MIT President Susan Hockfield says the knowledge produced by MIT faculty should be disseminated widely, beyond university boundaries and into the science classrooms of the nation’s public schools.
In a wide-ranging speech at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast this morning, Hockfield noted that the university publishes course materials for 1,900 MIT classes in the Internet, for free, though OpenCourseWare, reflecting nearly all the subjects taught at the university.
The site has attracted more than 65 million visitors since its 2002 launch, many of them high school students and teachers seeking to supplement Advanced Placement courses. This prompted MIT to start a “Highlights for High School” site three years ago, Hockfield said, linking the materials tested on several AP science exams to corresponding MIT faculty lecture notes and assignments on OpenCourseWare.
Hockfield said she met with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino last year to discuss helping to beef up science, technology, and engineering education in the Boston public schools. MIT already has a partnership with the city’s John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science, training teachers at the public exam school to better prepare its graduates for entry into elite universities like MIT. Three O’Bryant graduates have enrolled at MIT in recent years, she said.
The university hopes to expand its role across the city, Hockfield said, though she expressed caution at how much MIT could ultimately do to improve urban public education.
“We are not an expert in K-12 education,” Hockfield said. But she continued, “Part of our job, frankly, is to be a beacon of inspiration. MIT should not be a mysterious place, set apart from the rest of the world.”
Hockfield also spoke about MIT’s energy initiative, as well as greater collaboration between experts in life sciences and engineering and the physical sciences -- as MIT faculty are doing with cancer and autism research.
She highlighted the need to pursue new sources of research funding, as government support is expected to diminish. The university has raised $250 million since 2006 for its energy initiative, mostly through industry partnerships. It is also relying heavily on private philanthropy.
“One of the wonderful things about the United States is that people put their money where their interests are,” Hockfield said.
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