.  Ms. Elizabeth Murray will serve as MIT-Based program Project Manager.  The project will be managed from MIT’s Engineering Systems Division (ESD).  At UTM Prof. Dr. Mohamed Noor Hasan, Deputy Director of UTM’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, will lead the project, with broad assistance from a premier team of other committed UTM faculty members.