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Doctoral grad named e-learning director at major university

UNCWBoise State EdTech doctoral alumna Sheri Conklin has been named director of e-learning at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, where she has been employed as an instructional designer since 2009.

“Dr. Conklin brings a variety of perspectives to this new position, as a former instructional designer, an online student, a current online and face-to-face instructor, and an expert in the field of Quality Matters,” said Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Distance Education Peter Nguyen. “Her dedication to online learning is evident through her continuous research and faculty support of the design and development of online courses and programs at UNCW.”

Conklin is passionate about designing and delivering quality online courses and researches peer-to-peer and instructor-to-student interactions. She specifically analyzes social and instructor presence in online courses and how that affects student satisfaction and perceived learning.

E-sports Update—Boise State qualifies for Hearthstone national tourney

Director of E-sports

Boise State’s varsity Hearthstone team has qualified for the first round of the national Hearthstone intercollegiate e-sports tournament, according to EdTech Assistant Professor Chris Haskell, who also serves as director of Boise State E-sports.

The team competes Dec. 2 with 31 of the best Hearthstone teams. If Boise State advances to the final four, the team will travel to California for the championship round.

EdTech will add a couple of classes for varsity e-sports team members next semester. The classes for team instruction and practice will meet from 9 a.m. until noon in a computer lab on the second floor of the Education Building.

EdTech’s Dazhi Yang: Having fun with the after-school STEM kids

Elementary school students programmed robots on a computer and then downloaded the program code to the robot. The goal was to get past the rocks to the colored circle, but sometimes they work as expected, so the boy shown here is making a quick course correction. At left, EdTech Associate Professor Dazhi Yang times the event. Next to her is Boise State Distinguished Educator in Residence and NASA Astronaut Steve Swanson.

On two recent evenings in Boise, EdTech Associate Professor Dazhi Yang presided over a room full of excited elementary students, teachers, and parents.

The students had volunteered for a National Science Foundation-funded after-school program in which they learned computational thinking and applied science, technology, engineering, and math skills. Some groups built bridges and some programmed robots.

This was the big finale—two nights of serious and sometimes raucous competition—bridge builders against bridge builders and programmers against programmers.

On the big night for bridge builders, the end of each bridge was mounted on a violently shaking table, an action resembling the torsion dynamics of earthquakes. Each component of these bridges was assigned a dollar value, so the lowest-priced bridge that withstood the shaking won the competition.

On another autumn evening, programmers tuned their robots for an environmental obstacle course only vaguely resembling the surface of Mars. The mission: Make the robots go around the boulders and race to a colored circle representing a marvelous discovery, such as water or a life-form.

“We hope this project will be able to help nurture some future astronauts who will be part of the Mars exploration in the near future,” said Dr. Yang. “We think everyone of these students has such great potential!”

Yang, chief investigator on the NSF grant, was assisted by colleagues in the Department of Educational Technology and in other Boise State departments.

Click one of these informative links for more information:
1. Life on Mars:
2. Building the Boise River Bridge:

Why Apple invited Boise State to its headquarters

An EdTech graduate and faculty member were part of a Boise State delegation invited to Apple’s world headquarters to discuss innovation in education. Representatives of Apple’s Education Division will visit Boise State in January.

Pictured from left:

  • Boise State University President Bob Kustra;
  • Lana Grover, an EdTech graduate and a senior instructional design consultant at the university;
  • Anthony Ellertson, director of Boise State’s Gaming, Interactive Media & Mobile Technology program;
  • Chris Haskell, director of Boise State E-sports; and
  • Gordon Jones, dean of the College of Innovation and Design.


Lowenthal: How digital storytelling gives voice, sense-of-self to refugees



​Boise State recently presented an on-campus activity called A Night with Refugee Storytellers. With refugees now in all but the smallest communities across America, the concept of students sharing a thread of their lives in a digital storytelling format or interacting with other students in a digital interview seems particularly timely.

“Digital storytelling is quickly capturing the hearts and imaginations of educators because it combines traditional storytelling with modern-day pop culture and technology,” according to EdTech Associate Professor Patrick Lowenthal.

The educational benefits of digital storytelling include:

Increasing student engagement
The foundation of a digital story is the story itself. Thus, the core of digital storytelling is the writing and re-writing process. However, Lowenthal argues that adding multimedia components to a story offers educators a new and exciting way to captivate student interest.

Leveraging multiple literacies
The twenty-first century requires mastery of several kinds of literacies, and many teachers are finding that multi-modal texts like digital storytelling provide more engagement and learning than reading and writing alone.

Accessing a global audience
Students who feel that they have something to say, and want to say it on a stage larger than the teacher’s desk, find that uploading their digital stories to the Web provide them access to a global audience—something that many students crave.

Amplifying students’ voices
While other students still prefer to remain invisible, digital storytelling can be  an effective motivator for marginalized students who struggle with traditional academia or who do not fit-in socially.

Creating a sense of self
The stories students tell about themselves influence their sense of self, including how they see and value themselves, and how they feel valued by others. Through reflection and expression, technical and communication skills improve, and students create a better sense of who they are.

Lowenthal suggests having students tell their own digital stories in the Center for Digital Storytelling format.   On a timeframe of about three minutes, CDS stories resemble a Ken Burns documentary. Video pans slowly over a photograph as an unseen narrator describes a vignette or a slice from his or her life, sometimes with mood-setting music. This process may be more comfortable for refugee students because they’re in control of the story and the storytelling process.

Teaching a classroom of students to make digital stories can be very time consuming—the writing and rewriting, the audio recording and re-recording, the shooting of video to fit the narration, etc.

Structure, according to Lowenthal, is vital to the success of digital storytelling projects. Educators should guide students to write the story first, then add images and music to help the story express itself through other senses. Without teacher-imposed structure, students often create “a techno-centric, special-effects driven product” that over-shadows the story.

Lowenthal believes that educators need to identify what their students need to know and do, and then decide if or how digital storytelling can accomplish it.

Digital storytelling is primarily a first-person account, but it doesn’t have to be. A video conversation is also a form of storytelling and has potential to create a bond between native and refugee students. Video interviews have different but equally valid learning objectives. It is likely a faster process and may be better suited for beginners. Older students could use two cameras and digitally edit the video to focus on one person at a time. Both forms of digital storytelling can be singular or group activities, and both forms can leverage learning through the power of multimedia.

Sample Interview Questions

While conducting video interviews may be an easier for the teacher, it may actually be a harder format for refugees who are sensitive about their experiences—some of them horrific. So teachers may want to submit student-written discussion questions to the parents of refugee students to help secure their permission before their children are interviewed on camera.

Safe questions may focus on family life or cultural traditions, such as:

  • What kind of job did your parents do in your birth country?
  • What kind of job would you like to do here in America?
  • How is school here different than in your birth country?
  • What did you do for fun in your birth country?
    • Follow-up: Which American past-times interest you?
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up soon. Tell me about holidays in your birth country.
    • Follow-up: What kind of foods do you eat on special days?
  • What gives you hope? Or, tell me who inspires you to do great things?

All interviewers, including students fulfilling classroom assignments, need to be aware of the signs of trauma.

“If they start to cry, if their breathing quickens, or if you notice they’re looking at the door or around the room, it might be a sign that they don’t feel safe — or that what you are talking about is reminding them of the trauma in a negative way,” said British psychologist Katy Robjant in an article in the International Journalists’ Network. “You have to take a step back and ask them if they are okay to continue the interview, or if you can do anything to make them feel safer,” she said, including giving the interviewee the right to change the subject or end the interview.

Global Media Forum Reporter, a training initiative at Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international public broadcaster, lists several points pertinent to students who interview refugees.

Turkish freelance filmmaker Mani Yassir Benchelah told the GMF that interviewers should:

  • “Ask parents for permission before interviewing children,
  • Take time with the children and share moments with them and their families,
  • Keep interviews short,
  • Ensure parents or trusted adults are present during interviews,” and
  • Ensure children are “ready to talk and feel safe.”

Journalist Alex Hannaford told the GMF that interviewers should stay in touch with refugees after the interview to show personal concern and build rapport. Interviewers should also “manage expectations about [their] story to avoid disappointing someone. Don’t pretend your story will change the conditions of their daily lives.”

Additional Resources
  • The Washington Department of Education urges teachers to avoid putting refugee children on the spot by asking them to explain their painful past in front of the class. This three-page report is an excellent resource for teachers.
  • Two years ago, Heather Wolpert-Gawron blogged with an eloquent young man that she taught in 2011 when he was a fifth-grader and brand new in this country. It’s interesting and informative.
  • Teachers who want to dig more deeply into storytelling will benefit from the seven steps of storytelling.
  • The Smithsonian provides a great resource for teachers who want to assign students to interview family members.

EdTech faculty, recent grad win major award

Two EdTech associate professors and a recent doctoral graduate won the 2017 Outstanding Paper Award at E-Learn in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The E-Learn World Conference is organized by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) and co-sponsored by the International Journal on E-Learning. Education leaders from more than 60 countries attend E-Learn, which makes the paper by Yu-Chang Hsu and Yu-Hui Ching—and doctoral graduate Sally Baldwin—a significant accomplishment in educational research and publishing.

The article is called Physical Computing for STEAM Education: Maker-Educators’ Experiences in an Online Graduate Course, and will be published in the conference proceedings. The paper is based on graduate students’ experience in EDTECH 597—Maker Tech: Hybrid Computing & Tinkering for STEAM Education, which Hsu will teach again next semester.

EdTech course sites in Moodle remain open during web shutdown

Scheduled maintenance will shut down all Boise State websites and telephones on Sunday, Nov. 12, between 5 and 6 a.m. EdTech students will still be able to access their course sites in Moodle.

EdTech faculty offers considerable insight at AECT

More than two dozen EdTech faculty members and students are presenting research this week at the international conference of the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT) in Jacksonville, Florida.

 EdTech doctoral graduate Molly Large will team up with Professor Norm Friesen and Assistant Professor Chris Haskell to share their research on Implementation of an AVID Elementary Program in a Technology-rich Environment. They explored the change and innovations that occurred as the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) elementary program was implemented in a technology-rich school environment. It also examined the ways in which those innovations were communicated and adopted across the school, including how the AVID elementary program functions at the site and how teachers who were trained through the AVID Elementary Summer Institute responded to and applied the presented strategies and tools.

EdTech doctoral graduate Dwayne Ockel worked with associate professors Ross Perkins, Yu-Chang Hsu, and Yu-Hui Ching on research called Exploring the Impacts of Logic Simulation in an Online Computer Architecture Course. Because many computer science programs are moving online, it is important to replace in-person laboratory experiences with authentic and cost-effective methods. Traditionally, static models such as schematic diagrams along with detailed textual descriptions have been used, but this study explored the use of a logic simulation tool as an interventional assignment in an online undergraduate computer science course. Three iterations of the intervention were run using a design-based research approach.

 EdTech doctoral graduate Sarah Rich will team-up with Associate Professor Chareen Snelson and Professor Youngkyun Baek to explain their research called, Exploring Critical Thinking and Negotiation of Meaning through MINECRAFTEDU: A case study of Elementary Language Learners. This qualitative case study investigated the collective discourse produced by a group of elementary-aged English Language Learners engaged in task-based activities within the social gaming environment of MinecraftEDU in order to determine if patterns of critical thinking, problem solving, and negotiation and co-construction of meaning were present. Their work has implications for practice and further research in the fields of social game design and use within foreign language instruction, identity exploration within an online environment, and reduced fear of failure when participating in a social game.

 Assistant Professor Jesus Trespalacios will present on Novice Instructional Designers as Reflective Practitioners. Reflection plays an essential role in the process of solving design problems. Previous research shows that reflective thinking is one of the critical factors in solving design problems. Following research-based guidelines, students wrote a substantial reflection paper at the end of an online course in instructional design (ID). His presentation will report the activities developed in the course and how novice ID students used reflection to establish and develop a professional identity.

 Associate Professor Ross Perkins, Professor Kerry Rice, and Assistant Professor Jesus Trespalacios contributed to research EdTech doctoral graduate Donna Ledford called, Professional Learning for Technology Integration: Teachers’ Use of Technology. This design-based study emphasized active learning, critical thinking, creativity, and communication in a professional development framework that impacted teachers’ instructional practices toward technology integration and transformative practice. In the study, teachers engaged in a 15-week professional learning opportunity and implemented multiple components noted in the literature as impacting teacher practice.

EdTech Associate Professor Lida Uribe-Florez, Professor Kerry Rice, Associate Professor Ross Perkins, and doctoral graduate Dave Mulder worked on a study that focused on Advising students in a fully online EdTech doctoral program: What we have learned. Advising doctoral students in a fully online program is a new and important task that has been added to the faculty workload. In this presentation, they will share experiences as advisors of doctoral students in Boise State EdTech’s online EdD program. Program coordinators and faculty share strategies utilized in the program. They will also discuss strategies used to overcome the challenges encountered while guiding students to finish their doctoral degree. Mulder will share his experiences as an advisee.

EdTech Associate Professor Dazhi Yang and  doctoral student Shannon Skelcher will present their research on the topic of Examining Students’ Cognitive Learning and Perceptions in Face-to-Face and Online Engineering Courses. This research examined differences in graduate students’ cognitive learning and perceptions in face-to-face and online engineering courses. The findings revealed no difference in students’ cognitive learning. However, face-to-face students had a better performance in sharing, describing, seeking information, and solutions skills. Online students had higher percentages in explaining, comparing, interpreting, and clarifying; analyzing, and concluding skills. Face-to-face students had higher perceptions of teaching while online students had more positive perception about the course’s effectiveness.

Patrick Lowenthal, Quincy Conley, Michael Humphrey, and Alison Lowenthal will present their research project called Lessons Learned Developing a Digital Literacy Online Training Program for Students with Exceptionalities. Students need 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. They plan to present an online digital literacy training program for students with exceptionalities. They will also discuss their design and development approach for this particular audience, report on a series of design experiments, and conclude with implications for theory and practice.

 EdTech Associate Professor Patrick Lowenthal and contributors Laurie Cavey, Michele Carney, Tatia Totorica, and Jason Libberton from various departments at Boise State have prepared a poster presentation called Using Video to Prepare Prospective Teachers to Teach Mathematics: A Literature Review. Teacher educators have been experimenting with using video to prepare teachers for more than a decade. For instance, teacher educators have used video to model expert teaching, analyze lessons, create field recordings, and even as specific case studies to prepare prospective teachers. In their session, Lowenthal and colleagues will present the results of an integrative review of the literature, which summarizes and synthesizes research on the use of video to teach prospective teachers how to teach mathematics.

 EdTech Assistant Professor Jesus Trespalacios and Associate Professor Lida Uribe-Florez plan to present on Exploring Strategies to Promote a Sense of Community in a Fully Online Educational Research Course. Research suggests that building community online can improve learning and retention. However, there is little recent empirical research on how online educators establish a sense of classroom community in their courses. Using a validated survey and a semi-structured interview, these EdTech faculty members will report how instructional strategies and modern technologies might influence perceptions of community in a fully online doctoral course in educational research. Results and implications for practice will be discussed with the audience.

 EdTech Associate Professor Patrick Lowenthal and doctoral students Dana Bodewes and Megan Gooding will present Learning to Teach Online: An Exploration of How Universities Train Faculty to Teach Online. As a result of increased demand for online courses and programs, institutions are experimenting with different ways to train and support faculty to teach online. There is very little recent literature, though, that describes the various ways that institutions actually train faculty to teach online. In this presentation, they will report on the results of their inquiry into how leading institutions are training faculty to design online courses and teach online.

And, EdTech Associate Professor Yu-Chang Hsu will lead a discussion for members of AECT’s Culture, Learning and Technology (CLT) Division and members of the International Division to explore collaboration opportunities that can serve the members of both divisions.

EdTech’s Shelton to receive international award this week

Brett Shelton, Ed Tech head Portrait


EdTech Department Chair Brett Shelton will headline a large contingency of Boise State professors attending the annual convention of the Association of Educational Communication and Technology in Jacksonville, Florida, this week.

Shelton will receive the Outstanding Practice Award for the design of exemplary instructional materials or systems.

He was part of a team of university researchers who fulfilled a National Science Foundation grant to build an interactive, educational game to improve undergraduate studies in geoscience. The nomination focused on Shelton’s contribution as primary developer for design and technical interface. He was the first software developer in America to use relative GPS technology in a learning game.

Called “Grand Canyon Expedition”, or GCX, the team built three mobile apps to help teach concepts of geologic time, geologic structures, and hydrologic processes.

The mobile apps use maps and beautiful still photographs of geologic features in the always-colorful Grand Canyon. Students walk around a large area, such as a ball field, as they follow the on-screen prompts, which virtually lead them to various geological sites, where they are instructed and quizzed about  the geologic concepts appearing on their screen.

More than two dozen EdTech faculty members and students are presenting research this week at AECT.

EdTech’s Haskell talks about esports on Sports Radio

Chris Haskell


Re-thinking the definition of sports

Boise State EdTech Assistant Professor Chris Haskell was featured on Idaho’s longest-running sports talk show Oct. 24, where he discussed esports.

Idaho Sports Talk is hosted by Jeff Caves, a former Boise State football player and long-time broadcaster, and Mike Prater, a retired newspaper sports editor. In an interesting 15 or 20-minute discussion, they asked Haskell to explain what esports is and how it got started.

Haskell mentioned that Boise State’s Overwatch team defeated Colorado State 3-0, but Boise State’s big splash at Dream Hack Denver on Oct. 20 was overlooked as the radio hosts tried to wrap their minds around bigger issues, such as, how can video games be a sport?

Haskell and EdTech Department Chair Brett Shelton deftly manuevered the esports proposition through all of the university’s decision makers just over a month ago. When varsity status was announced, many traditional sports enthusiasts had hardly even heard of esports.

Typically, sports teams are supported by athletics departments, but esports is sponsored Boise State’s Department of Educational Technology, an academic department in the College of Education.

Haskell said the College of Education and the College of Innovation and Design put up seed money for esports, including construction of a proposed esports arena on the second floor of university library. When not used by varsity teams, the game computers will be rented by students for personal or intramural gaming, thus raising scholarship money for competitive gamers.

Other questions focused on practice time and recruitment.

Haskell said it is not uncommon for gamers to play 20 hours a week, but they’re not in structured practice that long.

Boise State esports players were chosen from students already at Boise State, but Haskell added that he has already made living room visits with potential players and their parents.

What does sport mean, anyway?

Most people follow the dictionary definition of sports—strenuous physical competition with other individuals or teams. But manufacturers long ago hijacked the term for commercial purposes. For example, sports coats and sports cars have little to do with organized sports.

If sports have to be physically strenuous, why isn’t choreographed dance a sport?

And why are fishing, golf, and auto racing considered sports when they are not physically strenuous? And what about chess? The International Olympics Committee and more than a hundred nations recognize it as a sport.

It is easy to see that something’s wrong with the old definition.

Eventually, most of us—including the dictionaries—will accept a new and more inclusive definition that recognizes intercollegiate video game competition as a sport because it requires teamwork, strategy, following a game plan, and adjusting on the fly—all great skills in business and life.