MIT Launches New Center for Mobile Learning
Receives Initial Funding from Google Education.The MIT Media Lab today announced the creation of the MIT Center for Mobile Learning, dedicated to transforming education and learning through innovation in mobile computing. The Center's formation is seeded by a gift from Google.
The Center, housed at the Media Lab, will focus on the design and study of new mobile technologies and applications, enabling people to learn anywhere anytime with anyone. Research projects will explore location-aware learning applications, mobile sensing and data collection, augmented reality gaming, and other educational uses of mobile technologies.
Three MIT professors will serve as co-directors of the Center: Hal Abelson, Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Eric Klopfer, Associate Professor of Science Education; and Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research.
The Center's first activity will focus on App Inventor for Android, a programming system that makes it easy for learners to create mobile apps for Android smart phones by visually fitting together puzzle piece-shaped "programming blocks" in a web browser. Abelson proposed an idea that prompted the development of App Inventor during his sabbatical at Google in 2008.
Google made App Inventor publicly and freely available as a beta release at the end of 2009, and it has attracted a community of about 100,000 educators, students, and hobbyists. Google is in the process of open-sourcing the App Inventor code. As part of its research, the new Media Lab center will be engaged in studying and extending App Inventor, connecting App Inventor to MIT's premiere research in educational technology and MIT's historic track record of open software innovation.
Dr. Maggie Johnson, Google's Director of Education and University Relations, sees the Media Lab initiative as the ideal next step for App Inventor. "Google incubated App Inventor to the point where it gained critical mass. MIT's involvement will both amplify the impact of App Inventor and enrich the research around it," said Johnson. "It is a perfect example of how industry and academia can work together effectively."
Joichi Ito, who will take over as the Media Lab's director next month, stresses how well the new center will contribute to the Lab's research themes. "The Media Lab has always been about creativity – not only developing new technologies, but getting them out to the world in ways that positively impact people's lives," said Ito. "Our new Center for Mobile Learning continues this tradition, empowering people everywhere to create, invent, and learn with their mobile devices."
The Center's three directors have a long history of collaboration on educational technology. Resnick, who heads the Media Lab's academic Program in Media Arts and Sciences, is famous for his work on LEGO Mindstorms and Scratch, two of the world's best known and most influential platforms for introducing young learners to programming. Klopfer is director of MIT's Scheller Teacher Education Program, which trains MIT students to be secondary school science and math teachers. He is an expert on educational games and simulations and author of Augmented Learning: Research and Design of Mobile Educational Games. (MIT Press; 2008). Abelson is well known for his work in computing education at the undergraduate level and author (with MIT colleague Gerald Sussman) of the classic text Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (MIT Press, 1985, 1996). He is co-director (with MIT Dean for Undergraduate Education Dan Hastings) of MIT's Council on Educational Technology, on which Klopfer also serves.
According to Abelson, the idea for App Inventor was directly inspired by Resnick's Scratch software, and the core code for its programming blocks came from Klopfer's lab. "The new Media Lab initiative completes the circle," said Abelson. "For me, it's a terrific experience of starting with an idea, finding visionary industry leaders willing to make it a reality, then bringing it back home to MIT so I can work on projects I love together with colleagues I admire."
About the MIT Media Lab
The Media Lab is a place where the future is created, not just imagined. The Lab applies unorthodox research approaches for envisioning the impact of emerging technologies on everyday life -- technologies that promise to fundamentally transform our most basic notions of human capabilities. Unconstrained by traditional disciplines, Lab designers, engineers, artists, and scientists work atelier-style, conducting more than 350 projects that range from digital approaches for treating neurological disorders, to new tools for learning, to innovative modes of transportation for sustainable cities. Lab researchers foster a unique culture of learning-by-creating, developing technologies that empower people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all societies, to design and invent new possibilities for themselves and their communities. For more information on the Media Lab.