Tag: Department of Educational Technology Research and Assessment

Graduate Student Association fosters intellectual exchange, builds community within ETRA

Olha Ketsman

Olha Ketsman

Members of the Graduate Student Association of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment are celebrating some good news.

NIU’s Student Association has recognized the ETRA-GSA as an official student association, which allows it to apply for funding to further its monthly workshops and presentations on technology topics

Beyond its professional development activities, ETRA-GSA also provides outreach, mentoring, support and information to benefit its members while serving as a liaison between graduate students and the department.

Olha Ketsman, the group’s faculty adviser, is happy to watch the growth and progress.

“When I joined NIU in August of 2014, ETRA-Graduate Student Association didn’t have an executive board. I worked with the students to form one and to solidify responsibilities of board members,” says Ketsman, a clinical assistant professor of Instructional Technology.

“It’s really rewarding to work with the students, share ideas and see how excited they get about different professional development opportunities,” she adds. “We’re encouraging others to join ETRA-GSA. It’s a nice community.”

ETRA-GSA President Kenie Moses is grateful for “the fortunate pleasure of serving with some of the brightest graduate students here at NIU over the past three years.”

Kenie Moses

Kenie Moses

“Since our organization is probably one of the most diverse organizations here at NIU, I have the opportunity to experience and learn from the diverse views, cultures and ideas that our outstanding graduate students contribute to our organization,” Moses says.

“The mission of the ETRA-GSA is to foster community and intellectual exchange among NIU ETRA graduate students, faculty and alumni,” he adds. “Personally, I enjoy the Coffee Hours that our organization holds bi-monthly or monthly, which attempt to connect our graduate students with information, experiences and new ideas from faculty, employees, sponsors and graduate students from our department as well as other departments and colleges here at NIU.”

David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs in the NIU College of Education, was a recent guest speaker on the topic of applying for and receiving grants. Faculty, ETRA-GSA members and other graduaate students also give presentations on their research.

Many of the members are graduate assistants in the ETRA department, Ketsman says, and find in ETRA-GSA opportunities for networking, advice on applying for jobs and many opportunities for professional growth and development.

“The objective of the ETRA-GSA is to support the interests of current and future ETRA graduate students by promoting scholarly activities and providing leadership, service and social opportunities,” Moses says. “Our organization also provides a unified representation of our members, their concerns and their activities to the department and to the university.”



Cyberlearning workshop to host sharing of research, expertise in child/robot collaborative system

Yanghee Kim

Yanghee Kim

When Yanghee Kim visited the College of Education last August, the new Morgridge Chair eagerly promoted her January 2018 workshop funded by the National Science Foundation.

It begins Thursday.

The Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL) Workshop on Robots, Young Children and Alternative Input Methods will take place in the Capitol Room of the Holmes Student Center.

Researchers from learning sciences, computer sciences, engineering and social sciences will gather for two days of inquiry “into the development of a socio-technical collaborative system of embodied, humanoid robots and young children in ways that promote children’s intellectual, affective and social development.”

Day One will feature sessions that present current multidisciplinary research and that distinguish challenges and research issues in interaction design and technology development. Day Two – Friday – will focus on future work, including the identification of opportunities for collaboration and alignment with funding priorities.

Scholars in attendance will discuss sociable, educational robots; cognitive, affective and cultural theories; qualitative research methodology; designing and assessing robot/child behaviors; computational linguistics; speech technology and vision technology.

robotMany questions will guide the conversation.

  • What are the current statuses of research and development efforts in child/robot interaction?
  • What are theoretical perspectives that might guide research on developing child/robot collaborative systems?
  • What are important research issues in engineering child development assisted by a robot?
  • What technologies are available to design child/robot interaction and collect data to assess the efficacy?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities in developing such technologies and research programs?
  • In what way are the research issues aligned with the NSF goal of broadening participation in STEM education and STEM workforce (particularly, the NSF initiative INCLUDES, Human Technology Partnership)?

Presenters from NIU include Kyung Kim, Laura Ruth Johnson and Ying Xie, all of the College of Education’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment; and Reva Freedman, of the Department of Computer Sciences.

The workshop is invitation-only; for more information, email ykim@niu.edu.



Kyung Kim brings ‘knowledge structure’ research work to NIU

Kyung Kim

Kyung Kim

Accolades are mounting quickly for Kyung Kim, the newly hired research assistant professor in NIU’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.

Kim received two prestigious awards from Association for Educational Communications and Technology during his trip earlier this month to the organization’s international convention in Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Distance Education Best Practice Award (lead investigator), Division of Distance Learning
  • McJulien Scholar Best Paper Award (lead investigator), Culture, Learning, and Technology Division

What demands the recognition of the IBM Fellow’s peers is his groundbreaking work in knowledge structure – his visual analytics tools are used in a half-dozen countries and languages – as well as his development of a knowledge structure visualization system called Graphical Interface of Knowledge Structure (GIKS).

Potential applications are limitless, including an exploration of the relationship between what readers pay attention to when reading and how their visual behavior relates to the knowledge structure reflected in their writing – something never examined before.

“My research focuses on the intersection of visualization, knowledge structure and design. I study how the visualization of knowledge structure, can support teachers’ practice and scaffold students’ learning,” Kim says.

The knowledge structure visualization supports “the design of instructional strategies that target individual learning problems in deriving better outcomes,” he adds.

His development of GIKS, with support from a Penn State grant worth $50,000, can capture, visually represent and compare knowledge structure inherent in a text.

aect-logo“I’ve applied the GIKS to English Language Learners to explore the effects of knowledge structure visualization on their science reading comprehension; for example, to identify an optimal use of first language in second language science reading,” Kim says.

“The GIKS also has been applied to diverse STEM online courses; for example, to explore the effects of real-time knowledge structure formative feedback in high school online physics courses,” he says, “to visualize discussion forum interaction in college-level geography online courses and to score weekly writing assignments in college-level statistics online courses.”

Research findings indicate that the formative feedback regarding the structure of one’s own knowledge boosted the understanding, and reduced the misunderstanding, of online learners – something unique compared to other traditional feedback systems that only serve to improve comprehension and fail to lower misconceptions.

Better yet, Kim adds, is that GIKS “is not language-dependent, so it can be applied in any language context and for cross-language comparison and analytics.”

Students with visual disabilities also are potential benefactors.

“If further supported, the GIKS and its visual analytics can be quite promising for learning and teaching for sighted learners, but not for learners who are visually impaired,” he says. “Research suggests that learners who are blind need to extract the structure of content from a quite chaotic audio babble from their screen reader device, and this structure needs to be revealed to students who are blind in explicit ways.”

Of images, sound, text and interaction – all of which help to convey information – it’s images that most help to clarify and simplify information.

assistive-technologyConsequently, Kim says, “visual material scan be very helpful for reading, writing and learning for learners who are blind if a visual artifact is accessible to the blind.”

With second round of funding from a Penn State grant worth $50,000, Kim developed an accessible version of GIKS that can automatically convert “viewable” knowledge structure content to “touchable” on touch-sensitive tablets or swell-touch paper.

This GIKS also can convert any two-dimensional graphed data such as statistical graphs into tactile graphs, allowing for navigation with the fingers.

“I’m now planning pilot-testing of the GIKS with NIU and DeKalb-area local students who are blind, especially in the STEM disciplines,” Kim says, “and will pursue additional grants in collaboration with NIU scholars.”

He’s also working the GIKS with a braille device developed in Michigan that allows on-screen display of multiple lines of text but cannot convert visual data to braille.

“We plan to integrate the two systems to make it possible for the visually impaired learners to read and touch both textual data and visual data on their touchpad immediately as sighted people do. This integrating technology could give people who are visually impaired an opportunity to gain literacy skills and new levels of learning independence,” he says.

Wei-Chen Hung

Wei-Chen Hung

Other upcoming projects include the pursuit of additional funding for his ongoing research projects, including a grant application to the National Science Foundation to design and develop a computer-based scaffolding systems using GIKS.

The tool would automatically identify specific areas of strength and weakness, understanding and/or misunderstanding of online learners based on their writing assignments or online discussion interactions. It then would immediately provide specific, individualized remedial instructional feedback and materials, including videos, exercises, games and texts.

Kim, who chose NIU based on the respectful and supportive environment he found in Chair Wei-Chen Hung and his ETRA colleagues, believes his work will promote the active engagement of students in their own learning. It also will help educators to understand the thinking and knowledge structure of those they teach, he adds, and ultimately lead to better pedagogy and individualized instructional strategies.

“I hope that my knowledge structure approach and its visual analytics and technologies can contribute to the reputation of ETRA, especially in online learning, for diverse students.”



ETRA professor receives Publons Top Reviewer Award

Todd Reeves

Todd Reeves

Todd Reeves, an assistant professor in the NIU Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, won a Top Reviewer Award for the Social Sciences from Publons for peer-reviewing 16 journal articles in the last year.

The Top Reviewer Award for the Social Sciences is awarded to the top 1 percent in a field for the number of pre-publication reviews completed.

In 2016, Reeves also won a Sentinels of Science Award for Social Sciences from Publons.



LEARN-IT conference exposes educators to instructional tech

learn-it-2

LEARN-IT 2017

Advances in technology come so quickly and frequently that it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of the latest innovations and applications.

Yet for teachers, and for IT professionals who work in schools, the integration of technology to enhance learning carries a great responsibility and significance: Students deserve the best education possible, and outdated equipment and programs hinders that.

NIU’s annual LEARN-IT conference, always held on the first Saturday in May, invites educators and school-based tech specialists on a weekend day for keynote presentations, breakout sessions and research roundtables that allow them to improve their knowledge and to better accomplish their objectives.

The goal is simple: to help educators transform the teaching-and-learning environment with “low- cost, high-impact” technologies that facilitate meaningful learning.

“Our overall theme for LEARN-IT has always been a focus on ‘low-cost, high-impact’ instructional technology,” said Wei-Chen Hung, chair of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), which hosts the conference in the Learning Center of Gabel Hall.

“In many ways, our theme has been prophetic. Today we see more and more teachers using free or low-cost and highly accessible instructional technology tools,” Hung added. “And more than ever, we need to know how to use these tools effectively. I like to think of our LEARN-IT conference as a community of learners, where dedicated educators gather to share and learn from each other.”

Wei-Chen Hung

Wei-Chen Hung

More than 120 people attended the May 6 event, said Judy Puskar, who helped to organize the day with Gail Hayenga, conference and event coordinator in the College of Education’s Office of External and Global Programs.

Professional Development Hours or graduate credit (ETT 592: Special Topics in Instructional Technology) were available.

“LEARN-IT is a day when they’re given instruction instead of giving instruction,” said Puskar, academic program advisor in ETRA.

“With technology changing so fast, people in the classroom often don’t have the time to get exposed to new technologies. This is a chance to explore the tools, learn strategies and practice with new tools,” she added. “A lot of times, we’ll hear, ‘Oh, I haven’t heard of this before’ – and now they want to use them in their classrooms or look more into them.”

Keynote speakers included two new ETRA faculty, both of whom will join the department this fall.

Dongho Kim, who comes to NIU from the University of Georgia, Athens, presented “What Gets Measured, Gets Managed: Data Analytics and Technologies for Teachers.”

Growing use of digital devices in and out of the classroom produces large amounts of data regarding the learning processes of students, Kim said, which in turn creates great potential in K-12 classrooms from data-driven decision-making.

“Educators’ ability to utilize that kind of data enables them to assess various aspects of their students’ learning in a timely manner,” Kim said. “For example, students’ log data in the flipped classroom context reveals students’ engagement with learning content and allows teachers to provide ongoing supports.”

learn-it-logoFatih Demir, joining NIU from the University of Missouri, Columbia, spoke on “EnhancED Teaching and Learning: User eXperience (UX) Research and Design to Enhance Teaching and Learning.”

He challenged his audience of teachers: “Are your learning plans based on your research, insights, trends and innovative concepts or are they generic for all students? Do you fully understand the needs and expectations of each individual student?”

“Teachers as everyday designers are designing curriculum, course plans, in-class activities, presentations and many other forms of materials for a diverse population,” Demir said. “Knowing well about the target audience and understanding their needs and expectations are key in design.”

Both professors call LEARN-IT participants “engaged and interested,” a group that also includes NIU undergraduates, graduate students and members of the Technology Specialist cohorts.

“Many students found the topic very interesting,” Demir said, “and appreciated that User Experience and Human Computer Interaction courses will be offered at the ETRA Department. Some of them indicated that they would like to apply such methods to their dissertations.”

Other presenters were:

  • Andrew Tawfik, “Evaluating EdTech: Evaluating, Designing, and Prototyping”
  • Kristin Brynteson, “Telling Stories with Technology”
  • Jason Underwood, “Effective Use of Video Tools and Strategies in the Classroom”
  • Colleen Cannon-Ruffo, “LEGO Education: WeDoSTEM 2.0” and “LEGO Education: STEM Robotics with Mindstorms EV3.”

Former ETRA Chair Lara M. Luetkehans launched LEARN-IT several years ago through the sponsorship of Bob and Mary English, friends of the College of Education. The conference always welcomes recipients of the Mary F. English Technology Award as honored guests.

LEARN-IT 2017

LEARN-IT 2017

The English family believes in the importance of educators having the tools they need to help all learners achieve their potential – and, Puskar said, it’s a belief that the educators who attend LEARN-IT share with the conference’s benefactors.

“Many of our districts are finding that technology is helpful in delivering content to students,” she said, “and in helping students to become self-directed learners.”

It begins when LEARN-IT participants leave the conference with “new skills, ideas and plans for enhancing learning,” Hung agreed.

“The high-impact strategies and technologies that the ETRA faculty and alums provide,” Hung said, “can enhance your work in assessing learners, engaging learners, producing media and putting the technologies in the students’ hands.”

Next year’s conference takes place Saturday, May 5.



NIU connects Downers Grove with eighth-graders in Taiwan

The view from Taiwan: Students from National University of Tainan Affiliated Primary School returned late in the evening for the Skype session.

The view from Taiwan: Students from National University of Tainan Affiliated Primary School returned late in the evening to Skype.
Teacher Chen Jin-Ting is on the left.

It opened with simple hellos before the conversation turned to favorite foods and hobbies.

Peering into webcams, the strangers made small talk across oceans through the power of Skype. This was only Day One, though; the real conversation would come 48 hours later.

And when that began – at 7 a.m. Wednesday, March 22, inside an eighth-grade science classroom at Downers Grove’s O’Neill Middle School – hour-long scientific argumentation between U.S. students and their Taiwanese counterparts proved lively and educational.

For the next hour, they argued this question: If funding were limited, which form of alternative energy would you select as the best to promote and advance?

“Everything went well. The students were really engaged, and we got lucky – we didn’t get into any technical issues,” said Pi-Sui Hsu, an associate professor in the NIU Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.

“They really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to students from a different culture – that’s a really big thing for them – and they were glad to learn some Chinese,” she added. “They were so excited. They kept repeating phrases they learned from me.”

skype-1

The view from Illinois: Eighth-graders arrived early to link up with their Taiwanese counterparts.

Meg Van Dyke, an eighth-grade science teacher at O’Neill, is grateful for her classroom’s involvement in what she calls “a wonderful opportunity.”

“The research project allows students a unique opportunity to receive a global perspective on alternative energy. For example, the students in Taiwan don’t have as much exposure to nuclear energy as students in the United States,” Van Dyke said. “It also forces my students to think about how small Taiwan is and what alternative energy would work best for them.”

O’Neill’s international collaboration with Taiwan’s National University of Tainan Affiliated Primary School is part of Hsu’s research project on scientific argumentation, a process which enhances understanding of science, sharpens critical thinking skills and aligns with the “Science and Engineering Practices” dimension of the Next Generation Science Standards.

“Scientific argumentation is a process that scientists engage in by talking and presenting different perspectives to reach consensus,” she said. “We don’t teach science as a mere learning of facts. Our students need to engage in reasoning, just like professional scientists.”

Pi-Sui Hsu

Pi-Sui Hsu

Darby Sawyer, a senior in the College of Education with a contract major, joined Hsu in the early-morning trip to O’Neill.

Sawyer walked around the classroom, checking in on the groups and keeping them on track. Further help came from Lucidchart, a web-based diagramming tool with real-time collaboration that allowed the students to put (and point to) their ideas in flow charts.

“The students were definitely excited to talk to their counterparts in Taiwan,” Sawyer said. “I definitely learned a lot about the scientific argumentation process by watching them engage with the different culture and seeing them put their heads together.”

Hsu’s work is funded by the Taiwan Ministry of Education, which now has put three rounds of money behind the project. She returns to her native Taiwan each summer to provide training in scientific argumentation to teachers there, something that continues online during the fall, winter and spring.

“My goal is encourage collaboration, and I’m interested in cultural differences,” she said. “We train students in the concept of scientific argumentation, and we give them a global view of what goes on in different countries.”

Principal Hsu Chih-Ting and Research Division Wang Hsin-Chang

Principal Hsu Chih-Ting and Research Division Wang Hsin-Chang

The recent collaboration continues her work with Van Dyke, an NIU alum.

In the summer of 2014, Hsu and Van Dyke welcomed 26 young students from Taiwan to DeKalb for the College of Education’s three-week “Argue Like a Scientist” academic summer camp. The two also have published research together.

Students in Hsu’s NIU College of Education classes also are benefiting from the work. The college values and prioritizes research as part of its vision and mission.

“As a researcher, I like to see how technology supports students in their learning,” she said. “In my doctoral-level classes, I share with them about my research design and the successes and struggles. I share project ideas with them, and this gives them ideas about how to use technology to design international collaborations.”

Research Division Liu Hsin-Chi

Research Division Liu Hsin-Chi

Hsu and Sawyer plan to co-publish and/or co-present the results of the project; meanwhile, Van Dyke’s students are writing essays on what they learned.



College of Ed working to offer ‘double-degrees’ with NUTN

NUTNNIU and the National University of Tainan (NUTN) expect to launch a program articulation agreement this fall or next spring.

Students who participate in the program will earn two master’s degrees in educational research assessment – one from NIU and one from NUTN – as well as an immersion in a foreign culture that improves their marketability.

Matching NIU courses directly to corresponding NUTN courses is the next step before finalizing the curriculum and signing a Memorandum of Agreement, says Wei-Chen Hung, chair of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.

“The program will take two years – 33 to 36 credit hours,” Hung says. “Students will either start at NIU one year and go the NUTN for the second year, or vice versa.”

Hung already knows many NIU College of Education students who are excited about the program.

“International experience is one reason why,” Hung says. “Second is the opportunity to get involved with different types of research projects, and also having the opportunity to understand the system in Taiwan. This broadens the scope in terms of education and in research assessment.”

The two universities became sister schools about five years ago. Discussions began then about a 1+1 program articulation at that time, Hung says, but an agreement never materialized.

After a new NUTN president took office last year, however, talks resumed.

Last November’s trip to Taiwan, which included Dean Laurie Elish-Piper and Associate Dean David Walker in the delegation, further fueled the conversations.

Some of the newest faculty at NUTN hold degrees from U.S. universities, Elish-Piper says, and speak English: “They get us,” she says.

Wei-Chen Hung

Wei-Chen Hung

“We both agreed we want to do something like this. Tainan has a strong education department. Every course they offer, we offer too,” Hung says. “What makes this beneficial is that we can show that the students had been working with diverse classmates and faculty, and we can broaden the scope of our program.”

Doing so underlines the college’s value of inclusion; the NIU College of Education cultivates a diverse learning community of people, ideas and points of view in which all can learn and grow.

“This unique 1+1 double-degree initiative is curricular innovation that we are employing to enhance one of our college priorities of intentional growth,” Walker said.

Meanwhile, double-degrees are not uncommon at NIU.

Business students, for example, can enroll in the Fast-Trak MBA Program to earn master’s degrees in international management. Students spend two three-week sessions at either the Bordeaux University School of Management in France or the ENAE School of Business in Murcia, Spain.

Graduate students in public administration can pursue double degrees through an agreement with the School of Public Administration and Policy, part of Renmin University of China.

Terry Borg, director of the NIU College of Education’s Office of External and Global Programs, envisions that list growing longer in the college. “We’ve opened the door,” Borg says.

For more information, call (815) 753-9339 or email etra@niu.edu.



CoE online graduate programs earn high U.S. News rankings for fifth consecutive year

Laptop and coffeeOnline graduate programs in the NIU College of Education continue to perform near the top of the country, according to new rankings released today by U.S. News & World Report.

NIU places fourth (tied with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) in the current honor roll of 200 schools, earning a fifth consecutive spot among the nation’s Top 5 and its sixth nod overall.

Among the nine other Illinois schools ranked, only the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (tied for 10th) and the University of St. Francis (tied for 29th) are in the Top 50. Ten universities in the Mid-American Conference are ranked, including Buffalo and Ohio, which are among the five institutions tied for 10th.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper considers the college’s annual recognition as “evidence of our high-quality online graduate programs.”

“Our faculty are at the cutting-edge of designing and delivering online education that is rigorous, engaging and interactive,” Elish-Piper said. “Our faculty, advisers and support staff are available to assist students in our online programs every step of the way so they can be successful in their programs and in their professions.”

The NIU College of Education offers three online master’s degrees within the departments of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA) and Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF).

•    Educational Research and Evaluation (ETRA)
•    Instructional Technology (ETRA)
•    School Business Management (LEPF)

ETRA Chair Wei-Chen Hung heralds a continued and collective effort “attributed to faculty credentials, both academic and specifically for teaching online courses, and student engagement.”

Wei-Chen Hung and Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

Wei-Chen Hung and Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

“One particular highlight this year is that we further enhanced our assessment approach by working closely with Research and Assessment faculty to develop assessment instruments and rubric that help us better prepare our students for job markets,” Hung said.

“We are also in the process of updating our curriculum to integrating emerging practices and technologies in the field.”

Acting LEPF Chair Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee) calls the six-year streak of U.S. News recognition a “nice salute” to the hard work of students as well as talented faculty, including Patrick Roberts, who chaired the department from 2013 to 2016, and full-time professors and adjunct instructors who bring decades of diverse and practical experience.

“We’re committed to continually improving our modes of delivery, to making sure that our course content is relevant and current and to engaging students in what they need to know as school business officials,” Pluim said. “We also have a fabulous relationship with the Illinois Association of School Business Officials that helps us to recruit top students to the program.”

U.S. News & World Report began collecting data on online programs in 2012 – NIU made the “honor roll” that first year – on the belief that “online learning is becoming integral to all types of education, including higher education, and that consumers are hungry for information related to online degrees.”

Its rankings make no distinction between not-for-profit and for-profit sectors.

Rankings are based on five categories, which are weighted: student engagement (35 percent), student services and technology (20 percent), admissions selectivity (15 percent), faculty credentials and training (15 percent) and peer reputation (15 percent).



Woof! ETRA prof Tom Smith barks up the global media tree

Tom Smith and Rex

Tom Smith and Rex

For Tom Smith, the days before the winter break proved crazy-busy hectic.

And it had nothing to do with the holidays.

It was head-spinning, to tell you the truth,” says Smith, a co-author on a study that scored international headlines for its information on whether stress can make dogs go gray.

“I actually had a news alert set up on Google, and it kept popping up on there – CBS News, Huffington Post, Yahoo!, Scientific American, People magazine, Wired.com, CNN, hundreds of news outlets in the U.S., U.K, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East,” he adds. “The news anchors even talked about it on ‘Good Morning America,’ and BBC-TV contacted us.”

The professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, who gave numerous interviews with reporters in December, became involved in the project thanks to College of Education alumna Camille King (Ed.D. in adult education, 2011). She’s a nurse and animal behaviorist.

“Camille was a student of mine, and I was on her dissertation committee, too. She did her dissertation research on therapy dogs under Gene Roth’s guidance,” Smith says. “Camille had moved to Colorado, and then she contacted me to ask if I would help her on research she was planning to do on pressure wraps – also known as Thundershirts® – and how they affect anxiety and heart rates in dogs. Temple Grandin was involved, too. I said, yeah, I’d be interested.”

King, Smith and Grandin eventually published that study in a top veterinary journal, Smith says. That validation prompted his former student to begin the latest project on whether anxiety and impulsiveness in dogs is related to graying of their muzzles, and to again seek her professor’s help with the methodological, statistical and data analysis components.

puppiesNow, as much of the world knows, the answer is yes: Young dogs that are anxious or given to impulsivity tend to develop gray muzzles.

Smith admits he was surprised by the finding, quickly adding that King was not.

“I was a little skeptical that stress would be related to the gray muzzle in dogs, and young dogs especially,” he says. “I didn’t express that to Camille at the time, but that’s sort of how I felt. However, when we analyzed the data, the results actually were striking. Both anxiety and impulsivity were clearly and markedly related to gray muzzles.”

Global interest in that revelation, however, came as no shock.

“People love dogs,” he says, “and we’re hoping that the study draws some attention to dog welfare. Dog anxiety can be a real issue. It can cause health problems and shorter life spans, and it can affect quality of life. We’re hoping people will learn to recognize it and say, ‘Maybe my dog is anxious. Maybe I should talk to a vet about this.’ ”

Rex – one of Smith’s two dogs – fits the description. He’s a young Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix sporting a premature gray muzzle, likely due, at least in part, to the stress of being chased around and bitten on the leg by Smith’s other dog.

mission“Before I knew about this, I would have said that I didn’t think Rex is stressed, but that I also didn’t know why he developed a gray muzzle. I thought my dogs were just playing, but when I described their behavior, Camille told me that my other dog is bullying him,” Smith says. “Rex was under quite a bit of stress!”

With the media spotlight faded, Smith is now able to call the experience with King, Grandin and animal behaviorist Peter Borchelt a “fun” one.

“My background is not at all in dog research. I don’t have a biology background. That being said, I did learn a lot about dogs and animal behavior,” Smith says. “I was also really fortunate to get to work with people like this. They’re really creative thinkers as well as excellent, first-rate researchers. We’ve already planned several additional dog-related research projects, so we’ll be busy!”



Professor, grad student develop online training to help teachers make data-driven decisions

Todd Reeves

Todd Reeves

NIU has created an online training to help K-12 teachers to make data-informed decisions that will improve learning in their classrooms.

Todd Reeves, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), and ETRA doctoral candidate Jui-Ling (Raye) Chiang, developed the “D5x4: Data in Five by Four” training.

More than 200 in-service teachers and pre-service teachers currently are participating in the 10-hour training, which presents participants with numerous data sets to review and dissect in search of how those numbers may inform instruction.

Five refers to the number of student levels at which training participants work with data: individual; subgroup; classroom; grade; and school. Four represents the types of questions explored by participants during the training: location/identification; strengths and weaknesses; status and growth; and instruction.

“5×4” is also an allusion to the aeronautics expression meaning “loud and clear.”

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to reach out from NIU to the community and serve current and future educators in this way,” Reeves says. “Today’s teachers are inundated with data, and their capacity to use data productively is a salient but complex skillset.”

The training is also the focus of a series of experimental research studies, Reeves says.

Jui-Ling (Raye) Chiang

Jui-Ling (Raye) Chiang

“Our ultimate goal is to study the impact of the training on teachers’ actual classroom practices and their students’ learning,” he says. “But it’s important to first verify that the training is having an impact on more proximal outcomes, such as the teachers’ knowledge, skills and self-efficacy.”

Chiang, who’s currently teaching an undergraduate course at NIU, says she looks at data “every day.”

“Data tells me, ‘This is how I need to change my instruction,’ or ‘This is when I need to call in an individual student for an assessment or intervention, or to look at resources at NIU to help students improve their performance,’ ” Chiang says. “Data impacts me in my teaching, and if other teachers can look at their data in this way, they might do different things.”

Participants in the asynchronous “D5x4” training are required to engage in online discussions with others and both Reeves and Chiang; they also are encouraged to pose data-related questions from their own classrooms to gather ideas and advice. The training incorporates a mechanism by which feedback is automatically provided to participants as well.

Although trainees can move through the material at their own pace, each of several modules must be completed within a set time frame. They also will find the tasks growing in difficulty as they progress; for example, Reeves says it is generally easier to locate and interpret a data point than to select a suitable instructional method based on data.

mouse-2Participating in the “D5x4” training should benefit every teacher, Chiang adds.

“We’ve got a pretty good framework. We feel this is a very solid way to train teachers,” she says. “Everything is lined up systematically, and the knowledge is transferable.”

Reeves and Chiang eventually will make their own data-informed decisions. Their next step is to analyze the results of their study of the current D5x4 training, before tweaking its design and carrying out further studies of its impact.

“Going forward, our goal is to offer this to as many educators as possible,” says Reeves, adding that he and Chiang also plan to write a paper and deliver several presentations regarding “D5x4.”

Their work has enjoyed financial support from an NIU College of Education Dean’s Grant for Partnerships. Kappa Delta Pi, the prestigious international education honor society, also graciously assisted with recruitment for the training.