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EdTech faculty member to keynote conference

Patrick Lowenthal has been named the keynote speaker at the 2016 Northwest eLearning Community Conference to be held in Eugene, Oregon, Oct. 20-21. Lowenthal researches how faculty and students communicate using emerging technologies and specifically focuses on issues of presence, identity and community online.

To learn more about the conference, visit the website at

Boise State in the spotlight today

Boise State is today’s “institutional profile” at The profile is quite nice, except for one glaring omission. It did not mention that Boise State’s Master of Educational Technology is the largest educational technology degree program in the nation.


Lowenthal and colleagues working on a digital literacy course

photo of Patrick Lowenthal


EdTech’s Patrick Lowenthal and two other Boise State faculty members have begun work on a $300,000 Idaho Department of Vocational Rehabilitation grant to develop an elearning course to teach special education students who need digital literacy skills to apply for jobs or college.

Research amply demonstrates that most students use the internet and social media for entertainment, but many lack the ability to transform those tools for educational and employment purposes, and the problem is even greater for high school graduates with disabilities.

Lowenthal is working with Drs. Quincy Conley of Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning and Michael Humphrey of Special Education and Early Childhood.

Called the College and Career Prep Digital Literacies Training program, the online course is being developed with the flexibility for self-study or for teacher-facilitation. Either way, it will increase the utilization and understanding of technology tools by young adults.

The program is being divided into two main tracks—one for the college-bound and one for job seekers—and may be taken in full or in part. For example, college-bound students can take the job-seeking segment later, when they’re ready for the workplace.

The Idaho Department of Vocational Rehabilitation expects to launch the project at this time next year.

Interesting article in The New York Times


Last Saturday, on the 30th anniversary of Boise State’s iconic blue football field, The New York Times ran an article about the university’s use of federal trademark law to create an identity.

The article says that Boise State owns the rights, by virtue of federal trademark law, to colored football fields and to the word Broncos. Any high school or college that wants artificial turf in any color other than green has to ask Boise State for permission. The process is as informal as an email request and permission is granted without charge—as long as certain conditions are met.

According to The Times, “There are about 30 blue fields now across all levels, (Boise State brand director Rachael) Bickerton said, including six at other United States colleges, and a variety of colors elsewhere. But Boise State zealously defends the status of its home field, Albertsons Stadium, as the only blue one in college football’s highest division. The university also holds a trademark on the word Bronco — though it has permitted the professional franchise in Denver to keep using it.”

“It started off as a marketing tool,” said Todd Shallat, a city historian. “But now the blue represents the city. Kitsch became quintessential.”

Here is the link, in case you’d like to read the article:


Despite the sardonic anecdote often repeated by visiting play-by-play personalities, no ducks ever crashed onto the field. On the same day that the article ran in The Times, the pre-game show on the local sports radio station interviewed a former Boise State footballer who played on “the blue” in its inaugural season, back in 1986, and he explained the genesis of the old ducks-crashing-into-the-football-field story. He said that someone put duck decoys on the new artificial turf that first autumn and some ducks actually landed on the field to join their faux friends. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that no ducks were injured in this prank.

Here’s another fun fact, this one from a 1986 NYT article on the blue field. It was called Boise State Bluegrass in those days. I didn’t know that. It was an obvious attempt to connect the color with the concept of artificial grass, but most of us have never heard the term because it was short-lived—and for good reason. Bluegrass is real grass, not artificial. It is green, not blue, and its reputation is tied as tightly to Kentucky as potatoes are tied to Idaho.

Dumbing down or a brave new world in education?


Can you even imagine a university course that:

  • Postulates the reality of Harry Potter,
  • Focuses on ice cream,
  • Is called Tightwaddery, or that
  • Focuses on American vacations?

Obviously, someone did. So, do these and other courses like them demonstrate a superficiality in higher education and a dumbing-down of America?

I suggest just the opposite, and I’ll tell you why as we look at the list.

Let’s begin with one of our own.

YouTube for Educators.
Boise State University
This course teaches educators how to create instructional videos, how to archive them, and how to search YouTube and other video repositories for instructional resources. Further, creating instructional videos is an excellent way for students to demonstrate what they’ve learned in English, science, or any class.

What if Harry Potter is Real?
Appalachian State University
This course explores the nature of history. Who decides what is history and what isn’t? How is history used or mis-used, and how does it affect society? And can historical fantasy (vis-à-vis Harry Potter) shape how we look at history? I applaud instructor Layne McDaniel for going beyond the Sominex of historical dates to make students think.

Cow to Cone
Penn State University
Students study the science of ice cream production, research, and marketing. We all like to eat it, but someone has to make it, and that is what this food science course has been about since 1892.

Tightwaddery, or The Good Life on a Dollar a Day
Alfred University
This course introduces a new concept to many students—frugality. On a practical level, the course examines personal spending habits and how to recognize bargains and rip-offs. On a theoretical level, it requires students to ponder the lure of advertising to spend and be happy, as well as the Socratic question: What is the good life? Maybe everyone should take this course.

The American Vacation
University of Iowa
This American studies course focuses on the importance Americans place on time away from work, including how race, class, and other demographic differences affect our use of vacation time. What a great framework for understanding the differences in our society.

The Physics of Star Trek
Santa Clara University
Dr. Phillip Kesten presents real science to non-majors.  The class looks at Star Trekkian science and peels back the layers of fact and fiction to understand how math and science explain the universe and make space travel possible—and to recognize and appreciate the fiction, such as transporter beams and warp drives. How better to engage students who are not intrinsically interested in science?

Tree Climbing
Cornell University
This is a physical education course for people who are not interested in sports. It is also a class for adventurers who want to use strength, ingenuity, and climbing gear. If physical activity is the objective of P.E., surely the physical strain of climbing trees meets the requirement. FYI, Cornell also has classes in Madagascar, in which students climb trees to study the biology of rain forests.

The Joy of Garbage
Santa Clara University
Someone has to deal with the stuff we throw away. Students in this environmental studies course focus on the science, sociology, and public policies affecting landfills and sewage treatment.

Decades ago, when I was an undergraduate student, I saw very few intriguing course titles and cool ways of engaging students in serious scholarship.  In those days:

  • Teachers didn’t make instructional videos, and neither did students,
  • History education was only starting to awaken from deadly dullness (depending on the professor, of course—I should tell you sometime about my high school history teacher who frequently slept through class),
  • At most institutions, Cow to Cone would have simply been a sub-set of dairy or food science, called something bland like ice cream production.
  • Tightwaddery, if discussed at all, would have been personal finance,
  • The American Vacation was simply a footnote in the field of sociology, and (in case you don’t know),
  • Star Trek was big in those days, but no self-respecting academic would have explored the science in science fiction.

Thank goodness for the evolution in higher education.

Where in the world is Bryan Iversen

For years, I’ve told grad students to avoid taking classes while traveling. The best of intentions often are swept aside as friends or relatives clamor for a student’s company.   And then, wouldn’t you know it? Web access is sometimes spotty.

Now along comes Bryan Iversen on his Honda Magna motorcycle. And I haven’t uttered a word of caution because he doesn’t have traveling companions to work against his plans and goals.

I first advised him two years ago when he taught at an American school in Rio de Janeiro. He’s back in the states now and bought the bike in Sacramento and figured he’d head north. Instead, he zig-zagged his way through most of the national parks in California and Utah this summer before arriving at his mom and dad’s house in Appleton, Wisconsin.

He plans to work on two courses this semester from the saddle of his bike. Just kidding. He actually plans to stop at libraries every day or so and hook into the wifi as he wends his way southward to Austin. He has friends he can stay with there.

He expects to reach Mexico City before winter and finish his master’s courses in a rented villa.

Bryan has been thinking about this moment, this experience, for 10 years. He’s been saving for it, and now he’s doing it.

A lot of people talk about bucket lists, but Bryan Iversen is living his dream and I say more power to him. When he finishes the MET in Mexico, he plans to put out feelers for a teaching contract at another international school.

In the meanwhile, he promises to check-in from time to time, so I’ll keep you up-to-date on his travels. Stay tuned. You might even hear a macaw squawking in the background.

She expected to feel disconnected online


When the University of Arkansas’ Global Campus announced recently that one of our graduates, Shelly Walters, had been named employee of the year, I couldn’t help but think about her experience in Boise State’s online master’s program.

Walters chose Boise State EdTech because she wanted to build online courses and wanted to feel the disconnect that she assumed her students would feel.

She could have studied in her hometown, but she knew she’d run to the local university every time she hit a challenge in her course work. So, she forced herself to “handle it” by studying at Boise State, located half a continent away. She graduated from our online master’s program in educational technology and is now studying in our online doctoral program–and she has never felt disconnected in either program.

I couldn’t help but think of another student that I advised more than 15 years ago.  A teacher called me from a small, isolated community in the mountains of central Idaho. She said she wanted to study educational technology during the summer term, but she couldn’t afford tuition AND an apartment in Boise.

She asked if we’d thought about sending professors out to rural areas to teach classes. I said we do it all of the time. Sort of.

I suggested she take courses online, but she was afraid she’d feel disconnected, so I told her to try it over the summer and she did.

She called me two months later and said she had earned 70 graduate credits  over the years and never had she felt as comfortable with professors as she felt with her two instructors, Ruth Waller and Donna Hutchison.

That teacher completed her master’s degree online and never came to campus. She never needed to. Ruth Waller became the district reading specialist for one of Idaho’s largest school systems and Donna Hutchison became national vice president for Connections Academy.

Word apparently got around because Boise State EdTech became the largest ed-tech graduate program in America.

EdTech alumna named employee of the year

EdTech alumna and current doctoral student Shelly Walters has been named employee of the year by the University of Arkansas Global Campus.

Walters is the associate director of the Instructional Design and Support Services unit at the University of Arkansas’ Global Campus, where she heads the Learning Technology Support team.

When Walters started Boise State’s Master of Educational Technology program in 2011, she was working at the Fayetteville Visitors’ Center and wanted to create an online professional development program for the hospitality industry.

Shelly Walters, flanked by University of Arkansas administrators. UA photo.

Shelly Walters, flanked by University of Arkansas administrators. UA photo.

She readily admits that she could have studied in the online ed-tech program at U-A, but she knew herself too well. Every time she got stuck on something, she’d run down the street to the U-A campus to ask questions. She wanted to feel the disconnection that her online students would feel, but she never felt disconnected at Boise State, and still doesn’t as a doc student.

While in her master’s program, she became interested in instructional design, so she talked to people at UA for advice and had a job offer before she even graduated. Now, UA faculty members sometimes voice concern that their students may feel disconnected online, but she just smiles and tells them about her experience at Boise State.

She had planned to take a summer class with former Boise State adjunct instructor Dennis Beck, but someone else taught the class because Beck was moving—to Fayetteville, as it turns out. When she learned that he was teaching full time at UA, she introduced herself and told him that she was almost one of his students. Small world, huh?

In the spring, Walters led efforts to integrate the Blackboard support services unit and the Faculty and Teaching Support Center into the Global Campus. “This took planning at a high level, and very detailed planning,” said Donald Judges, interim vice provost for distance learning and head of the Global Campus. “Somehow she turned apprehension into excitement.”

“It’s really a rewarding job,” says Walters. “When I’m working with this team and the faculty, it fuels me.  Thank you for the exciting times I have here and the fulfillment I get from my job.”

The Global Campus awards the employee of the year honor to recognize outstanding achievement and accomplishments that relate to the unit’s goals and the U of A mission.  The award winner receives a commemorative certificate and a monetary award.

Pre-observing Boise State’s 80th anniversary


On Sept. 6th, Boise State will celebrate its 89th anniversary because on Sept. 6, 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, Boise Junior College opened its doors for the first time. The inaugural class consisted of 78 students taught by 15 faculty members. Founded by the Episcopal Church in St. Margaret’s Hall in downtown Boise, its first president was Bishop Middleton Barnwell. Control moved to a board of directors in 1934 and in 1940 the school moved from St Margaret’s Hall to its present site along the Boise River.

In 1965, BJC became the four-year Boise College; four years later the name changed to Boise State College to reflect its move to the state system of higher education. Master’s degrees were first awarded in 1972 and BSC became Boise State University in 1974. In 2012, the university celebrated its largest graduating class ever (2,242 students) and awarded a record 11 doctoral degrees.

Today, easy access to Idaho’s capital city puts campus within arm’s reach of internships, volunteer opportunities, cultural experiences and the power and politics of the Idaho Statehouse. As such, Boise’s university plays a crucial role in the region’s economic development and stands as a beacon of innovation and growth.

Happy birthday Boise State!

Here are a few cool things you may not know about the school that opened in 1932:

  1. The Bronco mascot was chosen during BJC’s first year because students wanted something that reflected Boise’s western location, and because so many wild horses roamed the nearby Owyhee Canyonlands. The blue and orange color scheme also was chosen that same year.
  2. Christ Chapel, the nostalgic one-room church/schoolhouse now located east of Bronco Stadium along Broadway Avenue, is the forerunner of St. Margaret’s School, which was founded in 1892. In 1932, St. Margaret’s was converted into Boise Junior College.
  3. Boise Junior College, like St. Margaret’s, could easily have been a school for girls only if it hadn’t been for the persistence of boys from the Boise High School class of 1932 who also wanted to attend the new college.
  4. Eugene Chaffee was BJC’s first male faculty member. His wage was $1,215 for the year, even less than the $1,373 that bus drivers nationally were averaging at the time. Operating budgets during the 1930s at BJC averaged about $20,000 per year.
  5. The Arbiter student newspaper began as The Roundup in 1933. Later it was called the University Arbiter and then the University News before settling on its current name.
  6. The land on which most of the main campus sits was once an island. Its most famous resident was Sage Brush Ann (also known as Tarpaper Annie), who lived alone in a modest tarpaper shack.
  7. The first U.S. commercial air flight was an airmail flight in 1926 from Pasco, Wash., to Boise on Varney Air Lines, predecessor of United Airlines. The dirt landing strip was where Bronco Stadium now sits.
  8. The Administration Building, opened in time for the fall 1940 semester, was later named in honor of local attorney Oliver Haga, although it is almost never called that. It housed all of the new campus’s classrooms, the library, laboratories, offices and a large room that served as the Student Union.
  9. The original BJC Student Union Building cost $26,500 in 1941. It is now the Communication Building.
  10. In 1942, BJC almost closed down. Enrollment plummeted to less than 200 students as scores of patriotic young men left for war — even President Chaffee suited up.
  11. In the 1940s, members of the BJC Minute Maids student organization wore big “Vs” on their hats and sold war bonds and defense stamps to aid the homefront war effort. Their motto was “Duty Before Dates.”
  12.  A ghost named Dinah (a precursor to Hogwarts’ Moaning Myrtle?) is said to haunt the Communication Building, formerly the home of the Student Union. Many years ago, the young woman was supposedly jilted by a young man and took her life in what is now a restroom in the building. No hard evidence exists that the story is true, but many people have reported “encounters” with her.
  13. The Campus School elementary school was constructed on the Boise State campus in 1953 through an agreement between the college and Boise School District. The school educated neighborhood children while also acting as a teacher training facility for BJC elementary education students. The building currently houses Department of Art faculty and classrooms as well as the university’s Human Resource Services.
  14. The school’s first two residence halls were built in 1951. Driscoll Hall originally housed men and Morrison Hall was built to house women. Today, seven residence halls, several apartment buildings and a new townhouse complex along Lincoln Avenue offer on-campus housing. Five Living and Learning communities include faculty in residence, where professors facilitate learning by living in the residence halls alongside students.
  15. The 1958 student handbook carefully detailed appropriate student dress on campus: Gals — Sport dresses, sweaters and skirts, low heels. Slacks and shorts are not acceptable campus wear. Guys — Casual clothes, slacks, Levis, khakis, shorts, sweaters. Bermudas are not acceptable on campus.
  16. The first Bronco Stadium was built in 1950 and seated 10,800 fans. The current stadium opened in 1970 and currently seats 37,000.
  17. Beginning in the 1950s, a string of football players began arriving from Hawaii as part of the “Hawaiian pipeline.” By the late 1970s, nearly 100 players had came to Boise State from Hawaii.
  18. Student life was made easier in 1965 with the installation of a copy machine. Advertised as a time-saving device, the cost was 20 cents per copy. Today, all centrally located classrooms are equipped with wireless access, half of the classrooms are set up for lecture capture and software allows faculty to publish lectures to the Web.
  19. A large fountain once stood in front of the Albertsons Library, and was the focal point of many student pranks.
  20. The Bob Gibb Friendship Bridge, built in 1977 as a visual reminder of the close relationship between Boise State University and the City of Boise, is named for a former assistant to Boise State President John Barnes.
  21. The Boise State Alumni Association was created in 1967 with 12 founding members. Dues were set at $2 per alum per year. Today, more than 75,000 alumni live across the United States and beyond. Now, Boise State alums can get a 15% discount on selected EdTech degrees.
  22. During the 1969-70 school year, Boise State College’s marching band gave a nationally televised halftime performance at the football game between the San Francisco ’49ers and the Washington Redskins.
  23. Bronco Stadium is home to the first blue Astro Turf field in the world, first installed in 1986. Other schools have special color projects for the end zone area, but at the time, Boise State was the only school to have the entire field produced in a special color.
  24. Original plans for the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts called for it to be built in Ann Morrison Park and not on the Boise State campus. Opened in 1984, the building houses both academic classrooms and a state-of-the-art performance hall. From the air, it resembles the shape of the state of Idaho.
  25. About the same time, the College of Education started teaching working educators how to integrate technology effectively for improved student engagement and learning, and from that beginning, the Department of Educational Technology was formed a decade later. Boise State EdTech continues to cater to working educators.
  26. Since 1990, the Carnegie Foundation has named a Boise State professor the top undergraduate professor in the state of Idaho 11 times.
  27. Boise State boasts one of the largest internship programs in the Northwest, with more than 1,300 job placements annually.
  28. Boise State offers more than 200 degrees, including seven doctoral degrees, 78 master’s degrees, 18 graduate certificates and 99 undergraduate degrees.
  29. New programs launched in the past year include Ph.D.s in biomolecular science, materials science and engineering, doctor of nursing practice, and a fully online doctorate in educational technology.
  30. Creativity and engagement are celebrated through the Arts and Humanities Institute, which encourages critical thinking across disciplines through exhibitions, lectures, performances, community outreach and other activities.
  31. As a Boise State Distinguished Educator in Residence, former NASA astronaut and educator Barbara Morgan provides vision and leadership to the State of Idaho on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
  32. Boise Sate’s research profile is growing at a record pace. The university attained $9.9 million in National Science Foundation funding and $1.8 million in NASA funding for the 2010-2011 academic year. Researchers also received the university’s first-ever grant, for $1 million, from the W.M. Keck Foundation.
  33. The only master of science degree in raptor biology in the United States is offered at Boise State. And the university’s Master of Educational Technology degree is the largest ed-tech program in America. The school also has the largest undergraduate nursing program in Idaho and highly regarded programs in business, engineering and creative writing.

Boise State’s Cool Teacher Show wraps-up taping at ISTE16

It is 2:30 p.m. in the Mountain West, which means ISTE 2016 is over and EdTech Faculty members Chris Haskell and Barbara Schroeder are packing up.

They went to Denver to interview the nation’s movers, shakers, and disrupters in educational technology. And they got a few.

We don’t know what they said because the interviews are under wraps until the dynamic duo gets back to Boise and starts recording Cool Teacher Show segments with the ISTE16 interviews.

But I can give you peek at some of the names.

Leanna Prater, a tech integration specialist for Fayette County Schools in Lexington, Kentucky. Wait until you hear what she’s got to say.

James Pike talked about how he uses Minecraft to teach algebra and geometry to 2nd and 3rd graders. Really! That reminds me of a line—okay, a word—from The Princess Bride: “Inconceivable!” Okay, we’ll have to watch for that “can’t-miss” episode.

And then, there was the guy from Disney Inspired Classrooms. I have heard about it, so I am anxious see that one, too.

Chris and Barbara interviewed Steve Isaacs, the 2016 ISTE Outstanding Teacher, so that will make an outstanding discussion, right? Search the Cool Teacher Show on YouTube over the next few weeks to see what he and others had to say.