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EdTech department chair wins major award


EdTech Department Chair Brett Shelton has won AECT’s 2017 Outstanding Practice Award for design and development of an instructional app to improve undergraduate studies in geosciences.

AECT—the Association for Educational Communication and Technology—is one of the world’s premier professional organizations for university researchers in the field of education. Shelton will receive the award at AECT’s annual international conference this November in Jacksonville, Florida.

Called “Grand Canyon Expedition,” or GCX, Shelton’s mobile app features three adventure games in the form of virtual field trips to the Grand Canyon to teach concepts of geologic time, geologic structures, and hydrologic processes.

CGX uses maps and still photographs of geologic features in the always-colorful Grand Canyon. Students walk around a large, open area, as they easily follow the on-screen prompts, making it both fun and functionally educational as they see, learn about, and respond to questions about geologic concepts. The app was made for college geology students, but directions are clear enough for anyone (even as young as junior high age) to understand and enjoy the virtual adventure.

Teaming up with geologists who photographed and described the geologic formations made Shelton’s software learning adventure accurate and authentic.

How It Works

Pictures of Grand Canyon rock formations are colorful and beautiful, and the accompanying text augments the virtual reality by explaining what students are seeing. Following the description, the game asks a question based on the geology content covered in the module. Some questions are followed by an “iSpy” activity where players must interact with the touchscreen of their device as well. Players have to successfully complete each question in order to progress to the next location and the next question. Scoring is based on the number of attempts per question.

The Technology Behind the Interface

The games are based on leveraging relative GPS locations, designed to take advantage of the GPS capabilities of mobile devices.

Typically, GPS detects where users are actually located; relative GPS, on which this educational game is designed, places users in a virtual world, in this case, a stretch of the Grand Canyon. Students take their smartphone or tablet outside to a park, sports field, or an open undeveloped area because the virtual field trip requires them to wander about open spaces as they follow trails in the virtual canyon. Getting students out of their chairs and moving around not only contributes to the experiential nature of the mobile app, it also leverages dual-coding theory, which postulates that the more ways students experience new information, the better they’ll understand and retain it.

Shelton is the first software developer in America to create an educational game based on relative GPS technology.


Shelton and colleagues are evaluating vendors or publishers that can make the learning tool widely available. The app is software, so scalability will not be an issue. Distribution and technical support will not be issues, either, once a publishing partner has been identified.

Adaptations of GCX have a great deal of educational and commercial potential. The geologic structures learned in GCX can be applied to many geological settings, but not all, so other versions could be made to teach the forces of tectonic plates or the prehistoric inland seas of the Pacific Northwest. The technological template could be adapted to virtual motor tours to explain roadside geology of various states or regions.

CGX was developed in cooperation with colleagues at Utah State University, but this nomination focused on Shelton’s contribution as primary developer for design and technical interface. The project, finalized in 2016, was supported by the National Science Foundation.

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.