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EdTech’s Lowenthal part of NSF grant on teaching math

Smiling people posed by the B

From left: Tatia Totorica, Michele Carney, Laurie Cavey and Patrick Lowenthal.

Boise State EdTech Associate Professor Patrick Lowenthall is part of a $1.6 million National Science Foundation grant to improve math education.

The four-year project will design and use video-based learning environments and online components to help prospective teachers better understand and respond to student thinking. This will make teachers better equipped to hone students’ informal and formal reasoning related to key mathematical ideas, including students’ thinking about functions.

The project is one of many examples of how educational technology can improve learning in all fields of study.

Other Boise State researchers include Laurie Cavey, an associate professor of mathematics, Michele Carney, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction and foundational studies; and Tatia Totorica, a clinical instructor in the IDoTeach program. They are joined by Jason Libberton, a regional math specialist with Idaho State University.

How successful grad students cope

Educators investigating Boise State’s renowned graduate programs in educational technology often say they work fulltime before asking how much time the program requires.

[At Boise State EdTech, almost all students work fulltime because we cater to working professionals who commit to about 10 hours per course per week in the fall and spring semesters.  The commitment doubles in the short summer sessions.]

EdTech students who have shared their struggles and strategies over the years seem to grasp a common thread to help them cope. The strands of that thread are attitude, organization, self-motivation, and grit.

Katie Severson summed up the nature of grad school in four other words. “It can be overwhelming.” But, she adds, if you prioritize your time and look at big-picture goals rather than day-to-day struggles, “you will accomplish more than you ever thought you could.”

“I have to admit it has been more challenging than I expected,” wrote Marco Armienta. “The level of the courses and assignments is very high and you really have to dedicate a lot of time to each course. At the same time, I feel like I’m really learning, and each module is very rewarding when I look at the outcomes.”

By all accounts, it’s worth it.

Katie Swanson Sathre: “The key is treating education like it’s a gift to yourself and not an obligation.”

Amie Cuhaciyan: “The thing that keeps me going is the sense of accomplishment that I feel.”

Sallie Draper: “I’m already seeing the benefits of the work I’m doing for class. I have learned so much that applies directly to my job responsibilities that it’s almost as if the class is an extension of my work.”

Natalie Burr: “I am using the craziness of my life to teach my children that even when we are struggling, we persevere and finish everything we start. Hard isn’t a reason to not start, nor is it a reason to quit.”

Megan Turner. “I think it is important for my kids to see my love for learning, which includes struggles along the way. I am excited to be working toward my goal and enhancing my abilities as a teacher.”

You have to know that good things are going on

EdD grad Dwayne Ockel of Colorado.

EdD grad Dwayne Ockel of Colorado.

When 11 students and faculty members from Boise State University—five of them from EdTech—win top awards at AECT, you know that something good is going on.

Boise State doctoral student Dwayne Ockel tied for first place in the Outstanding Performance by a Graduate Student in Instructional Design Award at AECT, the Association for Educational Communication and Technology.

Ockel’s co-winners are Kara Rutherford, Beverly Naylor, and Tammy Wheeler, who are graduate students in Boise State’s Department of Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning.

Other Boise State winners include:

EdTech Department Head Brett Shelton, who won the Outstanding Practice Award for software development. Shelton became the first developer in the world to use relational GPS in an educational game.  Called CGX, for Grand Canyon Expedition, the game virtually places students inside the Grand Canyon where they study geology.

Associate professors Patrick Lowenthal and Chareen Snelson, who won first place for qualitative journal articles in distance education.  Their article was titled: In search of a better understanding of social presence: An investigation into how researchers define social presence.

And, Patrick Lowenthal, who also won second place in the application section for journal articles in distance education. He teamed up with Ken-Zen Chen of National Chiao Tung University in South Korea, and with Boise State colleagues Christine Bauer, Allan Heaps, and Crystal Nielsen. Their article was titled: Moving beyond smile sheets: A case study on the evaluation and iterative improvement of an online faculty development program.

AECT was the first professional organization in educational technology and remains one of the largest. It is recognized internationally for promoting high standards in scholarship and practice in educational technology. Winners will receive their awards in November at the association’s international convention in Jacksonville, Florida.

How to forward your email, never miss anything

Every year, students miss important information from the EdTech Department (or the university) because they forget to check their student email accounts.

Here’s an easy solution. Forward your university email to your personal email account. Here’s how.

Turn on automatic forwarding

  1. On your computer, open Gmail, using the account you want to forward messages from (ie: your BroncoMail account). You can only forward messages for a single Gmail address, and not an email group or alias.
  2. In the top right, click Settings .
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Click the Forwarding and POP/IMAP
  5. In the “Forwarding” section, click Add a forwarding address.
  6. Enter the email address you want to forward messages to.
  7. Click Next Proceed  OK.
  8. A verification message will be sent to that address. Click the verification link in that message.
  9. Go back to the settings page for the Gmail account you want to forward messages from, and refresh your browser.
  10. Select Forward a copy of incoming mail to.
  11. Choose what you want to happen with the Gmail copy of your emails. We recommend Keep Gmail’s copy in the Inbox.
  12. At the bottom of the page, click Save Changes.

Turn off automatic forwarding

  1. On your computer, open Gmailusing the account you want to stop forwarding messages from.
  2. In the top right, click Settings .
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Click the Forwarding and POP/IMAP 
  5. In the “Forwarding” section, click Disable forwarding.
  6. At the bottom, click Save Changes.


EdTech’s Yang leads STEM+C after-school projects


Dazhi Yang is looking forward to another fun year of NSF-funded technology projects in Boise-area middle schools.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for more than $1 million to support a STEM + Computing Partnership between Boise State University, the Boise Parks and Recreation Department and the Boise School District.

Yang, an EdTech associate professor, is lead investigator on the three-year grant that allows Boise State STEM researchers to build and pilot a Community Center After-school Program (CCAP) model to guide the integration of computing thinking across K-12 STEM disciplines at three community centers and their three affiliated Kid City Programs serving high-need, Title I schools in Boise.

The CCAP model focuses on student learning and teacher professional development for both pre-service teachers (students pursuing a teaching degree) and in-service teachers from the Boise School District. This project has broad impact on K-12 STEM and computing education for high-needs students and provides them with an opportunity to learn STEM +C content in informal and formal settings.

Last year, students opted to build robots or bridges. Robotics teams learned to program their ‘bots to move and turn. The bridge teams constructed bridges to withstand earthquakes. Each inter-locking piece was assigned a cost, so students had to consider both strength of design and cost.

At the end of the school year, the middle-school teams brought their ‘bots and bridges for a little competitive fun.

The bridge builders put their bridges on shaker tables to see if they would hold a load and maintain integrity under the simulated pressures of an earthquake. When ties occurred, the less-costly bridge won.

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