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edtech connection blog

Department embraces historic commencement

Boise State University will graduate five doctoral and 44 master’s candidates Saturday, May 7, in a historic commencement for the department.

Tomorrow’s commencement celebrates the first group of students to complete EdTech’s online doctoral program. Four  students–Donna Ledford of Georgia, Patty McGinnis of Pennsylvania, Dwayne Ockel of Colorado, and Kellie Taylor of Idaho–will be hooded. A fifth doctoral student, Sarah Rich, lives in Jakarta, Indonesia. She officially graduates this month, even though she is unable to attend commencement.

Boise State also confers 44 EdTech master’s degrees this month. Five of those online students are attending commencement on Saturday. They are Jennifer Byzewski and Dria Setter of Wisconsin, Erica Cardey and Cambria Tooley of California, and Casey Byington of Idaho.

EdTech professor to speak in Germany, Sweden

EdTech Professor Norm Friesen has received funding from the German Academic Exchange Service to spend the month of May undertaking translation and other knowledge exchange activities in Germany.

Based at Humboldt University of Berlin, Friesen will present lectures and workshops in other locations as well.

He has been invited to present a Lietz-Lecture in Education and Culture at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, and will give a keynote address and host a workshop at a conference (Education is Relation not Output—Scenes of Knowledge and Knowledge Acquisition) at Linneaus University in nearby Växjö, Sweden. The title of the keynote address is: Education Reform and Educational Media, and the workshop will focus on Pedagogical Picture Interpretation in an Image-Saturated Culture.

Friesen will also complete the translation of a book that introduces an internationally-renowned German educational theorist to English language readers. It is titled Existentialism and Education: An Introduction to Otto Friedrich Bollnow.

EdTech skills earn twice the cost of tuition

Since the mid-1980s when Boise State’s College of Education started teaching teachers how to integrate technology effectively, the program has catered to working professionals—teachers.

Steven Cannariato is a working professional but hardly typical.

He’s a self-employed commercial real estate broker—a buyer, seller, and lessor of buildings and land for retail and commercial relocation and development. And now you’re wondering why.

Why would such a man subject himself to the rigors of a graduate program for teachers?

Good question.

It’s because he’s taught real estate courses on the side for 25 years and he’s not even thinking of retiring from part-time teaching. Nope. It’s been a “very enjoyable avocation,” he says, so he wanted to become more valuable to his part-time employer, Chicago-based CCIM Institute, the global standard for professional development in commercial real estate.

Has it worked? Has he become more valuable to the CCIM Institute?

“I am pleased to report that because of the skills acquired in the EdTech program, I have already realized a payback from consulting services and contract work worth twice the cost of tuition, books and software.” 

And that’s in addition to his regular fees for teaching. So, do you want to know how he did it?

“As I was working on the degree, I had many opportunities to share EdTech insights and discoveries, not only with fellow instructors, but with the VP of education, and the director of curriculum development. I also gained the confidence of the institute’s executive team.  Early in 2014, they asked me to chair the Blended Learning Initiative, which involved taking our 4 core courses and adapting them to a blended/hybrid delivery.  As part of gaining approval, I created a video to share with stakeholder groups in the institute to explain the need for a blended/hybrid product.  As a result, we secured in excess of $400,000 in funding for the project.”

Cannariato continues to sell commercial real estate and teach for CCIM, where he is a senior instructor and a lead online instructor.

“The real benefit my EdTech training has afforded me is the ongoing consulting and instructional design work I’ve done on the blended learning conversion.  We rolled out Blended 101 [in] November 2014, two more courses in 2016 and our last core course [is due] this summer.  I assisted in selecting the subject matter experts from our faculty, and led them in creating an instructional design document, developing the blended assets and implementing and evaluating our progress.  This included creating a myriad of online assets and resources students would use instead of a hard copy reference manual.  Adobe Captivate is our workhorse for this work, as well as high quality video.”

Even after 25 years of teaching, Cannariato’s Boise State EdTech experience taught him to better understand the adult online learning environment.  EdTech advisors tell students to create class projects they can use in their own teaching. He did, and he’s still using a number of videos he created in EdTech 533 as he continues to build “a welcoming community of practice and collaboration.”

And you know what? He teaches for the same reason you do.  “I simply love to teach.”  That’s why he’s done it for 25 years.

Yet, while most 25-year teachers are thinking of retiring, he says he never will retire in the conventional sense. “Rather, I’ll cut back on my brokerage activities and manage my own property portfolio.  As for continuing to teach, yes, I can see where I would teach a bit more and work a bit less.

The CCIM Institute hires only commercial real estate professionals, and pays them well for  part-time teaching, he says.

EdTech student earns award for work well done

Just got word today that another EdTech student has used her skills artfully to gain traction in the workplace.

MET grad and doctoral student Shelly Walters has been named employee of the third quarter by the University of Arkansas Global Campus.

Walters is the associate director of the Instructional Design and Support Services unit at the U-A Global Campus. Previously an instructional designer, Walters now leads the faculty and student support unit, which includes academic technologists and Blackboard Learn training and support staff.

The newly formed faculty and student support unit at the Global Campus supports the adoption and use of learning technology, including Blackboard Learn, said Donald Judges, interim associate vice provost for distance education. The team supports all types of classes, including online and face-to-face courses on and off campus. The new team complements the course-development support provided by the existing Instructional Design and Support Services unit. Walters is also a Quality Matters certified peer reviewer. The Quality Matters program is nationally recognized as a faculty-centered, peer-review system that assures quality in online and blended courses.

Judges added that Walters earned this recognition while completing her comprehensive exams for her doctoral degree in educational technology at Boise State University. After completing her dissertation, she plans to graduate in May 2017.

Walters joined the Global Campus in 2012, after working for seven years as the university marketing manager for the Fayetteville Visitors Bureau. She earned a master’s degree in educational technology from Boise State University in 2013 and a Bachelor of Science in Education from the U of A in 2009.

The award winner receives a commemorative certificate and a monetary award.

Maker Tech projects ignite student interest


Nicolas “Rick” Hernandez received great feedback from teachers at Cibolo Creek Elementary in Boerne, Texas, when he demonstrated the projects he made in Dr. Yu-Chang Hsu’s Maker Tech class last fall.

Now, Hernandez is helping his teachers integrate Scratch and Makey Makey circuit boards into their classrooms to demonstrate circuits, force, and motion. And wouldn’t you know it? They want to help! Why should he have all the fun?

​​And not only did they want him to incorporate his Makey Makey and Scratch programming skills into classroom projects, but they wanted him to add integrated circuits with Little Bits electronic building blocks.

​ And the results?

In a word, “phenomenal. Teachers, students, and administrators are excited about what we are doing,” which led to funding for a maker space in the school library.

“The maker space is a pilot program for which we’re creating a curriculum based on maker challenges for each educational domain.” He said he also plans on adding additional coding projects and 3D printing.

Hernandez says students at his school have benefited from the hands-on building approach known as the maker movement because it incorporates 21st century skills into the learning process.

Hsu teaches his Maker Tech class again this summer, but if you’d like to see Hernandez’ step-by-step learning projects from last fall, click here: .

Programming empowers students


Amy Morgan is not even teaching right now, but she gladly jumped into Yu-Chang Hsu’s Maker Tech class last fall so she could contribute to her two sons’ after-school robotics club.

But, she admits, that it took her a little while to wrap her brain around how to use the technology that was so new to her.

The intimidation was short-lived and she soon realized that not only are these tools fairly simple to learn, but that “incredibly complex and detailed projects can be created using Scratch and the Makey Makey.”

Her sons, Luke and William, who are 7 and 10, served as beta testers and even as collaborators by testing the programs she built. Luke helped her build the floor-size touch pad used in one of the programs and William picked the music for some of the programs she developed.

Morgan appreciates how “empowering” programming can be for students. “Many times when kids use technology in school they are simply using apps or programs that test their knowledge (e.g. spelling tests, math practice programs, etc.).  These programs and apps give them no control over their learning experience.  Programming with Scratch and the Makey Makey, however, allows students to make their own creative decisions and encourages them to use higher order thinking skills when they plan, create, and test their programs.  The Makey Makey makes the programming even more interesting because besides writing code, students can also create tactile interfaces that are used with their program.”

Earlier in the year, the boys’ after-school 4-H club participated in a robotics competition but now the kids in the club are learning programming by using the instructional unit she developed in the Maker Tech course.

“What is important,” she says, “is that kids are learning the process of programming. These skills can then be applied to a variety of platforms and programming languages.”

Though she is not teaching right now, Morgan also leads the Minecraft Club at her boys’ school. It is a social enrichment activity that allows students to interact and create with other students using a Minecraft server that she maintains.

Why? Because she can and because she believes “students in our schools need more opportunities to create and make their own technology-based projects​.”​

​Review Morgan’s step-by-step class projects here.

Maker Tech epitomizes hands-on learning


Brendan Lea believes in active learning.

Creating has been taken away from classrooms, he says, so he saw a glimmer of hope last year when he found Dr. Yu-Chang Hsu’s new course called Maker Tech: Hybrid Computing and Creative Tinkering for STEAM Education.

Previously, he’d dabbled with the maker movement by experimenting with kits and a Makey Makey board. He’d even attended a few workshops.

He was thrilled to know that Hsu’s class would focus a good deal on Scratch programming because Scratch had overwhelmed him in the past because of all of the variables.

​Having previously taken EDTECH 502–Creating Educational Websites—helped him because he knew how to write code.

“The structure of the course and the text helped to focus my attention on the key skills of Scratch,” he wrote, “and I was soon able to piece everything together and create my own programs.  As I continued through the course, I began to think of programs that I could create to help teachers in a variety of different subjects, specifically math and language, beyond what was required of the text.”

Lea now looks for additional ways to integrate Scratch into the curriculum.

His projects—mostly assignments for learning certain aspects of Scratch and Makey Makey—can be seen at .

The Maker Tech course is being offered again this summer.​​

Making & achieving go hand in hand


In a sense, Keri Gritt’s master’s program coalesced in last fall’s Maker Tech class with Dr. Yu-Chang Hsu.

“When people make something, they feel a sense of achievement and ownership, unlike the feeling that comes from finishing an essay or test,” she wrote in her class portfolio.

“They experiment, tinker, play, engage, collaborate, question, revise, and ultimately learn much more. I am inspired by what I’ve accomplished this semester and am so excited to bring these projects and many more to my students.”

And that, friends, is what the maker movement is all about.

Hsu’s course, Maker Tech: Hybrid Computing and Creative Tinkering for Steam Education, focuses on programming so teachers can create learning tools for their own classrooms. Better yet, they can teach even very young students to program games, science simulations—even digital musical instruments and art—as they learn, practice, and apply knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics—STEAM.

Students love active learning, hands-on learning, fun, creative project learning!

Hsu’s course uses two tools, primarily: MIT’s Scratch programming and Makey Makey invention kits. Gritt describes Scratch as “a fun, visual way” to write code with intuitive block programming. Kids get it!

She’d always thought of Makey Makey circuit boards “as a more entertaining, interactive version of a keyboard,” but had not seen how it could strengthen classroom instruction. The Maker Tech class changed her thinking exponentially, she wrote in her class portfolio.

“I now realize that it’s a powerful learning tool that can make computers more visual, intuitive, and accessible to a variety of learners. As a technology coordinator for elementary students, I designed my projects with young students in mind. By connecting the Makey Makey to touch pads that I designed, I was able to add pictures to help young students understand what buttons did regardless of whether they could read or write or were comfortable using a keyboard and mouse.”

Hsu teaches Maker Tech again this summer.

Review Gritt’s Maker Tech portfolio here:  .


EdTech grad leads ASTE–Alaska Society for Technology in Education

Luke Meinert, a 2011 M.E.T. grad, is the new president of ASTE, the Alaska Society for Technology in Education. Today, he tells us about his background and work in Alaska, where he serves as technology director for one of the largest school districts in America—geographically speaking.


Q:  Where did you get your bachelor’s degree and when?

MEINERT:  The University of Montana, graduated in 2005

Q:  Please tell me about the jobs you’ve held—where and what you’ve done. And did your master’s portfolio help you get a new job or new responsibilities?

MEINERT:  I began my career in Sand Point, Alaska, in the Aleutians East Borough School District.  I was hired as the social studies teacher for 6-12th grade.  I spent five years in the classroom and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  After my first year, I also took on technology coordinator duties for the school, which propelled my love for ed-tech.

I joined Boise State’s Master’s program & it definitely provided me with the skills and confidence to take the jump up to a district level position with Aleutians East.  I became the director of technology for AEBSD in 2010 alongside of finishing the EdTech program.

In 2013, my wife & I were ready to move back to a more urban environment as I’d spent eight years in bush Alaska.  When the director of technology position opened up for the Yukon-Koyukuk School District in Fairbanks, I applied and was hired.

Q:  Have you always been an Alaskan? If not, where did you start and what beckoned you to Alaska?

MEINERT:  I grew up in Davenport, Iowa, moved to Missoula, Montana, for college, and while I was doing my student teaching my advisor and my cooperating teacher had both worked in Alaska.  My advisor had spent 14 years in Russian Mission, Alaska, and we spent hours talking about what it was like to teach in the bush.  I fell in love with the idea, and attended a job fair in Anchorage my senior year and was hired on the spot.


Q:  We had an Alaska student several years ago who fished in the summer in his own boat. What do you do with your summers?

MEINERT:  That probably was me when I was teaching. I had summers off and I spent two summers commercial fishing for salmon.  It was an absolute blast and such an amazing experience.

Now that I’m a district tech director, I work year around so I don’t get summers off like I did when I was teaching.  I do enjoy my time exploring the state, as summer in Alaska is the absolute best.  We hike, mountain bike, camp, ride our ATV, and spend as much time outside as possible.  We also usually travel back to the Midwest where our families are located.

Q:  Tell me about the community and the school district.

MEINERT:  My home is in North Pole, Alaska, which is just outside of Fairbanks, where I work. Fairbanks is a city of extremes.  It’s bitterly cold in the winter and very hot during the summer.  Winters bring 20+ hours of dark, while summers bring 20+ hours of sunlight.  The borough of Fairbanks has just under 100,000 residents.

The Yukon-Koyukuk School District where I work has its district office in Fairbanks. It has nine remote bush schools in the interior of Alaska.  Seven of the nine schools are only accessible by bush planes, and are all at least a 2-hour plane ride away. The district’s nine village schools are located along the Yukon, Koyukuk, and Tanana river systems, a geographic area larger than the state of Washington and encompassing about 65,000 square miles of territory. More than 98% of the district’s 303 river school students are Alaska Native (Athabascan). The district also sponsors a statewide correspondence program called Raven Correspondence School. There are approximately 1,100 full-time students enrolled in Raven.  We have five offices (Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, Delta, & Wasilla) around the state for the correspondence/home school program.

Q:  Tell me about your current job in the school district.

MEINERT:  I’m finishing up my third year as the Director of Technology for YKSD, which combines both IT and educational technology for the district.  I have a team of 3, including myself, that ensures all 14 schools in our district have technology assets they need to effectively teach our students.  We also work hard to provide professional development on relevant tools that teachers can utilize in their classrooms.

Q:  Describe any innovative things that your district is doing relative to educational technology.

MEINERT:  Our big push right now is implementing a $496,701 Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant administered by the Rural Utilities Service.  I authored this grant last summer to increase our distance learning capabilities.  The grant pays for hardware related to videoconferencing.  YKSD has a robust video network that we rely on to bring highly qualified instruction into our small rural schools.  We use the platform to offer electives that wouldn’t normally be possible in a small school.  The grant will put a Polycom videoconferencing camera with a 55-inch television in every classroom. This will also allow our students to take advantage of more virtual field trips and learning experiences offered by CILC.  We also use the network to facilitate inservices, professional development opportunities, and school board meetings for our staff members.

I’m also proud of a variety of our schools competing in virtual robotic competitions. Popularity of robotics clubs has increased significantly in the last year and a half.

Since taking over at YKSD, my team and I have:

  • Transitioned to a Google Apps for Education domain
  • 1:1 Chromebooks 6-12th grade
  • Rolled out a new wireless network to all schools to enhance wireless capabilities
  • Transitioned to Pexip videoconferencing bridge allowing us to connect via video with anyone from around the world
  • replaced all switches and server cabinets in the district
  • Implemented a mobile device management system for all devices
  • Installed a Palo Alto next generation firewall to give us flexibility in filtering rules for users along with providing QoS on our network.
  • Deliver Internet and satellite television into our teacher housing units

Q:  Tell me about your involvement in ASTE.

MEINERT:  I’ve been attending the yearly ASTE conference hosted in Anchorage, for the past 10 years.  This is my third year on the board.  I was originally elected as the treasurer and last year served as the president-elect.  As president-elect, I put on the leadership summit as part of the conference.  This is an all day event at the conference that is open to school and district leaders from around the state.  I brought in Carl Hooker to help facilitate the day and it was a very enriching experience for all attendees.  The summit has been around for five years, and this past conference’s summit had the highest number of attendees.

Q:  Is ASTE a regional ISTE conference?

MEINERT:  ASTE is an affiliate of ISTE and is our yearly EdTech conference in the state of Alaska.  Most years, we see 400-500 educators from around the state attend our four-day conference at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage.  We attract world-class keynote presenters and session facilitators that help put on a great conference.  We also put out a call to our members and usually have more than 75 of our members provide hands-on sessions throughout the conference.  This last year, I taught two sessions: one on Chromebook administration for schools/school districts and the other on Chromebooks in the classroom.

Q:  After serving as ASTE’s president-elect, are you now the organization’s president?

MEINERT:  I’m just starting my year as president.  I’m extremely honored to chair such a great organization that plays an active role in the education of our students around the state.  I’m fortunate to have an amazing board of talented and innovative educators to work with to make our conference a success.


Q:  Do you have any innovative plans for your school district?

MEINERT:  I’d like to continue building on our successful distance learning program through both our traditional schools and our correspondence program.  Now that we’re finally getting over many of the technical infrastructure hurdles that plagued the district when I first took over, I’m looking forward to much more of my time being spent with teachers in their classrooms and assisting them on utilizing technologies to boost student achievement.

 Q:  And what about yourself? What are your plans?

MEINERT:  I just finished up a master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of Alaska Anchorage this past spring.  Eventually, I’d like to move into a CIO position for a larger educational institution, while also looking at superintendent opportunities down the road.



EdTech student shares insights from the CUE conference

Kaitlin Morgan

Kaitlin Morgan is a new student in Boise State’s Master of Educational Technology program who had an inspired time at the recent Computer-Using Educators (CUE) conference in Palm Spring, California. We’re pleased to present her impressions.

To put it simply, #cue16 was like the Central Valley CUE conferences and GAFE Summits that I have attended, but on steroids.

Everyone was there for the same reasons: to learn new tools and techniques for the classroom, to network and collaborate with fellow teachers, and to share their excitement and enthusiasm for ed-tech teaching and learning. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous that I might be lonely, since I was the only one attending from my school, but these shared interests and the positive energy made everyone incredibly friendly.

Beyond the amazing social aspect of #cue16, I walked away with more inspiration, ideas, and knowledge than what could fit in my brain.

For example:

  • In Brad Montague’s keynote, he said, “lots of things are contagious: fear, anger, hate …viruses. But joy, hope, love are the best kinds of contagions.” This was such a powerful reminder that our actions have meaning, especially with our students.
  • Badges are a powerful motivator, even for adults.
  • Google Tours is a perfect way to add a narrative perspective to Google Maps, which I learned from Lisa Nowakowski and Adina Sullivan’s #cuerockstar session.
  • During the Twitter Chat for #caedchat, I realized that I could easily create a green screen in my room AND I found a local CVCUE friend (Kim Calderon) to help me!
  • Educational technology is significantly on the rise: only 300 of 9.2 million students had to take CAASP (California Assessment of Student Performance) with paper and pencil and 9,000 teachers have experienced CUE professional development this year, as compared to the 2,000 last year.
  • Flocabularyhas added a “This Week in Rap” feature that updates students about recent current events. This would be awesome for blog post prompts!
  • iBooks Author is an awesome tool that I could easily use for #pbl, especially as a way to reach populations that require certain accommodations. Thanks, Luis Perez!
  • Diane Main and John Miller showed me that Minecraft EDU is an incredibly fun way to #gamify learning for multiple content areas; my brain still hurts when I think about all the things I could do with Minecraft…and I want to play it again… :).

Naturally, there were so many incredible and inspiring moments that I can’t even begin to list them all, but hopefully this overview gave you an idea how powerful #cue16 was. It was a life-changing experience and, even a week later, my mind is still blown.