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  • December 14, 2021 7:53 AM | Ashley

    IDEA Partners make it possible for IDEA to achieve its mission. 

    And in case you didn’t know -- Our mission is to inspire, connect and provide the educational community with opportunities that transform teaching and learning through technology. 

    That is why we are thrilled to welcome back as a Bronze Partner, Book Creator!

    Book Creator is a simple tool for creating awesome digital books in any subject or grade level. With just one multi-purpose app you can infuse creativity across the curriculum. Students can combine text, images, audio and video to make engaging digital books that demonstrate their learning. When finished, become a published author and share the books in multiple formats. Students are fantastically motivated when they know they are writing for an audience beyond the classroom!

    Check out more about Book Creator here.

  • December 10, 2021 1:45 PM | Ashley

    We love our teachers, and we know you do too! So, you probably want to give the teacher in your life a really nice gift this year. 

    Don’t sweat it - IDEA has some great ideas for you! We’ve rounded up our favorite gifts for teachers in 2021

    HINT: We saved the best idea for last … so, be sure to read until the very end (although, we may be a bit biased )

    1. Hand Warmer It’s the latest in “outdoor recess” fashion. Keeping warm never looked so cool!

    2. Wireless charging station: Help your students' teacher recharge…their tech at least! 

    3. Comfy socks: Show your teacher some love with a pair of comfy socks while supporting a beautiful cause. “John’s Crazy Socks is a father-son social enterprise inspired by John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome, and his love of colorful and fun socks, or what he calls his “crazy socks.” We're on a mission to spread happiness. Every day, we show what's possible when you give a person with a differing ability a chance. Over half our employees have a differing ability.”

    4. Gift Card: Seriously! Find out where your child’s teacher likes to shop or eat it. Then, get them a gift card to their favorite spot. 

    5. Personalized Tumbler: Visit your favorite Etsy store and order a personalized tumbler or water bottle for your child's teacher. Help keep a teacher hydrated in style! 

    6.  Air Purifier I mean, does this one even need a description? #AddToCart #COVIDteacher

    7.  Best Teacher Ever Journal Everyone needs some reminding of their “why” sometimes. Grab this fill in the blank journal, fill in the love and gift it to a teacher near you. Guaranteed to lift their spirits time and time again.

    8. Self Care Kit: Bala Bands, Yoga Mat, Oil Diffuser, Weighted Blanket Don’t just tell teachers to take care of themselves, give them the tools to do so!

    9. Hello Headband: This is an IDEA office fave! Say goodbye to bad hair days and hello to the headband that covers it up!

    10. Give the Gift of IDEAcon! IDEAcon is a 4-day conference in Schaumburg, Illinois, for educators all over the Midwest! There will be inspiring keynotes, needle-moving thought leaders, and 100s of sessions for all educators. 

      IDEAcon is more than networking and professional learning, though. It’s a place educators can come to find relaxation, great conversation, and, of course, fun! There will be a Wellness Room (a.k.a. Zen Den!), interactive games, pop-up stations with ALL the SWAG, and more! 

      So give the educator in your life the gift of reigniting their passion with a ticket to IDEAcon! Click here to learn more and register now. 

  • December 08, 2021 8:06 AM | Ashley

    IDEA Partners make it possible for IDEA to achieve its mission. 

    And in case you didn’t know -- Our mission is to inspire, connect and provide the educational community with opportunities that transform teaching and learning through technology. 

    That is why we are thrilled to welcome our newest Silver Partner, Skill Struck

    Skill Struck is helping educators create and improve their computer science pathways by providing engaging and equitable computer science curriculum, support, platforms, games activities, and more. 

    Skill Struck offers full K-12 computer science alignment. 

    • For grades K-5, our platform Launch Pad engages young learners in their computer science and gets them hooked on coding at young ages. 

    • From grades 6-12, our platform Voyage engages middle school to high schoolers in real-life computer science scenarios, preparing them for the workforce or preparing them to continue their education post high school in whatever field they choose. 

    Skill Struck’s goal is to make coding fun, and rigorous, for everyone. That includes teachers! 

    Skill Struck has an educator portal that allows teachers to track how each of their students are performing in their computer science learning, and offers computer science professional development that helps teachers feel confident in CS. 

    It's no secret that computer science (CS) is the future. It can be scary for educators to dive into CS without any prior experience. Skill Struck is here to help make CS easy for teachers to implement in their classrooms, while also engaging students in fun, interactive coding lessons, games, and activities.

    Skill Struck’s role in education is to help teachers prepare this generation of students for the workforce. 

    Learn more about Skill Struck here.

  • December 07, 2021 2:45 PM | Ashley

    IDEA Partners make it possible for IDEA to achieve its mission. 

    And in case you didn’t know -- Our mission is to inspire, connect and provide the educational community with opportunities that transform teaching and learning through technology. 

    That is why we are thrilled to welcome our newest Platinum Partner, e2 Services

    E2 Services, Inc. is an Accredited Advisor, Provider and Trusted Partner offering a Managed IT Services practice along with Cloud Services, Cyber Security Services, Risk Assessments, Wireless Solutions, Systems Integration, Virtualization and Datacenter solutions.  E2’s certified, highly-skilled team delivers solutions that are secure, reliable and affordable for Education, Financial, Healthcare and Enterprise Organizations.

    Since 2000, E2 Services, Inc. has provided IT Managed Services, Cloud and Cyber Solutions for a broad range of private industries and the public sector. We are a full-service Technology Company offering a robust IT Managed Services practice along with Datacenter solutions, Cloud Services, Cyber Security Services and Systems integration. Our partners include HP Enterprise, VMWare, Microsoft, Cisco, SonicWall, Veeam, RSA, Fortinet and APC to name a few.

    E2 Services has achieved the MSP Verify, MSP Cloud Verify and Cyber Security Verify certifications from the MSP Alliance, a globally recognized institution for setting standards and conducting certification procedures for the Managed Service and Cloud Computing industry.  As part of the certification process, the MSP Alliance conducts a review of processes, financials, security, and service offerings of MSP companies. E2 undergoes this certification process to ensure our company meets industry standards in IT Managed Services, Cloud and Cyber Services. 

    E2’s highly skilled and certified IT systems and networking engineers provide a superior tier of support for our customers. As part of the service, E2 provides collaborative consultation for optimizing customer technology ecosystems and strategic planning for future growth.

    Check out more about e2 Services here

  • December 07, 2021 9:04 AM | Ashley

    Capturing the Perfect Shot:

    How Julie Powers used her IDEA Mini Grant Award at Limestone Community High School

    By: Julie Powers, Business and Technology Teacher

    As a business and technology teacher, I feel that it is important to bring new and different technologies into the lives of my students.  I teach at Limestone Community High School in Bartonville, IL, and we have 40-45% of students who qualify for free/reduced lunch. We are a unit district that is high school only, so my students are in grades 9-12.  Many families have struggled to make ends meet and rarely spend extra money on things that might not be considered a need.  With my yearbook and digital media students in mind, I applied to IDEA for their most recent mini-grant opportunity to purchase a DJI Mavic Air 2 drone. Drones have become popular and I really did not know where to start, so I spoke with some students who were on our Junior Air Force ROTC program. Unfortunately, after our last instructor left for a different job, we have not been able to find a replacement, so we cannot offer that program any longer.  The Air 2 seemed like a reasonably priced drone with lots of options for me and my students to capture good pictures and videos.

    With the help of YouTube and my students’ curiosity, we figured out how to set up the drone and install the app on my personal cell phone.  After school, I took it out in the hallway to see if I could figure out how to fly it myself before handing it over to a student.  I got bold and took it outside to fly it around the parking lot. It was a lot windier than I expected and when I tried to land it, I accidentally hit my car. Oops! No damage was done and I had a story to tell the students.

    The next day, we went to our aux gyms to get practice in a wide-open space. I gave them all a short tutorial and reminded them that they would be using my personal cell phone and to be VERY careful. A few were nervous and did not want to fly the drone, but as a few got more comfortable, I encouraged those on the fringes to give it a try.  One student accidentally flew the drone into the wall and all eyes quickly were on me. Instead of scolding the student, I used it as a learning experience.

    At least once a week, I send some of the students out to see what kinds of things are going on in the building that we can highlight in our yearbook. I have also shared the pictures with our Network Specialist for use on our website. Up next, I may have some of my digital media students use the drone to capture some videos and pictures to use as a walkthrough tour for incoming and new students to the district. My advice for anyone who might hesitate to hand new and expensive technology to students, give them the basics to get started, set the tone so they know to be careful, and let them explore their options to see how their creativity can soar.

  • December 07, 2021 8:41 AM | Ashley

    IDEA Partners make it possible for IDEA to achieve its mission. 

    And in case you didn’t know -- Our mission is to inspire, connect and provide the educational community with opportunities that transform teaching and learning through technology. 

    That is why we are thrilled to welcome our newest Gold Partner, Comcast Business!

    Comcast Business is uniquely positioned to provide end-to-end network solutions for education. Their advanced technology services can help your school remain agile and resilient as you improve the quality of education — in the classroom, across the district and in students’ homes.

    Comcast Business offers a suite of Connectivity, Communications, Networking, Cybersecurity, Wireless, and Managed Solutions to help organizations of different sizes prepare for what’s next. Powered by the nation’s largest Gig-speed broadband network, and backed by 24/7 customer support, Comcast Business is the nation’s largest cable provider to small and mid-size businesses and one of the leading service providers to the Enterprise market. Comcast

    Business has been consistently recognized by industry analysts and associations as a leader and innovator, and one of the fastest growing providers of Ethernet services.

    The K-12 classroom is evolving, and technology continues to redefine the learning landscape. From digital textbooks and streaming video, to distance learning and online assessments, new tools are reshaping the way teachers teach and students learn. As schools adopt these new technologies, IT managers are increasingly challenged to address issues around data security, student safety and privacy, and bring-your-own device policies. 

    Comcast Business has long supported the education market and can bring advanced technology solutions and E-rate knowledge to your school to help you prepare for the digital future. A robust, high capacity network, with network management services from Comcast

    Business can help power schools to deliver education to students while allowing IT managers to focus on critical educational and operational goals. Comcast Business has been a registered E-rate Service Provider since 1998. Comcast Business has dedicated, experienced E-rate specialists on staff who can guide you through our eligible services. Their services scale quickly to help you meet ongoing educational needs.

  • December 06, 2021 10:44 AM | Ashley

    Red Rover, Red Rover

    Is this pandemic year over?

    By: Lindsay Zilly 

    I grew up in the 90’s and a playground favorite pastime of my friends and I was, believe it or not, playing Red Rover. To play, you’d divide into two teams and stand opposite each other with some running distance separating you. Then, you’d link arms or hold hands in a line facing your opponent and chant, Red Rover, Red Rover, send Lindsay right over! If your name happened to be called, you’d leave your team and run as fast as you could at the line of opposing players and attempt to run through their clasped hands. The goal was to break through the brick wall of children and bring someone back to your team with you. Conversely it was the opposing team's goal to hold strong and not let go of each other's hands and keep you from severing the connection. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t the safest playground activity for us to be playing. However, it was exciting…and a little terrifying!

    via GIPHY

    I’m not sure why, but the memory of playing Red Rover popped into my head on my drive to work today. This week has been particularly stressful and I was reflecting on how lucky I am to have people in my life selflessly picking me up when I need it most. We are having work done on our house and if you’ve ever been fortunate enough to get some projects done on your house, you know it rarely ever goes according to plan. This means I have had to be chaos coordinator for a family of 7 on the fly this week. Fortunately, I have the best friends and neighbors who are making it all possible. I know how lucky I am but it is also more than luck; it’s something I refer to as relational currency. Other people might say it’s Karma or manifesting good energy but for me it can be summed up by the old adage: what goes around comes around. 

    I love it when I can find a way to help out a friend. Whether it’s doing their grocery shopping for them (thank you InstaCart), sending them an adult beverage on a particularly lackluster day (hello Binny’s to go!) or taking care of dinner for them (I’m looking at you Door Dash), helping a friend in need is my love language. And today, technology has made it so much easier for us to share the load and help each other out in our greatest times of need. By doing these small random acts of kindness, we are building relational currency with our people. Then, when we are in need, help comes without a second thought. 

    via GIPHY

    How does this all connect?

    I think for many teachers right now it feels like we are playing a giant game of Red Rover. We are standing shoulder to shoulder with our teaching besties facing down next month's calendar of events, to do’s and assessments. We are not sure what’s about to come our way, but if we are lucky, we have someone there to hold our hand and ground us when the next obstacle heads our way. 

    This year has left a lot of teachers feeling burned out or broken. Sure, it’s in our nature to keep moving forward because if we don’t, it’s the kids who end up suffering. But while it’s important for us to move forward, it’s equally as important for us to look at who is staying the course with us. Who is right there by our side to hold our hand when something big is headed our way or to help us up after we’ve been knocked down on our backs. 

    It’s the teachers in the trenches that are my reason for going to work every day. My Red Rover teammates who are staring down the second half of a school year and whispering to each other, winter break is coming. I’m incredibly lucky and grateful to have many whom I can call when I need support and I hope you are too.

    So, here’s to all the educators out there feeling like they are stuck in an endless game of Red Rover. Know that we stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, as you navigate a truly unique school year. We are here to take your hand and lend you our strength when you feel like you can’t stand on your own two feet alone any more. 

    Call To Action

    Invest in each other and do the same for a fellow teacher in the trenches. Establish that relational currency so you know it’s there for when you need it. Whether it is for the teacher next door or across the interwebs; stand together knowing that we’ve got your back!

  • December 02, 2021 1:52 PM | Ashley

    IDEA Partners make it possible for IDEA to achieve its mission. 

    And in case you didn’t know -- Our mission is to inspire, connect and provide the educational community with opportunities that transform teaching and learning through technology. 

    That is why we are thrilled to welcome our newest Bronze Partner, Newsela

    Newsela takes authentic, real-world content from trusted sources and makes it instruction ready for K-12 classrooms. Each text is published at five reading levels, so content is accessible to every learner. Today, over 2.5 million teachers and 37 million students have registered with Newsela for content that’s personalized to student interests, accessible to everyone, aligned to instructional standards, and attached to activities and reporting that hold teachers accountable for instruction and students accountable for their work. With over 10,000 texts in Newsela’s platform and 10 new texts published every day across 20+ genres, Newsela enables educators to go deep on any subject they choose.

    Newsela's mission is meaningful classroom learning for every student. We're an edtech company that brings together digital content with integrated assessments and insights. The result is more engaged readers—and engaged readers are better learners.

    Newsela provides content that is:

    • AUTHENTIC: From the real world, about real and relatable people and topics
    • ACCESSIBLE: Differentiated at 5 levels, representative of every learner
    • ACTIVE: Never stale, always up-to-date with what’s happening in the world
    • ACCOUNTABLE: Ensures educators and students are taking responsibility for learning
    • ALIGNED: Aligned to key standards, frameworks, and commonly used curriculum

    Newsela’s offerings include Newsela ELA, Newsela Science, Newsela Social Studies, Newsela SEL, and more.

    Check out more about Newsela here

  • December 02, 2021 1:44 PM | Ashley

    IDEA Partners make it possible for IDEA to achieve its mission. 

    And in case you didn’t know -- Our mission is to inspire, connect and provide the educational community with opportunities that transform teaching and learning through technology. 

    That is why we are thrilled to welcome our newest Bronze Partner, Renaissance

    Renaissance is a global leader in assessment, reading, math, early literacy, and data-driven solutions for pre-K–12 schools and districts. Renaissance is committed to providing teacher-facilitated instructional delivery with resources to help students build a strong foundation for success. The mission of this organization is to accelerate learning for all children and adults of all ability levels and ethnic and social backgrounds, worldwide.

    As a global leader in assessment, reading, and math solutions for pre-K–12 schools and districts, Renaissance is committed to providing educators with insights and resources to accelerate growth and help all students build a strong foundation for success. Renaissance solutions reach more than 40 percent of US schools and more than half a million students in other regions across the world. The Renaissance portfolio includes Star Assessments, for reliable, accurate insights into K–12 student learning; myIGDIs, for accurate assessment of early learning; myON, to increase students’ access to high-quality reading materials; Accelerated Reader, to support independent reading practice; Freckle, for teacher-led differentiated instruction; Schoolzilla, to give educators actionable insights into trends in student attendance and achievement; Lalilo, to develop critical foundational skills; and Nearpod, for teacher-facilitated instructional delivery. 

    Check out more about Renaissance here

  • December 01, 2021 2:38 PM | Ashley

    Walking the Talk: The Power of Dialogue

    by Jennifer Waldvogel

    Ever experience one of those ‘aha’ moments that leaves you wondering how you survived without this POV? Like the first time you sipped a great cup of coffee or sat in the good seats at a sporting event, once you’ve experienced the breakthrough, there’s no going back to ordinary life. 

    As a teacher, that ‘aha’ moment was when I let go of conversation control, and dove into dialogue.

    The Gift of Vulnerability

    Twenty-seven students gathered in a large circle on my classroom floor, cool tile grounding the conversation we were about to have. Twenty-seven faces stared back at their English teacher. 

    “Today, we’re going to practice feeling vulnerable.” 

    Instantly, I could feel my students' nervousness. Vulnerable is an uncomfortable word, especially when you’re seventeen years old, surrounded by peers. But my students were also curious, and I was banking on that. 

    “We’ve been talking about the human condition. About the feelings and experiences we share as human beings. And today, we focus on vulnerability.” 

    I reached behind me for a clear Ziplock bag full of tiny strips of paper. “This bag is full of personal questions.” I paused, smiling at them, “Not deep, dark, secret kind of questions.” A few laughed, but they were hardly sold on the idea: they needed to see what this was all about. “These questions are just about you, about what you think and what you like. We’re each going to draw a question from the bag, read it aloud, and answer. You can pass once, but we’ll come back to you. I’m here with you, part of the group, and I’ll go first.”

    That day in class, we focused on one person at a time. In our circle, we could see everyone and our conversation was a single thread. We discovered one another’s interests, friendships, and habits. We became closer as a classroom community. But we couldn’t have this conversation on the first day of class. And we couldn’t have it all without first building trust. 

    In the next few weeks of our World Literature class, we got to the good stuff, sharing thoughts about the big picture questions with no answers: What is truth? What is fair? What is beauty? I realized how much more exciting it was to watch my students in open dialogue than a carefully facilitated discussion. In that moment, I became a believer: in the battle between Dialogue and Discussion, dialogue is definitely the way to go.  

    Why should we engage our students and colleagues in close, connective conversations? Conversations like the one we had on the classroom floor are the avenue to dialogue, and dialogue is the ultimate goal for truly transformative communication.

    The Case for Dialogue

    Educators are strong discussion leaders. We know how to create engaging questions, connect students’ comments to one another, and keep a discussion rolling. But, do we offer our students enough chances to dialogue? As a high school literature teacher, all too often the talk in my class was a discussion with pre-determined questions and revelations to uncover. Our discussions had a goal, and in the name of text understanding, that was valuable, but if I wanted the learning to transform my students’ view of themselves and the world, what I really wanted was dialogue.                                    

    *Image courtesy of Sustained Dialogue Institute

    Dialogue is open-ended. Dialogue seeks understanding without conclusion. Dialogue is a space to learn about those engaged in the dialogue, not just the text or idea behind the speakers. 

    Unlike debate, [dialogue] doesn't involve arguing for a point of view, defending a set of assumptions, or critiquing the positions of others. Unlike negotiation or consensus-building, it's not a method of reaching agreement or arriving at decisions. And unlike discussion, it can only emerge when participants trust and respect each other, suspend their judgments, and listen deeply to all points of view. (Scott London, 2021)

    Setting the Stage for Dialogue

    Good dialogue requires a layer of trust among participants. We can help our students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings by starting with activities to help them clarify their values. As they learn about themselves, invite them to share small revelations with their peers: first in partners, then small groups. 

    In our World Literature class, we started the semester with an Ideology Survey,  began each class period with a Self-Awareness Journal Prompt, and just before our dialogue about aspects of the human condition, we engaged in the Johari Window. Practicing reflection was building the foundation we needed for the dialogue on the horizon. No matter how young our students are, they have the ability to uncover what is important to them, and practice sharing their opinions with peers, especially when we guide them through that journey. These reflective practices set the stage for the empathy and openness we need to engage in dialogue. 

    During the Dialogue

    That dreaded silence: watching students squirm under the weight of a conversation dead stop can be hard, but we can help them work their way through this without taking the lead. One technique that fuels dialogue is reflexive noticing. Anna Pauliina Rainio & Riikka Hofmann (2021) describe reflexive noticing as speech actions that avoid immediate closure, sustaining a puzzle, reflecting on it and connecting it to a need to change, in this way creating ‘a sense of the possible’” . We can help our students practice reflexive noticing during dialogue by first modeling this in our facilitated, whole-class discussions. When we repeat students’ comments that offer openness to a new idea, we bring attention to the value of open mindedness. Even the tiniest comment of wonderment or curiosity by a student can spark a connection among their peers and a feeling of “being seen”. After modeling in a whole group, allow students to practice reflective noticing in small groups. Start with sentence stems to help them find their words, encouraging students to slow down and really think about what their peers are saying. Listening and connecting are the goals, not arriving at a conclusion. 

    During a dialogue, interject when students need a reminder that every issue has multiple sides and every classroom includes multiple perspectives. A single individual can hold multiple perspectives. As facilitators, we can switch our role from discussion leader to dialogue supporter, giving students the reins for talk that focuses on making connections and arriving at a greater understanding of one another.

    The Takeaway

    Dialogue isn’t just for our students. Dialogue is for ourselves. Whether our role is in the classroom, in the school, or at the district level, dialogue has the power to break down barriers and bring people together. In the divisiveness of today, I can’t think of anything better than conversation meant simply for understanding.


    Anna Pauliina Rainio & Riikka Hofmann (2021) Teacher professional dialogues during a school intervention: From stabilization to possibility discourse through reflexive noticing, Journal of the Learning Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/10508406.2021.1936532

    Illinois Literary in Action (2016).  Collaborative conversation suggestions & sentence stems. ISBE speaking & listening kit. 

    Johari window model. November 2021.

    Scott London (2021) The power of dialogue: Creating common meaning and purpose. Scott.London. 

    About the Author: 

    Jennifer Waldvogel is an NBCT who spent over a decade teaching ELA in Yorkville Y115 before shifting into the role of Teacher on Special Assignment for Technology Integration. This is Jen’s 5th year as a TOSA, working alongside students, teachers, school & district leaders to guide blended programming, design professional development, and coach personalized instruction. Jen loves hiking, foodie adventures, Key West, and music you can dance to. Writing is her favorite hobby. Jen is also a published author who blogs about life and career at You can find her on Facebook (JenniferWaldvogelAuthor) and Instagram (@Jennifer_Waldvogel_Author).

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