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  • July 12, 2021 8:11 AM | Ashley

    So, last week I saw school supplies on display and for sale at the Tarjay (yes, pronounced Tar-jay). And the immediate reaction was, “$@^@$&*.” But after the excessive screaming stopped in my own brain, I took stock and remembered -- Teaching has afforded me my mission and fulfilled my passion to support learners and never stop learning myself. 

    I took a deep breath and began reflecting on how to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year. 

    Here are the goals I wrote on the inside of the gum wrapper found in my car after my Target run: 

    1. Finish two professional books.
    2. Jump back into podcasts to support my growth area for next year. 
    3. Participate in two Twitter Chats. 
    4. Attend one professional learning opportunity. 

    With these goals in my back pocket (literally), here is my game plan:

    The topic I want to focus on is cognitive research on how we learn, so I have ordered: 

    • Why Don't Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham
    • How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories Behind Effective College Teaching by Joshua R. Eyler

    Two books: Check!

    The podcast that is speaking to me lately is The Brain Science Podcast. I have been drawn to educational podcasts that are not focused on “school orientated” and learn to better coach in my building. As for Twitter Chats, I’ll be keeping a close eye on a few I can jump into as they happen. 

    Check and Check!

    Now, for the big one that may seem daunting -- the professional learning opportunity. I will be attending the ideaU Summer institute.

    This 100% virtual institute includes five whole days of live keynote speakers and watch-on-demand webinars. 

    As if that wasn’t reason enough to attend ideaU, here are 3 more solid reasons:

    1. As and Illinois Educator, I can earn 20+ PDHs.
    2. I am registering today, which means it will only cost me $29 - that is about $5 a day for priceless learning. (Early-bird pricing ends July 21st, so get on it.)
    3. By registering for ideaU, you'll automatically be entered to win two FREE tickets to IDEAcon 2022. That is a no-brainer. 

    Let’s learn together at ideaU-- while hanging by the pool or on our back porch.

    What are your back-to-school learning goals? Share with me in the comments. 

    See ya digitally at ideaU and fingers crossed at IDEAcon 2022. 

    - Kim D., Teacher and IDEA Volunteer

  • July 06, 2021 9:00 AM | Ashley

    How would you like to be our VIP guest at IDEAcon 2022 in February?

    Hopefully, that was an easy, “heck, yeah!”

    You can enter to win our IDEAcon Be Our Guest VIP Package by simply registering for Idea U this August or our July Playground! 

    That’s right – all you have to do is register for Idea U or our July Playground to be entered to win a FREE ticket to IDEAcon.

    The winner will receive: 

    • A FREE ticket to IDEAcon 2022
    • A two-night’s stay at the Renaissance
    • A special dinner with the IDEAcon committee
    • ALLLL the swag

    via GIPHY

    What is Idea U?

    Idea U 2021 is a great way to rekindle your spark for teaching! Our hope is to help launch you into the school year feeling inspired. We know last year was tough, but YOU are tougher.

    This 100% virtual conference includes five whole days of live keynote speakers and watch-on-demand webinars. Illinois educators can earn 20+ PDHs. If you register before July 21st, you can attend for just $29!

    Learn more about Idea U here and follow us on social for the latest updates and announcements. 

    We can’t wait to learn with you at Idea U! Click here to register and be entered automatically into our IDEAcon Be Our Guest VIP Contest. 

    What is the July Playground?

    You can also enter to win our IDEAcon Be Our Guest VIP package by registering and attending our July Playground. Illinois educators can receive up to 6 PDHs. Each pre-recorded session can be watched any time and any where between July 17 and 31st. 

    July’s theme is all about games and playful learning! Learn more and register here.

    We can’t wait for you to be our guest!  

  • June 25, 2021 8:07 AM | Ashley

    Avengers, Assemble!

    In November of this year, a small team of individuals gathered together to create a coalition with a common goal:

    To debunk the misconceptions of the term “computer science” and create a road map of examples for stakeholders to reference. Help educators capitalize on teachable moments and provide experiences that help teachers see how this work connects and supports what they are already doing.

    The group consisted of educators, former school counselors, administrators, media specialists, professional development coordinators, ISBE representatives and early childhood educator specialists. The goal was lofty, but these individuals were no stranger to pressure cooker intense situations in the education world because these individuals worked with pre-k students.

    In other words, this was a group of super human individuals shaping the world one tiny human at a time! Why did they devote their time to this group? The answer was simple: pre-k learning is foundational. If we could come up with a way to meaningfully integrate computer science standards into the pre-existing pre-k curriculum standards, we would be setting students on a lifelong relationship with computer science.

    At our earliest meetings we chatted about best pedagogical practices and resources to narrow down the vast curriculum standards that pre-k teachers are familiar with. We then went round robin style to share the work we were currently doing with students that were working with.

    What Is Already Working

    Children are naturally inquisitive and curious. It’s not a far jump then to take our little learners down the path of design thinking. Pre-k classrooms that are currently integrating computer science into their curriculum are seeing much success defining problems and being solution oriented. Teachers are able to develop opportunities to establish and teach empathy. Station based learning allows students who are already familiar with the process, experience new and exciting content in ways that make sense to them. By embedding CS vocabulary into their every day routine, our youngest learners are adopting a CS mindset early on. One example of this is from a preschool class. The students read the story 5 Little Pumpkins and then engaged in a conversation with their teachers. They identified a problem and a solution and were then tasked to build a gate to support a mini pumpkin in small groups. Another example is the Samantha Snail project where students were asked to adopt a perspective of a woodland animal. They then experimented with various learning tools like merge cubes, Quiver Vision and Cubetto in station based learning.

    Where To From Here?

    If you have ever been in a room full of preschoolers, it’s obvious that you’ll need some tricks up your sleeve to hold their attention and for retention of the content you are teaching. Your overall goal is to teach the pre-k standards, life skills, soft skills, capitalize on teachable moments and integrate technology. Easier said than done right? You know the old cliche, better together? There’s a reason why it is a cliche. The pre-k CS standards alignment team has taken the Illinois Early Learning & CS Standards and crosswalked them. Within these crosswalks we’ve also included sample activities or examples that you can embed into the work you are already doing. This will allow you to provide lessons rich with computer science knowledge that are tied to the learning target and overall pre-k goals you have for your students. These alignment maps are broken down into subject areas as well so you can see exactly what skills complement each other and what strategies for implementation work best. Best of all? These alignment maps were created by a group of teachers in the trenches just like you! But wait, it gets better! Also included on this team are ISBE professionals ensuring that the connections of content are strong enough to support the pre-existing learning targets. These alignments maps are your starting point for creating well rounded lessons that integrate much more than just computer science.

    Call To Action: Take A Look For Yourself

    The team broke into groups and made a total of eight alignment maps based on subject or content area. We then compared the Early Learning Standards for that specific subject with the Computer Science Standards and aligned them accordingly. Here is an example of the resources we’ve been diligently creating for you over the past nine months.

    Sample Pre-K ELL & CS Alignment Map

    Pending ISBE approval, each content area will have a unique alignment map like the one you see above. It will include the pre-k learning standard, CS standard and sample activities and lessons. If you are still feeling overwhelmed, never fear, IDEA has got you covered! Sign up for one of the amazing professional learning opportunities below:

    IDEA and the Pre-K CS Avengers are happy to support your classroom learning in any way possible. If you have questions or ideas, don’t hesitate to reach out!

    After all, when it comes to CS, it is inevitable.

    If you are looking for other grade level resources, don’t hesitate to contact us for support, learning opportunities, and resources. We have you covered!

    **The following blog was posted in June 2021 - public comment is now closed.


    The new Illinois Learning Standards for Computer Science are open for public comment. View them here (Pages 46 - 64), and send your feedback to before July 5. 

    Here at Illinois Digital Education Alliance (IDEA), we are proud to be working with a group of dedicated educators, professionals, and ISBE on the development of the Illinois Learning Standards for Computer Science

    Now, it is your turn to share your thoughts. But before you do, we wanted to provide you with some extra background. 

    First off, with the passage of House Bill 2170, school districts will be required to ensure that students receive developmentally appropriate opportunities to gain computer literacy skills beginning in elementary school. 

    The bill reads as follows:

    (105 ILCS 5/2-3.185 new)

    Sec. 2-3.185. Computer science standards and courses. On on before December 1, 2021, the State Board of Education shall:

    (1) develop or adopt rigorous learning standards in the area of computer science; and

    (2) analyze and revise, if appropriate, existing course titles dedicated to computer science or develop a short list of existing course titles that are recommended for computer science courses.

    Since fall of 2020, IDEA has been a participant in the working group for the development of the Illinois State Goals of Learning for Computer Science (CS) Standards. These standards are a modified version of the K-12 Computer Science Framework

    We are SO excited about the development of these critical standards and the impact it will have on Illinois students. The great news is that Illinois is no stranger to making big strides in computer science and STEM. 

    In 2017, the state of Illinois was the second largest producer of computer science graduates in the nation, awarding nearly 10 percent of the country’s computer science degrees. 

    “In 2016, Illinois institutions produced more than 40,000 STEM degrees, and about 50 percent of the degrees were earned by international and immigrant students.” (Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, 2017). 

    In addition, Illinois has added STEM jobs at a rate that is outpacing the national average with overall computer-related jobs having increased 5 percent annually. These rates are just going to continue to grow and with the adoption of the Illinois Computer Science Standards, we will have an opportunity to give our students the skills they need to be successful in these STEM jobs. 

    With all this in mind, we invite you to review the Computer Science Standards currently posted for public comment. You can find them here on page 46 - 64). 

    To provide your feedback, please email ISBE at by July 5. Instructions for public comment can be found here

    Your input is invaluable. We highly encourage you to take the time to share your thoughts and help continue to improve Illinois’ computer science standards.

    IDEA is already prepping content, programming, and professional learning opportunities to help educators in Illinois integrate these standards into Pre-K-12 classrooms. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for more information on this programming and future events coming soon!

    We look forward to supporting YOU!

  • June 21, 2021 11:14 AM | Ashley

    It’s time to rekindle your spark at #IDEAU 2021!

    Now is not the time to sugar coat things. If we are all being honest, the 2020-2021 school year brought with it a whole new set of stressors to the classroom. So, if you are like us and other fellow educators, you are glad it is in the past … 

    (via GIPHY)

    ^^ Us waving goodbye to the 20-21 school year.

    The good news is that no matter how tough it gets, YOU are tougher. 

    Next year will have its very own set of challenges, and we want to help you get ready! 

    We know you are probably thinking, “I don’t want to think about going back to school yet! It is time for some R&R at the pool.” 

    We totally agree! That is why we are providing a fun and convenient way to rekindle your spark for teaching.

    Idea U Summer Institute was such a success last year, we are bringing it back this August!

    This week-long, 100% virtual conference will be held August 9 – 13 and is a great place to learn and get inspired for Fall 2021.

    Each day will showcase a LIVE keynote speaker to kick things off for the day. After that, all break-out sessions will be available to watch on demand

    Psst… That means you can soak in the information while you soak up the sun on your back deck or by the pool!

    Topics will include:

    • Social emotional learning
    • Building relationships
    • Culture and community
    • Computer science standards
    • Certification programs available to educators
    These topics alone are reason enough to join. But, if you still need convincing, you can earn 20+ professional development hours (PDHs) by attending Idea U

    Intrigued? Don’t wait to register!

    You can rekindle your spark and get 5 whole days worth of learning under your belt for an early-bird price of just $29! But hurry – the price will increase after July 21st.  

    Click here to register now. 

    Follow us on social media for the latest details on the event, and join in on the conversation using #IdeaU.

    See you in August! 

  • May 27, 2021 10:05 AM | Lindsay

    Wordsmithing By: Casey Veitch, Emily Coklan & Jenni Labrie

    Come On: Talk Data to Me

    Bring up the word “data” in a group of educators, and watch what happens. Are you seeing skeptical eyes narrowing? Disgusted pushing away from the table? Or the opposite, leaning in and focusing?

    In this way, talking about “data” can be a lot like talking about “dating”. The incredible array of experiences people have had with data ranges from “dumpster fire” to “until death do us part”. Since the GLG never resists a good metaphor, let’s even frame this by talking about a specific type of story, particularly in the romantic comedy genre, where two people meet, cannot stand each other, but somehow end up deliriously happy together by the time the credits roll.

    Data: The Love Story

    Unless taken as an elective or it is part of a masters degree deep dive, analysis of instructional data is not something any of us (aka members of The Grounded Learners Guild) were exposed to in our teacher preparation programs. It is just something we are expected to use. This may be one reason teachers respond negatively to calls for “data-driven” instruction. Educators want to do well, and analyzing data for some might bring up feelings of insecurity. 

    The Meet-Cute

    There is a lot of pressure on educators to use data. It’s like a fix-up - an education professor, administrator, or team lead tosses a “data driven” or “data informed” out there and it sounds like this incredible, easy way to discover the secrets to improving instruction/student learning.
    But for a lot of us, our first real experience with it plays out like this: 

    From Bridget Jones Diary, 2001

    GIF by:

    Data, especially for educators just starting out, can be not-so-impressive. It may start as numbers in a gradebook, or on a score on an assignment. Teachers need support and small wins in how to use that data to make instructional gains for students. For example, the quick sort and my favorite no are instructional strategies that leverage classroom data for determining teaching next steps. Providing a quick win that infuses data into daily practice is a great first date for the data novice. 

    Mistakes, Missteps, & Misunderstandings

    Those who have those visceral reactions to hearing the word data in educational circles probably have at least one sordid love affair from their past. Perhaps the school improvement plan for the past four years has shined a giant spotlight on the same underperforming grade level. Or the school board is raising alarm bells because the data they are being presented with lacks context or captures only one small piece of the narrative.  Or maybe even someone got hurt: someone lost their job or was remediated for not meeting expectations for student performance.

    When those mistakes, missteps, and misunderstandings happen, save yourself from the runaround that usually comes from those conflicts. Show the raw data and work with a group to unpack the meaning and come to conclusions together. If a misconception has already occurred, name “the thing” and clarify specific steps stakeholders WILL make to set it right. 

    There is always a second chance

    As with any rom-com where hating turns into dating, there’s always that moment where a major shift occurs in how someone is viewed. A lot of times it involves the previously misunderstood object-of-loathing stepping in to help or do something awesome and suddenly “BOOM” everything is different.  So how can educators get a “BOOM” moment with data?

    From 10 Things I Hate About You, 1999

    GIF by:

    Because of the instructional time we have lost, educators returning back to school in the fall will need regular and frequent time to create quality formative assessments as well as opportunities to review those results in teams to form their instructional decisions moving forward. They need data collection and analysis tools to streamline collection as well. Tools embedded within an LMS can help, but even conditionally formatted spreadsheet templates can help as well. 

    Outside of the classroom, when we are talking about a larger system’s data, use data to praise what’s working as much as you use it to identify what isn’t. It can even strengthen praise by making it specific and targeted.  “Your reading scores are up 18% - I know how much work must have gone into this” can be so much more meaningful than a “thank you for all your hard work!”  If leaders’ critiques and improvement plans are always informed by data, why not then apply this same methodology to compliments and expressions of gratitude?

    A Call To Action

    In your system, what stories are you creating when you ask your teachers, students, and leaders to use data?  How are you intentionally rewriting the narrative to transform your data “from the boyfriend who lives out of state”, to the “soulmate” that a strong, learner-centered educational community needs. 

    Data can be utilized to tell other stories as well in addition to a romance. To hear more authentic conversation about whether your data story is akin to a greek tragedy or an epic, hero’s journey, check our The Grounded Learners podcast episode called Data: A Twisted Love Story, on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or visit

  • April 19, 2021 2:44 PM | Lindsay

    As a lifelong learner, we have to be open to learning new things every day. If you subscribe to this way of thinking, you might also agree that learning takes place everywhere. Let’s take a look at some incredible resources, tools and strategies I learned from a very unlikely place: Tik Tok. As they say: if you can't beat em, join em!

    By: Lindsay Zilly

    Director of Professional Learning for IDEA

    Adjunct Professor USF


    Teacher Tech Tok: 
    Seeking out Opportunities for Micro PD

    I am from the generation of My Space and Live Journal. If you know, you know. If those terms seem foreign to you, never fear. One day you too will identify as the Gram Generation and feel your age as heavy as I do now. 

    The point is, my social media experience came through a dial up connection, screeching computer screen and, if the stars aligned, a male computer voice, greeting me with “You’ve Got Mail”. Things have changed significantly since my AIM days but no matter what, the premise behind social media has always stayed true to form: we login toconnect with others. So I evolved with social media; from Facebook to Twitter. Snap Chat to Instagram, to where I am today: Tik Tok.

    Allow me the opportunity to attempt to get you to reconsider any preconceived negative notions associated with Tik Tok.

    I believe there are several different Tik Tok identities: 

    1. The head shakers. Nope, nope, so much nope.

    2. The fencers. Those who are not yet sold on even the idea of Tik Tok and are afraid to download the app itself.

    3. The lurkers (present!) Lurking through content to escape the day or find a quick laugh.

    4. The toe dippers. You are ready to get started using it and get a rush from posting that first video.

    5. All in. Making the Tiks. Dancing to the Toks and speaking the language.

    No matter where you fall in your Tik Tok identity, I believe there is something to be gained from this app. Consider this: If you were to have your own Tik Tok series what would it be called? 

    • Or perhaps, think of it this way instead: What is your personal impact statement?

    As an educational content creator, I think it is important to leverage universal learning standards in the work I do and the experiences I create. Therefore, I regularly use the ISTE standards as a baseline for the instructional practices I share. The standards that fit my work with Tik Tok are no exception and are as follows:

    • Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning.

    • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

    Or simply put,

    A Story

    My relationship with Tik Tok has been slow and hesitant. But I’ll share a story with you that got me hooked and keeps me coming back time and time again.

    Jimmy Choi is a popular Tik Tokker because of his posts about some incredible feats of athleticism. The catch is, Jimmy has Parkinson’s Disease. Most of his posts are about his incredible talents despite his illness, but one day he posted about his frustration with opening the bottle that held his medication. The very thing that was meant to help him, was an incredible source of aggravation and even pain. So, he did what most people do and took to his preferred social media platform, Tik Tok, to vent about. His video was seen by a videographer named Brian Aldredge. Brian saw a problem, one he has never experienced before, but was inspired by and formed an idea. He had the creativity to create a solution for Jimmy’s problem, by designing a 3D prototype of a new version of pill bottle for this with low muscle tone. But, he didn’t have the means to physically solve the problem by making the bottle himself. So Brian posted a Tik Tok recapping Jimmy’s story and the 3D design mockups he had created expecting a few people would see it. He woke up to his viral video being shared more than any other video he had ever made and to people who did have the means to solve the problem, printing his designs or iterating on them themselves and enhancing them. Eventually word got to an Engineer by the name of David Exler who connected with the project and is now able to mass print these bottles to whomever needs one. All he asks is that you donate $5 to the Michael J Fox foundation. 

    This is my why for Tik Tok and social media in general. Because when leveraged the right way, we can bring into focus problems that we normally wouldn’t encounter, connect them with creatives to solve said problems and finally find a way to bring about change. Tik Tok isn’t going away. It’s just going to evolve into the next thing. We can’t hide from it or ban it or pretend like we don’t belong on it. We must embrace it and all the good that can come out of it.

    The Micro PD We Never Knew We Needed

    So, how can we teachers benefit from Tik Tok? Sometimes being a teacher feels like you are all alone in your silo.

    Sure, the typical teaching experience is one where you are surrounded by other classrooms and maybe you even visit the teachers lounge from time to time. But once you close your classroom door, or log onto your individual Zoom session and it’s just you and your kids, that time can feel very isolating. It’s important for teachers to remember that we aren’t alone. The work we are doing is monumentally important and that there are so many other educators experiencing the same things we are at this very moment. 

    Using Tik Tok to seek out other educators that help you see you are not alone is necessary. These people, brave enough to throw open their classroom doors and share the good, the bad and the ugly are our life preservers. A few of these lifeguards that create some incredible content on Tik Tok and who you should follow today are listed here: Feel free to add some of your favorite follows as well!

    Tik Tok in the Classroom? How Dare I?!

    Bringing Tik Tok into our classrooms is a big deal and because of this it requires careful consideration and planning. But the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. You may ask, how can we get used to the idea of using Tik Tok, or anything that is trending for that matter to capitalize on teachable moments? First, we have to see this as a means of connecting with our learners. I’m sure you have countless “getting to know you” activities or ways you develop relationships with your students. Leveraging Tik Tok is just one more way to do this, but I would argue, it is on a whole other level than your average ice breaker. 

    There are trends associated with everything. Fashion, social media, education. Most of these trends are cyclical and pop back up again years after their original popularity. Take Kagan Strategies for example. Isn’t that  just the method formerly known as cooperative learning strategies? Everything seems to come back around again and social media is no different. But, for us to be able to use this to our advantage, we must firstconsider the reasons why Tik Tok is so successful. This brings me to what I like to call, the Tik Tok Method.

    The Tik Tok Method

    • High Interest Topics

    • Engaging Presenters

    • Short, consumable VIDEO content

    • Few words/Word Choice

    • Entertaining

    Believe it or not, this method was adapted from an article I read about how to go viral on Tik Tok. You see, micro PD is everywhere; it just all depends on the lens you choose to look at it through. We are surrounded by teachable moments and life is so much better when we embrace them. But, I’m sure you are wondering how to embrace or at least employ the Tik Tok Method when it comes to teaching your students. I have a few thoughts to help get you started.

    Theory: Tik Tok is essentially flipped learning

    Enhanced Communication

    There are 5 things that Tik Tok promotes that we as educators could afford to take notes on. See if you agree with me.

    The content creators on any social media platform are generally using video content or high resolution graphic art to capture the attention of an audience not present at the time of the recording. The goal is, once they create this content and share it out, it will gain them a multitude of views and in turn new followers. So, why not use this strategy to our advantage in the classroom? This is essentially instructing students on how to do something or sharing information with them on a new topic when we are not providing them direct instruction. Maybe a year ago we would have shied away from the idea of making videos for our students, but we are living in a whole new world since Pandy took over. Let’s look at applying some Tik Tok strategies to the video content we are creating for students. 

    The Tik Tok 5 Essentials

    1. Kick off with a bang: Set the tone and topic of the video within the first few seconds so that people understand what they’re watching.

    2. Short and sweet: Most screencasting tools have a time limit. You only get X minutes with the free version and while that may seem unfair, generally speaking that’s usually more than enough time. Consider this: would you rather be assigned a 5o minute long video to watch at a staff meeting or 5 10 minute videos? The shorter the video, the easier it is to pay attention too and the more you retain. Instead of recording yourself for 50 minutes, which can be nerve racking and very time consuming, record yourself in smaller chunks. It’s easier on you should you make a mistake or get interrupted, it’s easier for the consumer to watch and it’s differentiation. You can pinpoint where your students went wrong in a video series and have them go back to the exact location of their error. You can have higher achieving students skip certain videos. And it’s a resource for studying when it’s time for the summative assessment. You can’t beat, short and sweet!

    3. Tell a story: The story can be anything. It can be something interesting that happened in your life, something random that happened during your day, a project you did, anything that connects to your content.  Students are more likely to remember the content you share with them if you tell a story because they connect that content to the personal piece of information you shared. 

    4. Call to action: It’s great to have a call to action in your caption and/or at the end of your video such as “like for part 2”, “follow for more”, or “don’t let this flop”. But that doesn’t exactly make sense for teachers. Instead, ask a question not specific to the content. Then, do something with their answers! For example, ask your students to find out what their parents favorite song was when they were their age then make a playlist of all the classic oldies and start tomorrow’s class with it. Or have kids identify an item that was in the background of one of your videos. Get creative! This really helps turn Incomplete assignments to complete, submitted assignments.

    5. Leave some questions unanswered: Make it so some of the aspects of the video need to be rewatched. If you’re posting a video and you can think of an obvious question people will have – DO NOT EXPLAIN IT. This is your accountability piece. It also promotes peer to peer feedback in the form of comments. Instead of thinking they can only go to you for answers, if you encourage them to comment on your videos, they will have an entire class to work through solutions with.

    How do educators AND students benefit?

    The Literal and the Theoretical Applications

    As lifelong learners it’s our responsibility to continue our own education so that we are not teaching students our past but their future. In my opinion, there are two paths to take when considering implementing the Tik Tok Method into your practice. You can take a literal approach or a theoretical approach. No matter the approach you take, the goal is the same: apply the changes for the benefit of both the students AND the teacher.

    Literal Approach

    Take the literal idea of Tik Tok, the structure, the look and the feel of it and apply it to an educational standard. Matt Miller has created a wonderful template based on this idea. If I were to ouse this approach, I would have students focus on a given standard and create a 90 second video summary explaining the content. When creating their “post” students can reflect on an appropriate caption, attention getting title, relevant background music and then package it all up using Matt’s template to share out in a safe and controlled platform like Google Slides. 

    Theoretical Approach

    The 4 C’s

    I am a frequent flyer when it comes to the 4 C’s: creativity, communication, critical thinking and collaboration. I think they are relevant regardless of the content you teach or the level students you have. Therefore, I use these four pillars as a base for many lessons I create. Sometimes I focus on one, other times I strive to leverage multiple skills. Here’s a breakdown that I would use when considering the Tik Tok Method.

    • Creativity: How can we hand the reigns over to students so that they have freedom to create on their own while being mindful of the learning targets?

    • Communication: What alternatives to traditional assessment strategies can you allow students to engage in to show what they know? Think about what technologies you could use to get students talking to each other and in turn listening!

    • Critical Thinking: If you pull apart the components of trending Tik Tok videos, what about them could students use to solve problems? Dancing? Recipes? Compare and contrast?

    • Collaboration: Are your students connecting with one another and even more importantly to the content? How are you developing teamwork and collaboration outside of the classroom walls?

    The End Beginning

    As lifelong learners it’s our responsibility to continue our own education so that we are not teaching students our past but their future. Applying these ideas to both the students AND the teacher demonstrates this to students. If all goes well, an amazing thing can be achieved: FAME! Just kidding! (Unless you count schoolwide fame, that is.) The amazing thing that happens is that it strengthens student and teacher relationships. Students are seeing their teachers taking risks, being vulnerable and exploring new avenues of learning. This provides a safe place for them to do the same. Teachers are connecting with their learners in a way that can’t be unpacked in a learning target or shared through Google Classroom. Relationships matter. The best way to get your students on board with what they are learning is to meet them where they are at. Pretty soon, they will start taking ownership over their learning because they truly see the value in what you are teaching them. Can you imagine a time where students no longer ask, “why do we need to learn this?” As my friend JP will tell you,

    So, what skills or learning targets can you teach using the Tik Tok Method? How about:

    • Poetry
    • Point of view
    • Summarizing
    • Narrative writing
    • Steps of an equation
    • Dialogue
    Vibe Check

    I’ll finish by asking you once more, what is your personal impact statement? How can trends help you accomplish your goals and learning targets this year? I hope I have helped you shift your mindset on Tik Tok or at the very least, I’ve put you onto something. 

      Some other trends have I played around with include:

    • April 08, 2021 10:56 AM | Lindsay

      By: Mike McGowan


      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 | Deleted user

      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 Grant applications will be accepted until April 30th, 2021.

    • March 27, 2021 11:12 AM | Lindsay

      “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 | Deleted user

      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.

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