A Conversation with a Learning Scientist: Richard Larson

Published July 10, 2019


Robert Feldman of the University of Massachusetts Amherst sat with the learning scientist, Richard Larson, Mitsui Professor of Engineering Systems of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to discuss a program called BLOSSOMS, which uses videos to help educators teach science through active learning and discovery.

Watch the interview here:


Highlights from this video:

RF: Can you tell us a bit about BLOSSOMS?

DL: BLOSSOMS stands for Blended Learning Open Source Science or Math Studies. It took us a day to figure out a word that had a nice connotation. With the word “blossoms,” you think of young people starting small and blossoming into young learning adults. The idea of the program is to bring in expert teachers in science, engineering, and math, into high schools to challenge students using short video clips. Everyone sits in their regular seats with all devices except the computer shut off. After the challenge is shown via the clip, the teacher guides the students in active learning to discover the solution to that challenge. Students are much more likely to remember things in science or math with active learning and discovery.

RF: What kind of research are you doing on BLOSSOMS and its efficacy?

DL: Our research has basically been feedback from practitioners and users. For instance, our two largest teacher unions, the NEA (National Education Association) and the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) love Blossoms because we don’t use technology to discount the importance of an actual teacher. We use a simple technology like the video to elevate the teacher as a force multiplier into the room.