Michel DeGraff

Credit: Brandon Muramatsu

Michel DeGraff

Michel Degraff, Associate Professor of Linguistics, is pleased to announce that the team from MIT has been successful in winning a significant five-year grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to, ‘help those whose mother tongue is a language that does not include scientific and technological terminology to nonetheless learn STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] content and practices well.’

The grant will enable faculty and researchers from MIT to create ‘a set of Haitian Creole-based, technology-enabled active-learning resources for STEM higher education in Haiti.’

Prof. Degraff says:

“This NSF grant is a fantastic opportunity. It’s going to help transform higher education in Haiti through Open Education Resources in Haitian Creole. Thanks to groundbreaking teamwork among faculty and education leaders at MIT and Haiti, the Office of Educational Technology & Innovation and the Teaching & Learning Lab, we are introducing and evaluating Haitian Creole-based content in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (“STEM”). We are doing this with new active-learning pedagogies through educational technologies developed at MIT, such as STAR for Biology, TEAL for Physics, Mathlets for Math and Educational Games. By using online Open Resources, we’re making these materials available to the largest possible audience in Haiti. These resources match the needs identified by our partners and colleagues in Haiti. And we are introducing these resources with an essential ingredient: Haitian Creole—the one language that all Haitians are fluent in. As far as I know, this is the first initiative ever to introduce online Kreyòl materials for advanced STEM in higher education in Haiti.”

In addition, ‘a variety of fundamental research questions are being addressed, pertaining to (i) the effects, impacts, and challenges of creating opportunities to learn in one’s mother tongue, especially when it does not already contain relevant vocabulary (ii) the creation and diffusion of scientific and technical vocabulary in languages without technical words, called ‘language engineering’, (iii) technical and socio-technical issues in adapting and incorporating learning technologies into the learning environments of underserved populations.’

And there are larger potential rewards. Prof. Degraff continues:

“There are millions of other students worldwide who speak local languages, like Haitian Creole, and who are thirsty for science, as in Haiti. Our project will thus serve as a model beyond Haiti. Furthermore our project illustrates the potential for scientists, engineers and humanists to collaborate and bring out our best in addressing enduring problems of the world.”