Sunday, September 30, 2012

MERLOT Resource Evaluation

For my MERLOT resource I chose a "Google Docs Paper Editing" lesson plan. I have my students use Google Docs for my English class, so this lesson plan seemed relevant. Peer-editing is a tricky task to teach high school students. Often times they think of peer-editing as a chance to talk to their classmates and not really offer any critical feedback. It also changes the dynamic when you add a digital essay to edit like with Google Docs. I was anxious to see how this person handled using Google Docs to peer-edit. I used the MERLOT criteria and examined the following:

Quality of Content:

The content covered in this lesson plan offered valid software. Google Docs is a free service that people in all areas of work and personal life utilize. It's an area that students can greatly benefit from learning. Peer-editing is also a skill that students will use not only in school, but when they go into the work force. The skills addressed are necessary and relevant to student learning. It especially ties into the discipline of English where students are constantly writing essays and collaborating with peers.Regardless of the context, people will always have to get together to discuss ways to improve something.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching-Learning Tool:

  • What stage(s) in the learning process/cycle could the materials be used?
  1. Explanation or description of the topic/stating the problem
  2. Demonstration of the curriculum/exploration of the problem
  3. Practice using the curriculum/analysis of the outcomes from solving the problem
The lesson plan could fit into the first three categories because it's a concept that is taught and then used during the same hour. Students get sheets to help them peer-edit, but then digitally complete them and share them. The author states the problem and then students have a chance to practice peer-editing.

  • The following are learning objectives of the lesson:
a. Objective: Students will use their knowledge of 6+1 writing traits to edit two other students’ research papers on Google docs. b. Objective: Students will write at least one positive comment and one critical comment for each paper they edit. c. Objective: Students will record the suggestions of their group members, noting the specific global and structural issues others noticed in their paper.

  • What are the characteristics of the target learner(s):
High school students with basic technology and English skills. Students need to be novice editors and writers. To use Google docs, students will also need to have at least an average understanding of how to understand Web 2.0 tools. According to the lesson plan, they also need the following knowledge of: "6+1 traits, how to global issues in relation to papers, basic grammatical elements, how to use word processing software, how to access Google docs, and how to submit and share a document on Google doc"

  • Does the interactive/media-rich presentation of material improve faculty and students' abilities to teach and learn the materials?
The lesson plan offers an explanation by the teacher, a chance for discussion, time to work independently on their computers, and the ability to collaborate with peers if necessary. It gives students multiple ways to engage with the information and become better peer-editors. I think Google Docs is an excellent tool for students to use. It allows practice looking at writing digitally, as well as giving feedback and sharing files.

  • Can the use of the software be readily integrated into current curriculum and pedagogy within the discipline?
The software is available free online, so it's extremely easy to integrate as long as the schools have computers and high-speed internet access.

  • Can the software be used in a variety of ways to achieve teaching and learning goals?
The software has capabilities beyond the Microsoft Word application the author is using here. Students can also create spreadsheets, PowerPoints, forms, polls, templates, etc. Learning how to use Google Docs is a very beneficial resource.

  • Are the teaching-learning goals easy to identify?
According to the lesson plan: "Students will complete a peer editing sheet on Google docs for each paper. The editing sheet will address each of the 6+1 traits and will include a section for students to add at least one positive and one critical comment. Students will physically fill out a self-evaluation sheet after hearing comments from their group members and viewing their peer editing sheets. On this sheet they will have to respond to the specificglobal and sentence level suggestions they received from their group members."

  • Can good learning assignments for using the software application be written easily?
It seems teachers could use the software for all sorts of applications. Since it's such a user-friendly software, I think learning assignments can be written fairly easily. This lesson plan include one assignment already (peer-editing), but multiple other assignments could be created. Also, multiple other assignments could be embraced through this peer-edit assignment.  

Ease of Use:

  • Are the labels, buttons, menus, text, and general layout of the computer interface consistent and visually distinct?
Yes. The  lesson plan was easy to read and followed a coherent form. And Google Docs is user-friendly with common features of any word-processing software. It's visually appealing and has a logical layout.
  • Does the user get trapped in the material?
No. The lesson plan had a simple format. The boxes helped narrow down the focus of each category and keep the viewer's attention.  It was clear how she was going to move through the content and the lesson plan.
  • Can the user get lost easily in the material?
The teacher in this case does a good job of walking students through the steps. It's very obvious her goals and how she meets them. It would have been nice to see the peer-edit sheets to really understand her intentions, but this is only a lesson plan.
  • Does the learning material require a lot of documentation, technical support, and/or instruction for most students to successfully use the software?
No. The software is fairly simple to use. It takes some getting used to because it doesn't have all the features of more advanced word processing systems. It does save automatically and once it's Shared, any edits are shared among the contributors.
  • Does the material present information in ways that are familiar for students?
 Yes. The lesson plan utilizes peer-editing which English students engage with often. She focus on the 6+1 wiring traits and states students will have previous knowledge of that. It also used word-processing like software that is essential for typing. Since it uses features similar to Microsoft most students are familiar with it.
  • Does the material present information in ways that would be attractive to students?
I think students would enjoy peer-editing online instead of with pen and paper. It allows them to view the paper electronically and then type in their answers instead of writing.

I think overall the lesson plan creates a logical, student engaged assignment. It utilizes the technology in a productive way that will benefit students later on.

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