A Free Course from MIT Teaches You How to Speak Italian & Cook Italian Food All at Once

At MIT, Dr. Paola Rebusco usually teaches physics to freshmen. But, on behalf of the MIT Experimental Study Group, Rebusco has devised an appealing course -- Speak Italian with Your Mouth Full -- where she combines teaching two things many people love: learning to speak Italian and cooking Italian food. The course summary reads:

The participants in this seminar will dive into learning basic conversational Italian, Italian culture, and the Mediterranean diet. Each class is based on the preparation of a delicious dish and on the bite-sized acquisition of parts of the Italian language and culture. A good diet is not based on recipes only, it is also rooted in healthy habits and in culture. At the end of the seminar the participants will be able to cook some healthy and tasty recipes and to understand and speak basic Italian.

As Rebusco explains in a short video, this course has the advantage of making the language lessons a little less abstract. It gives students a chance to apply what they've learned (new vocabulary words, pronunciations, etc.) in a fun, practical context.




Above, we start you off with the first language lesson in the seminar. It begins where all basic courses start -- with how to say your name. Below, you can watch the class learn to cook fresh pasta. Along the way, the course also teaches students how to make espressorisottohomemade pizzabruschetta, and biscotti. Lectures for the course can be found on the MIT web site, YouTube and iTunesSpeak Italian with Your Mouth Full also appears in our collection of Free Foreign Language Lessons and 1200 Free Courses Online. Buon Appetito!

Ingredients & Cooking Instruction:

Food Preparation

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site way back in 2012.

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Tattoos Can Now Start Monitoring Your Medical Conditions: Harvard and MIT Researchers Innovate at the Intersection of Art & Medicine

Once reserved for rebels and outliers, tattoos have gone mainstream in the United States. According to recent surveys, 21% of all Americans now have at least one tattoo. And, among the 18-29 demographic, the number rises to 40%. If that number sounds high, just wait until tattoos go from being aesthetic statements to biomedical devices.

At Harvard and MIT, researchers have developed "smart tattoo ink" that can monitor changes in biological and health conditions, measuring, for example, when the blood sugar of a diabetic rises too high, or the hydration of an athlete falls too low. Pairing biosensitive inks with traditional tattoo designs, these smart tattoos could conceivably provide real-time feedback on a range of medical conditions. And also raise a number of ethical questions: what happens when your health information gets essentially worn on your sleeve, available for all to see?

To learn more about smart tattoos, watch the Harvard video above, and read the corresponding article in the Harvard Gazette.

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MIT’s New Master’s Program Admits Students Without College and High School Degrees … and Helps Solve the World’s Most Pressing Problems

One of the central problems of inequality is that it perpetuates itself by nature. The inherent social capital of those born in certain places and classes grants access to even more social capital. Questions of merit can seem marginal when the credentials required by elite institutions prove inaccessible to most people. In an admirable effort to break this cycle globally, MIT is now admitting students to a graduate program in economics, without GRE scores, without letters of recommendation, and without a college degree. 

Instead students begin with something called a "MicroMasters" program, which is like “a method used in medicine… randomized control trials,” reports WBUR. This entryway removes many of the usual barriers to access by allowing students to first "take rigorous courses online for credit, and if they perform well on exams, to apply for a master’s degree program on campus"—a degree in data, economics and development policy (DEDP), which focuses on methods for reducing global inequality.

 

 

Enrollment in the online MicroMasters courses began in February of last year (the next round starts on February 6, 2018), and the DEDP master's program will start in 2019. “The world of development policy has become more and more evidence-based over the past 10-15 years,” explains MIT professor of economics Ben Olken, who co-created the program with economics professors Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. “Development practitioners need to understand not just development issues, but how to analyze them rigorously using data. This program is designed to help fill that gap.”

Duflo, co-founder of MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), explains the innovation of MicroMasters' radically open admissions. (For anyone with access to the internet, that is, still a huge barrier for millions worldwide): “Anybody could do that. At this point, you don’t need to have gone to college. For that matter, you don’t need to have gone to high school.” Students who are accepted after their initial online course work will move into a “blended” program that combines their prior work with a semester on MIT's campus.

MicroMasters courses are priced on a sliding scale (from $100 to $1,000), according to what students can afford, and costs are nowhere near what traditional students pay—after having already paid, or taken loans, for a four-year degree, various testing regimens, admissions costs, living expenses, etc. The current program might feasibly be scaled up to include other fields in the future. Thus far, over 8,000 students in the world have enrolled in the MicroMasters program. “In total,” Duflo says, “there are 182 countries represented,” including ten percent from China, a large group from India, and “even some from the U.S.”

Students enrolled in these courses design their own evaluations of initiatives around the globe that address disparities in healthcare, education, and other areas. Co-designed by the Poverty Action Lab and the Department of Economics, MicroMasters asks students to “grapple with some of the world’s most pressing problems," including the problem of access to higher education. You can view the requirements and enroll at the MITx MicroMasters’ site. Read frequently asked questions and learn about the instructors here. And here, listen to WBUR’s short segment on this fascinating educational experiment.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How to Win at Texas Hold ‘Em: A Free MIT Course

In 2015, we featured a short MIT course called Poker Theory and Analytics, which introduced students to poker strategy, psychology, and decision-making in eleven lectures. Now comes a new course, this one more squarely focused on Texas Hold 'Em. Taught by MIT grad student Will Ma, the course "covers the poker concepts, math concepts, and general concepts needed to play the game of Texas Hold'em on a professional level." Here's a quick overview of the topics the course delves into in the 7 lectures above (or find them here on YouTube).

  • Poker Concepts: preflop ranges, 3-betting, continuation betting, check-raising, floating, bet sizing, implied odds, polarization, ICM theory, data mining in poker
  • Math Concepts: probability and expectation, variance and the Law of Large Numbers, Nash Equilibrium
  • General Concepts: decisions vs. results, exploitative play vs. balanced play, risk management

You can find the syllabus, lecture slides and assignments on this MIT website.  How to Win at Texas Hold 'Em will be added to our collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Free: You Can Now Read Classic Books by MIT Press on Archive.org

FYI. At the end of May, Archive.org announced this on its blog:

For more than eighty years, MIT Press has been publishing acclaimed titles in science, technology, art and architecture.  Now, thanks to a new partnership between the Internet Archive and MIT Press, readers will be able to borrow these classics online for the first time. With generous support from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing, this partnership represents an important advance in providing free, long-term public access to knowledge.

“These books represent some of the finest scholarship ever produced, but right now they are very hard to find,” said Brewster Kahle, founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “Together with MIT Press, we will enable the patrons of every library that owns one of these books to borrow it online–one copy at a time.”

This joint initiative is a crucial early step in Internet Archive’s ambitious plans to digitize, preserve and provide public access to four million books, by partnering widely with university presses and other publishers, authors, and libraries....

We will be scanning an initial group of 1,500 MIT Press titles at Internet Archive’s Boston Public Library facility, including Cyril Stanley Smith’s 1980 book, From Art to Science: Seventy-Two Objects Illustrating the Nature of Discovery, and Frederick Law Olmsted and Theodora Kimball’s Forty Years of Landscape Architecture: Central Park, which was published in 1973. The oldest title in the group is Arthur C. Hardy’s 1936 Handbook of Colorimetry.

Throughout the summer, we've been checking in, waiting for the first MIT Press books to hit Archive.org's virtual shelves. They're now starting to arrive. Click here to find the beginnings of what promises to be a much larger collection.




As Brewster Kahle (founder of Internet Archive) explained it to Library Journalhis organization is “basically trying to wave a wand over everyone’s physical collections and say, Blink! You now have an electronic version that you can use” in whatever way desired, assuming its permitted by copyright. In the case of MIT Press, it looks like you can log into Archive.org and digitally borrow their electronic texts for 14 days.

Archive.org hopes to digitize 1,500 MIT Press classics by the end of 2017. Digital collections from other publishing houses seem sure to follow.

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Introduction to Python, Data Science & Computational Thinking: Free Online Courses from MIT

FYI: MIT has posted online the video lectures for an essential series of courses. In the playlist of 38 lectures above, you can get an Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python. Recorded this past fall, and taught by Prof. Eric Grimson, Prof. John Guttag, and Dr. Ana Bell, the course is "intended for students with little or no programming experience. It aims to provide students with an understanding of the role computation can play in solving problems and to help students, regardless of their major, feel justifiably confident of their ability to write small programs that allow them to accomplish useful goals. The class uses the Python 3.5 programming language." Find accompanying course materials, including syllabus, here.

The follow up course, Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science, is again intended for students with little or no programming experience. "It aims to provide students with an understanding of the role computation can play in solving problems and to help students, regardless of their major, feel justifiably confident of their ability to write small programs that allow them to accomplish useful goals. The class uses the Python 3.5 programming language." Find related course materials here, and the 15 lectures on this playlist.

Both courses will be added to our collection of Free Computer Science Courses, a subset of our collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Artificial Intelligence: A Free Online Course from MIT

Today we're adding MIT's course on Artificial Intelligence to our ever-growing collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. That's because, to paraphrase Amazon's Jeff Bezos, artificial intelligence (AI) is "not just in the first inning of a long baseball game, but at the stage where the very first batter comes up." Look around, and you will find AI everywhere--in self driving cars, Siri on your phone, online customer support, movie recommendations on Netflix, fraud detection for your credit cards, etc. To be sure, there's more to come.

Featuring 30 lectures, MIT's course "introduces students to the basic knowledge representation, problem solving, and learning methods of artificial intelligence." It includes interactive demonstrations designed to "help students gain intuition about how artificial intelligence methods work under a variety of circumstances." And, by the end of the course, students should be able "to develop intelligent systems by assembling solutions to concrete computational problems; understand the role of knowledge representation, problem solving, and learning in intelligent-system engineering; and appreciate the role of problem solving, vision, and language in understanding human intelligence from a computational perspective."

Taught by Prof. Patrick Henry Winston, the lectures can all be viewed above. Or watch them on YouTube and iTunes. Related course materials (including a syllabus) can be found on this MIT website. The textbook, available on Amazon, was written by Professor Winston.

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