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Learning from MIT on STEAM Education

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About the Entity

MIT Media Lab is a unique, antidisciplinary research laboratory that emboldens unconventional mixing and matching of seemingly disparate research areas. Faculty members, research staff, and students at the Lab work in over 25 research groups on more than 450 projects to create disruptive solutions that aim at radically improving the way people live, learn, express themselves, work and play.


The Media Lab (ML) Learning Initiative aims to bring the collective creativity of the Media Lab to bear on the future of learning. Learning across different dimensions are explored, ranging from neurons to nations, from early childhood to lifelong scholarship, and from human creativity to machine intelligence. Through initiatives such as the Learning Fellowship program, seminar series and Media Lab courses, the Initiative builds a robust community of learning research. The initiative also actively share the work with the word through strategic partnerships, online courses and communities as well as specialized workshops.


We interviewed Philipp Schmidt, Director of Learning Innovation at Media Lab and Katherine McConachie, Learning Initiative Manager, to distill more insights about the work at ML Learning Initiative and its implications for the K-12 space:

3 About the Entity
3 Setting the Vision

Setting the Vision



Learning Principles


ML Learning Initiative is built on the principles that Seymour Papert, one of the founding faculty members at MIT Media Lab, laid out more than 30 years ago. Seymour adopts a constructivist approach towards learning, and created tools for children to be designers and creators of technology, instead of just consumers of it. He believed that learning happens best when people are actively constructing knowledge through creative experimentation and the design of sharable objects.

Given how the rapid change in the world today, and how much of what we learn today will become obsolete tomorrow, the ML Learning Initiative also believes that success depends on people’s ability to think and act creatively. Its approach to cultivating creative learning is based on four guiding principles (i.e. the 4Ps):

  • Projects: We learn best when we are actively working on projects - generating new ideas, designing prototypes, making improvements and creating final products.

  • Peers: Learning flourishes as a social activity, with people sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, and building on one another's work.

  • Passion: When we focus on things we care about, we work longer and harder, persist in the face of challenges, and learn more in the process.

  • Play: Learning involves playful experimentation - trying new things, tinkering with materials, testing boundaries, taking risks, iterating again and again.

(To learn more about the 4Ps, check out the book Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play by Michel Resnick)

Food for Thought for K-12 Educators:
How can your school embrace the 4Ps guiding principles when creating the learning experience for students?

It is only through enabling everyone everywhere to learn creatively can we prepare ourselves and others for life in tomorrow's rapidly-changing world.

When asked about other core ideas that ML Learning Initiative is built upon, Philipp Schmidt mentioned the word “anti-disciplinary” and “disobedience”. Contrary to interdisciplinary work in which people from different disciplines work together, antidisciplinary work aims to go beyond the traditional fragmented academic disciplines and become a field of study with its own frameworks, methods and solutions. Disobedience, on the other hand, refers to breaking the rules and working outside of formal structures for the benefit of society.


Watch this video created by ML Learning Initiative about "How MIT Learns":

3A Learning Principles
3 Enablng Cross-disciplinary Learning

Enabling Cross-disciplinary Learning



Curriculum & Instruction


ML Learning Initiative works with public libraries through the Public Library Innovation Exchange Program (PLIX) to develop new creative learning programs. PLIX is designed for educators to learn how creative learning is like in informal settings. The program offers students with different activities, and librarians can make decisions on which projects are good for students based on their reaction. Students can either join an activity or hang out with friends when they come to a library. These tools and programs are summarized in the table below:


A series of activities using stickers to let students create, craft and code technology through arts and crafts

A set of tools and hands-on workshops to help students learn data literacy concepts

A series of fun, hands-on maker clubs that encourage students to bring their stories and inventions to life through different materials.

A workshop series that that engages children and their parents to learn together

Timeless toys to teach computer science to young children, without the use of computers

Tutorials, activities and starter projects to help people learn Scratch, a visual programming language for making interactive stories, games and simulations

Built-it-yourself photography turntable system that lets students capture how DIY projects come together over time

Aged 8 & older

High school & older

Aged 7-10

Families with children aged 7-12

Aged 3-9

Aged 8 & older

Teens & older

Quick Win for K-12 Educators:
Click on the links to learn more details about the tools and programs! Most of them can be brought into the classroom to enrich students’ learning experience.
3B Curriculum & Instruction
3 Building Capacity

Building Capacity

Professional Development


To build a community of educators and designers to explore creative learning through projects, passion, peers, and play, Learning Creative Learning was created. It is an online course and community that allow participants to create hands-on project based on their interests, explore new technologies and share ideas with peers from more than 100 countries.

ML Learning Creative Learning.JPG
Quick Win for K-12 Educators:
Join the Learning Creative Learning online community to get inspired how to create creative learning experiences for your students!
3C Professionl Development


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