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Chalk Radio

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Chalk Radio

MIT OpenCourseWare

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Chalk Radio is an MIT OpenCourseWare podcast about inspired teaching at MIT. We take you behind the scenes of some of the most interesting courses on campus to talk with the professors who make those courses possible. Our guests open up to us about the passions that drive their cutting-edge research and innovative teaching, sharing stories that are candid, funny, serious, personal, and full of insights. Listening in on these conversations is like being right here with us in person under the ...
 
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Professor Gigliola Staffilani, who teaches in MIT’s Department of Mathematics, was closely involved in designing and teaching the introductory-level 18.01 Calculus I course series now found on the MIT Open Learning Library. She’s also been involved in teaching calculus to students on campus. To help students become proficient in a notoriously intim…
 
Though there’s widespread consensus that the slavery and colonization that characterize the history of European relations with Africa represent a legacy of grave injustice, there is much less agreement on how to redress that injustice. Professor M. Amah Edoh, who teaches in MIT’s Department of Anthropology, designed the course 21A.S01 Reparations f…
 
When humans interact, they don’t just pass information from one to the other; there’s always some relational element, with the participants responding to each other’s emotional cues. Professor Cynthia Breazeal, MIT’s new Dean of Digital Learning, believes it’s possible to design this element into human-computer interactions as well. She foresees a …
 
In the previous episode we learned about a project undertaken as part of the Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing (SERC) initiative at MIT’s Schwartzman College of Computing. In this episode we hear about another SERC project, from Prof. Daniel Jackson and graduate teaching assistant Serena Booth, who have partnered to incorporate ethic…
 
When computer science was in its infancy, programmers quickly realized that though computers are astonishingly powerful tools, the results they achieve are only as good as the data you feed into them. (This principle was quickly formalized as GIGO: “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”) What was true in the era of the UNIVAC has proved still to be true in the…
 
Most of the students in Professor Dennis McLaughlin’s course 1.74 Land, Water, Food, and Climate come to it with established opinions on some very controversial topics: whether GMOs are safe, whether climate change is real (and really human-induced), whether organic agriculture is preferable to conventional agriculture, and whether it’s better for …
 
Students in MIT’s course 5.310 Laboratory Chemistry have a state-of-the art lab to work in, with energy-saving hibernating fume hoods and a new spectrometer that achieves mind-blowingly precise measurements—not parts per million or parts per billion, but parts per trillion! And the students do spend much of their time in that new lab. But Dr. John …
 
Sanjay Sarma is not only a professor of mechanical engineering; he’s also Vice President for Open Learning at MIT, where he oversees innovative efforts to reimagine education, and he is coauthor (with Luke Yoquinto) of the recent book Grasp, which explores the nature of learning. In this episode, Professor Sarma discusses the differences between no…
 
Nancy Kanwisher, founding member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and professor in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, describes the effort to understand the mind as “the grandest scientific quest of all time,” partly because it seeks to answer fundamental questions that all people ponder from time to time: What is knowled…
 
Contemporary Movements for Justice is an MIT course in which scholars and activists speak about pursuing justice for European colonialism in Africa and its contemporary legacies. Do you have ideas that could help shape these discussions? If so, please participate in this new OCW opportunity. Watch course lectures online at the same time as MIT stud…
 
The classic New England town meeting, with voters gathered in a large hall to decide issues directly, is often cited as the purest form of American democracy. But historically, those town meetings gave a voice only to certain classes of people. In this episode we meet Ceasar McDowell, Professor of the Practice of Community Development at MIT and ne…
 
In our previous episode we met Professor Dava Newman, cofounder of the nonprofit group EarthDNA. Today’s guest is Brandon Leshchinskiy, a graduate student in Technology and Policy at MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, who has helped Prof. Newman create the EarthDNA Ambassadors program, training young people in communication, negotiatio…
 
Professor Dava Newman is an aerospace engineer whose career has largely focused on developing improved space suits for eventual interplanetary travel. But in recent years she has turned her sights back toward Earth, using the vast amounts of data collected by satellites in near space to inform and motivate the public for the fight against catastrop…
 
Garnette Cadogan is an acclaimed essayist who teaches in MIT’s Urban Studies and Planning program. As befits a teacher who is also a professional creative writer, he conceives of the academic syllabus as a matrix of interconnected and recurring themes and leitmotifs, not as a schematic outline of self-contained units. In this episode, he describes …
 
Over the years, Sarah Hansen has interviewed the creator of the “Women of NASA” minifigure series as well as a professor of astronautics and former deputy administrator of NASA. Now, for the first time, she interviews an actual astronaut, Jeff Hoffman, who teaches aerospace engineering and systems engineering at MIT. In this episode, Prof. Hoffman …
 
First-year students who already plan to major in chemistry don’t require any special bells or whistles to motivate them to study the subject. But introductory chemistry is a required subject for all students at MIT, regardless of their intended major, and materials scientist Jeffrey Grossman has found that for many students in his course 3.091 Intr…
 
For millions of years after the Big Bang, nearly all the matter in the universe was in the form of hydrogen and helium; other elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen only formed later, in nuclear reactions inside stars. To learn what the universe looked like back then, MIT astrophysicist Anna Frebel studies the oldest stars we can find—13 billio…
 
One might imagine that an expert on financial technology would view human relations through a primarily transactional lens. But Professor Gary Gensler, in teaching his course on financial technology (or “FinTech”) at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, tries to base his interactions with his students on a different model. Feeling indebted to the olde…
 
Many instructors in recent years have turned to open educational resources (OER) so that their students don’t have to pay for an expensive textbook. And that is indeed one of the foremost benefits of OER. But Professor Elizabeth Siler, who teaches at Worcester State University, has found that using OER offers advantages to instructors too: doing so…
 
Professor Jonathan Gruber wants to train students to think like economists. Economics uses elegant mathematical models to explain how people make decisions and allocate their resources—but all too often those models are taught in ways that remain disconnected from students’ own experience. In this episode, Professor Gruber shares his thoughts on br…
 
Can you really learn to fly by sitting in a classroom and attending lectures? Of course not! But the course offered by Philip Greenspun and Tina Srivastava in 16.687 Private Pilot Ground School has proven surprisingly popular as a means of learning the basic principles one needs to know before getting into the cockpit of a small aircraft. Originall…
 
“We all hold dear certain attitudes about language,” Professor Michel DeGraff says in this episode centered on his course 24.908 Creole Languages and Caribbean Identities. Those attitudes can be positive for ourselves and for others, DeGraff says, but they can also have negative effects. His goal is to make linguistics accessible to a broader audie…
 
Join us as we talk with Justin Reich, assistant professor in comparative media studies at MIT. Professor Reich runs the Teaching Systems Lab, which was founded with the mission of designing, implementing, and researching the future of teacher learning. With the emergence of the current coronavirus pandemic, Prof. Reich has been turning his attentio…
 
You might imagine that fluency is an inherently good thing in teaching. But Dr. Christopher Terman, Senior Lecturer Emeritus at MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab, explains that breaks in the flow of the classroom can actually make the learning experience more memorable. This is just one of the insights Dr. Terman has gained in tw…
 
What would Shakespeare have made of today’s popular television shows? He might or might not like them, but he wouldn’t dismiss them simply because they’re popular. In this episode, Professor David Thorburn, who has spent his career challenging conventional assumptions about what kinds of works have artistic merit, speaks eloquently about why popula…
 
This episode explores a new kind of independent study. MIT has traditionally encouraged its Sloan MBA fellows to engage in international projects with partners around the globe. Our guest, Dr. Anjali Sastry, has led over 100 groups of MBA fellows in these projects. But she recently changed the structure of the class so that instead of signing on to…
 
Mathematics Professor Gilbert Strang is one of MIT’s most revered instructors; his courses, especially the perennially popular linear algebra course 18.06, have received millions of visits on OpenCourseWare, and his lecture videos have won him a devoted following on YouTube as well. (A sample YouTube comment on one of his lectures: “This is not lec…
 
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