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Is autism the new normal?

“There is a new conversation among neuroscientists that the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be an evolutionary change of the human mind,” noted Julie Coates in a pioneering new presentation on Students with ASD at LERN’s Faculty Development Conference this spring.

One in 68 students is now on the spectrum, according to the Center for Disease Control. Coates says students with ASD are now “in our classrooms forever.”

In surveying the attendees, only about half of the participants indicated they have encountered a student on the spectrum in their classes. Coates responded that the other half of faculty participants almost positively had one or more students on the spectrum in their classes as well, the teachers just did not recognize the characteristics of ASD students.

The ASD Advantage
Coates noted the research indicating that ASD is polynomic, meaning many genes change. And autism is not self-selected out by the gene pool. Instead, humans with ASD survive and have positive traits.

ASD may be the new normal because the new environment of the digital age gives an advantage to a number of abilities of people on the spectrum, such as greater visual acuity, ability to think in multiple dimensions, greater spatial ability, bottom-up thinking, and frequently an ability to see patterns, such as in data analysis.

People with ASD are often highly valued in technology and related industries.

Possible Causes
There is no one clear cause of autism, noted Coates. Experts think that autism is either increasing in the population, that it is being detected more readily now than in the past, or both.
Vaccinations are clearly not related to ASD, Coates said. Possible causes could be:

  • Maternal stress during pregnancy
  • Increased population on the planet
  • Relatively new industrial particles in the air
  • The age of the father

Re-published from .

Student Center down for maintenance Saturday

The university will shut down Student Center and other student services on Saturday, June 10, between 7:00 am and 4:00 pm for scheduled maintenance.

Access to EdTech’s Moodle course sites and the department website should not be affected.

Teacher shortage increases salaries

School districts in the Salt Lake City metro area have been raising salaries as they compete for teachers. The Park City School district just announced a $7,000 increase for all current teachers and new teachers will start at $50,700.

Many districts in the SLC metro area will pay starting teachers about $40,000 plus benefits, although the Salt Lake City School District will offer new teachers about $44,000 a year, according to The Deseret News.

Newspaper publishes article on Boise State EdTech

Boise State EdTech was featured in an Idaho Statesman article on May 6. You can read it here:

Wired for success: EdTech program at BSU provides technology resources to educators

Parting shot at post-commencement reception

EdTech doctoral students who graduated this semester are Carol Annabel Askin of California, Sally Jean Baldwin of California, Lisa Berry of Idaho, Sheri Anderson of North Carolina, Molly and Dennis Large of California, and David Mulder of Iowa.

Faculty and doctoral graduates pause for a photo at the post-commencement reception. From left:
Associate Professor Lida Uribe-Florez, Lisa Berry, Molly Jean Large, Dennis Large, Professor Kerry Rice (front), Associate Professor Ross Perkins (back), Associate Professor Patrick Lowenthal, Assistant Professor Chris Haskell, and Assistant Professor Jesus Trespalacios.

MET commencement photos





North Carolina





New Jersey


Professor Kerry Rice and Associate Professor Ross Perkins (at left) visit with William Krebs and Brenda Ritter at a reception following commencement.

Boise State EdTech graduates 43 master’s students

100th Boise State University commencement—May 6, 2017

Boise State’s EdTech master’s program graduated 43 students on Saturday. The doctoral program graduated six students.

University President Robert Kustra noted that the last time commencement was held on a football field was in 1981 and the field was green, to which a low boo rumbled through the stadium. Boise loves its iconic blue field.

Of the 11 master’s graduates who attended commencement, Patricia Smyers of Secaucus, NJ, and William Krebs of Cary, N.C., came the farthest. Ryan Faith came from Antioch, Ill. Brenda Ritter and her husband drove from Rice, Minn. They left early Wednesday and vacationed along the way, including touring Yellowstone National Park.

Also attending commencement were Charlie Ball of Bigfork, Mont., and an unusually large Idaho contingent, including Claire Dickinson, Lisa Apel, Kaycie Winn, Jasmine Quezada, Susane Tardiff, and Belle Holsinger.

Other MET students who graduated this semester are: Kristen Alaniz, Brian Betteridge, Carli Cockrell, Cassandra Davenport, Jeremy DeVee, Frand DiGiacomo, Megan Dye, Hannah Gourley, Brooke Gruesbeck-Fore, Byron Heath, Kathryn Hinds, Tyler Isbell, Bonni Jones, Debra Killen, Katharine Lauritsen, Danielle Leone, Amy Lomellini, Cassandra Mares, Sarah Marsh, Emily Pensinger, Adam Piechowski, Colleen Solomon, Danielle Stephens, Elizabeth Swaby, Lee Ung, Doug Vass, Karl Werner, Kyioka White, Thomas White, Marisa Williams, and Kjersti Withers.

Curricular changes announced

EdTech Associate Chair Chareen Snelson announced two curricular changes on May 5.


EDTECH 534—Mobile App Design—will become available in fall and spring semesters instead of spring and summer. The Summer 2017 course will continue as planned, but the course will not be available in the summer after this year.

The long awaited Advanced Game Design (EDTECH 565) will be taught in the spring of 2018 and will be offered every even-numbered year. It will rotate with Autonomous Robotics, which will be offered every odd-numbered spring semester, so its next availability will be Spring of 2019.

MET grad attends two career-boosting conferences

MET grad and EdTech doctoral student Leif Nelson, who is director of Learning Technologies at Boise State, attended the Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference as a participant in the Society for Learning Analytics Research Doctoral Consortium, where he presented a poster titled The Purpose of Higher Education in the Discourse of Learning Analytics.

Nelson also joined several other Boise State faculty and staff members at the Northwest Managers of Educational Technology (NW/MET) Conference in Helena, Montana, where they spoke on a range of topics.

NW/MET is a regional professional organization for higher education technology managers, instructional technologists, and designers.

Lowenthal and colleagues examine four issues at AERA






EdTech Associate Professor Patrick Lowenthal will co-present in four sessions at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting this week in San Antonio, Texas.

With associate professors Ross Perkins and Chareen Snelson, Lowenthal will present a paper called Teaching a MOOC: Tales from the Front Lines of Massive Open Online Courses.

Most articles written about MOOCs over the past few years have unfortunately come from the popular press and were not based on empirical research. While empirical research on MOOCs is increasing, relatively little has been written about what it is like to teach a MOOC. In this mixed methods exploratory study, they set out to capture the perceptions and experiences of instructors teaching massive open online courses. In this session, they will present the results of their inquiry and implications for practice.

In a roundtable discussion, Lowenthal will focus on Developing Digital Literacies Skills: 21st-Century Special Education Transition Services. Other panel members are Boise State faculty members Michael Humphrey (Special Education) and Quincy Conely (Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning),  and Alison Lowenthal of the Idaho Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

They will address students’ needs for basic digital literacies to complete a college or job application today. As a result, educators now have a new responsibility to develop all students’ digital literacies. In this session, they will present a digital literacy online training program developed for students with exceptionalities, discuss their design and development approach given the intended audience, report on a series of design experiments, and conclude with implications for theory and practice.

In another roundtable, Lowenthal and EdTech Assistant Professor Jesus Trespalacios will ask and answer the question: What do they really like? A retrospective study of students’ perceptions of their online coursework.

As a result of increased competition in the higher education marketplace, colleges and universities offering online programs must continually evaluate their programs to not only ensure that students are meeting course outcomes but are satisfied with their learning experience. Recognizing the limitations of using end-of-course evaluations for program evaluation and improvement, the purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of recent graduates to find out what they liked and did not like about their online coursework. Follow-up analysis was then used to identify trends in terms of course design and teaching strategies of courses students really liked or struggled with. The results and implications for practice will be discussed in this session.

In his final appearance, Lowenthal will team-up with Snelson and Joanna Dunlap of the University of Colorado-Denver to present a paper entitled Happy Hour: A Design Case on Integrating Live Synchronous Web Meetings into Asynchronous Online Courses.

​Most online courses rely solely on asynchronous text-based online communication. This type of communication has affordances and constraints. Commonly cited constraints include the lack of visual cues and the time it takes for conversations to develop. Synchronous forms of communication can address some of these constraints. However, online educators often avoid using synchronous forms of communication in their courses. In this design case, we explain how we integrated live synchronous web meetings into asynchronous online courses, collected student feedback, and made iterative changes and refinements based on student feedback over time.