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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.

EdTech camp for kids slated this summer

EdTech Professor Young Baek will again guide elementary and middle-school students through two on-campus learning camps this summer.

Both camps—“Exploring Games with Scratch Programming” and “Exploring Robots with Fun”—will run Monday through Friday from June 6 through June 24. Both are for students between the ages of 9 and 14.

The attendees will make their own games using Scratch drag-drop type of programming. After they create and edit images, sound, and animation they will create a small game. They will proceed further with animation and expand their skills in programming using math functions and scientific knowledge. They are expected to develop structural and systematical programming, leading to the improvement of problem solving and logical thinking. This camp runs from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Cost is $205.

The attendees will assemble different robots of Lego NXT step-by-step. After participants get used to manipulating their robots, they will interact with them using mathematical and entertaining activities. Through making robots themselves and doing various activities with them, participants will improve their creativity and problem-solving ability. This camp runs from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Cost is $245.

For more information and registration for either camp, visit HTTP://GAMESTUDIO.BOISESTATE.EDU/SUMMER-CAMP/, or send an email to GAMESTUDIO.BOISESTATE@GMAIL.COM or call (208) 426-1203.

Ching and Hsu publish research on role playing

Yu-Hui Ching, assistant professor, and Yu-Chang Hsu, associate professor, in the Department of Educational Technology published an article titled Learners’ Interpersonal Beliefs and Generated Feedback in an Online Role-Playing Peer- Feedback Activity: An Exploratory Study in International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.

Peer feedback affords interaction and critical thinking opportunities for learners in online courses. However, various factors prevent learners from taking advantage of these promising benefits.

This study explored learners’ perceptions of the interpersonal factors in a role-playing, peer-feedback activity, and examined the types of peer feedback that learners generated when playing a role. Participants were 16 graduate students engaged in an online role-playing, peer-feedback activity.

The results from survey responses revealed learners’ positive interpersonal beliefs, including psychological safety and trust, toward the role-playing, peer-feedback activity. In addition, more than 60 percent of the participants reported being more comfortable critiquing peers’ work when playing a role.

The content analysis of the peer-feedback entries indicated that learners were able to generate highly constructive feedback entries. In addition to adding supportive comments, those feedback entries identified problems, asked questions and provided suggestions.

The results show that role-play strategy has great potential to enhance learners’ interpersonal beliefs in peer-feedback activity and their feedback quality.

EdTech grad wins major award for innovative teaching


Everyone who’s been around raw milk knows what happens when you leave it alone to do its thing—cream rises to the top.
And so it is with Alyson Nelson, a 2013 EdTech grad.
This week, Alyson was named one of seven winners of the Allen Distinguished Educators program, which grants $25,000 awards for pioneering work in education. The ADE award generated 81 initial applications representing 31 states. From 16 finalists, seven winning projects were chosen.

“A national search for innovation in education revealed a significant appetite for strategies that give students more ownership over their learning,” said Dave Ferrero, Senior Program Officer for Education at Vulcan Inc., a Paul G. Allen company. “We believe that recognizing and supporting innovative teachers and their programs will create hands-on, real-world opportunities for students that are replicable models of success.”

The program focuses on the integration of computer science, engineering and entrepreneurship into engaging, student-led learning. This type of curriculum can help students build skills, habits and dispositions that can transform their lives and lead them to success in the 21st century.

Alyson, a native of South Carolina, earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Science Teaching with a minor in Biology at Clemson. In 2012, she was named Teacher of the Year at Mauldin High School and was a top 10 finalist for District Teacher of the Year in Greenville County, the largest school district in South Carolina.

That’s when I wrote about her the first time.

In 2013, part-way through Boise State’s online EdTech master’s program, Alyson and her husband moved to Washington where she was hired to develop a Signature STEM Lab at the newly opened Nikola Tesla STEM High School in Redmond. With her experience in teaching about the human body, Alyson developed the Advanced Biomedical Engineering Lab to address global challenges in engineering and medicine. Over the past two years, students in this program have won numerous awards, collaborated and interned with industry professionals, achieved entry into prestigious universities, and began their pursuit of careers in the medical field. Alyson hopes to continue inspiring students to pursue their passion in healthcare through providing a rigorous, engaging, and innovative program.

And the cream keeps rising.

Leslie Lott: Ups and downs and up, up, up

Received a note from Leslie Lott the other day. Like most of us, she’s had her share of ups and downs since graduating from the EdTech master’s program in 2010. Hers is one of those one-door-opens-when-another-door-closes story.

 She said she always tells people about her experience and how much she learned in the M.E.T. program at Boise State.  Her expertise and accompanying degree took her somewhere she never expected to go.

 I’ll let her tell the story.

After receiving my undergraduate degree in elementary education with an endorsement in literacy, I chose to go straight into the M.E.T., as I felt I needed to know more about the use of technology in my field. Halfway through the program, we moved back to Montana due to the closure of the company where my husband worked.

I applied at the local school district, which used its government stimulus money to buy technology and to hire me as an instructional technology coach—even  though I had not completed the master’s program yet.

This job gave me two years of hands-on experience with integrating technology in teaching and learning with a focus on training teachers on the LMS, Moodle. I completed the M.E.T. during this time. When the stimulus funds were gone, my job ended, but [here’s Door #2] I was hired as a library media specialist in an elementary school. I taught 19 classes a week. This gave me a great deal of teaching experience and allowed me to still integrate technology.

Toward the end of the school year, a friend said the small, local Catholic university was looking for someone to teach instructional technology and she thought I should apply.  [And Door #3] After much thought and prayer, I decided to apply and was hired as a full time instructor of education, which is what I am currently doing.  This is my fourth year at the University of Great Falls.

I continue to try and keep up in the field but I will always be grateful for the choice I made in completing the M.E.T. program at Boise State. I’m also grateful for all of my professors who knew how to model the integration of technology in teaching and learning.