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124 Students Register for New 8.01T in Fall Semester

By Shuai Chen

On Registration day, 124 students were registered for the new optional TEAL version of Physics I (8.01T), said Iria J. Romano, assistant registrar.

There was originally a lottery planned to fill 160 allotted spaces for 8.01T, but it was unnecessary.

The goal of the Technology Enhanced Active Learning format is to use computers and experiments to create an interactive learning experience.

“The fact that students choose to be in this environment, for me, is incredibly exciting,” said Peter Dourmashkin ’76, an 8.01T instructor.

The 8.01T classes are also participating in the “Design Engineering Challenge: ‘The Big Dig’ 2.007.”

The top engineering designers in the class will be permitted to take Design and Manufacturing I (2.007) in the spring, after taking Mechanical Engineering Tools (2.670) during Independent Activities Period. 2.007 is an engineering and design class not usually offered to freshmen.

Dourmashkin said his “goal is to have all those who are in 8.01 wish they were in 8.01T.”

Technology receives mixed reviews

TEAL is offered in a studio setting where students learn through hands-on activities. Nine students, in groups of three, sit at desks with laptops and lab setups, and each student has a Public Response System apparatus. PRS is an automated system that allows students to respond to multiple-choice questions. The responses of each student can be monitored by the professors. Projection screens are set up around the room, and professors teach using PowerPoint.

Jennifer E. Gagner ’07, decided to take the class because “it was recommended to me by my adviser ... it has experiments and a more user- friendly format.”

“I think that the professor is very energetic and is very interested in putting his students first,” said Varsha G. Keelara ’07.

“I like the fact that there are many [teaching assistants] around so it’s easier to ask questions if you don’t understand,” said Alexander G. Krull ’07.

However, some students were not satisfied with the class.

“I think that the random surveys [through PRS] are a good display of MIT’s technology but utterly useless,” said Ruth Miller ’07.

“I think these professors are expressing their male infatuation with machines and despite my enjoyment and satisfaction [with Monday’s two hour experiment], I still think my time might have been better used in other endeavors” said P. Raja Palaniappan ’07, referring to an experiment designed to familiarize the students with the technology and teach them about one-dimensional motion.

Students complained about 8.02

Last spring, more than one hundred students signed a petition against the TEAL format, which has replaced the conventional lecture and recitation format of Physics II (8.02).

8.02 students complained last spring about having a jumble of information thrown at them.

“I think the biggest problem with 8.02 was that the course has too many moving parts and it wasn’t clear even to the instructors which were the important ones,” said David J. Litster PhD ’65, the other 8.01T professor this semester.

To solve this problem, the 8.02 class now has a more simplified, easier to read study guide, Dourmashkin said.

Students had also complained that they were assigned randomly to work groups. Thus, students may have had group members who neglected to do their share of work. Teachers are “paying a little more attention to different backgrounds and levels of familiarity students bring to the course, and we feel that the best groups are balanced,” Litster said.