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Friday, March 23, 2012

MERLOT-Ooh la la!

In just a few months I have been privy to learning about a ton of fantastic educational resources out there.  One such resource presented in my current class is MERLOT (and no, I'm not talking about wine!).  In this assignment, I was instructed to perform a peer review of material that has been presented in MERLOT. 

The material I chose, mostly because it is relevant to my course history in Human and Social Services Administration, is a class regarding Housing and Human Services.  My evaluation is as follows:

Quality of Content:
  1. Does the software present valid (correct) concepts, models, and skills?
Yes, the material I viewed was originally presented in 2005, however the concepts are still current and correct from my available knowledge. 

2. Does the software present educationally significant concepts, models, and skills for the discipline?

Yes. The concepts involved are regarding the psychology of placement in the housing programs and the dilemmas faced by those dealing with that particular population. 

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching-Learning Tool:
  1. What stage(s) in the learning process/cycle could the materials be used?
    • Explanation or description of the topic/stating the problem
    •  The materials/course presented would be considered a graduate level class for those currently in the field who have at least experienced issues in trying to place those who need housing assistance into programs like transitional housing, rehab, adult foster care homes, group homes, etc. Part of the problem(s) addressed in the course materials is the cycle of drug abuse, mental illness coping, and low income lifestyle challenges.
    • Quoted material relevant to this question: "Part I identifies the main issues in the interaction between housing and human service systems. It introduces social science concepts related to the interaction in practice between housing and human services.Part II focuses on "categories of population to be housed." We look at the history of the category, the issues surrounding its housing and services needs and in several instances how practitioners (all graduates or almost-graduates of DUSP) are handling the challenge in the real world. The case of transitional housing is an exception where we are looking at a form of housing which serves a number of populations.
      Part III focuses on student papers. To expand our knowledge of how human service and housing issues play out in practice, each student will develop a case study of a local or state organization that is dealing with the interface between the housing and human service systems. Hopefully some of you will already be working in intern settings that will provide the context and data for such a study. If not we will produce organizations for you and will help connect you with the actors in these situations. Students may also use relevant cases to which they already have or can get access." 
    • Demonstration of the curriculum/exploration of the problem
    • Using team projects, real world interactions with clients and "services" organizations the learners explore the problems addressed in the lecture and reading materials. 
    • Practice using the curriculum/analysis of the outcomes from solving the problem
    • Using group meetings with other learners, real world interactions and case studies, learners can develop solutions to the housing/crisis paradigm described. 
    • Applying the curriculum to "new" problems/application of the outcomes to other problems
    • Using the information and methods obtained in this course material, learners can apply the principles obtained in evaluating client circumstances to solve additional problems in placement that may occur.  Quoted material ""Deal with problem" Segregate Integrate Isolate (LCK problem people)"
  2. What is(are) the learning objective(s)? What should students be able to do after successfully learning with the materials?  Students should be able to identify client's barriers to proper housing placement and adjust their continuum of care accordingly.
  3. What are the characteristics of the target learner(s)
Professionals or para-professionals that are currently on the job or entering the work force after completion of a bachelor's degree and currently working on obtaining a graduate degree. 
  1. Does the interactive/media-rich presentation of material improve faculty and students' abilities to teach and learn the materials?
The material is preferably presented in a real world setting as an internship with "live" application/presentation.  Experiences are then evaluated in group setting with feedback from other students as well as faculty.  For the type of problem/solution being presented (case by case basis) this is probably the most applicable presentation of material possible. 
  1. Can the use of the software be readily integrated into current curriculum and pedagogy within the discipline?
This is a online course description with "readings", lecture notes, assignment description so the curriculum is laid out in its entirety for anyone in the discipline to access and adapt. 
  1. Can the software be used in a variety of ways to achieve teaching and learning goals?
No. It is not software but instead an online curriculum that involves real life interaction in order to be successful.  
  1. Are the teaching-learning goals easy to identify? Yes. They are laid out in the course syllabus.
  2. Can good learning assignments for using the software application be written easily? Assignments are already laid out and can be adjusted on a case by case basis.
Ease of Use:

  1. Are the labels, buttons, menus, text, and general layout of the computer interface consistent and visually distinct?  Yes, the material is presented through MIT's opencourseware system.
  2. Does the user get trapped in the material? No, the user can use the buttons on the left side navigation or download the material as actual documents to follow.
  1. Can the user get lost easily in the material? No
  2. Does the module provide feedback about the system status and the user's responses? No
  3. Does the module provide appropriate flexibility in its use? No
  4. Does the learning material require a lot of documentation, technical support, and/or instruction for most students to successfully use the software? No
  5. Does the material present information in ways that are familiar for students?no
  6. Does the material present information in ways that would be attractive to students? Yes

Link to actual material evaluated

Link to material on MERLOT

Educational Reform

         Two days ago, I went and saw Ken Robinson speak at MSU's Wharton Center.  Last night, I watched Henry Rollins speak at the Michigan Theatre near U of M. I have to admit that I was more impressed with what Henry Rollins had to say about education and reform then with what Sir Ken said.  Don't get me wrong, Sir Ken made some excellent points about what is wrong with our educational system-standards vs. standardizing for example.  However, I felt as though he was quick to point out all the failures of our current system and fell short at offering any potential solutions.  Henry Rollins on the other hand offered some ideas or at least some inspiration to me on where we can go from here.

         If it were possible, I would create a sort of Montessori charter school focused on independent study as well as group projects on ALL of the arts.  Here me out.  I think that a school that embraces all of the arts and humanities (and by that I am not just talking about math, science, music, etc. but I am also including graphic design, computer programming, literary arts, gaming, architecture, gastronomy, sculpture, etc.) will encourage creativity as a way of thinking (creative logic).  When Sir Ken spoke of creativity he made a great point that many people associate that only with being artistic (some who can draw, sing, etc.) and that is not what it means.  To create something incorporates building, designing, developing but it doesn't have to physically be something.  One constructs a logical math problem and solution, one develops a marketing plan, one builds a story, etc. I would want a school where experiments, collaboration, and technology were daily tasks, not something done as a lab as 1 part of a semester long lesson plan. I am not trying to criticize current school systems or teachers at all by saying this, but I think public schools do kill creativity (Sir Ken has spoken on this topic) and that we need to reinvent them. I believe that looking at things like gastronomy by way of a  community garden would be a large part of the picture as well-teaching altruism, the social sciences and philanthropy.

      Over the last few days I have been trying to develop a lesson plan and have created half of a plan on 3 different topics, none of which have seemed to work for me.  I think part of my "block" is that I am not currently in a classroom and the other part is that I am trying so hard to be creative!! Creativity should not be contrived, it needs to flow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Forgive my ranting, or don't....

My 2nd class has started and I'm excited to see what it brings! I'm ready for the challenge.  Speaking of challenge-I'm still working on my "official" grad school application (due April 1st).  Right now, I'm enrolled in the classes on, well,  sort of a "conditional" basis-as a lifelong student in the certificate program.  However, I have to apply for and get accepted into the official MAET program (no pressure!) if I want to continue in the classes. 

I'm very excited to report that I finished my last class with an A--4.0!!  That is some serious motivation.  I mean-I would have been concerned if I hadn't done well-and wondering if I picked the correct program.  So far, so good.

I do want to take a minute to have a little rant (think of it as the stress and pressure of balancing work/school/family!!!) Lately, I have been reading more "comments" on various websites, forums and via my RSS feed.  I think perhaps this is a bad idea.  I've been getting very frustrated with the grammar and structure of others' posts.  What I mean is that I am noticing a communication pattern among "younger" generations that is making me feel OLD!  I have read comments that have actually made me stop and wonder if they 1) mistyped or 2) were using a different language (and no I don't mean Javascript or HTML!) That is all.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Looking back....Personal Reflection

Looking back on the lessons in this class and my performance, I believe I learned a lot about different types of educational technology tools and resources.  I learned the most by reviewing the SIG projects-Popplets, Moodles,Yodio etc.  I enjoyed the MACUL space and getting all the trips and tricks the most and it made me think about different tools out there. I think what may have limited my growth is that I am not a traditional "teacher" or trainer so it's difficult for me to implement certain things in a classroom I don't have.  
  • What are some things that you have learned about effective teaching strategies when integrating technology? Effective teaching strategies can be learned best by using resources like MACUL and understanding tips and tricks to their implementation.  You might have to just "google" it if you have any technical problems.  Many free tools exist so it doesn't need to cost a fortune to do. 
  • How did integrating the Internet help you think about and evaluate uses of technology? I already integrated the internet into my previous studies.  I have done my entire college education in an "online"interactive environment so I'm not sure it was all that different for me.  However,  I liked have the ability to pick my own "medium"!
  • Which of the assignments that you turned in do you feel really exemplifies good teaching with technology and why? Our group SIG project exemplifies good teaching with technology because of all the examples and tools we uncovered in our research and the visual examples given. 
  • How have you met your goals established in your Personal Growth Plan? I haven't really met any of the goals in my PGP yet other than completing the course!  Most of my goals were more long term ones. 
  • Do you have any new goals? What are your plans for reaching your new goals and your long-term goals after this course is over? My new goals would be to really sit down and create example lesson plans using all the wonderful tools we have found.  I want to keep a portfolio to show examples of my work as a "resume" as well as to share with teachers who are looking for instructions on how to use certain technology tools. I would like to be able to take one thing a month (popple, moodle, yodio, eduism, etc.) and put together a small example of its possibilities in the classroom.