Creating a Home on the Web for Teaching Materials
By Robert Schroeder
A Google search for "teaching materials" returns only 311 million matching sites.
For a veteran teacher facing the time constraints of overcrowded classrooms, lesson planning and paperwork, sifting through these returns for the right materials can be too burdensome. For a rookie teacher, there is little direction of where to even start.
National Louis University's Catherine Honig, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Management and Business, is leading a nationwide initiative to provide teachers and university educators with an online database of peer-reviewed, top-quality multimedia resources. Honig was recently named the editor of the Psychology Editorial Board for MERLOT, the Multimedia Educational Resource for Online Learning and Teaching.
"This is an excellent way to reach the 21st century learner," Honig said. "The kinds of materials reflect current technological trends, but also support student learning and faculty development in very traditional kinds of ways."
MERLOT is an initiative produced by the California state university system with 85,000 members from across the country. Honig is leading a team of university faculty from Tennessee to Alaska looking to rejuvenate the psychology content on the site.
Her team is focused on two primary goals: evaluating submittals for quality content and effectiveness as a teaching tool. The content review ensures accuracy and current relevancy as well as certifying the materials' relevance in the psychology field. The second step examines how easily a teacher or professor could incorporate the materials into lesson plans. Reviewers look for special technology needs, instruction requirements, instructor assistance needs, and the ability of students to use the materials independently.
Under Honig's leadership, the editorial team is in a constant process of triaging incoming learning materials, determining what fields the materials belong to, identifying reviewers and initiating the evaluation process.
In the end, not every submittal passes the rest, a move necessary to create a clean space amidst the clutter of 300 million+ sites online.
"The material that comes in is usually interesting and excellent in the eyes of the person who makes the contribution, but this approach raises the specter of scholarship," Honig said. "It ensures that we establish the objects in the repository are high quality."
Honig sees MERLOT's mission as one leading a charge to match the capacity of educators with 21st century technological progress.
"I think it takes a diverse community of educators to develop something of this significance and quality," Honig said. "Technology is the key to educational innovation right now, and there's a lot of personal satisfaction with being associated with a community that has as its overriding goal the advancement of learning and teaching."
The site offers professional development for end users but also bolsters teaching techniques for the reviewers. Honig says she is constantly augmenting her own teaching approach at National Louis University's Tampa campus, as well as incorporating the tools and materials she reviews in her own lesson plans.
Click on these award-winning examples of MERLOT multimedia to visit each site: