Category: ETRA

NIU delegation to speak, present at Asian educational research conference

Laurie Elish-Piper and David Walker

Laurie Elish-Piper and David Walker

A delegation of scholars from the NIU College of Education will travel in November to Taiwan for APERA-TERA 2016, a biannual conference of the Asia-Pacific and Taiwan educational research associations.

NIU and the Mid-Western Educational Research Association (MWERA) are co-sponsors of the conference, which draws thousands of scholars eager for academic discussions and opportunities for collaboration.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper and Associate Dean David Walker, who will deliver keynote addresses Friday, Nov. 11, lead the NIU contingent that also includes Wei-Chen Hung, chair of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, and ETRA professors Laura Ruth Johnson, Isti Sanga and Tom Smith.

Scheduled from Wednesday, Nov. 9, through Saturday, Nov. 12, the conference takes place at National Sun Yat-sen University in Koahsiung.

Walker, a former president of MWERA, called for that organization to expand its international partnerships during his 2014 speech to the annual conference. In attendance that year were academic colleagues from China and Taiwan.

“Our relationship grew,” said Walker, who also is a professor of educational research.

Meanwhile, Hung enjoys a long camaraderie with National Sun Yat-sen University.

“I asked if we could co-sponsor the conference with them,” Hung said. “It’s a great opportunity for our faculty to engage in scholarship with them – they’re one of the Top 100 universities in the world, with a great amount of innovative research – and I do see a synergy between our two universities.”

Elish-Piper will speak on “Examining the Relationship Between Instructional Coaching for Teachers and Student Reading Gains in Grades K-3 in Elementary Schools in the U.S.” while Walker will speak on “Opportunities for International Education Advancement: Developments from the United States, Asia, and Oceania.”

Top: Wei-Chen Hung and Laura Ruth Johnson. Bottom: Isti Sanga and Tom Smith.

Top: Wei-Chen Hung and Laura Ruth Johnson.
Bottom: Isti Sanga and Tom Smith.

Potential topics will include human mobility, learning hubs, joint programs, on-site extensions of universities and changes in technology, including modern methods of course delivery, such as Massive Open Online Courses.

Hung, Johnson, Sanga, Smith and Walker also will lead a conference symposium on “Diverse Research Methodologies for Diverse Settings” along with Fahad Al-Shahrani from Jubail Colleges & Institutes in Saudi Arabia.

They will address how distinct methodological approaches and strategies have been applied in research situations involving diverse populations and settings, offering their unique experiences conducting research in varied cultural contexts.

“Understanding that NIU is looking for different types of partnerships, I think that having faculty integrated in this type of collaboration might be able to bring this partnership further. We could engage in student research, professional development or faculty exchanges.” Hung said.

“That places NIU on a more international platform, and also could help us in terms of recruitment and retention,” he added. “Allowing researchers and educators from different regions to know about NIU, to know about our programs and to know about the research we’re doing broadens our presence in a global context.”

Walker agrees.

“ETRA has many international students, and we’re continuing that relationship when they go home,” he said.

“For MWERA,” he added, “it’s good to grow the organization and bring diversity to it through an international experience, such as study abroad, scholar exchanges, grants and research in international affairs, and it’s also good for the graduate students we’re mentoring.”



ETRA’s Jason Rhode honored among nation’s ‘technologists, transformers, trailblazers’

Jason Rhode

Jason Rhode

Jason Rhode, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, has been named among the nation’s “Top 30 Technologists, Transformers & Trailblazers” by the Center for Digital Education.

The distinction honors “education and technology leaders across America who are transforming the education landscape through the use of digital tools.”

Selections were based on efforts “to improve education through effective implementation of technology-rich solutions; their impact on student outcomes; and their overall initiative, creativity and leadership skills.”

“Helping faculty to be successful with their students is one of my greatest joys,” Rhode told the Center for Digital Education. “Often it involves using digital technology, but the technology is never the end game; it’s a tool to enhance the learning experience.”

top30Rhode, who is also director of the NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, began teaching courses in ETRA in the fall of 2013.

He has been invited to attend a special gathering of technology leaders, scheduled Dec. 5 and 6 in Salt Lake City, to receive his award.



Reimagined courtyard opens

courtyard-3Once home to a frightening thicket of withering trees and patchy grass, the courtyard outside the ramp between Gabel and Graham halls now offers a picturesque place of serenity.

Funded entirely by the generosity of friends of the College of Education, the work wrapped up just in time for the autumnal equinox.

Visitors can study, eat picnic lunches, wander the stepping stones or simply enjoy the sunshine and tranquility, says Betsy Hull, assistant to the dean in the College of Education. Faculty with small classes also are welcome to teach there for a change of scenery.

“It’s open to everyone,” Hull says, “and we hope that everyone uses it.”

The “Confluence Courtyard” began as an idea in February of 2015, when the former chair of the Department of Special and Early Education proposed turning the space into a “sensory garden.”

Barbara Schwartz-Bechet and Hull needed an expert in horticulture to guide them, however, and realized that resource was available at nearby Kishwaukee College.

What happened next came as a pleasant surprise.

Matt Ewert, an instructor at Kish who took their call, asked to see the space for himself. During his visit to NIU, Ewert mentioned that he taught a course in landscape design: Why not turn the courtyard planning into a class project?

courtyard-1Schwartz-Bechet and Hull happily signed on, and the creativity began to flow from Malta. “Essentially, we were their clients,” Hull says. “His students really had some phenomenal plans.”

Ewert’s Kishwaukee students “talk more about non-residential design” in the spring.

“This was a nice commercial project where we had an actual client, and we tried to make it as real as possible,” Ewert says.

“It was good for the students to be able to ask questions of someone and get that real-world experience. They had a budget. They had things to work through. They learned client communication skills. This was the first project where they could see that mattered on a larger scale. It took them a bit out of their comfort zone.”

Around that same time, however, the College of Education saw several administrative departures – Schwartz-Bechet among them – and the dream was shelved.

Understandably disappointed, Ewert still saw the potential for learning in the courtyard. He called Hull in January, wanting to know if his new students could undertake the project again, this time as no more than an assignment for his course. The courtyard’s confined space provided interesting challenges and opportunities, he explained.

The “before” picture

The “before” picture

New Dean Laurie Elish-Piper wanted more, however.

Elish-Piper liked the concept of garden transformation and was ready to turn that into reality, says Hull, who assembled a working group that included Greg Conderman, Dina Fowler, Dianne Fraedrich, Toni Tollerud and Pat Wielert.

“We told Matt, ‘Here’s the budget we have. If you can wow us again, we’ll put something into motion,’ ” she says. “His students gave us a very professional presentation. They did a nice job.”

Not wanting to choose one plan over another, the working group identified favorable elements from all of the student-designed landscapes. “We told Matt, ‘OK, now make us a plan that incorporates all of those,’ ” Hull says.

Ewert, who owns Plano-based Escapes Landscape Design Inc., did just that. NIU alum Ben Entas, owner of DeKalb-based Blue Hills Inc., was hired for the installation.

“Blue Hills did it just two days,” Ewert says. “It looks amazing. It’s a whirlwind of a difference.”

courtyard-flowersMoving forward, Ewert and his future horticulture and landscape design students will help the College of Education maintain the courtyard landscaping; they will come each fall to assist with clean-up and appropriate seasonal preparation.

Low-maintenance perennial plants were chosen to ease the upkeep, Hull says.

“They’ll get some pruning experience,” Ewert says. “They’ll also get to see how a landscape can grow up over different seasons, and the rate at which different plants mature.”

Courtyard hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. An Emergency Assistance Call Box is available in the courtyard if necessary to reach the NIU Police.

courtyard-615



College of Ed names Walker Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

David WalkerDavid Walker has been named associate dean for Academic Affairs at the NIU College of Education.

Currently a professor in the Educational Research and Evaluation program within the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), Walker’s research interests include statistical code and algorithms, effect sizes, structural analyses, predictive analyses and the general linear model.

As such, he has experience teaching undergraduate assessment and graduate statistical and research methodology courses as well as mentoring and serving on master’s and doctoral student thesis and dissertation committees.

His administrative background includes five years of experience as the College of Education’s Coordinator of Assessment, including areas of program accreditation and licensure. Also, he has served on numerous departmental, college and university-level committees pertaining to assessment and curricular initiatives.

In his new role, Walker will champion all curricular activities, work to strengthen and align assessment practices, and oversee student recruitment and retention efforts college-wide.

“I am so pleased to have David take on the associate dean of Academic Affairs position,” Dean Laurie Elish-Piper said. “He brings a great deal of expertise with assessment, accreditation and curriculum to the position, as well as his strong commitment to collaboration, mentoring and innovation.”

Prior to NIU, Walker worked as an assistant professor of educational research at Florida Atlantic University. He has since spent 14 years as a faculty member at NIU where he has had a consistent record of productivity including 101 refereed journal publications, one textbook and 144 peer-reviewed presentations.

Moreover, he has held professional leadership posts as the chair of the College of Education’s College Council, editor of the General Linear Model Journal, board member with the Illinois Education Research Council and president of the Mid-Western Educational Research Association.

Walker’s role as an educator and scholar has earned him many recognitions, including recipient of the NIU College of Education Research Award, recipient of the Florida Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Paper Award and recipient of the American Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Paper Award via the Consortium of State and Regional Educational Research Associations.

“I am extremely honored to be selected and serve as the College of Education’s associate dean for Academic Affairs,” Walker said.

“The College of Education has been a very special place for me, and am I really excited to collaborate with the great faculty, professional staff, leaders and students on initiatives such as assessment, recruitment, retention and curricular innovations,” he added. “I hope to actively engage and learn with colleagues and continue the excellence of the college as a premier place to teach, research and provide service to our collective programs and students.”

Walker earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College; a master’s degree from Iowa State University of Science and Technology University; and a doctorate from Iowa State University of Science and Technology.



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.”



Donor Tea Reception

Over 150 donors, students, faculty and staff gathered last Sunday afternoon at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center for our annual Donor Tea event.  The event is held to thank our donors and friends for their support of the College of Education over the years.  Donors have the opportunity to meet their scholarship recipients and mingle with campus colleagues, faculty and staff while enjoying light refreshments and tea.  During a short program, Dean Elish-Piper welcomed everyone to the event and introduced a thank you video which featured several of our scholarship recipients sharing the impact scholarships and other opportunities have had on their lives.  John Sentovich, Chief Advancement Officer at the NIU Foundation, addressed the group and discussed the importance of planned giving and how much donor gifts can impact students, as evident from the recipients in the audience.  He encouraged all students to pay it forward in the future when they are in the position to give back and assist others.  Students David Carson (graduate student LEPF) and Jael Monteagudo (undergraduate student LEED) shared their personal stories of the impact that scholarships have had on their lives.  Carson explained what a positive mental boost it was to him to know that others believed in him.  Monteagudo shared how driven she was to help students succeed and how the scholarships were helping her lessen her financial burden.



Alumni Profile: Anwer Al-Zahrani

DeKalb winters can be difficult for anyone to get used to, but for Anwer Al-Zahrani, it was especially tough. In his home country, Saudi Arabia, temperatures rarely dip below freezing, even on the coldest of days.

Fortunately, Al-Zahrani arrived at NIU in 2010 by way of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he completed a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). His time in the Keystone State helped him acclimate to what he would experience at Northern.

Despite the weather, Al-Zahrani’s decision to pursue his doctorate in instructional technology at NIU was, in the end, an easy one to make.

“It took me about nine months to research doctoral programs both in the United States and in other countries. I was accepted into a number of programs, but the reputation of Northern and especially of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment [ETRA] was a strong factor for convincing me to come to DeKalb,” he said.

In addition to a master’s degree in TESOL, Al-Zahrani had previously earned a bachelor’s degree in English linguistics, literature and translation. By coming to NIU, he hoped to merge his knowledge of language learning with technology, ultimately to help his employer, the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, Jubail Colleges and Institutes Sector (RCJY JCIS), integrate technology into its teaching, learning and training programs.

Anwer is now an assistant professor at RCJY JCIS, which includes five institutions of higher learning – three in Jubail Industrial City, located on the Arabian Gulf, and two in Yanbu Industrial City, located on the Red Sea. He is also a member of JCIS’s E-Learning Project Committee, which seeks to expand the country’s online teaching capabilities.

During his years at NIU – he graduated in summer 2015 with a doctorate in instructional technology – Anwer earned a reputation for hard work and participation in department initiatives such as ETRA’s annual Learn-IT Conference. Along the way he received a number of honors, including the University’s Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award and its Outstanding Student Contribution to International Education Award. He also found time to co-found NIU’s Saudi Student Association and was a member of both the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars and the Golden Key International Honor Society.

“Anwer is one those rare leaders who is a model of reasoned discourse, compassion and purposeful action that improves the working relationship of his community,” said ETRA’s Wei-Chen Hung, who in addition to being department chair also sat on Al-Zahrani’s dissertation committee.

“He became fascinated with the problem of how technology may be used to support intercultural team learning and developed an impressive and deep understanding of the theory and necessary methodology to explore cross-cultural work. He is a nurturing facilitator among his fellow students, as well as a source of intelligent insights into the complications of cross-cultural team work.”

About 35 percent of ETRA’s students are international.

As a graduate teaching assistant, Al-Zahrani taught online courses for five years, an experience that he says helped crystalize his thoughts about how to share with his Saudi colleagues the knowledge and experiences he was gaining at NIU.

“Ever since joining the instructional technology program, I had envisioned future partnerships [between the CoE and JCIS] that would help foster learning and training processes in Saudi Arabia.”

During a visit last fall, in fact, Al-Zahrani and Hung discussed collaborative initiatives and identified several research and development opportunities that would be worth exploring. One immediate opportunity would be to have COE and RCJY CIS faculty collaborate on curriculum development for the RCJY CIS industry-training program. The goal is to promote technology-integrated yet cultural-relevant teaching pedagogies that can support students in acquiring occupational skills in a meaningful way.



Study education, culture in Japan

JapanProfessors Stephen Tonks (College of Education), Helen Nagata (College of Visual and Performing Arts), and John Bentley (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) will direct a Japanese culture, history, art and education study abroad program from May 16-29, 2016.

The program, which will take place in Western Japan using Yamaguchi City as a base, is open to NIU students of any major who are interested in Japanese language, culture, history, art and/or education. Through guided tours and lectures, students will visit numerous cities and sites including schools, universities, ancient temples, museums, Hagi (an old castle town) and Yuda Natural Hot Springs.

Interested students should visit the NIU Study Abroad Office (SAO) website and search for “Japan” to apply online. The deadline for applications is Feb. 29, 2016. The application process requires a $200 fee/deposit. The NIU program cost of the trip is $3,580. For more details, contact the SAO office at (815) 753-0700 or niuabroad@niu.edu.



College of Education online graduate program ranked No. 5

best-online-programsFor the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has ranked the NIU College of Education’s online graduate program among the country’s best.

The COE program was ranked No. 5 out of a field of 188 competing programs offered by institutions across the country, including 10 in Illinois.

Only one of those, the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign, at No. 7, ranked among the top 50. Mid-America Conference schools listed include Ball State University at No. 11 and Central Michigan University at No. 17.

“For U.S. News to have ranked the College of Education’s online graduate programs in the top five every year for the last four is a significant achievement,” said Laurie Elish-Piper, acting chair of the NIU College of Education. “It’s gratifying to have our online program recognized for its excellence. It affirms the high quality of our faculty, staff and curriculum, and highlights the career success our students go on to have.”