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  • April 08, 2021 10:56 AM | Lindsay (Administrator)

    By: Mike McGowan

    @MikesTechCloset

    Mike McGowan is currently a Technology Director and building administrator for Sunnybrook School District 171, a PreK to 8th grade district in Lansing, Illinois.  Mike is also an Executive Board member for IDEA (Illinois Digital Educators Alliance) the Illinois ISTE (International Society for Technology in Educators) affiliate. 

    January 28, 1986

    January 17, 1991

    September 11, 2001

    March 17, 2020

    What do all these dates have in common? They’re days that left enduring impacts on my generation. Every generation experiences events that etch into their minds forever. In my case the abiding events to date are the space shuttle Challenger explosion, the start of combat in the Gulf War, the attack on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon and the closure of all Illinois schools due to Covid-19. All these events have had some kind of major impact on how we live or do business today. In addition to standing out in history they demand reflection. Reflect on how you might be able to help out, reflect on what you need to do moving forward, reflect on how things could have worked out differently if something else would have happened to prevent these events. As we approach the anniversary of school closure due to Covid-19 we ought to reflect on how it has affected our lives, our classrooms and the world.

    Educators have much from 2020 to consider. We recognize changes in teaching practices for this new world. We need to look at what has worked and what hasn’t worked. We should look at the tools being used in our classrooms and decide if they will maintain their utility upon return to in-person instruction. We should be doing a lot of self-reflection with or without a pandemic, so let’s take a look at some tools that can help us reflect on our teaching, our students, our successes and our failures in an effort to make ourselves better educators.

    One key strategy to becoming a more effective educator is self-reflection on the lessons we teach. We need to look at what worked in a lesson and what didn’t. Was there a group of students that did well with a lesson while others did not? One of the best ways to assess this is with a digital portfolio. Many of us created these while working through our education degrees to become teachers but never kept the practice. Some of us again had to do this en route to a master’s degree to become school administrators and again probably withdrew. I admit to being one of those individuals so don’t feel bad; most of us haven’t continued this practice even though we should. Those of you who are evaluated on the Charlotte Danielson model or a variant of it know that you need to show evidence of the different domains with the addition of a reflection piece. It helps you out and it also shows your evaluator that you’re reviewing the work you’ve done.

    One of the better tools I’ve used for building digital portfolios is Live Binders. For those of us who grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s this is the digital adaptation of a Trapper Keeper. The free version of Live Binders is perfect for keeping a digital portfolio. For those of you that use the Danielson model I would suggest making tabs for an introduction of yourself and then one for each domain. Using the free version of Live Binders you can even break each domain into its subdomains if you like. If you aren’t using the Danielson model the application is still very effective. Break your tabs into your categories, areas of concentration, or however your evaluation breaks down. Then upload your lessons, activities, photos, videos, or whatever other evidence you have for your domains into these tabs. This way you have a working history of teaching. So you don’t run out of space I would suggest uploading any large files like videos to the cloud on your Google, Dropbox or other storage account and link to them.

    Another great tool for building portfolios is Google Sites. Many people shy away from this as they are not familiar with the idea of web design. Calm your fears, as Google has made site creation super easy and user-friendly for all levels, though it requires more work than Live Binders. The main difference is that you will need to create a new page for each domain and then link your pages together. Another advantage to Sites is the ability to break your domains down further than you could in the free version of Live Binders. Break things down into domains, subdomains, and then even subjects if you like. It is limitless. Just a reminder though: stay organized and make sure you nest your pages under the page that they fall under. Make sure your subject page for subdomain 1.1 is nested under 1.1 which is nested under domain 1, for example. Having a flat structure (everything listed under the main page) might seem easier but for organization it will be much messier. 

    For any tool that you might use in building your portfolio, reflect on each artifact that you upload. Your reflections should be honest and meaningful. Even if a lesson fails miserably (we have all had those from time to time) you need to reflect on WHY. If a lesson goes wonderfully you need to reflect and share WHY as well. All too often we get lost in our heads about the lessons that fail but not often enough about the ones that succeed because we just move on. You need to reflect on why it worked so well so you can try to replicate those successful strategies. You should also take note of lesson highs and lows and at what times they happened. I’m not suggesting exact times but rather trends (in the morning, in the afternoon, right after lunch). Maybe the next time you teach that lesson you’ll want to adjust the time to circumvent missteps or distractions. If you teach the same lesson multiple times in a day reflection on response trends and times holds even more value.

    The main thing to remember throughout this process is to self-reflect on both positives and negatives. Even if/when you share this with your evaluator, self-reflection on a bad lesson is in many cases more powerful than reflection on the best ones. We need to learn from things that have gone wrong to make ourselves stronger. Concentrating strictly on the good will never help you grow. This is why, when taking web design classes, it is often taught to look at poorly designed websites before great ones to understand what to avoid. The goal in analyzing both is to avoid copying good websites and instead work toward understanding the differences between good and great. So to help yourself grow you need to reflect on both as well.

    It’s important as educators to always look inward to project the best outward to our students. It is as important to teach our students to become proficient at self-reflection. They can use some of the same tools to accomplish this. Live Binders and Google Sites are just two tools in the box that can help, but when working with students you might have a few more in mind. Encourage them to start small just by commenting on their own papers using the comment features in Google Docs or Microsoft Word. 

    Inside and outside of education we need to be more reflective of everything from class lessons to our relationships to world events. Through reflection we can grow as a society and as individuals which will help make us better people the world over.


  • April 07, 2021 2:57 PM | Melania (Administrator)

    The Illinois Digital Educators Alliance is excited to announce its partnership with Alertus Technologies to offer all IDEA member colleges and school districts a chance at being awarded at $75,000 emergency preparedness grant.

    Alertus Technologies is a leader in emergency mass notification solutions. Alertus actively works to reach local and international communities that are insufficiently prepared for an emergency or disaster event. Through the Alertus Grant Program, organizations can improve their emergency preparedness strategies with free hardware and software solutions from the company.

    Last year, the company partnered with six associations across the country to award grants totaling up to $250,000 to K-12 school districts and higher education institutions. By partnering with IDEA, Alertus hopes to expand its grants program to support more K-12 Illinois schools and higher education institutions in need of safety and notification system support.

    “March is Severe Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois, and we believe all schools deserve access to the mass notification tools necessary for instantly spreading awareness in the event of severe storms or other crises,” said Ryan McGonigle, Director of Philanthropy at Alertus. “The safety of students and educators is paramount, and we are excited to partner with IDEA to increase emergency preparedness and enhance school safety through our Alertus Emergency Preparedness Grant Program.” 

    “We believe an educator’s focus should always be on the students. If there are opportunities we can provide to a district that removes a hurdle in keeping that focus on students, we want to make it happen,” said IDEA Executive Director Amber Heffner. “In partnering with Alertus, we believe we can support a district in need with a sense of safety in knowing they’ll be able to more effectively handle an emergency situation." 

    Applicants must be an IDEA member and a registered non-profit organization or a government entity such as a school, library, or public agency to apply for the grant.

    IDEA members can apply via the IDEA website at ideaillinois.org/alertus-grant. Grant applications will be accepted until April 30th, 2021.

  • March 27, 2021 11:12 AM | Lindsay (Administrator)

    “What if we had a tool that helped people live more brave and creative lives?”  

    By: Rachel Douglas Swanson

    Curious. Creative. Coach. Urban ed. EdTech. Reader. Writer. Sketchnoter. #TOR16#GoogleET She/her "We need more peacemakers, not more peacekeepers."

    Rachel Swanson Coaching

         .      

    Every Monday morning my friend Heather and I walk together along the streets of Oak Park, IL. On these walks we talk about the normal friend stuff, business plans, and life events. And then one Monday, we decided to make a deck of cards. 

    We decided to build a card deck called The Create Brave Card Deck. 

    Why cards? We knew right away we wanted something visual and tactile, something that people can hold and carry around with them. As a sketchnoter and lover of visual learning, I wanted to make a tool that would access that dual coding stuff I talk about in my training, helping people connect to the visual images on the cards while also connecting to the grounding word and phrase. 

    I got to work on designing the cards. And then life happened. School started. It got busy. The holidays and the holidays and the holidays hit. And suddenly it was spring. The time had finally arrived. It was time to birth this project into the world. 

    What is this deck of cards? It’s 48 cards, a little bigger than playing cards, each with a different image, a word, and a phrase. We chose words that will spark creativity and bravery. Words like awaken, play, dance, connection, and celebration. And then we designed a booklet to go with the cards, full of ideas for journaling, reflection, and ideas for making those words come alive in real life. 

    Here is the link to our kickstarter!

    We designed these cards for people like you, who guide people young and old each day in creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. 


    This Kickstarter launched March 25th, six months later than expected and somehow just in time. We can’t wait to see how people use it to bring more creativity and bravery into their lives! 

    By: Rachel Douglas Swanson

    Curious. Creative. Coach. Urban ed. EdTech. Reader. Writer. Sketchnoter. #TOR16#GoogleET She/her "We need more peacemakers, not more peacekeepers."

    Rachel Swanson Coaching


  • March 10, 2021 2:18 PM | Melania (Administrator)

    by Roger Riddell (originally posted on Education Dive February 23, 2021)

    Located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Maine Township High School District 207 has earned a reputation for high student performance and strong teacher retention — both of which can be credited to the district's commitment to an "all-in" approach to teacher coaching and professional development.

    "There's a lot of things the superintendent has to pay attention to, but I will always believe strongly that the core mission of any school building is to create great learning conditions," Superintendent Ken Wallace recently told K-12 Dive. "I also believe strongly in and try to build conditions where we pay very careful attention to the learning conditions for the adults. That's one of the core mistakes that is made — we put all of our attention into focusing on student learning and not nearly enough on the need for continual processes for real adult learning."

    Over the course of our conversation, Wallace shared his thoughts and advice on the importance of teacher leadership roles, gaining principal buy-in, building district partnerships and more.

  • March 09, 2021 11:03 AM | Melania (Administrator)

    by Michael McGowan (originally posted on The Connecting Link January 28, 2021)

    January 28, 1986

    January 17, 1991

    September 11, 2001

    March 17, 2020

    What do all these dates have in common? They’re days that left enduring impacts on my generation. Every generation experiences events that etch into their minds forever. In my case the abiding events to date are the space shuttle Challenger explosion, the start of combat in the Gulf War, the attack on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon and the closure of all Illinois schools due to Covid-19. All these events have had some kind of major impact on how we live or do business today. In addition to standing out in history they demand reflection. Reflect on how you might be able to help out, reflect on what you need to do moving forward, reflect on how things could have worked out differently if something else would have happened to prevent these events. As we approach the anniversary of school closure due to Covid-19 we ought to reflect on how it has affected our lives, our classrooms and the world.

    To read the rest of Michael's blog post, visit The TCL Blog here.

  • January 20, 2021 4:38 PM | Melania (Administrator)

    by Steve Wick (originally posted on Know Your Why January 20, 2021)

    The IDEAcon and TCEA Virtual Conferences kicks off February 1st and I am really excited about the conference book study this year.

    TCEA and IDEAcon 2021 Conference Book Study 

    While the book study is focused on 4 authors, it got me thinking about all of the other great educational authors who will be part of this years IDEAcon / TCEA experience. Today I wanted to share some of the featured conference authors and their most recent books. It really is an awesome collection of books and authors.

    Who are you most excited to learn with?

    To read the rest of Steve Wick's blog post, visit his blog here.


  • January 19, 2021 4:33 PM | Melania (Administrator)

    IDEAcon is just a few weeks away! Although many of us miss making appearances at in-person events, this year’s IDEAcon is being held virtually to adhere to COVID-19 safety precautions and protect our attendees. IDEAcon staff is committed to providing our members with a fruitful and educational experience despite these restrictions.

    IDEAcon 2021 will feature hundreds of live and on-demand sessions featuring keynote speakers who are experts in the education industry. Our partnership with the TCEA Convention and Exhibition has allowed us to expand and diversify the number of events, activities, and presentations available for attendees to enjoy. With so many sessions to choose from, it may be difficult to navigate your way around our conference to find events and presentations that speak to your role and interests.

    Thankfully, the IDEAcon staff has got you covered. Members from the IDEAcon and TCEA Convention and Exposition committees have put together sample schedules to help attendees find sessions that apply to their careers. Mock schedules have been organized by role and topic so campus leaders, librarians, teachers, IT administrators and other educators can discover and interact with presenters that allow them to develop their professional skills as effectively as possible.

    As an example, Amber Heffner, the Executive Director of IDEA, helped craft a sample schedule for ELA and SS teachers. The sessions listed on this mock schedule are curated for educators who work with students to develop their proficiency in the English language. Live sessions are mixed with on-demand presentations, as well as special events so attendees are given an opportunity to network every day during the conference. Educational technologist Dee Lanier, education coach and author Jorge Valenzuela and scholar activist Dr. Sawsan Jaber are some of the speakers listed on this schedule. Sessions with tips and tricks on how to use popular educational technology tools like Screencastify, Google Jamboard and even Minecraft are featured as part of this schedule as well.

    Another mock schedule was created by Jenna Hnilo, the Director of Marketing and Outreach for IDEA. This schedule was created for teachers of special populations. As a former computer science teacher who worked with learners of all capabilities, she is passionate about technology’s ability to transform education and each student’s experience in the classroom. Some of the speakers listed on this schedule include high school teacher and educational technology experts Joshua Piper and Sarah Horner, as well as former literacy consultant and librarian-teacher Jennifer Casa-Todd. Accessibility and cultural sensitivity are among the topics that will be addressed at different sessions listed on this schedule. Sessions featuring innovative ways to use Google Workspace and Immersive Reader are also part of this mock schedule.

    Lindsay Zilly, the Director of Professional Learning at IDEA, created the mock schedule for those interested in creating robust curriculums based on innovative and research-based instruction. Some of the subjects that will be discussed at the sessions listed on her sample schedule include cybersecurity, accessibility and instructional strategies to accelerate learning as well as foster student engagement. Speakers featured on this schedule include Steve Baule, Ed.D. of Winona State University and Angela Elkordy, Jack Denny and Ayn Keneman of National Louis University.

    To view the IDEAcon + TCEA mock schedules described above, click here. You can also peruse the entire session schedule yourself on the IDEAcon website here.

    Although adhering to a mock schedule is not necessary to get a worthwhile experience as an IDEAcon attendee, sticking to one of these agendas can help you have a worry-free, self-paced experience. In addition to the events listed on these schedules, attendees are welcome to visit two exposition halls during the month. The IDEAcon Exhibit Hall will be open from February 22-24, 2021.

    We look forward to seeing you at this year’s IDEAcon!

  • December 09, 2020 8:14 AM | Melania (Administrator)

    This week, the education community is celebrating Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). CSEdWeek is an annual call to action to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science. It’s also an opportunity for educators to advocate for equity in computer science education and policies emphasizing its importance in schools, as well as a time to celebrate the contributions of students, teachers and partners to the field.

    Throughout this week, IDEA partner CodeHS is hosting free, live workshops for students and educators who want to improve their knowledge of different areas of computer science as part of the Hour of Code. Check out the graphic below for more information about these workshops. A PDF file of the graphic is available here.

    IDEA is also a proud partner of CS4IL, a nonprofit coalition dedicated to providing computer science education to K-12 students across Illinois. CS4IL encourages Illinois educators and parents to call on their state legislators to further the measures outlined in the IL CS Education Task Force Report, a legal document that ensures Illinois students’ access to computer science education. CS4IL also promotes their efforts on social media using the hashtag #CS4IL and runs a membership platform. Today, on Wednesday, December 9 from 4 to 5 P.M., IDEA is hosting a webinar with CS4IL leaders. To register for this webinar, please click here.

    Here at IDEA, we’re proud to provide our members with access to innovative educational technology tools. During this week, we’re excited to be a part of a larger effort to provide students with quality tech-related education.

  • November 12, 2020 4:06 PM | Melania (Administrator)

    Last month, IDEA celebrated Digital Citizenship Awareness Week organized by our partners at Common Sense Media, but maintaining a pristine digital footprint is just one of many things you can do to be more conscious of cybersecurity measures. In fact, October is National Cybersecurity Awareness month and many other organizations published resources for educators to reference while teaching themselves and their students about staying safe online.

    Looking back on the last few weeks, ISTE’s Privacy, Security, and Digital Citizenship working group created a guide titled A Learning System for Privacy, Security and Digital Citizenship Infrastructure. This guide provides instructors with plenty of insights when it comes to understanding the relationship between privacy and security. These insights are supplemented models of effective practices in safeguarding student data. The guide also includes methods to help teachers understand the roles, responsibilities, and rights of students in virtual learning environments, as well as understand the numerous stakeholders playing a role in student “data stewardship” and “digital citizenship” (i.e. teachers, administrators, parents, vendors and the students themselves).

    Another great resource to look into is the National Cybersecurity Alliance’s web series on Security Awareness. The NCA, Adobe, and Speechless, Inc. partnered together to film and release each episode every other month between November of 2019 and November of this year. Now that the series has concluded, you can enjoy the collection of videos all at once.

    Learning about cybersecurity doesn’t have to end there. IDEA is partnering with 8 ISTE affiliates across the country to host a month of learning related to digital literacy titled Digital Literacy: Here, There and Everywhere from November 18 to December 9. Join us to learn more about using technology and social media in educational and effective ways from local and national experts. We look forward to having you join us!

  • October 13, 2020 5:05 PM | Melania (Administrator)

    When school administrators across Illinois announced their plans to shift back to in-person learning after months of virtual instruction at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, ROWVA High School English teacher Traci Johnson was more prepared than most.

    Johnson was awarded the International Society for Technology in Education’s Making IT Happen award at IDEAcon earlier this year for her efforts to incorporate innovative pieces of technology into her classroom. As a naturally computer-savvy educator, she knew exactly which digital tools were at her disposal when Adam Seaney, ROWVA’s principal, had to self-quarantine after traveling at the start of the school year.

    Johnson is a longtime member of the Sandburg Education Network, an organization working to improve access to education technology tools and organize speaker events for teachers across Knox County.

    “We discuss innovation in the classroom and bring it back to our districts,” Johnson said of SEN’s biannual meetings.

    Through SEN, Johnson was able to connect with Cindy K. Arthur, the Coordinator of Instructional Technology at Carl Sandburg College. Johnson emailed Arthur about her coworker’s absence and jokingly asked if she could borrow one of the robots belonging to the college so Seaney could attend classes from home; to her surprise, Arthur agreed. Arthur handed off the robot to Johnson in the parking lot of the college, being sure to adhere to social distancing protocols.

    “Without Cindy, this would not be possible,” said Johnson.

    By connecting to the Double Robotics Double Telepresence Robot via video conferencing tools on his Chromebook, Seaney was able to attend morning duties, meet with other teachers and observe classes as he normally would while working in-person. He was even able to watch a science experiment up close and be part of a student’s birthday party.

    “Our students thought it was pretty cool,” said Seaney. “I'm a relationship-driven person so continuing to build relationships with our students and staff while quarantined was a definite plus. There were several students that missed seeing the robot around when I was able to come back in person.”

    The only problem Johnson and Seaney encountered with the robot was connectivity issues when the robot rolled into WiFi “blindspots” in areas of ROWVA High School.

    According to Arthur, Carl Sandburg College has been making use of the robots in similar ways at their institution.

    “At Carl Sandburg College, our focus is always about providing our students the best educational experience possible,” said Arthur.

    “Many students who because of travel constraints or a health condition have used a robot to attend class remotely. Along with student use, Sandburg has used the robot to bring in guest speakers or trainers. We have also used the robot to provide tours of the one button studio and virtual reality studio.”

    IDEA is pleased that the most recent awardee of one of our most prestigious awards continues to make use of digital tools during these difficult times.

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