Today on the Getting Smart Podcast, Tom interviews Jeff Dieffenbach, Associate Director of the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili). Prior to joining MIT, Jeff worked in strategy, product management, business development, sales and marketing roles for a variety of traditional and digital education companies.

With Jeff’s current role at MIT, he works with his team to better understand learning and education — and using that knowledge to better enable students and learners around the world to reach their fullest potential. MITili funds, connects, and shares research investigating learning effectiveness.

In this episode, Tom and Jeff discuss his current role at MIT at the ILI center as well as their overall mission. Jeff elaborates on how they conduct literacy assessments, he describes what he has learned about how learners grow and develop, and how they can help improve children’s education.

Key Takeaways

[1:07] Welcoming Jeff Dieffenbach to the podcast.
[1:13] Where Jeff went to high school and how he got hooked on to sailing.
[2:15] How did Jeff get to MIT?
[2:45] The interesting range of topics that Jeff studied at MIT (Tech policy and materials science) and why he chose to study them.
[3:33] About Jeff’s extensive career in education, ed tech, and business development and he made the switch from art engineering sciences.
[4:39] About Jeff’s current work at MIT’s Integrated Learning Initiative and it’s overall mission.
[5:40] How they conduct literacy assessment at the Integrated Learning Initiative center.
[7:07] About MIT’s work with the Learner Positioning Systems at Digital Promise.
[8:20] Jeff describes what he has learned about how learners grow and develop — particularly younger children.
[9:55] Helping kids access information and re-apply it. How memory and storing information works and why we need to take advantage of it to teach more effectively.
[11:46] Jeff’s thoughts on deliberate practice.
[14:45] At the policy level, what can states do to help improve children’s educational experience?
[16:17] The changes being made towards generative systems that take advantage of learning and moving away from the traditional, four-year degree and command and control teaching.
[17:35] Does Jeff think that there’s a reduced return on higher education?
[19:38] Should we be optimistic about these new forms of learning?
[21:13] The new movement towards education continuing into the workplace.
[23:01] If we had better high school diplomas what would they signify, how would they be earned, and what kinds of experiences would go into them?
[24:35] How might we express what a learner should be able to know and be able to do?
[25:31] Anything new on the roadmap for MITili?
[27:12] Where to learn more about the work Jeff is doing.

Mentioned in This Episode

Materials Processing Center at MIT
MIT Integrated Learning Initiative
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Learner Positioning Systems (Digital Promise)
Getting Smart’s Blog Post on Melina Uncapher (from UCSF)
“S3: E15 The Science of Deliberate Practice: What it Means for Education” (Gene Kerns)

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