MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology

BLOSSOMS Malaysia Coverage in New Straights Times

January 6, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIAN teachers can learn teaching methods through an open-source education plan developed between Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MiT) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).

Under the Blended Learning Open Source Science or Mathemathics Studies (Blossoms) initiative, teachers could use educational videos to  create  lessons that would encourage  learning among students.

Blossoms project principal investigator Prof Richard Larson said the videos were aimed at helping teachers introduce technology-enabled education to the classroom.  

"Teenagers these days are easily bored because they are used to high-tech gadgets, such as tablets and smartphones.

"There is a need for teachers to use technology to engage them," he said, at a  seminar  at UTM  yesterday.  

Launched here last year, the MiT-UTM Blossoms project connects MiT with Science, technology, engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers in Malaysia to produce teaching videos designed for the classroom.

Each Blossoms video has  a guideline for teachers to carry out classroom activities which could be downloaded for free from the MiT website, 

The videos, Larson said, were designed to explain complex scientific or mathematical concepts, by relating them to real-world situations.

Under the collaboration with UTM, which began last year, he said Malaysian teachers and lecturers had produced three videos that could  be accessed by  teachers  worldwide.

One of the videos, for example, explained the "conservation of mass" theory by drawing on the historical legend of Pak Belalang.

"In this way, not only are Malaysian teachers passing on their knowledge to others, they are also spreading Malaysian culture through videos that draw on local experiences," Larson, said adding that the project aimed to produce 20 videos by  end of the year.

Larson stressed that technology should not replace  teachers and that they must maintain control over the learning environment.

"These are not passive lectures where the students would just sit and watch the video -- they encourage active, experiential learning."

UTM Teaching and Learning Centre director Prof Dr Baharuddin Aris said some of the university's doctorate students would  be conducting research on the effectiveness of the Blossoms method.

"We are now testing to see not only if they can improve  students' performance but also whether teachers would find these new methods helpful in the classroom."

"The aim is to train teachers who can help students develop critical and higher  thinking skills, and to move education away from rote learning and memorisation," he said.

He added that the videos might be tweaked to fit the national secondary school STEM curriculum as part of  reforms to be carried out under the Malaysia  Education Blueprint 2013-2025. Countries participating in the project include Pakistan, Jordan, China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

Prof Dr. Baharuddin Aris (left) presenting a gift to Blossoms project  principal investigator
Prof Richard Larson. With them is project manager Elizabeth Murray.
Pic by Mohamad Shahril Badri Saali

Originally posted in New Straights Times