Using MERLOT Voices to Build Community of Learners
Posted: Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
by Laura Henriques, David Andrews, and Jaime Arvizu
This is the fifth in a series of articles related to using on-line resources to support student learning. Each article highlights a different National Science Digital Library (NSDL) resource used in the Building Locally, Linking Globally project (NSF DUE 0735011).
MERLOT 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 on-line library of peer reviewed teaching and learning materials (called “learning objects”) is searchable by grade, topic and type. The e-portfolio generator called Content Builder is a free, simple way to create professional portfolios and classroom based websites. Both of these features were highlighted in Jaime Arvizu and Sara Meadows’ article. The feature of MERLOT which we are highlighting in this article is MERLOT Voices.
MERLOT Voices (voices.merlot.org) allows groups of MERLOT members (membership is free) to create topic specific discussion groups. Unlike “Facebook” which is really more of a general social network, Voices is a professional social network that tends to have a greater focus on educational matters. A number of CSU campuses have employed MERLOT Voices with students to create private and open forums and discussion boards. In fact, Fresno State used MERLOT Voices as an integral part of a California Department of Education funded program known as “Modeling Science”. There were more than 75 science teachers from the Fresno and San Luis Obispo area who used Voices to post chats and engage in continued dialogue on project-related activities and developments. It was a tremendously successful vehicle for communication and sharing and helped make the two-year project a great success. Voices has also been used with groups of students in special NSF-funded summer institutes and in some cases, within our own science methods courses, to maintain online sharing of ideas and resources. While many users may have access to various discussion board features for courses, this particular forum is open to anyone who is invited and joins. For projects, clubs or groups of likeminded people, MERLOT Voices becomes the place for on-going conversations. Like most discussion boards, members can post and reply to prompts and each other. Working with groups of preservice teachers from different cohorts and different content areas, MERLOT Voices has allowed for at a common, on-line gathering space in which to share ideas about teaching and learning, respond to readings and ask for help. The conversations have threads that are easy to follow.
In addition to threaded discussions, Voices allows users to upload word documents, Powerpoints, and other forms of multi-media files with an almost unlimited storage capacity available. This is powerful advantage over many other bulletin board formats which are limited in text input and storage.
With pre-service teachers, we have used Voices to have candid discussions about teaching issues associated with high-need schools. Topics such as violence in schools, understanding issues associated with poverty, teaching in schools with fewer resources, and managing classrooms are among those discussed. Having these conversations on-line, as opposed to in a given class or course, affords student teachers and credential students alike an opportunity to interact in ways that a traditional credential program rarely offers. Since the discussion board is on-line, users can participate asynchronously. Not surprisingly, the times that students are on-line and posting don’t match our typical working hours!
Another advantage to MERLOT Voices is that the conversations and groups can extend beyond the life of the course or workshop. While many on-line educational management systems include a discussion board feature, they usually disappear at the end of the course, whereas here, these groups will remain intact for a longer period of time. Additionally, prospective teachers are assured more communication interactions with in-service teachers than is typical. This brings a unique richness to their professional development.
Since MERLOT Voices can be set up as public or private, users can feel secure in posting questions and in seeking help. Mentors who lurk in the background and post prompts are then able to jump into the conversation (either via the discussion thread or via private e-mail) to provide support.
While there may be some existing communities which one might like to join, creating one’s own group and on-line community is a very powerful way to help students to get and stay connected in a professional setting. To get started, you must first be a member of MERLOT (sign-up on www.merlot.org). Then go to MERLOT Voices and click on Community Conversations. Click on the + ADD button and get started. It is simple, works well and provides a nice platform for professional development and problem solving.
Have fun and good luck!
Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach, the co-chair of the 2011 California Science Education Conference Committee, and president-elect of CSTA.
David Andrews is a professor at CSU Fresno and a Life member of CSTA.
Jaime Arvizu is an associate director/counselor at CSU Fresno College of Science and Mathematics and member of CSTA.
Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017
The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.
The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.
There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…