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Heitmeyer & Enger share Service Learning expertise

Marshalltown Community College Computer Networking Faculty Brenda Heitmeyer and Lois Enger presented a workshop on “Integrating Classroom Technology and Service Learning” at the Summer Institute Teaching & Learning Conference in Ankeny. The two MCC instructors are passionate advocates about incorporating service learning into their classroom objectives, and have had several years’ worth of positive results.

“True service learning ties a community service activity to the classroom objectives, so it goes well beyond students just ‘volunteering’ to receive classroom credit,” says Heitmeyer. “MCC has supported service learning for many years, and we’ve had particularly positive results involving our Education and Computer Networking classes in a project where they help teach computer skills to residents at the Iowa Veterans Home.”

For the past five years, the MCC students have collaborated to build lessons and provide the instruction to IVH residents. Topics range from doing simple web searches to setting up social media accounts so residents can stay in touch with family members and friends. One year an English class got involved and paired the IVH residents with MCC students who then wrote papers about the residents’ life stories, which were compiled into a small keepsake book.

“It’s really amazing to me how many of our MCC students have never had the experience of volunteering,” says Heitmeyer. “They tend to be very nervous about these projects the first time, but after that first experience I have students volunteering, for no class credit, to help with future efforts. The students bond together doing the service work, they see how what they’ve learned in class is applied in a real-life project, and they end up loving it! It’s one of my favorite aspects of teaching!”

Among the feedback from MCC students: “The Iowa Veterans Home teaching was a great experience for me,” said Education major Jane Sun-Miller. “It helped me to transfer what I learned from the textbook to the real-world situation. It was meaningful and fulfilling to help others learn something that can serve their lives, plus having some fun together! I learned teamwork skills and teaching skills … it was a very valuable experience.”

In their presentation to the other educators at the conference, Heitmeyer and Enger talked about how their experiences with service learning have evolved over the years and the challenges and benefits for students, faculty and the IVH residents. They also spent time helping workshop participants brainstorm their own potential service learning projects.

MCC’s “Help the Vets” service learning program was recognized by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) as a Best Practices Program in 2016.

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