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  • January 12, 2022 8:23 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 back as a Silver Partner, BitSpace!

    BitSpace runs after-school programs and summer camps with a focus on design and engineering. BitSpace also provides curriculum for teachers including kits to run maker programs of their own. This awesome company also designs and builds maker spaces for schools. 

    For Parents:

    BitSpace’s hands-on learning programs are designed to unlock your child’s creativity, ramp up their problem-solving skills and develop a “can-do” attitude. Some programs are delivered remotely while others are in person (with safety measures in place).

    For Teachers:

    Earn professional development hours while bringing the joy of hands-on learning to your classroom. BitSpace’s courses are taught by master teachers who are in the trenches themselves, so you’re sure to learn ONLY practical, classroom-tested strategies

    For Schools: 

    If you’re looking to transform an underutilized space in your school to maximize learning, we’ve got you covered! You can either purchase modular furniture ala-carte or hire us to build your makerspace from scratch through our Design & Build service.

    Check out more about BitSpace here

    Be sure to come see BitSpace at IDEAcon 2022! They have an insanely cool setup: Here is a sneak peek:

  • January 11, 2022 11:41 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 back as a Bronze Partner, Tynker!

    Tynker is the world’s leading K-12 creative coding platform, enabling students of all ages to develop the coding skills to design and power animations, games, music, robots and drones, smart devices, virtual worlds like Minecraft, and more. The company’s award-winning platform helps kids engage at home, school, and on the go, while developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and programming skills to help them be successful today and tomorrow. 

    Tynker’s highly successful coding curriculum has been used by one in three U.S. K-8 schools, 90,000 schools globally, and over 60 million kids across 150 countries. Tynker’s partners include some of the world’s most respected brands, including Apple, BBC Learning, Google, Microsoft, Mattel, PBS, Lego, NASA, and more. 

    Tynker is accessible from any computer with an internet browser, as well as via the Tynker and Tynker Junior mobile apps, and offers both free and paid subscription options. Check out more about Tynker here

  • January 10, 2022 8:28 AM | Ashley (Administrator)

    Breaking Out of My School Box

    By:  Joy Kirr

    Take care of yourself… Make time for self care… Educators are constantly being told to do this - as if we didn’t already know. Um… Really? If we weren’t able to take care of ourselves last year, we wouldn’t still be in this profession this year.

    So, really, make time for an educational conference? I’m trying to take care of myself. I’m trying to have time for ME. Make sub plans for the day(s) I want to go? Even if I’ve gone practically every other year, I’m trying to not add more to my plate. I’m learning how to say NO. I’m trying to do LESS. If you’ve never been to the IDEA conference (IDEAcon), I can totally understand the doubt about attending this year. I’ve been there - I’ve said no to many opportunities this past year. But will I, personally, attend IDEAcon this year? Yes. Yes! I will make the time, and I will create the sub plans, so I can attend this particular conference. Heading to the IDEA conference IS “self care” for me. Let me tell you why…

    I teach in a building - much like a box. My classroom is a box inside a larger box. In my little box, I am surrounded by (mostly) smaller people (13-year-olds) coming in and out, needing me to be there for them - needing me to be my best. Sometimes I move to other boxes within the large box, for lunch, or for a meeting, and then I get in my vehicle and zip home. 

    This means I talk to the same people every day. I’ve got a great team of teachers I work with, and this school year is much better than last year when it comes to consistency. However, this year teachers (I’m no exception) have different issues we’re dealing with, and even though we always try our best, it’s still a huge strain on our minds and bodies. I keep checking the calendar to see how much we have left, and I’m against countdowns! Even though I love so many aspects of the job… even though I have a lot of autonomy in my little box… even though I learned so much last year about how to stay mentally healthy… I keep bugging my husband to rethink when it’s my time to retire.

    So how will heading to IDEAcon help ME? How is it that I can consider this “self-care?” It’s all about my surroundings… 

    Every year I’ve attended IDEAcon, I’m surrounded by educators who are in the same storm as me. They come from their own boxes within boxes. They’ve gone through similar hardships and have tried different solutions I haven’t yet heard of. The educators that attend are searching for - and open to - new ideas. They bring ideas they probably think aren’t the best, but many of them are better than any I’ve tried. We have time to share with each other and to ask questions. We make time to build on each other’s ideas, and it’s typical that I come back with a few gems to share with those who stayed in my building and couldn’t make this conference. These ideas are then spread throughout my setting, and voila! Many of us are rejuvenated or further inspired! 

    As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of the lightbulb icon for this conference - the switch is turned back on, and the electricity gets flowing once again. Inspiration has nestled into the neurons of the brain, and once it’s shared back in my school box, the ideas grow, morph, and infect more minds with more possibilities. 

    Inspiration may come from one of the large keynote sessions that make me feel like I’m where I belong. There is often a message in this presentation that makes me feel seen; my feelings are validated. I feel supported by those around me.

    Inspiration could come from one of the smaller sessions that seem to be tailored just for ME. These educators respond to a need I have. They often provide a very specific activity to take back with me for the very next week with my students.

    And then there are the hallway “sessions.” When you meet an educator friend you’ve only met on Twitter. When you stop for a second, say hello, and then find yourself eating a quick snack on the hallway floor with this person, and you feel like you’ve known them your entire life. They don’t live too far away, and you end up setting a date for a drink next month to discuss this great idea you two just started to develop.

    I’ve been to this conference when it was called the ICE Conference - many times. I’ve presented, I’ve been a “spotlight speaker” (full of nerves), and I’ve taken many selfies with those educators I admire. I’m looking forward to taking them in masks this year - something different for the scrapbook! After a year off, I’m heading back. I’m presenting a session, and I bet I’ll learn something from someone who attends, as I usually do. If nothing else, I’ll enjoy hearing stories from educators in other school boxes - we’ll be breaking down the walls that separate us. We’ll be lifting each other’s spirits, and that has got to count for something during our second February of a pandemic. 

    Take care of yourself… Make time for self care…  One way I’ll be doing that this year is to attend IDEAcon. If you see me, stop for a selfie! Is it really called a “selfie” when it’s two or more people? I’m sure someone at IDEAcon has heard another term for it that I’ll be using soon…

    Click here to register for IDEAcon. I can't wait to see you there!

    Joy Kirr is a 7th grade ELA teacher in her 27th year of teaching, and the author of the books Shift This! How to Implement Gradual Changes for Massive Impact in Your Classroom, and Word Shift: A Different Kind of Dictionary for Educators to Nullify Negativity and Promote Positivity in Schools. She is passionate about students owning their own learning, and has even gone so far as to be the first at her school to try learning without using points. She enjoys being known as a “Genius Hour Evangelist,” and is grateful for how her students have stepped up their learning while giving and receiving feedback in lieu of grades.

  • December 29, 2021 9:52 AM | Ashley (Administrator)

    January is a time to reflect. And as we do, we have seen just how much we learned in 2021. 

    Many of this life-long learning light bulb moments came from the IDEA blog. 

    Some of our favorite blogs were our guest posts from amazing educators like YOU!

    The ETwinz taught us about podcasting and gave a sneak peek into their IDEAcon 2022 sessions.

    Jennifer Waldvogel showed us how powerful dialogue can be and how it is different from debate and discussion. 

    And Teresa Engler demonstrated how you can work smarter not harder when it comes to classroom management

    But what resonated with you the most? 

    We took some time to look at the data. And thanks to Google Analytics, we pulled the top 3 IDEA blogs of 2021 based on views.

    Without further ado, here they are:

    1. Let Your Voice Be Heard: Illinois Learning Standards for Computer Science Update

      It was a big year of standard updates in Illinois. A major one was the computer science standards.

      We vow to continue to be a resource to you in this area. IDEA is 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 in 2022!

    2. Raise your hand if you’re a teacher-mom!

      This one was written by IDEA’s very own Lindsay Zilly! Lindsay writes this from her point of view as a mom and educator. It’s raw, personal, and hits many of the emotions a lot of parents and educators are feeling. 

      If you missed it - check it out! And don’t worry - we will have more awesome content from Lindsay in 2022.

    3. 3 Reasons to Attend IDEAcon 2022

      IDEA’s IDEAcon Conference Coordinator David Chan put together this article all about IDEAcon! It’s clear David has a passion for this event - and he is not alone!

      Will you be joining us in February? It’s not too late to register! Click here for the 3 reasons to attend, and check out the IDEAcon website to learn more and register today!

    Call to action:

    Have you taken time this month to reflect on 2021? What did you learn and what do you hope to learn in 2022?

  • December 22, 2021 11:48 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 Gold Partner, DoIT - ICN!

    The ICN is managed by the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT) and functions as a state-wide communications network serving K-12 schools, higher education, libraries, museums and local and state government. See www.illinois.net for more information about ICN and our services.

    Illinois K-12 Broadband Network Initiative - Secure Internet access for all Illinois Public K-12 schools at no cost.

    This program removes barriers limiting access to  secure Internet bandwidth essential in today’s digital  learning environment. The key objective is to ensure every Illinois K-12  public school has sufficient and secure Internet access/services to meet the needs of their students, faculty,  and administration at no cost.

    Click here to learn more about DoIT - ICN. 

  • December 22, 2021 8:39 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 back as a Platinum Partner, Microsoft!

    Microsoft is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In education, it’s to empower every student. We believe limitless potential is within every student, every educator, every school. Together we can unlock this potential by providing technology that empowers educators and inspires students. 

    Be sure to say hi to Microsoft and listen to their sessions at IDEAcon this February! Click here to register for IDEAcon. 

    Check out more about Microsoft here

  • December 21, 2021 9:29 AM | Ashley (Administrator)

    What To Do With An Idea

    Taking professional learning to practice.

    By: Kim Darche and Lindsay Zilly

    Do you ever get knocked sideways by an idea at an inconvenient time and think to yourself, “this is such a good idea, I’ll totally remember it,” so you don’t do anything with it at the time? And then it’s gone forever?

    via GIPHY

    BUT, if you did do that, that would be bad. Many times we experience these “light bulb moments” during professional learning at conferences or other immersive events that tend to be jam packed with amazing things. Then we often experience daily overwhelm where we just crash at the end of the day, forgetting to recap, reflect or close the loop on our fresh new ideas. It’s there where ideas go to die. So, as we prepare for IDEAcon 2022, let’s unpack some ways to answer the question: what should I do with an idea?


    The Dip

    The number of times I am at some sort of stellar workshop or I see an idea on Twitter or Tik Tok and I am out of the gate like a thoroughbred ready to reach the finish line. The plans are taking shape: Started a Doc, talked about what it will look like, bragged about how great it will be, thought about all I will need, began to …. And yep, you guessed it, I fall into the Dip. Seth Godin speaks of the Dip in great length. The times when the work is hard and the result is seemingly non-existent. 

    And before I know it, the most awesome, amazing, incredible, transformation idea of all education has dissolved into the depths of my Google Drive. 

    Um.. ok. So now I had to discover how to get out of the Dip.

    1: Recognize it. Understand it is a natural part of the process. 

    2: Work in spurts to try to make it exceptional. Trying to make it exceptional will fuel your passion. 

    3: Take a chance and do something completely unexpected in your quest. It might fail but heck it just might work. 

    4: Talk about your project with others. Have your people in place to ask you how it is going, to take the leap with you, 

    Building Better Habits

    In 2016 I attended one of my first conferences as an instructional coach. It was a turning point for me, because the lens I was now looking through shifted from that of my classroom, to that of my teachers. So it was then that I decided to try something new: sketchnoting. I wanted to test out a new strategy so that I could share authentic feedback about it with my teachers. During every session I drew out my notes on my iPad. I took pictures of important links or other necessary information but I sketched all of my ideas. And you know what? It worked! I actually used my notes. I reflected on them during the conference and even went back to them after. 

    Let me just take a moment to add a general disclaimer: my first sketchnotes were nothing to write home about. They weren’t pretty, but they worked!  

    I was then able to bring back the concept to my teachers who then brought it back to their students. Why does this matter? Sketchnoting became a habit for me that allowed me time to ideate and reflect on my learning at conferences. In addition, I started to get better at it and then was able to share my sketches via social media which then connected me to other people, who iterated on my ideas or shared their thinking with me. This chain reaction helped me stretch my practice further than I ever thought possible.

    The point is, you have to develop a habit that allows you to reflect on your ideas and make your thinking visible. Looking back on my past sketchnotes, I’m able to not only relive the experiences, but also see how the experiences helped shape who I am today. But, sketchnoting isn’t the only way to do this. Here are some other ideas for building better habits with professional learning. 


    Taking Professional Learning to Practice

    Lies I’ve told myself:

    • “I’ve written that down and I’ll totally try it out, when things slow down.”

    • “I’m definitely going to use that next year.”

    • “I’m not good at _____. It’s just not in my wheelhouse.”

    • “My students will learn that from the media specialist/social worker/next year’s teacher.”


    Overcoming Lie #1 & 2: Just like with anything, if you don’t use it, you lose it. When it comes to our students we know that it’s not enough for them to simply hear us talk about new content. They have to do something with it, and right away. Well, the same is true for us. If you consider yourself a life long learner, which I’m confident you do, then you have to think from the perspective of a learner when you attend any type of professional learning at all. When a new idea is introduced, find some tiny way to use it the very next day. It may be a total flop, or it may just transform teaching and learning for you. I presented at a small conference this week and ran into some former colleagues of mine who graciously attended my session. As I was teaching a micro strategy about leveraging what’s trending with our middle schoolers to enhance our lessons, I knew instantly that my friends were going to take the information I shared and use it the very next day. And sure enough, the next day I was tagged in this tweet:

    How did I know this? These teachers always approach PD with an open mind. They make room for teachable moments in their daily lessons and they fail forward. I love the risks they take and model for their students to take too!

    Overcoming Lie #3: How often do you hear adults say they can’t read? Like, never, right? That’s because we live in a society where reading is just a skill everyone needs to possess. It isn’t optional. Yet, how many times will people willingly admit they aren’t artistic or “good with technology”? The number of times I’ve openly admitted that I’m not good at math, is well, probably a very large number. It’s not looked upon the same way reading is. It’s socially acceptable to admit that we aren’t tech savvy or creative. To be able to let professional learning experiences impact you, you have to adopt a mindset where admitting that you aren’t good at something, isn’t an option. I’ve started to say, sometimes math is hard for me instead of I’m not good at math. It’s tiny, incremental, mindset shifts like this that allow us to fully see and inevitably reach our potential. 

    In my previous example of taking something from PD and using it the next day, the “thing” that was brought back to the classroom was beat boxing. How many teachers do you know that can say, “fun fact about me, I can beat box!” Not very many. However, you’ll never know it until you try it. And by trying it you show your students you are willing to be vulnerable for them and in turn they feel safer to be vulnerable for you.

    Overcoming Lie #4: We don’t teach content, we teach kids. Telling ourselves that a certain topic is someone else’s responsibility doesn’t actually take something off of our plate. Take for example media literacy. If you are asking your students to use any type of technology to create, collaborate, communicate or critically think then you are going to want students who can navigate the interwebs well. While online, you’re going to want them to analyze the content they have access to and choose what is reliable and what is simply fluff. You are also going to want students to understand the permanency of their posts when engaging in an online learning environment like Google Classroom. So while the idea of digital citizenship and media literacy may seem like a standard that should be taught in a specialized class, they really are topics that should be embedded throughout all the work we do with students. We have to teach the whole child, not just the parts that are aligned to a handful of standards.  

    Now, this may seem daunting and “one more thing” that you now have to think about. However, investment in these sorts of concepts early on allows you to have greater autonomy over your class throughout the remainder of the school year. Also, lean into those experts in the building that can co-teach and help support your lessons in your classroom. There is no one way to do this kind of work!

    Big Takeaway: Commit to the fact that your idea will not fly before the attempt. Nevertheless, you’ve got this!


    Call To Action

    What do you do with an idea? Let’s talk about the next step. You may have thought to yourself, “This is great! I am going to try this right away.” and that makes us so happy. But, remember that dip we talked about earlier? Let’s see if we can navigate past that bad boy and find our way to an action plan. To help you do this, we’ve created an IDEAcon Toolkit to help you pre, during and post conference. It’s actually relevant for any type of professional learning you encounter. So, pick one thing, just one, and try it  out. We can’t wait to see what you do with your ideas!

    Learn more about iDEAcon and register for this year's conference here

  • December 14, 2021 7:53 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 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 (Administrator)

    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 (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 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.

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Call: 630 628 1088

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Joliet, Illinois 60436

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