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  • October 04, 2022 9:09 AM | Heather (Administrator)

    Supporting Language Learners with Book Creator

    By Ramona Towner

    I first started using Book Creator in the fall of 2013. The app had not been out very long at that point. It was appealing to have a digital book format for students to use to create their own stories. 

    The user interface was simple, clean and easy to use. Book Creator has used teacher and student feedback and continued to upgrade their app as any good ed tech company should.

    We are all language learners. That is how we approached writing the book Supporting Language Learners with Book Creator. The 14 strategies that we share in the book are good for your English Language learners, your IEPed students and all the diverse learners in your classroom. Simply, these strategies are good for all learners. Book Creator is an app that allows students to access all 4 language domains, reading, writing, speaking and listening to create, read, listen to, and publish content on their iPad or in their web browser. I like Book Creator because it is easy enough to use that any teacher or student can get started even if they’re not comfortable with using technology, but it has enough bells and whistles that a high school senior could really create some amazing content!

    I like Book Creator because users can:

    Here are a few examples from the book. Imagine what it would be like to start school in a new country where you don’t speak the language. New comers are able to use their own creativity to make a book. They can take pictures and/or video of their new school. They can then record their own voice in both their native language and their new language to describe their surroundings.

    Idea number 5 from the book, students can create a list of cognates, or a personal dictionary. Language learners can keep digital lists of new words or academic vocabulary, add pictures or videos for support, hear the correct pronunciation (Read to Me) and record their own voice and definition or description in a way that makes sense to them.

    Use Book Creator to store videos of lessons using TPR (total physical response). TPR is used to create meaning through motion. Comprehension is the first step to language acquisition, not word production. A student can record different TPR moves used in class by his teacher and classmates for both common phrases and academic vocabulary. These non-verbal movements allow the language learning student to participate in a non-threatening way while listening to new vocabulary being pronounced correctly. They will be learning meaning through a physical movement that activates retention.

    Math isn’t just numbers. The rest of the world uses the metric system. Newcomers need to learn the names of our customary units of measure and depending on the grade level can compare them to metric units of measure. They can do this by using pictures and recording their voice. Here is an example of a measurement book made by a 5th grade student. 

    Book Creator allows students to use their own creativity to create their own books. They are more engaged in creating a project that demonstrates their thinking and understanding of their new language. The multimedia components available in the app support all types of learners and hits multiple modalities of learning. 


    Ramona Towner has been a public school teacher in Berwyn South School District 100 for 32 years. She is currently an Instructional Coach that travels to 8 schools helping teacher implement best practices and technology integration. Ramona believes that devices give students the opportunity to demonstrate their thinking and understanding of a particular topic in a manner that suits their learning style. 

  • September 14, 2022 12:42 PM | Heather (Administrator)

    Welcome Back to Our Silver Partner, Book Creator! 

    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 our newest Silver Partner, Book Creator

    Inspire your students. Empower your teachers. Get everyone in your schools creating great digital content. Book Creator makes it easy to become an author of digital books, interactive reports, colorful newsletters – just about anything you can imagine. It’s an intuitive content creation tool that builds confidence, drives engagement and achieves authentic learning right across the curriculum. 

    With two million books made every month and 98% of teachers saying it positively impacts their teaching, Book Creator is your secret to supercharging student engagement in your schools and giving a voice to your students. 

    A set of tools so simple, anyone can use them

    Pick your fonts

    Add images, video or music

    Record your own voice 

    Use the pen tool to draw or annotate

    AppSmash with other tools

    Choose from a range of templates

    Publish, share and feel empowered

    Do it all again

    Students love it. Teachers love it. Book Creator is the simplest, most inclusive way to create content in the classroom.

    Learn more about Book Creator here.
  • September 12, 2022 11:30 AM | Heather (Administrator)

    Welcome to Our Gold Partner, EdPuzzle! 

    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, EdPuzzle

    EdPuzzle is a learning platform with powerful video editing tools, all in one place, that allow you to, “Make any lesson a video.” The power of video learning through EdPuzzle lies in it being visual, self-paced, flexible, and bite-sized. EdPuzzle empowers students to take an active role in their learning with interactive video lessons that spark creativity and curiosity. 

    EdPuzzle provides both a free version "Basic EdPuzzle" and a pro version "EdPuzzle Pro School/District". EdPuzzle can be used from PreK-12th grade within any subject. Because EdPuzzle allows staff to share content they save, edit, or create, there is equity provided across the school site and district. 

    Together we are creating a shared library of the highest quality interactive video lessons to benefit classrooms around the world.

    With EdPuzzle, every learner is a click away from an excellent education online.

    Learn more about EdPuzzle here.
  • September 06, 2022 12:00 PM | Heather (Administrator)

    The Promise of a Garden: From School Garden Interest to School-wide Initiative

    Dr. Jennifer Williams, Executive Director, Take Action Global, International Educator Community and Dr. Mary Meadows, Head of School, Andrews Academy, St. Louis, Missouri

    Over the past several months, our team at Take Action Global has had the opportunity to join in conversations with IDEA community members to discuss ways classrooms can take action for the planet through sustainability and environmental education. With classrooms exploring climate across the curriculum and across grade levels, we were excited to sit down with Dr. Mary Meadows, Head of School of Andrews Academy in St. Louis, to learn more about how her school has taken on the climate crisis and given back to their local and global community through a school-wide school garden initiative.  

    Jennifer: In our organization at Take Action Global, we have a mission of climate education for all. With many schools eager to take on a school-wide initiative, we’d love to learn from the process and steps you and your community have taken over the past few years. What prompted your early interest in climate action education? Did you face any barriers in the beginning? 

    Mary: Our interest in outdoor education, sustainability, and transitioning to student-centered teaching and learning led to the onset of a project-based learning initiative. Time constraints and lack of gardening experience initially presented challenges for our school community, however our understanding of the benefits of young children having access to the outdoors and its relevance to developing knowledge of and concern for the environment was undoubtedly foundational to our success. 

    Jennifer: In your role as Head of School, I know you have committed to guiding and supporting teachers and students throughout the process. Do you have any top tips for other school leaders interested in starting and sustaining a climate action project such as a school garden? 

    Mary: We prioritize our school garden as an essential initiative of our school’s mission. Here are a few key aspects of the program: 

    • Aim to keep a consistent schedule to allocate time for project initiatives
    • Assignment of all faculty members to specific grade level classes for the year-long initiative
    • Project selection guided by student interests related to the school garden and sustainability
    • Research efforts supported by community connections
    • Ongoing documentation, reflection, and sharing of the projects throughout the duration of the initiative with a year-end assembly and expo

      Jennifer: We are excited to welcome your school Andrews Academy as one of our Founding Climate Action Schools for 2022-2023. As you are three years into your own school initiative, what can schools new to taking on sustainability programs look forward to? 

      Mary: We recently completed our third school year of our school garden program, which involved the addition of a stewardship component, connecting each grade level’s initiative with a related community need. Emphasis on sustainability resulted in renaming our efforts to what is now known in the Andrews Academy school community as Sustainable Development and Stewardship (SDS). We look forward to a transformative year as a Climate Action Schools participant.

      Thanks to Dr. Mary Meadows for sharing about her school’s adventures in learning and action for the planet. To learn more about Andrews Academy, you can visit https://www.andrewsacademy.com


      Ready to get moving on your own school-wide initiative around sustainability, climate action, and outdoor education? Check out the new IDEA Climate Action Schools program, a new program for Illinois PreK-12 schools from Take Action Global and IDEA: https://www.ideaillinois.org/blog/12908382


      Dr. Jennifer Williams is the Co-Executive Director of Take Action Global. She has joined IDEA as a speaker for IDEACon, IDEAU, and IDEA Webinar Wednesday. Her ISTE book, Teach Boldly: Using Edtech for Social Good has been featured by IDEA and included in the IDEA Book Club. Connect with Jennifer and Take Action Global at www.takeactionglobal.org and @TakeActionEdu on social media.

    • September 06, 2022 11:30 AM | Heather (Administrator)

      IDEA Commits to Climate Action Education 

      Dr. Jennifer Williams, Take Action Global, International Educator Community and IDEA Community Member

      We know to tackle the climate crisis, we will need the hands, hearts, and best ideas from every person at every age from everywhere. Take Action Global is proud to partner with IDEA to offer the Climate Action Schools Program for Illinois PreK-12 schools.

      Ready to take action for the planet through project-based learning, global collaboration, digital agency and environmental justice? We’d love to invite you to join our IDEA Cohort for the 2022-2023 school year! 

      Each participating school will:

      • Be matched with three other global schools for virtual exchange and guided action 

      • Engage in environment across-the-curriculum activities enabling students to use edtech for a purpose 

      • Integrate social-emotional learning, wellness, innovation, and student-centered practices in teaching and learning 

      • Participate in tree planting experiences, school climate audits, Global Earth Day Celebrations

      • Access school-to-home and school-to-community outreach opportunities and an educator community portal with professional development and teacher certification 

      • Become a designated Climate Action School (school banner included!) 

      • Join for a Student Showcase in May at the State Capital 


      Program information:

      Interested in learning more? Contact Lindsay Zilly at lzilly@ideaillinois.org

      Photo Credit: Dr. Mary Meadows, Andrews Academy

      Dr. Jennifer Williams is the Co-Executive Director of Take Action Global. She has joined IDEA as a speaker for IDEACon, IDEAU, and IDEA Webinar Wednesday. Her ISTE book, Teach Boldly: Using Edtech for Social Good has been featured by IDEA and included in the IDEA Book Club. Connect with Jennifer and Take Action Global at www.takeactionglobal.org and @TakeActionEdu on social media. 

    • August 30, 2022 3:00 PM | Heather (Administrator)

      Every Coach Deserves a Coach

      by Jennifer Waldvogel

      Snow was falling, Thanksgiving break was peeking around the corner, and my role as instructional coach had officially been stuck in flux for the past year and a half. Prior to the pandemic, I never had trouble finding purpose in my role. Whether it was mentoring new teachers, building our blended program, running PD sessions, or working alongside teachers to try something new, I believed in my work and I felt happy as a coach. But like so many educators, the pandemic blew that sense of self right out of the water. Suddenly, every day was triage and no one had the time or the capacity for professional development, growth projects, innovation, or co-teaching. It was survival mode, and with that came a new demand for “making it work”. I found myself furiously onboarding digital tools, creating structures to support online & hybrid instruction, teaching part-time in a middle school classroom, and working without my team. Everything I loved about coaching was put on pause. I was drained, and so were my colleagues. 

      I was looking for more. I was looking for a spark, and so when IDEA offered their first Coaching Academy in November 2021, I jumped at the opportunity. To meet in person again with fellow Illinois coaches, to talk about our jobs and find inspiration sounded promising. I grabbed two of my teammates and we signed up. On the morning of November 11th, we walked into the Professional Development Alliance in Joliet, and I immediately saw faces I recognized. Coffee wafted through the air, chatter filled the session rooms, and it felt so good to be in the energy. Session to session, I felt renewed. Coaching is all about filling the cups of educators so they can fill the cups of students. Coaching Academy was the perfect refill. Zuica Donev helped me understand human motivation, offering strategies to tap into what drives teachers and students. Lindsay Zilly sent me into a world of games, icebreakers, and playfulness, offering methods to engage educators. Kim Darche helped me practice the art of conversation, a reminder that simple connection goes a long way. Michael Earnshaw painted a whole new picture of school climate, one that placed joy and personal connection front and center. I left the day remembering how much I loved coaching, excited to be a better support for the teachers in my district. On the drive home, my teammates and I shared insights from our sessions and made plans. 

      IDEA’s Coaching Academy caught me at a pivotal moment in my career. I was looking for answers, wondering if my role had value, wondering if I still wanted to be a coach. Talking with fellow coaches in sessions, chatting with conference directors Lindsay Zilly and Amber Heffner in the hallway, and listening to the advice of the caring educators presenting was a truly bright moment during the winter of the toughest year of my educator career. So if you’re feeling anything like me, a little lost and a lot tired, find a bright spot in this year’s Coaching Academy because every coach deserves a coach.

      IDEA’s Coaching Academy is now the Conference for Educational Coaches (CEC)! Join IDEA and fellow coaches for two days of in-person or online learning!

      But this was just a name change. It’s still the same fantastic conference offered by IDEA, in partnership with TCEA, for anyone and everyone who is leading professional development and/or coaching and supporting educators.

      To register, click HERE!

    • August 29, 2022 12:00 PM | Heather (Administrator)

      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, Vivo

      Vivo is an ergonomic office furniture brand that uses innovation, creativity, and efficiency to produce cost-effective products that anyone can enjoy without sacrificing quality. VIVO is committed to helping educators with products such as height adjustable desks, mobile workstations, IT mounting hardware, and unique student seating to assist in the classroom and throughout the school. VIVO’s products are proven to be reliable, affordable, and accessible. 

      VIVO products are a primary support of technology in educational settings, and they understand the importance of supporting all aspects of education from teachers to administrators to students. VIVO also proudly hires local high school students in their continuous work program that takes place during the summer and throughout the school year.

      Vivo believes that by delivering a wide variety of ergonomic furniture that is both high quality and cost-effective and that fits the unique educational setting, they can help improve the way people work.

      Vivo has a mission to build a brand known for innovation, integrity, and customer service that continues to give back in a BIG way. Build. Innovate. Give.

      Learn more about Vivo here!

    • June 23, 2022 9:22 AM | Ashley (Administrator)

      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 Innovation Association Partner, The Source for Learning!

      The Source for Learning is a nonprofit organization that is committed to exceptional teaching, learning, and professional growth. 

      Source of Learning’s K-12 service offerings include:

      • TEACHERSFIRST, a collection of free, teacher-reviewed, classroom-ready resources and professional learning offerings focused on edtech integration.

      • OK2ASK is a series of free, interactive virtual professional learning and development workshops for teachers at every technology comfort level. Led by experienced edtech coaches, workshops introduce ways to engage students with digital tools, explore student-centered pedagogical approaches to teaching with technology, and share strategies for implementing technology in a variety of learning environments.

      • OK2ASK TWITTER CHAT are live professional learning events designed to help educators learn how to participate in an educational Twitter chat through hands-on practice.

      • TEACHERSFIRST'S INFUSING TECHNOLOGY BLOG features posts written by veteran educators and technology coaches. Content includes lesson ideas, strategies for using edtech resources in the classroom, and ways to apply pedagogical frameworks to your teaching. 

      The Source for Learning’s mission is to create and deliver high-quality, technology-based content and services that enhance learning for all children, and to empower teachers, child care providers, and parents to support that learning. An important part of the mission is to increase access to our services for underserved children and adults.

      Check out more about The Source for Learning here

    • June 21, 2022 8:41 AM | Ashley (Administrator)

      Presenting at Conferences: 

      Why you should present at IDEAcon

      We sat down with two past IDEAcon presenters for their perspectives on the experience of presenting at a conference like IDEAcon. Would they present again? Keep reading to find out!

      There are many reasons why educators should attend a conference – to learn, find inspiration, and connect with others. 

      And that is just a handful of the reasons!

      Those benefits can be multiplied, though, when you not only attend a conference, but attend as a presenter! 

      Fun fact: Did you know that our brains learn information best when we know we’ll need to teach it later? 

      That means when you present and teach others, you are bettering yourself, too! 

      Don’t just take our word for it. We spoke with two past IDEAcon presenters about their experiences with the process. 

      Meet Matthew Tombs (IDEA member since 2015) and Abigail Kime (IDEA members since 2014).


      Matthew is the Director of Innovation and Technology for River Trails School District 26 in Mount Prospect. He first presented at IDEAcon in 2017.

      Abigail is the Director of Instructional Technology at a private high school. She first presented at IDEAcon in 2020. 

      See how they got involved and why. 

      Presenting at conferences leads to more connections

      Abigail submitted a proposal to present at IDEAcon after she completed her ISTE Certification with IDEA. 

      “One of the (ISTE) standards for educators is to actively participate in a local or global digital network. What better way to participate in my local network than to present at IDEAcon?” said Abigail. 

      Her first presentation was about planning for remote learning days. 

      “My school had just completed a plan to continue instruction on days when our building had to close due to inclement weather,” she said. “We had no idea the lockdown would occur a few weeks later.”

      For Abigail, presenting at IDEAcon has helped her expand her PLN in ways she hadn’t before as an attendee alone.

      “In my experience, presenting has led to more connections with educators than experiencing the conference as an attendee,” she said. 

      Building a professional learning network was one of the main reasons Matthew decided to submit a proposal to present at IDEAcon in 2017. 

      “I had just finished my first year as a Digital Learning Coach, and I believed strongly in sharing the work that we were doing in my district with the larger educational technology community,” he said. “I also wanted to build my PLN with other people in my field.”

      Amplify your learning (and others, too!)

      We all know you can learn a LOT at a conference. 

      And presenting allows you to learn on an entirely new level. 

      “I also love learning from all of the participants/attendees who have attended my presentation sessions,” said Matthew. 

      Beyond your own learning, IDEAcon provides you with an opportunity to share your knowledge and skills to help other districts and classrooms all over the Midwest. 

      “I think that everyone should take the opportunity to present at IDEAcon - it allows you to showcase your skills in the field and for others to learn from the amazing things you are doing,” said Matthew.

      Why YOU should present at IDEAcon, too!

      Both Abigail and Matthew have presented at IDEAcon multiple times. 

      The reason why?

      “Presenting at IDEAcon is great!” says Abigail. “It’s a very welcoming and collaborative environment.”

      And Matthew loves it so much that he has zero doubt he will present again in the future. 

      “I will ABSOLUTELY present again!” he says. “I strongly believe that everyone has their own skill set and unique abilities that others should hear about and learn from.”

      What are you waiting for? Submit a proposal today!

      You know you have ideas and skills to share. Help other districts learn from your experiences by presenting at IDEAcon 2023!

      Submitting a proposal is easy! Simply fill out this form before August 29, 2022

      The IDEAcon Conference Committee, IDEA Governing Board, and IDEA Team will blindly review all proposals and make selections on Selection Saturday in early September. 

      Selected presenters will be notified in September 2022. 

      And if you are selected, you’ll get free admission to IDEAcon on your presentation day!

      Learn more about the process here.

      Share with us!

      What topic do you want to present on at IDEAcon?

      Tell us by sharing on social media! Tag us @ideaillinois and use #IDEAcon!

    • June 08, 2022 1:55 PM | Ashley (Administrator)

      Why Focusing on Computer Literacy Is Key to Closing the Digital Divide

      By Rhys Jane

      The pandemic opened up many societal problems, and one of the most glaring ones is the digital divide. It limits earning, learning, and communication opportunities for those without access to the internet. Pew Research Center found that the percentage of Americans in each income tier who have smartphones and home broadband has not significantly changed – despite the pandemic increasing the need for more digital resources and access. They also highlighted how people with lower incomes are more likely to experience this divide since they don’t have the financial capacity to purchase tech products.

      Those without access to digital resources are being left behind. The need to address this gap is needed now more than ever as digitization is becoming a lifeline that provides opportunities for all citizens. But before talking about how people can close the digital divide, there is a need to discuss and explore what exactly the digital divide is.

      Understanding the Digital Divide

      The digital divide refers to the gap between populations that have access to modern technology and

      those that don’t. The term also includes the technical and financial ability to utilize the technology available. Moreover, it also encompasses the access, or the lack thereof, to the internet. This divide often exists between developing and developed countries. However, the urban-rural gap is usually what contributes to the digital divide.

      A professor from the University of Florida revisited the negative correlation between rurality and internet speed and found that this plays a part in the widening digital divide. This is supported by further studies from other institutions, with Maryville University citing digital divides, like geographical restrictions and the lack of physical access to technology, as factors that contribute to the problem. It's further explained that areas that lack infrastructure and have low economic development can’t support high-speed internet connections in the first place. In addition, low literacy levels are said to contribute to the divide since those with lower levels of education are less likely to access the internet and reap its benefits. The lack of access to technology also plays a key part because people who don’t have computers are disadvantaged in terms of developing the skills needed to use digital devices.

      Why Is Computer Literacy Important in Closing This Divide?

      Computer literacy is the understanding of the basic processes of computers and technology, and how people can utilize these processes. Having basic computer skills and knowledge of how technology works can help industries close the digital divide and create more opportunities for a diverse workforce.

      Computer literacy enriches people’s lives and creates a positive impact on their day-to-day lives. For instance, improving one’s technological skills can help people access information online about their health, education, and work. Having technological skills for creating spreadsheets, presentations, and basic word files can instantly lower technological constraints and improve people’s livelihoods.

      To do this, government policies must be implemented to advocate the importance of computer literacy. Having information centers and self-developing programs, like the digital literacy initiatives launched by the LINCS Learner Center, can help people gain the skills they need to use the technology. Training in the form of webinars, reading materials, and learning platforms will also be instrumental in bridging the digital divide. As we discussed in our blog post on ‘Season of Learning’, one of the pillars of IDEA is equity – and this means that we want innovative training to be accessible for everyone to have the chance to get the learning experience they deserve. To support this, infrastructures must be built so that people can have access to the internet wherever they are.

      People can bridge the digital divide through computer literacy. To do this, there must be equal access to technology and the internet for everyone. People should also be able to acquire knowledge of how technology works in training programs so that they can mitigate technological constraints and rise above digital illiteracy.

      Written by Rhys Jane

      Exclusively submitted to ideaillinois.org

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