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EdTech’s Friesen invited to Finnish university

Norm Friesen photo


EdTech Professor Norm Friesen recently was invited to present a seminar at the University of Vaasa in Finland, where he spoke on six questions raised by German pedagogical theorist Klaus Mollenhauer.

While in Vaasa, Friesen was invited to see the university’s practice school, which provides opportunities for pre-service teachers and visiting professionals to observe effective new techniques in teaching.

Finnish schools like this one consistently rank near the top of international student outcomes in math, reading and other core subjects. Friesen reports that what he experienced there was very similar to what Michael Moore depicted in his 2015 documentary, Where to Invade Next  (

Friesen said he appreciated the hospitality and professional courtesy extended by Professor Michael Uljens, Principal Elisabeth Kärjenmäki, and Teacher Heimo Oksanen.

EdTech student earns teacher-of-the-year award


EdTech student Sarah Thompson has been named teacher of the year in Fairfax County, Virginia, Public Schools.

 The Mark Twain Middle School English teacher attended several Google Apps for Educators summits and was intrigued to learn that many of the presenters were graduates of Boise State’s EdTech program.

 “I wanted to be them,” she said, so she joined the Boise State EdTech master’s program and is scheduled to graduate next May.

 Thompson explained the transition in her teaching, saying, “Because of the knowledge and experience I gained through BSU’s Ed. Tech. program, the teaching and learning in my classroom transformed and continues to develop in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. I’ve presented professional development to fellow teachers on various ed-tech topics, including YouTube, the use of student email, flipped lessons, hyperdocs, and more.

 “I am even our school’s website curator now. I still sometimes think, who—me?!

 “It is awesome to be in a position to share what I know and pay it forward. In the classroom, my students use our netbooks and technology to explore, collaborate, and develop not just their reading and writing skills but also their social skills. We are a thriving, virtually paperless classroom. We are a 21st century classroom. And more importantly, we are having fun and learning more about ourselves and the world!

 “I could not be more thankful and more aware that I did not reach this accomplishment on my own. In fact, one of the points I made in my nomination letter was in reference to the many people who helped me along the way, including Boise State University. Furthermore, I made the point that while it still takes a village to raise a child, we now have to prepare our students to be global citizens and for careers and experiences not yet known. At the same time, every child also needs fair and equal access to education. We cannot expect to do these things using the same old approaches to learning. So, I said, it still takes a village, but we must also bridge the gaps using technology. That is exactly what we at Boise State are doing. Truly, I am proud to be a part of it and thankful beyond measure for the tools I received (and continue to receive) from Boise State to help me build, and continue to add to, those bridges.”

MET student helps engineers teach an artificial intelligence


A software development company in Portland, Oregon, has asked Boise State EdTech master’s student Sandy Hoppenrath to teach its artificial general intelligence creation, nicknamed Nigel.

She and two teacher colleagues that she recommended are teaching engineers at Kimera Systems how to teach Nigel. She said the engineers understand algorithms and software engineering but they have little experience in early childhood development. “Right now we view Nigel as a toddler,” she said. “Since Nigel can comprehend and grow, he/it needs to be taught everything.”

And that is why, three days ago, Kimera released Nigel AGI beta phase three, where it has begun to apply what it’s learned and take independent action, according to an article on the technology website AGI stands for artificial general intelligence.

“Kimera will begin releasing special apps made with the Nigel AGI SDK in the near future, along with special training exercises that users can do as often as they like to help Nigel learn and grow faster. As this happens, Nigel’s repertoire for all users will expand, and it will become more and more useful to new and longtime users alike,” according to the website.

Hoppenrath, who completes her master’s program in December, said it has been beneficial to her as a teacher “to discuss and really think through the basics of teaching and education—from birth, really—and to answer [questions like] what is intelligence or what is knowledge.” Eventually, she expects Nigel to benefit education, possibly as a tutor of students.

Hoppenrath’s association with Kimera Systems began last year at a parent-teacher conference in Beaverton, a Portland suburb. One of the parents mentioned that he was developing artificial intelligence. Because she had researched A.I. for a paper in Dr. Diane Hall’s learning theories class (EDTECH 504), she had a solid foundation of knowledge for a discussion. Months later, he emailed her and asked if she would serve as an educational consultant, and get other elementary teachers to help.

EdTech’s Lowenthal presents at World Conference on OL



EdTech’s Patrick Lowenthal is in Toronto this week to present at the World Conference on Online Learning. He is one of more than 600 academics from 56 countries to present at this event.

He and four colleagues prepared a poster on Investigating Faculty Perceptions and Practices of Teaching Large Online Courses. His co-authors are MET grad and EdTech doc students Justin Keel and Crystal Gasell, EdTech doc student Jeanna Cronk, and Joanna Dunlap of the University of Colorado Denver.

Lowenthal also is presenting on Accessible Online Learning: Thinking Beyond Compliance. Co-authors are Associate Professor of Early Childhood Development and Special Education Michael Humphrey, MET student Krista Greear, Alison Lowenthal of the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Quincy Conley.

Doc student, professor publish research

Doctoral student Ashraf Touati and Dr. Young Baek recently published an article in the Journal of Educational Computing Research.

Their research focused on 164 middle-school students using  Minecraft in mobile game-based learning. The proposed Touati-Baek model—based on Cognitive Evaluation Theory, Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory and Harter’s Theory of Self-Esteem—found that perceived competence and game attitude were the main predictors of enjoyment. Another important finding was the strong impact of prior game experience on perceived competence.

Touati, a Boise State EdTech master’s graduate, is now nearing completion of his doctoral studies. He and Baek expect their work to help influence learning outcomes in the development of new educational games.

Instructional designer needed

Amy Lomellini wrote today and said two wonderful things.

First, the May MET grad said she has secured a job as an instructional designer at Molloy College in Long Island, NY. Second, her employer is looking for another instructional designer.

The instructional designer will assist faculty in all academic divisions in designing courses and programs for hybrid and online delivery by providing expertise in the development of, and ongoing support to faculty through education, consultation, and assistance with online learning pedagogies and tools.

Any alumnus who would like a job in instructional design should check out the job listing at : .

eSports officially launched–What a party!

Hundreds enjoyed watching teams scrimmage on large screens.

Boise State’s eSports launch party was a hoot last night (10-3-2017). The goal must have been “go big or go home” because everything was extreme.

It was big. And they’re already thinking about doing it bigger next year—in Taco Bell Arena.

Four or five hundred students crowded into the student union’s ballroom to meet the university’s varsity team for intercollegiate competition in eSports.

The room was dark, except in front where three enormous screens lit half of the room. In front of the screens was an elevated podium where the two League of Legends teams faced the audience. Three play-by-play casters sat on the side.

Somewhere in the pre-game darkness, someone played music loud enough to make the walls vibrate.

In the back of the game cave, party-goers were treated to an endless supply of nutrition common to all-night gamers–popcorn (3 flavors), cookies (4 kinds), iced cans of Monster energy drinks, and a veritable buffet of Coke products. Monster and Coke are team sponsors.

Esports directors Chris Haskell and Brett Shelton, both faculty members in the EdTech Department, introduced the cool new game jerseys which got a great response from the crowd. Shelton noted that these jerseys feature both the Fierce Bronco head AND the academic B logo. This is the first time the university has allowed the two symbols to appear together.

Shelton also got the crowd going when he announced plans for an enormous game center on the second floor of Albertson Library. Teams would practice there and the crowd cheered when he said non-varsity players could use it, too.

Boise State teams will compete in Overwatch, Rocket League, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and League of Legends. The spotlight last night was on the League of Legends.

Haskell told the crowd that Boise State’s Maggie Borland is the first female team captain in all of eSports. She leads the Overwatch team, which has been invited to play at DreamHack in Denver later this month. DreamHack is one of the largest video game and eSports events in the country. The Boise State team will battle Utah in front of an estimated 40,000 viewers.

eSports launches initial season with a party

Boise State is celebrating the launch of its eSports program with a party. The campus event is scheduled from 7-10 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3, in the Student Union Building;s Jordan Ballroom.

The launch party is open to Boise State students, faculty, area high school students and the community and will feature a DJ, food, games, prizes and special guests.

The program plans to host teams of Boise State students who will compete in five games–League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Rocket League.

eSports teams compete in competitive video gaming as an officially sanctioned, varsity activity for undergraduate and graduate students. Teams are recruited and selected from current students who have part- or full-time status. eSports are not part of the Boise State Athletic Department nor currently organized or regulated by the NCAA, NAIA or other national governing body.

The Games Doctor Publishes New Textbook


Dr. Young Baek has published a new textbook on educational games.

Game-Based Learning: Theory, Strategies, and Performance Outcomes provides a much-needed guide to different forms and applications of digital games in teaching and learning. This book brings together researchers and practitioners from around the world who share their theories, strategies, findings of case studies, and practical approaches to support better performance and learning outcomes when learning with digital games.

Dr. Baek’s new book provides readers with three main sections of information. The first part provides a practical understanding of theory and research-based principles of game-based learning. This part overviews existing and emerging theories, which are presented in the form of case study findings and implications. The second part of the book gives readers the “how to” information to turn intellectual grounding into effective practice in digital game learning. The third and last part discusses practical approaches to help educators evaluate different aspects of learning within the context of game-based learning. Some topics covered in this book include:

  • Augmented reality game-based learning
  • The use of Amazon Echo in formal and informal learning
  • Distinction between game-based learning, serious games, and gamification
  • The importance of fun in gameplay
  • Collaboration, cooperation, and competition using mobile games
  • Effective design of instructional experiences in game-based learning
  • The Metagame
  • Practical approaches to evaluating learning with games

Digital games can help teach a wide variety of curriculum-specific content in academic disciplines, in addition to transferable skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, or teamwork. Games can also be used to teach physical skills, cognitive strategies, and to change behaviors or attitudes. The value of game-based learning does not stop simply with their use as vehicles for delivering learning, but they can also be used as triggers for discussion or as a design activity where learning takes place through the design process.

Game-based learning is not just about teaching with games, but also about learning from games and applying gaming principles to teaching, and understanding the incidental learning that takes place while game play goes on, for example, the collaboration and mentoring that takes place in Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). The case studies in this book explore game-based learning from a variety of perspectives, showing a range of different ways in which it can be applied to different teaching and learning context.

Problem-solving is a key goal of many types of games, be it strategic planning, lateral thinking, or how to work as a team to defeat a powerful enemy – which provides motivation and stimulus for learning.

Digital games are playing an increasing vital role in teaching and learning at all levels of education.

Dr. Baek is the director of the Game Studio, a research and development center in the Department of Educational Technology. He teaches introduction to Edutainment and Integrating Digital Games in the K-12 C

lassroom. Edutainment focuses on analyzing various types of entertainment tools to discover the qualities that make them fun. Then students attempt to incorporate these elements into learning activities.

This volume is Dr. Baek’s fourth textbook. It is priced at $279 from the publisher, Nova Science Publishers.

Great Tech Tools—Students share their faves

We recently asked our students to list their favorite EdTech tools on our new Facebook group for students, “We are EdTech Boise State.”  They listed more than 20 favorites, and you can add yours, too, or ask questions about these tools or anything else.

Here are a few of their responses. Watch for more in coming days.

Elijah Alquist just wrote “screencasts” but Tyler Isbell specified Screencastify and Heather Askea suggested Screencast-O-Matic and Loom. All three share a number of similarities. Screen and video sharing are key tools in flipping classrooms and providing verbal feedback on assignments—that ought to be a time-saver. These tools also help students practice speech and foreign language skills.

Jonathon Richter recommended Slack, which is an email alternative for work groups. Teachers and administrators could have their own communication channel instead of cluttering the already cluttered email browser. Or teachers could communicate with online students without cluttering the email.

Julia Hill suggested Remind, which helps teachers reach out to students and parents—for example—to remind students of homework assignments over a long weekend.

Daniel Flynn’s favorite is Google Keep. Funny he should say that because Sarah Wicks recommends Trello. Both are equally popular phone-based reminders of things to do.

Alex Rosenleaf likes Near Pod. This menu-driven alternative to Microsoft PowerPoint does not have an audio recorder, but it does allow you to drop in student polls, open-ended responses, or several kinds of quizzes. Alex teaches U.S. History at the high school level, and this tech tool enables his lessons to be more interactive and engaging. He just started using it this year, but he’s liking what he’s seeing so far.

If you haven’t yet joined “We are EdTech Boise State,” please check it out. It’s a great place to share ideas, tools, ask questions of other students, and meet students in any of EdTech’s three degree programs and four graduate certificate programs. Here is the URL.