MERLOT Conference 2009 – San Jose

If you need a break from your first life, consider Second Life!

Posted in Conference Info by cguenter on June 22, 2009
Friday Karu paints as Olivia Hotshot looks on.

Friday Karu paints as Olivia Hotshot looks on.

Second Life (SL), a 3D virtual world that is created by its millions of residents from around the world, is providing ever-engaging opportunities and situations for educators and their students. There will be two 3-hour preconference hands-on sessions at MIC ’09 (Thursday, August 13) to provide attendees with skill development and educational use in SL. Ann Steckel and I, representing California State University, Chico, will conduct these sessions inworld as our avatars, Olivia Hotshot and Friday Karu respectively, and as our face-to-face, good-natured selves in real life. I guess you could say that our sessions will be held in mixed reality! You Have Your Second Life Avatar. What’s Next? (9-12 noon) is geared for educators who have an avatar, but aren’t sure where to begin. There are several interactive tasks planned such as modeling  communication and social skills of SL. We will take a field trip to help you get your avatar looking professional and then visit some SL settings as a group to see educational examples in use.  The afternoon session (1-4 PM), Next Steps in Second Life: Creating Quality Experiences for You and Your Students, is designed for those who are considering or are ready to begin implementing a bit of SL in their teaching and/or professional development. Participants will experience several activities including some building skills, establishing SL groups, use of multimedia in SL, and  how as an instructor you might share and disperse information and content in a SL setting.

Olivia Hotshot and Friday Karu look forward to their two MIC '09 presentations!

Olivia Hotshot and Friday Karu look forward to their two MIC '09 presentations!

Both sessions have prerequisites. You need to have an avatar created, you need to have SL installed on your laptop, and you need to bring your laptop to the session(s) you are attending.

Our intent with these sessions is to present examples of Second Life use in higher education,  refine the Second Life skills of the participants, provide investigative and immersive experiences in SL educational environments, and conduct and model SL educational field trips. We believe that SL offers creative teaching and professional development opportunities for teaching and learning for instructors and students and we are excited to share!  Participants will receive some SL freebies we have made such as MERLOT T-shirts and books for their avatars!

Ann Steckel brings her instructional technology skills, teaching experience and well known SL expertise to these sessions. I bring my own high level of curiosity and over a decade of recognized online teaching experience. Together we think we have planned some highly engaging, immediately useful, and downright fun sessions for participants. We are able to take 15 participants for each session. We hope you will consider joining us for the morning or the afternoon, or both during the preconference workshops at MIC ’09. We look forward so seeing you inworld and at MIC ’09!

Here are some related SL links to whet your interest.

What is Second Life?

Educational Uses of Second Life

Virtual Environments Enable New Models of Learning

Olivia and Friday are interested in your use of Second Life and invite you to participate in this poll.


A Team Always Wins: Students as Key Collaborators

Posted in Conference Info, Keynote, Session by vkwong on June 19, 2009

Victor Wong and Gerry Hanley

Prior to 2006, MERLOT was represented on our campus by one or two “lone rangers”, and MERLOT had limited impact on our large decentralized campus.

Fast forward to 2009.  Rather than “lone rangers”, we now have a team of a dozen faculty, staff, and students going to the MIC 2009, with a similar number of sessions/workshop accepted for the MIC 2009 program (see list below for a preview).

How did all this happen?  With some funding help and a lot of teamwork.

In 2006, we tried an experiment and sent a small selected group of faculty and staff, mostly first-timers, to explore the MIC 2006 and to kick-off a new team on campus for MERLOT.  We spent our first year together meeting and building a team – a cross-disciplinary MERLOT community of practice of faculty and staff on campus – and the team won the MERLOT Institutional Stewardship award in 2008.

Most importantly, through a grant in 2008, we added students to the mix and remixed the team to focus on the deployment of good learning objects in gateway undergraduate courses on campus.  We selected graduate students with tech savvy and domain expertise in these courses, and they became our key and fearless collaborators on the team.  Through this teamwork, the cross-disciplinary MERLOT community of practice on campus has grown in 2009 to include chemistry, English and composition, foreign languages, mathematics, medicine, nursing education, physics, psychology, teacher education, and statistics.

My point is simple.  If you’re a “lone ranger” on campus for MERLOT, and you want to see greater impact at your institution, my advice is “Get a Team!”  A team always wins.  Furthermore, make students the key collaborators on the team and, if at all possible, bring them to the MIC!

By Victor Wong, University of Michigan

Here’s a preview of the MIC 2009 presentations and workshop by faculty, staff, and students from the University of Michigan.  The graduate students, as key collaborators in this team effort, are in italics.

Joel Vaughan, Dave Childers, and Brenda Gunderson, “Bottom Up Faculty Development”, Saturday, 10:00 – 10:30 am

Jay Holden, “Creating an Interdisciplinary Collection of Learning Objects to address Basic Skills”, Saturday, 10:45 – 11:15am.

Irene Knokh, “Baby Steps, Introducing Instructional Technology”, Saturday, 10:45 – 11:15am

2-hours Hands-on Workshop:
Perry Samson, “Let Them Bring Their Laptops!  Incorporating Learning Objects into Lecture”.  Saturday, 1:30 – 3:30pm

Michigan MERLOT Team Award Presentation:
Nancy Kerner, Brenda Gunderson, Brian Malley, Lynne Crandall, “Innovative Use of MERLOT”, Saturday, 2:15 – 2:45pm

Tanya Breault and Nancy Kerner, “The Process of Integrating Learning Resources into a Large Introductory Course, Saturday, 5:30 – 6:00 pm

Perry Samson, “New Evidence from the Trenches: Laptops are Good!”, Saturday, 5:30 – 6:00pm

Plenary Presentation:
Carl Berger, “Recognition, Reward, and Tenure: You’ve Got to be Kidding!”, Sunday, 8:00 – 9:30am

Dave Childers, Joel Vaughan, and Brenda Gunderson, “Make them YOURS: How to Package LOs”, Sunday, 10:00 – 10:30 am

Jonathan Maybaum, “Giving and Getting Credit Where Credit is Due”, Sunday, 10:00 – 10:30am

Porscha McRobbie, “Actualization of mathematical and abstract subjects using computer-based guided tutorials”, Sunday 10:00 – 10:30 am

Conference Presentation Preview: From Chit Chat to Discourse

Posted in Session by Dorothy Fuller on June 16, 2009

I teach graduate courses in education. Many of the issues we study come in the form of ill-defined problems, and discussion is one tool to clarify issues, work toward common understanding, and use the combined knowledge, experience and energy of a like-minded community to address possible solutions. In the online environment where my classes take place, this kind of communication happens in an asynchronous threaded discussion. The ongoing written conversation can result in a dynamic presentation of clear thinking written in well constructed sentences of well chosen words, but it usually doesn’t. Many participants are uncertain of the quality of their offerings, both in terms of the strengths and the weaknesses of those postings. Even with rubrics and exemplars, they seem to struggle with finding the magic balance of examining a topic, supporting the community and maintaining economy of effort.

As I searched for ways of providing more and better feedback and encouragement to students, I found that the participant rating tools now found in many learning management systems provide another way of addressing the value of every posting in its ability to support understanding and learning for all those engaged in the discussion. 

  • Students reach agreement on specific characteristics of discussion postings that both help and hinder their learning.
  •  Students then use the rating system to identify postings that were helpful to their learning and those that were not by awarding stars as they read each one.
  • Writers are then asked to review and rate their own work and to compare their ratings with those received by the class as a whole.
  • Students are also asked to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both the top star winners and their own writings, to compare the results, and to set goals for increasing their own ratings throughout the course.

In “From Chit Chat to Discourse: Improving Online Discussion” I will share how students in two different classes used this system, what they liked and did not like about it, and how they used it to increase the quality of their own discussion participation. I will also ask others to share their innovative and effective strategies for increasing discussion quality.

2009 MERLOT International Conference: Tips for Language Educators

Posted in Conference Info, Session by janepmoore on June 15, 2009

As a language professional going to the  2009 MERLOT International Conference, I would definitely target sessions that highlight websites and technologies that would enhance the teaching of L2 listening, speaking, reading and writing. Additionally, I would be looking at concurrent sessions and workshops that emphasize multicultural themes and communication and collaborative activities that would get  students talking, interacting and using the target language. Perusing the program online, a few sessions that pique my interest so far are:

1. Frenchnology – The site that inspires this session,, uses popular You Tube music videos to teach French grammar  points .It is an engaging way to get students to observe language structures in an authentic context. The author writes about the videos: “Though they span the full spectrum of French and Francophone music, the songs are equally useful in displaying what the students consider to be “real French.” The authenticity and variety of material, in addition to the precision of the language lesson, maintains interest and achieves the pedagogical and cultural goals of using music to teach language. Although the examples will be in French, all language educators should be able to get some good ideas from this approach. (Friday, 11:30)

2. The Children of Argentina’s Disappeared- This session combines a social topic that many professors of Spanish cover in their courses with an instructional format that many language educators use with success, the webquest. MERLOT contains many award-winning webquests in its collections. This session promises to be a practical “how-to” session particularly useful for Spanish and other language teachers. (Friday, 11:30)

3. What Makes Them Talk- One of the big challenges for language courses online is getting students to interact with each other verbally and in asynchronous and synchronous discussion.  This session promises free classroom-tested materials online that make this practice easier. This seems like a must for language educators. (Friday, 5:30)

4. Voice Thread Workshop – This is an application that many language educators I know already use and that deserves much more attention. The MIC will have a hands-on workshop on Voice Thread, a tool that allows users “to comment on media (images, movies or documents) in voice, text or video.” It is free and extremely easy to use. (Saturday, 1:30)

5. A Collaborative Approach to Online Course Design- Who could not benefit from hearing about the challenges of putting foreign language courses online? This session will outline the experience of the University of Colorado at Boulder. It should provide good food for thought. (Saturday, 4:00)

6. Using Learning Objects in Foreign Language Teaching: Some Fresh Ideas. – These presenters promise a “customizable” language experience through the use of various types of learning objects. They will show how these will promote interaction and communication. (Saturday, 5:30)

7. MERLOT Chile Community Project- The Center for Innovation on Education of Technological University of Chile – INACAP is collaborating with CSU to build a MERLOT collection for native Spanish speakers. The site
will have learning materials available for anyone who visits the site. Language educators should find this very interesting. (Saturday, 5:30)

8. C’est la Seconde Vie- Teaching French Literature in Second Life is the topic of this session that will undoubtedly be interesting to language teachers in any language. (Sunday, 10:00)

9. Creating Culturally- Relevant OERS Across Cultures – Open Educational Resources are the focus of this session that highlights collaboration between CSU and India. This should be a very motivating look forward into a world where OERs provide access and opportunities for collaboration between teachers and learners worldwide. Language educators will play a crucial role in this work. (Sunday, 11:30 a.m.)

10. Networking with MERLOT World Languages throughout the conference- At any of the networking activities provided at the conference, MERLOT World Languages editorial board members will be there to meet fellow language educators. If you want to set up a meeting in advance, contact Laura Franklin at

Compiled by Laura Franklin, Professor of French, Northern Virginia Community Colleges and  Editor, MERLOT World Languages

Wade Ellis: an Outstanding Keynote Presenter

Posted in Keynote by tahoemath on June 9, 2009

Wade Ellis

I have known Wade Ellis for over a decade and have attended almost a dozen talks that he gave at local and International conferences.  Wade is a gentle man with a powerful message.  With mathematics as MERLOT’s featured discipline this year, Wade Ellis is the perfect person to deliver a keynote address at the MIC.  He has had a long and fruitful teaching career and is a national leader in technology.  Each time there is a new movement in mathematics education, you can find Wade asking and researching the tough questions of how new technology can be implemented in a way that most effectively improves student discovery and learning.   He is a master in identifying areas where the focus is on facts and rote memorization and challenging the education community to develop technology and other pedagogical tools to deliver the content in such a way that replaces the emphasis on thoughtless absorption with new curriculum that develops exploration and problem solving skills.  It will certainly be a treat this year to attend the MIC.  Wade Ellis’ keynote address is one to look forward to.

by Larry Green

Planning & implementing affordable & scalable content capture solutions

Posted in Session by janepmoore on June 5, 2009
lecture capture hardware

lecture capture hardware

As eLearning has grown in popularity so has the need for content or lecture capture solutions which allow professors to quickly record and upload direct instructional activities. During these challenging economic times, institutions must give special consideration to cost and scalability when searching for  content capture tools.

At the 2009 MERLOT International Conference, Cris Guenter and I will be sharing the Content Capture Comparison Matrix (PDF draft version) which can help professors determine which tools best meet their instructional needs. Our session will conclude with a discussion about implementation strategies such as how to develop a content capture workflow that integrates with an institution’s LMS.

We would love to have you join us at this year’s conference in San Jose.  We would also appreciate learning more about tools you are using for lecture or content capture, and production workflows which have been successful for you.