May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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 jaimea@csufresno.edu or visit Content Builder online and try to user friendly online tutorial at http://taste.merlot.org/Programs_and_Projects/QuickStart_Guide/index.html.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

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  1. […] is the Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching. Highlighted in an earlier eCCS article, MERLOT (www.merlot.org)  is a free service. There are several things that MERLOT provides. The […]

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

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On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

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To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.