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Educators as Active Listeners


I have a few sayings I often use in my teacher education courses and PD workshops for teachers related to active listening. They include:

  • If the teacher is doing more talking than the students, then this is a problem.
  • One of the biggest gifts we, as educators, can give to our learners is to be truly present for them, to deeply listen to what they have to say.

What this boils down to, for me, is the teacher being an active listener. I get to practice what I preach on a regular basis as I teach gifted elementary students three days a week. For this academic year, I decided to become even more intentional in practicing active listening with the students. I hope my intention has benefitted them. I know there have been benefits for me. I get to really relish in how they see the world. Their stories, ideas, jokes, and wit are often amazing; and I get great joy in hearing them. I also get to witness the joy and excitement through their faces and body language when I respond in awe with what they shared with me.

Active Listening Defined

Active listening‘ means, as its name suggests, actively listening. That is fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker. Active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening — otherwise the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener. Interest can be conveyed to the speaker by using both verbal and non-verbal messages such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and smiling, agreeing by saying ‘Yes’ or simply ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage them to continue. By providing this ‘feedback’ the person speaking will usually feel more at ease and therefore communicate more easily, openly and honestly. (

Benefits of Active Listening

The benefits of active listening include:

  • Positive classroom culture which can lead to a positive school culture,
  • Improved teaching and learning,
  • Better teacher-student relationships,
  • Learners see themselves as active partners in their own education; they become more invested in their learning,
  • Learners feeling that they are in a safe environment where they are willing and able to express concerns, ask questions, ask for help, take risks.

Research shows that it is listening–really listening–to students that is critical to the student/teacher relationship. Knowing their teacher is interested in what they are saying, makes students feel cared about and emotionally connected to a school. Since research shows that feeling connected is requisite to students’ motivation to learn, showing that we listen is important not only as a matter of kindness but also as a motivational strategy. (

Peter Hudson believes there are several reasons why listening is important for teachers:

To show respect for and motivate your students.

When someone is listened to, they feel more respected than if they are spoken over or talked at. When you listen to your students, they feel that much more valued and if they feel more valued, they feel good about themselves which in turn makes them want to do more. In other words, they feel more motivated. Increased motivation makes the students much more likely to work harder and if they work harder, they achieve more and will receive yet more respect. So a virtuous circle has been started that can do nothing but good for your students — just by listening to them.

To find out what’s really going on with your students

If you are to support your students, you need to know what’s going on in their lives. Some students will be open and informative but others won’t. Active listening is a really good way to get kids to open up. You need to know about difficulties in their academic life as well as their lives outside school if you are to be able to point them in the best direction for appropriate help and support or to give it yourself. Active listening can help in both these areas. A skilled active listener can help students to find their own way out of difficulties which is even better as it increases their self-motivation.

To be an effective role model

Whether you notice or whether you don’t, as a teacher you have a significant influence on students: you are a role model for them. So you need to decide how best to play out this role. Setting an example as a listening caring person will rub off and you will be helping students to develop as listeners too. (

Listening Skills for Educators

The following are some easy-to-implement skills the educator can use to develop and enhance their active listening skills:

  • Attend to the speaking learner with an open mind; without any agenda except to just listen.
  • Use body language and nonverbal cues that demonstrate a focus on the speaking learner.
  • Practice empathy skills with both verbal and nonverbal responses.
  • Engage in informal conversations encouraging learners to talk about non-school related topics.
  • Summarize what you heard the learner saying.
  • Reflect back to the learner what you believe to be the thoughts and feelings behind the stated message.
  • Ask open-ended questions if and when you don’t understand what the learner is saying and/or if you need further information.
  • Inquire about how learners connect to their learning; about their metacognitive strategies.

Dr. JACKIE GERSTEIN is one of Boise State EdTech’s exceptional adjunct instructors.


The rumor of my demise . . .

Jerry Foster


Congratulatory comments on my retirement came from students and former students around the world and, of course, from across America. Thank you all for your well-wishes, but I can’t help but think of Mark Twain at the moment.

He said the rumor of his demise was greatly exaggerated.

Same with me.

On Wednesday, the EdTech Department threw a wonderful retirement party for me, and Dixie posted it on Facebook. The word was out. Then, less than 24 hours later, I was approved to work part-time for a year or so.

When I started here in 2001, we had about 50 students, one master’s program and one graduate certificate. Today, we have three graduate degrees and four certificates.

As I move forward in the next year or so, I will focus almost entirely on advising students entering our education specialist degree. Whether you’re interested in an advanced degree or not, you’re not only welcome but encouraged to reach out for a digital visit. It would be my pleasure to find out what you’re up to these days. If you see an old guy hobbling into the sunset, it won’t be me. Not yet.

Boise State raises esports profile at Mountain West Conference

Boise State eSports


Boise State’s Varsity eSports team recently traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, to compete in a three-day series of matches against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas at the Mountain West Conference Basketball Championship Tournament.

The conference organized this inaugural event in support of the growing interest in competitive esports — video gaming — in the collegiate realm, said Brett Shelton. Shelton is a professor and department head in the Department of Educational Technology and general manager of the eSports team. Boise State launched its esports program in 2017.

Boise State’s team, led by Shelton as well as head coach Chris Haskell, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology, competed in three games: Overwatch, League of Legends and Rocket League. While the primary objective of the matches was to showcase eSports at the Mountain West, Boise State took home the championship title in the Showdown Match for Rocket League, a game that pairs soccer and rocket-powered cars.

The events were open to spectators. The matches attracted scores of fans, including a group of local students who on one day of competition filled the venue to capacity. Close to 4,000 additional spectators tuned in to watch via Twitch, the live streaming video platform.

eSports team

Boise State President Bob Kustra stopped by the competition and shared his thoughts about eSports at the university during an ESP Gaming spot.

The Nevada matches, said Kustra, were a “great recruiting tool, not just in Nevada and the American West, but how about from the Far East?” Boise State’s esports program opens “an opportunity to diversify our enrollment in ways we never could have done otherwise,” said Kustra.

Boise State, he added, is getting in early on the eSports trend. “We think it’s important to do it right,” said Kustra.

Watch the full interview online.

Fans of esports, or those who want to learn more about them, will have a chance to see some local competition up-close. Boise State will host the inaugural High School eSports Tournament in the Jordan Ballroom on April 21. High School students from across Idaho will compete in League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros 4.

Organizers are also inviting faculty and staff to help out as volunteers. Sign up online.

The popularity of esports is a growing trend. According to a story, “Are esports the next major league sport?” in The Conversation, a site that publishes academic research, 12 million more people tuned in to watch the 2016 League of Legends World Finals, an esports competition, than watched the National Basketball Association finals that year.

Big news from MET grad Megan Alicia

Megan Alicia (MET, 2015) has a new job at Kent State University.

Actually, it is an old temporary job that is now officially hers. And it is remarkable.

Institutions in higher education typically hire faculty with doctoral degrees, but Megan started working on a limited based while she was in Boise State’s EdTech master’s program. When the full-time faculty member left KSU in 2016, Megan stepped into the role full-time until a permanent replacement could be found.

We recently learned that Megan has been chosen as the permanent replacement, which just goes to show that sometimes the best employees are right down the hall.

Networking pays off for schools in Barbados

When Dwayne Best was a student in Boise State’s online educational technology master’s program, he contacted his advisor, Jerry Foster, whenever questions arose.

Dwayne graduated last December, but after futilely tilting his lance at a very large windmill over the past few months, he contacted his old grad school advisor at Boise State.

Dwayne, who works for the Ministry of Education in Barbados, had been trying unsuccessfully to get G-Suite tools for the 21 schools in his Caribbean nation, but someone at Google kept asking for proof that the public schools of Barbados were non-profits—even after the Ministry of Education had provided a letter of verification.

Dwayne’s EdTech advisor immediately reached out to Max Davis-Johnson, the university’s chief technology officer. Boise State is a G-Suite user, so the chief technology officer must know someone at Google, right?  He, in turn, reached out to Sarosh, an institutional account executive at Google. Then the request for help hop-scotched up the corporate ladder to Amerin, then to Edward, and finally to the attention of John Allen, Google’s eastern U.S. manager for K-12 education.

Need it be said?

Barbadian schools now have Google G-Suite tools.  ​

Boise State offers new dimension to Mountain West hoop tourney

The Mountain West Conference Basketball Championship Tournaments will feature new competitors when the games begin tomorrow and continue through Saturday, March 8-10.

In addition to men’s and women’s basketball teams from every university in the league, collegiate esports teams from Boise State and the University of Nevada-Reno will compete in the first-ever Mountain West eSports Showdown.  Edtech faculty members Chris Haskell and Brett Shelton elevated esports from club competitions to official varsity status at Boise State. The College of Education and the College of Innovation and Design also jumped on board to support the effort. , Haskell and Shelton were instrumental in creating the esports presence at the Mountain West Basketball Championships

The MW eSports Showdown will feature matches in League of Legends, Rocket League, and Overwatch. Boise State and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas are the only Mountain West schools to compete in this inaugural league championship for esports.

Teams of 15 players will participate in show matches, or exhibitions, from 4-7 p.m. on March 8 and from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on March 9 in the Strip View Pavilion inside the Thomas and Mack Center. Admission to the show matches is free for ticketholders to the MW Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships. The show matches are a great way for fans to learn more about esports.

The MW eSports Showdown Main Event will kick off at 9 a.m. on March 10 inside Cox Pavilion. Tickets are $10 (plus UNLV Tickets handling fees), on sale now at the Thomas and Mack Center box office in Las Vegas or online.

The Show Matches and Main Event will also be broadcast live via the Mountain West eSports Twitch page at Twitch is a live-streaming video platform owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of The site focuses primarily on video game live-streaming, including broadcasts of esports competitions. Twitch has more than 100 million monthly unique users and 2.2 million monthly broadcasters. Follow Boise State esports at eSports and Broncos Twitch.

Esports is enjoying explosive growth in popularity around the world — particularly among younger demographic groups – and research suggests as many as 150 million enthusiasts around the globe regularly participate in esports, in which championship events attract sellout crowds to large sporting arenas in the United States and beyond, and industry experts predict the esports economy will grow to more than $650 million in 2018.

Boise State and UNLV were selected to participate in the inaugural MW eSports Showdown based upon the current organization and development of their esports programs. Boise State University esports is the first varsity competitive gaming team sponsored by a Mountain West institution. The program hosts nearly 60 varsity student e-athletes competing in five game titles. An additional 240 students compete for the school at the club level in other game titles. Boise State is building the largest gaming facility in college esports with a 100-seat Battleground training center, broadcast facility, and spectator arena for live weekly matches.

UNLV’s collegiate esports organization—8-Bit—represents the Rebels at national esports competitions. Founded in 2012, the club-level team competes in five game titles and is an officially recognized organization in the Riot Games Collegiate Program and a partner of the TeSPA network. 8-Bit is one of the largest student organizations on campus, with former members going on to compete professionally. In addition to its competitive esports team, UNLV has one of the nation’s only academic programs for students combining the art, science and business of esports. UNLV is a founding member of the Nevada Esports Alliance, further positioning the state as a global esports hub and UNLV as a research leader.

The UNLV eSports program is led by Robert Rippee, Director of the Hospitality Lab and eSports Lab at the International Gaming Institute. Follow UNLV eSports at .


Hsu, Ching, former student publish on maker-tech

Yu-Chang Hsu and Yu-Hui Ching, associate professors, and Sally Baldwin, a recent graduate from the educational technology doctoral program, published an article titled “Physical Computing for STEAM Education: Maker-Educators’ Experiences in an Online Graduate Course” in the “Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching.”

Their research explored how K-16 educators learned physical computing and developed as maker-educators in an online graduate course. With peer support and instructor guidance, these educators designed maker projects using Scratch and Makey Makey, and developed educational maker proposals with plans of teaching the topics of their choice in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) through physical computing. Educators were positive about the real-world impact of their course maker projects and experiences, and highly valued the support and sense of maker community in this online course.

Hsu teaches his maker-tech course, EDTECH 538 (formerly 597), in spring semester and summer term.

Lowenthal, friends plan to stuff the Big Apple with research, perspective



EdTech’s Patrick Lowenthal will present a prodigious amount of research next month at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in New York. City.

He and co-authors Laurie Cavey, Michele Carney, Jason Libberton, and Tatia Totorica will present on Preparing secondary mathematics teachers using video cases of student thinking with a focus on functional reasoning.

Then he and EdTech Associate Chair Chareen Snelson will present In Search of a Better Understanding of Social Presence: An Investigation into how Researchers Define Social Presence. 

Lowenthal teams up with EdTech doctoral graduate Glori Hinck and EdTech colleagues Kerry Rice and Ross Perkins on Quality Assurance in Online MBA Programs: An Investigation of Key Stakeholder Perceptions.

Finally, he and Joanie Dunlap of the University of Colorado-Denver present on Teaching Online: An analysis of online educators’ lessons learned designing and facilitating online courses. 

Boise State splits spring commencement

Growing numbers of graduates and guests at spring commencement have prompted Boise State University to host two separate commencement celebrations inside Taco Bell Arena on May 5. Tickets will not be required.

The first celebration will be at 9:30 a.m. for graduates from Business and Economics, Engineering and Health Sciences.

The second celebration at 3:30 p.m. is for graduates from the College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences and School of Public Service.

A student speaker will be chosen for each ceremony and receptions will follow each ceremony in the Student Union Building.

The courses, they are a changin’

Boise State’s EdTech Department has announced three changes for existing courses.

Maker Tech: Hybrid Computing and Tinkering for STEAM Education has altered its name and has a new catalog number. The new title is Maker Tech: Physical Computing for STEAM Education and the catalog number has changed from EDTECH 597 to EDTECH 538. The course will be offered spring and summer.

EDTECH 522 — Online Teaching for Adult Learners will be offered fall and spring only, starting in fall 2018. We will still offer this course in summer 2018 during the 2nd 7-week session as planned.

EDTECH 523 — Advanced Online and Blended Teaching will be offered in both fall and spring semesters, starting in fall 2018.

In EDTECH 538, you  will analyze, make, and apply maker tech for teaching and learning contexts. Leverage the power of programming and tinker with digital and physical artifacts for learning/practicing/applying knowledge in science, technology, art, engineering, and mathematics (STEAM).”
In this course, you will explore and develop your own maker projects. You will utilize intuitive block-based programming tools to create games, science simulations, music instruments, art projects that interact with circuits, everyday objects, and hardware. You will experience computational thinking such as procedural abstraction and algorithmic thinking, and unleash your creativity while experimenting with hybrid projects of digital and physical objects. You will also create instructional units that integrate your own maker projects for your context of teaching.

EDTECH 522 emphasizes andragogy and best practice in online teaching, analyzing online teaching tools, planning, facilitating, and assessing collaborative and interactive e-learning experiences, and gaining practical experience teaching online. Boise State EdTech was one of the first programs in the nation to teach educators how to teach effectively online.

EDTECH 523 utilizes a project-based approach that emphasizes content-specific instructional strategies, improved communication, assessment, and evaluation of quality learning experiences in technology-supported online and blended instruction. Experience with web-based conference tools recommended. Project required.

The heading on this blog is an adaptation of Bob Dylan’s 1964 pop hit title, The Times, They Are a Changin’.