Month: May 2016

Mary F. English Technology Award recipients attend Learn-IT Conference

Mary F. English award winners

Mary F. English award winners

The Mary F. English Technology Award was established at Northern Illinois University in September of 2000 by donors Dr. Robert and Mrs. Mary English.  The Award assists and supports undergraduate students in the College of Education through professional development opportunities supporting technology in the classroom.  Award recipients receive current technology equipment for their academic, personal, and professional use.  Recipients develop technical skills and gain experience utilizing technology as learning and informational tools.

The current Mary F. English Technology Award recipients attended the 10th annual Learn- IT Conference, hosted by the College of Education ETRA department on May 7th, 2016.  The 2016 Learn-IT Conference provided in-service teachers from the northern Illinois area P-12 school districts and NIU students a day full of workshops and training activities to help them use technology to enhance learning in the classroom. MFE scholars attended lecture and hands-on sessions exploring topics such as internet security, 3D augmented reality, planning virtual field trips using Google Earth, among many others.



Two ETRA graduate courses receive Exemplary Course distinction

computer.jpgTwo ETRA graduate courses—Advanced Instruction Media Design and Instructional Technology Program Development—which were designed and developed by ETRA/IT faculty, recently received Exemplary Course distinction from Blackboard Inc.

Jason Rhode, Ph.D., Director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at NIU, who incorporated great ideas to the existing elements of the courses when offered the job to teach them, was recognized with two 2016 Exemplary Course Awards.

The Blackboard Exemplary Course Program recognizes faculty and course designers from schools, colleges and universities around the world who develop exciting and innovative courses that represent the very best in technology and learning.

Selom Assignon, M.S.Ed., ETRA alumnus and doctoral student, was also among Blackboard’s 2016 Exemplary Course winners for his expertise in developing a course titled Web Development I. “This is because I’m being taught by the best of the best and the results speak for themselves,” he said about ETRA’s influence on his teaching and course design.

The Blackboard Exemplary Course Award highlights technologically rich, engaging, well designed, and pedagogically sound courses that showcase best practices for the user community. Submissions were judged by peers and by experts on the following components: course design; interaction and collaboration; assessment; and learner support.

“It’s truly an honor, both for me personally as well as for NIU’s Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA) faculty in the College of Education who I’ve worked so closely with, to receive the Exemplary Course Awards,” Jason Rhode, Ph.D., Director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at NIU, said.

Rhode collaborated closely with ETRA/IT faculty in designing the award-winning online courses, applying the high quality instructional design principles and online teaching techniques outlined in the Blackboard Exemplary Course Rubric as well as the online course design framework that ETRA/IT faculty developed and model throughout their nationally-ranked online graduate Instructional Technology program.

“For the past five years, faculty and instructors have met bi-weekly to collaborate on course design and instructional strategies to ensure continuous quality and consistency of the online program,” said

Wei-Chen Hung, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the ETRA Department. “Our learner-centered Blackboard course template and delivery format, as well as the integrated online pedagogy are a result of their collective effort.”

Rhode’s ETRA online courses were submitted for external review by a panel of online instructional design experts through a rigorous multi-phased, double-blind peer-review process and were among only a few selected internationally during the 2015-2016 academic year to receive this prestigious acclaim.

“I’m proud to recognize educators who are constantly finding new, innovative ways to inspire their students to learn,” said Bill Ballhaus, Chairman, CEO and President of Blackboard. “We congratulate the winners of the Exemplary Course Award, and we look forward to continuing to partner with these and other talented educators to bring their unique visions to life.”



Collaborating on Outdoor Education

Professors at meeting

Did you know NIU is home to one of the premier outdoor education facilities in the country, the Lorado Taft Field Campus? In addition to this amazing resource, NIU’s College of Education has faculty expertise and an extensive network of partners working in the areas of outdoor education and adventure-based learning.

Recently NIU’s Physical Activity and Life Skills (PALS) Group, led by the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, hosted a meeting on outdoor education and adventure-based learning. The meeting provided an opportunity to get several area expert collaborators together, including international experts and a local community partner. The PALS Group, represented by KNPE faculty (Drs. Steve Howell, Jenn Jacobs, Jim Ressler, Zach Wahl-Alexander and Paul Wright), is committed to promoting healthy development and teaching life skills to youth through physical activity. Our faculty were joined by three honored guests to discuss current projects and potential collaborations related to outdoor education and adventure-based learning.

Dr. Xia Wen, Director of Theory, Teaching, and Research for the Institute of Physical Education, at Yunnan University in China. Dr. Xia Wen is a visiting scholar from China spending a year at NIU collaborating with Dr. Jim Ressler of the Kinesiology and Physical Education Department. During his time here, Drs. Ressler and Xia Wen will be developing course material for an Outward Bound class, which is one of the most popular courses for students to take at Yunnan University. Dr. Xia Wen’s expertise is in water safety education and he is currently working on a manuscript for an English journal about training classroom teachers to lead water safety programs.

Lynette Spencer, Director of Adventure Works of DeKalb County, an organization that seeks to assist youth in overcoming challenges and becoming healthy adults through adventure-based counseling. Adventure Works serves youth ages 6-18 years old, providing individual, family, and group counseling services. The organization is the first non-profit community-based outdoor adventure education center in the US. Adventure Works programs are led by licensed therapists and include prevention programs for disengaged and impoverished youth in the DeKalb area, as well as mental health intervention programs for students struggling with mental health issues. The PALS Group has organized fundraisers in recent years to support Adventure Works and Dr. Ressler is a member of their advisory board.

Dr. Nick Forsberg, Professor in the Health, Outdoor, Physical Education (HOPE) program at University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. Thirty years ago, Dr. Forsberg obtained his masters in NIU’s outdoor education program and served as a graduate assistant for the Lorado Taft field campus program. He now teaches several outdoor education classes for physical education (PE) majors at the University of Regina. The classes involve several intense outdoor experiences such as the course “Utilization of the Winter Environment” which includes spending five days in Canada’s Moose Mountains during the cold winter season. Dr. Forsberg described, “This is where the magic happens,” referring to students coming together and understanding the impact that outdoor education can have on learning. He also teaches a course in which students design their own outdoor adventure curriculum and he tells students, “Now that you’ve gone through these experiences, you have a responsibility for future generations. Your purpose is to give back through this special outdoor experience.”

(L to R) Dr. Jim Ressler, Assistant Professor, Dept of KNPE, NIU Dr. Zach Wahl-Alexander, Assistant Professor, Dept of KNPE, NIU Dr. Xia Wen, Professor, Institute of Physical Education, at Yunnan University in China Lynette Spencer, Director of Adventure Works, DeKalb County Dr. Nick Forsberg, Professor, Health, Outdoor, Physical Education Program, University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada Dr. Paul Wright, Professor, Dept of KNPE, NIU Dr. Jenn Jacobs, Visiting Assistant Professor, Dept of KNPE, NIU

(L to R) Dr. Jim Ressler, Assistant Professor, Dept of KNPE, NIU
Dr. Zach Wahl-Alexander, Assistant Professor, Dept of KNPE, NIU
Dr. Xia Wen, Professor, Institute of Physical Education, at Yunnan University in China
Lynette Spencer, Director of Adventure Works, DeKalb County
Dr. Nick Forsberg, Professor, Health, Outdoor, Physical Education Program, University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Dr. Paul Wright, Professor, Dept of KNPE, NIU
Dr. Jenn Jacobs, Visiting Assistant Professor, Dept of KNPE, NIU

According to Dr. Wright, Director of the PALS Group, “Outdoor education and adventure-based learning are not new topics for the PALS Group. In fact, the Physical Education Teacher Education program in KNPE is one of the only academic programs at NIU that has outdoor education experiences at the Laredo Taft Field Campus built into their curriculum. The same can be said for our Adventure-based learning course. Our faculty have expertise in these areas and a long history of introducing them to NIU students. Now the PALS Group is interested in strengthening our work in these areas by connecting them with our service and research agendas.” In addition to the ongoing curriculum development project underway between Drs. Ressler and Xia Wen, potential action items that came out of this meeting include: supporting an oral history/archival project on the history of outdoor education at the Lorado Taft Field Campus, studying the socialization experiences of teacher education candidates in their outdoor education course, and providing professional development experiences for Adventure Works’ staff in the outdoor environment.

The PALS Group was pleased to host this group of experts and further its mission of promoting healthy development and teaching life skills through physical activity.



63 years later, Korean War veteran finally receives education diploma

(This story originally appeared on the NIU Newsroom)

The life Robert Roy “Gus” Trantham launched here at Northern in 1949 has taken him around the world –  from serving in the Korean War as a U.S. Navy lieutenant, to conducting business in China, to raising four children in suburban Glen Ellyn. His journey came full circle when he returned to NIU Saturday to pick up the diploma he earned 63 years ago.

“Sometimes you feel like you didn’t do it if you weren’t there,” said Trantham, 85.

But he was there Saturday. With his service dog Henri, his grandson U.S. Navy Captain Michael Guare by his side, over 25 family, and the entire Convocation Center cheering him on, Trantham accepted his diploma from NIU President Doug Baker at the College of Education Commencement.

Diploma in hand, Trantham said: “This was the best day ever!”

Check out some of the coverage of Gus’ big day:



NIU Visual Disabilities Program awarded $1.25 million federal grant

(This story originally appeared on NIU Today)Stacy Kelly and students

Want a challenging and rewarding career with guaranteed employment and free tuition?

Thanks to a five-year $1.25 million grant recently awarded to NIU by the U.S. Department of Education, the Visual Disabilities Program of the College of Education’s Department of Special and Early Education (SEED) will enable the launch of a new master’s degree.

Beginning this fall – and in another format next summer – the program provides specialized training in assistive technology used by people with visual impairments.

Most of the federal dollars go directly to recruiting students to NIU for this high-need area of specialization: Graduates will receive the Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist designation from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals.

Two options are provided:

  • Project VITALL (Visually Impaired and Assistive Technology for All), taught two years during fall and spring semesters to people with bachelor’s degrees in any field; and
  • Camp VITALL, taught over two summers for currently licensed professionals in vision. This includes teachers of students with visual impairments (TVI), certified orientation and mobility specialists and certified vision rehabilitation therapists.

“NIU is the first university offering a course of study toward this,” said Stacy Kelly, associate professor in SEED and alumna of the program. “Individuals who choose this career path experience a sense of fulfillment not commonly found in other careers. These teachers play a significant role in the lives of children who are visually impaired and their families.”

And they are desperately needed.

“We have a critical, national shortage. It’s crazy how many blind students there are who don’t have teachers,” added Sean Tikkun, who is a SEED graduate staff and also an alum. “It’s a crisis. It always has been and it always will be. We will never catch up.”

Project VITALL encourages students in its cohorts to complete both licensure for teaching children who are visually impaired, which takes 16 months, and to also obtain dual certification in CATIS.

Classes are taught face-to-face on the NIU campus in DeKalb.

The deadline to apply is June 15; each cohort begins in the fall. The financial aid – all tuition and fees as well as health insurance and a stipend of $5,520 per calendar year – is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to qualified applicants.

Camp VITALL, which provides the CATIS credential without interrupting the August-through-June employment of teachers includes full tuition, fees and a $920-per-summer stipend for two consecutive summer sessions.

On-campus courses take place over eight weeks in the summer of 2017; the 12-week internship is completed in the summer of 2018.

For more information on either program, contact Kelly at (815) 753-4301 or skelly@niu.edu.