MERLOT’s Content Builder: An Exciting and Powerful Tool for Science Teaching
Posted: Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
by Jaime Arvizu and Sara Meadows
MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching at www.merlot.org) is a cooperatively developed, free, web-based resource where teachers and their students can easily find a wealth of peer reviewed, digital learning materials and resources. Created by the California State University System in 1997, the MERLOT digital library collections contains literally thousands of learning objects across many disciplines, including over 5,000 high school resources alone. With individual free membership approaching 50,000 and growing, MERLOT has become a dynamic online learning community where people around the globe contribute materials, evaluations, lesson plans/student learning assignments, personal collections, and peer reviews of online resources used in education. Visit and join MERLOT at www.merlot.org.
One of the many rapidly growing features contained within MERLOT is the Content Builder. The Content Builder is user friendly and allows science teachers an opportunity to easily develop their own websites for multiple purposes. These websites can be designed for students to access materials; for parents to be informed of current classroom activities; for colleagues to share teaching and learning materials (i.e. lessons, grading rubrics, and other materials); and for teachers to collect resources and information for their own use. Essentially, a teacher has a tool to organize her teaching and learning materials in a way that makes retrieving information virtually easy and from any remote location. Currently, the space that is available through Content Builder is free and allows for virtually any type of document or multimedia, including graphics and videos, to be uploaded. Websites are stored on MERLOT server at no cost as long as the website is intended for teaching and learning.
MERLOT’s Content Builder was an application that was used during the summer of 2010 when over twenty Noyce Scholars and Noyce Teachers from the Western Region of the United States attended a two week-long National Science Foundation-funded “Building Locally, Linking Globally” (DUE # 0735011) project workshop held at California State University, Fresno. The program exposed participants to a wide array of online resources including many in MERLOT and in NASA’s digital libraries. Participants were also exposed to a number of outstanding online resources found in the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) and designed to enhance teaching and learning. These included the highly acclaimed Virtual Courseware, Compadre, DLESE and several others. Content Builder allowed participants to create their own electronic portfolio websites for collecting online resources, organizing curriculum and lesson plans, and designing pages for easy navigation. Participant’s Content Builder e-portfolios may be viewed at MERLOT’s “ Noyce Voices” here.
The workshop was lead by three outstanding instructors including Sara Meadows, a Fresno State Noyce Scholar and Chemistry Teacher at Edison High School in Fresno. Sara emerged as a leader within the Fresno State Noyce project and has since lead a number of regional online workshops on both MERLOT and Content Builder. Sara has used Content Builder extensively in her own teaching and shares her story below:
“As a teacher in my 3rd year I have had the opportunity to use and contribute to the MERLOT Content Builder for a number of years. It has become not only a resource, but a great tool to use in my classroom. As a student at CSU, Fresno, I was exposed to the Content Builder in its former incarnation and began learning it and teaching others its capabilities. The program allowed me a place to upload my lessons and link collected resources so that I could build a digital portfolio and essentially my own website. I was able to not only share this with other teachers and future teachers at Fresno state but also give the site address on my resume so that possible employers could see the kind of activities and labs that I plan on doing in my classroom.
Since the Content Builder has the ability to make a simple website I have also used it to create a site for my students and their parents. I have assignments, tutorial resources, and PowerPoint downloads for them to access as needed. Since I am still a newer teacher this site has been changing a lot over the years. I have changed the format of my classroom and am now looking to change the site to reflect that. This may sound like a difficult task but the navigations are simple and things can be easily reformatted. It also has the ability to upload videos and pictures so that you can have students or others visit the site directly instead of trying to find the right video on other sites. I have found it very handy that you can upload almost all types of documents including Word, PowerPoint, and PDFs.
The other great thing about the Content Builder is that it is connected to the MERLOT digital library. You can easily share your site and its resources by contributing it to the library for others to access it. The digital library is a wonderful resource to teachers looking for new or innovative material. I use it alongside the Content Builder keep things fresh and find new ideas.”
Check out Content Builder for your own teaching and visit Sara’s webpage at http://contentbuilder.merlot.org/toolkit/html/stitch.php?s=88450232975604.
Sara and many others within the California State University system continue to provide Content Builder training to inservice and preservice teachers, including several workshops at CSTA conferences over the years. Content Builder has become an outstanding vehicle for building and sharing content, resources, and ideas that can be used for teaching and learning in today’s STEM classrooms.
For more information on MERLOT’s Content Builder, contact Mr. Jaime Arvizu at email@example.com or visit Content Builder online and try to user friendly online tutorial at http://taste.merlot.org/Programs_and_Projects/QuickStart_Guide/index.html.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…