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  • June 23, 2022 9:22 AM | Ashley

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

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

    That is why we are thrilled to welcome our newest 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

    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

    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

  • May 10, 2022 2:58 PM | Ashley

     Season Of Learning

    By Lindsay Zilly

    Can you feel it? The shift in the air. The changeover of wardrobes. The buzz and excitement is nothing short of….

    Summer Pathways Program

    The IDEA team has been hard at work throughout this winter and spring season curating some phenomenal content for your summer learning pleasure. We are excited to announce three learning pathways have been added to our summer series. Why now? Well, we have been listening to YOU, the teachers in the classrooms who are shouldering the weight of the world. We have heard you loud and clear. You are looking forward to some R & R and are also searching once again for your why. It is with that in mind that we’ve created three different professional learning options: 

    • Micro PD

    • Workshops

    • Cohorts



    Our Why

    These last few years have been tough and the IDEA team would like to honor your feelings by helping reignite your passion for learning. So, we have designed the summer pathways program to help fit whatever learning adventure lies ahead for you. These personalized experiences have been designed with teachers at the heart of it. 


    Let’s Break It Down

    You may be asking yourself, what will I gain from these experiences? I’m so glad you asked. Let’s unpack what each offering has in store for you!

    • Micro PD: These sessions are designed to be quick, engaging learning experiences. They are asynchronous and help get learners familiarized with a particular content area. Once participants have established the prerequisite knowledge from the virtual sessions, we invite them to join a full day capstone event. The goal of the capstone is to work with leading experts in a particular area to create a dynamic toolkit, unique to your learners that you can use to help implement a topic of study in your classroom next year. Have a busy summer already? Our Micro PD’s are the perfect way to continue learning without overly committing.


    • Workshops:  One of the pillars of IDEA is equity. For us this is not only incredibly important but also needs to be consistent. Equity work to us means a great many things but in the case of our workshops it means equitable access to innovative and authentic training no matter where you are located in Illinois. We’ve worked with some powerhouse educators to create full day workshops that will come to YOU! Our traveling workshops will be hosted three times throughout the summer at a location in the Northern part of Illinois as well as Central and Southern Illinois as well. IDEA is committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make learning accessible and equitable for everyone!


    • Cohorts: Our cohorts are for those educators looking to stay connected and skip the summer slide this year. We have month long, asynchronous cohorts available focusing on various subject matters. The best thing about the cohort options is that it comes with an accountability group. Ideas are great, but they come to life when they are shared. We’ve partnered with some incredible educators to lead a variety of cohorts to help you continue your life long learning journey. 


    Who is this for?

    In case we haven’t gotten you hooked yet, we’ve done even more work to ensure you get the learning experience you deserve. In addition to taking into account time constraints, topics of interest and incredible facilitators, we’ve also aligned our professional learning offerings with the role you play in your school or district. We have specific pathways for teachers, coaches and administrators. You can take one based on your job or take them all! We understand that professional learning is a community effort and for it to work, we have to connect all the pieces together. 

    Call To Action

    With that being said, take the time for you this summer. That may mean closing your laptop and not opening it again until August (in that case, we will see you at idea U!). But if you are finding yourself in need of a reminder as to why you are a part of the greatest profession in the world, take a peek at some of the options awaiting you within IDEA’s summer pathways program.

    Whether it is attending a Wednesday Webinar, registering for a Wellness Event or starting a journey towards once again finding your why, we hope you find something here that feels right for you. As always, thank you for all that you do changemakers! 

  • March 31, 2022 1:42 PM | Ashley

    We are switching things up here at IDEA to give members like you a better experience!

    You’ve probably joined one of our webinars via Zoom at least once.

    Well, that is about to be a thing of the past. 

    Drum roll, please …

    This month we are switching to a new platform:Kino by Kinetx.

    All joking aside, we are pumped to be hosting our webinars on Kino - a proud IDEA partner.

    Kino offers exciting new features that make gathering online a more personal and enjoyable experience. 

    For example - when you separate into different rooms or groups, you can still hear background chatter from other groups, bringing that in-person element. 

    It also provides us with an extra layer of security. 

    Due to these extra security measures, if you plan to join us on one of our many webinars, you’ll need to create a free Kino account here.

    It’s super easy to create an account! Just click the “Sign Up” button in the top right corner of the website. Fill in your information, and you are all set! 

    We will also be live streaming our free webinars on our YouTube channel! Make sure you are subscribed to the IDEA YouTube channel so you’ll be notified anytime we go live.

    We will begin using Kino and live streaming on all free webinars after April 6. Click here for all of our upcoming events. 

    Questions? You can reach us at

  • March 04, 2022 10:48 AM | Ashley

    Mini Grant Winner story: Doodling. It’s Not Just “Kid-Stuff”

    By Janine Feil and Molly Siegel

    Three-dimensional design is a hot topic. Can we design something useful and functional? Can we create something artistic in 3D? Can we use technology in creative ways to express student views? Kids have great imaginations and given proper tools, they can truly innovate. Can we inspire our students to unleash their creativity in new ways? These big questions inspired the collaboration of school Art and Tech teachers to propose a grant for 3Doodler pens. We felt that infusing some tech into our Art room would allow us to meet both Art and Technology teaching standards while boosting the creativity and enjoyment of our students.

    Our art program at Ivy Hill incorporates TAB art methodology (Teaching Artistic Behavior) which allows for students to experiment, choose media and themes for their own art projects. This freedom of choice in materials is one piece of the design process where collaboration was able to give students a taste of STEAM in their art class. Having 3Doodlers is a perfect media for our 5th graders to experiment with and later move onto really impressive personal art pieces ranging from Sponge Bob to geometric earrings to cubes!

    We introduced the 3 Doodler pens with some general instructions on care and use and then let students explore. We could immediately see the excitement in many students at the opportunity to work with a new medium. Students doodled, constructed, and designed. Some tried writing words, some made earrings and some started sculpting. It was powerful to watch the problem-solving process evolve in an authentic setting. One student was working on making a nameplate and had to figure out the best way to support it into a standing position. Another worked on a 3D cube and had to adjust angles and determine how best to connect the sides. This is tinkering at it’s finest.

    It took most students a while to get used to figuring out the most effective grip to use while creating with the doodler. They also learned to make adjustments in manipulating and ending a strand of doodler plastic, since a little extra “string” of run-off happens when you turn off the pen. Students truly figured out things by trial and error fairly quickly. Many students shined through big time with this media, students who haven’t with other media introduced in the art room.

    It’s been rejuvenating to see students excited about trying out something new. Most kids naturally want to try new things which we love to see. The 3Doodler has definitely expanded our art studio to new possibilities and lots of creative, fun energy! 

    We would be remiss if we did not include a couple of tips for care and feeding of your 3Doodlers. We have the Start model, which is recommended for ages 6-13. They are cool to the touch, eliminating the chance of burning skin. Even the extruded plastic is only warm, not hot.

    We highly recommend writing on the device with Sharpie which color will be used with each pen. It helps keep the color of pens even and it is much easier to know which color is loaded in which pen. Also, charging after each use has been helpful. The batteries last well for our 1 hour art classes and getting into that routine of charging when done using them makes sure that they are ready to go for the next class.

    The 3D doodler pens are a big hit with our 5th graders and we can’t wait to introduce them to younger artists! We also hope to incorporate other STEAM elements into our Art studio and can’t wait to see what our students will create next.

  • January 26, 2022 8:11 AM | Ashley

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

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

    That is why we are thrilled to welcome our newest Silver Partner, Wakelet!

    Wakelet is a free to use content curation platform that allows you to save, organize, present and share all kinds of online content into visual, engaging collections. It supports independent learning, group based learning, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and digital citizenship.

    Wakelet allows educators to create visual, engaging learning environments for their students, classes, and communities. Educators across the world are using Wakelet to organize, create and share resources, lesson plans, presentations, newsletters, digital storytelling assignments, online portfolios, journals and much more! The flexibility and usefulness of the platform provides for some of the most creative, engaging, and memorable learning experiences that can be had both inside and outside the classroom. Wakelet integrates with all of your favorite tech tools, so educators quickly find Wakelet becoming an essential part of their workflow!

    Check out more about Wakelet here

  • January 25, 2022 2:35 PM | Ashley

    Calling all leaders in Illinois education!

    We are looking for passionate educators who are looking for a fun and exciting leadership opportunity with a growing organization. 

    Is that you?

    If you answered, “HECK, YEAH!”, we encourage you to consider joining the IDEA board. 

    Nominations for IDEA Executive Board and Governing Board are currently open. These positions include:

    Executive Board:

    • Incoming President (serves a 3-year term to include Incoming President/President/Immediate Past President)

    • Secretary (serves a 2-year term)

    • Treasurer (serves a 2-year term)

    Governing Board:

    • Regional chapter positions

    • Member-at-large 

    Learn more about each position with our detailed job descriptions

    Click here to submit a nomination form today or forward it to someone you know that would be a good fit. 

    Board nominations are due March 13, 2022. These nominations will be put on a ballot and sent to the entire IDEA membership for a vote.

    Elected members will be announced at the annual meeting on April 16, 2022, and terms will begin July 1, 2022. For a full overview of the nomination, click here

    Please consider reviewing the following before submitting your nomination:


    We hope you will consider joining our team of passionate educators who thrive to uphold the IDEA mission: To inspire, connect and provide the educational community with opportunities that transform teaching and learning through technology.

    Click here to learn more about IDEA and here to submit your nomination form. 

  • January 18, 2022 4:29 PM | Ashley

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

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

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

    CSTA creates high-quality, community-centric, equitable programs that help K-12 teachers instruct CS more effectively. CSTA does this by building community, delivering high-quality professional learning, and leading as an independent voice for teachers. 

    CSTA believes every student should have access to a high-quality CS education, which starts with effective CS teachers.

    More about CSTA:

    • BUILDING COMMUNITY: We build strong communities for members to learn with peers and develop their professional identities.

    • ONGOING PD: CSTA provides CS teachers with career-long, professional learning programs.

    • PROVIDING INDEPENDENT GUIDANCE: CSTA agnostically reviews curriculum and offers standards alignment. We also recognize the important accomplishments of teachers and students.

    Check out more about CSTA here.
  • January 18, 2022 4:26 PM | Ashley

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

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

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

    Whether your objective is to boost test scores, raise graduation rates, implement personalized learning, or improve college and career readiness, a partnership with Edmentum means access to a team of education technology professionals committed to making sure your investment enhances student achievement.

    More about Edmentum: 

    At Edmentum, a single mission guides and inspires us as it defines our core purpose and the contribution we make to society: Founded in innovation, we are committed to being educators' most trusted partner in creating successful student outcomes everywhere learning occurs. 

    At Edmentum, we are a team committed to being educators' most trusted partner in creating successful student outcomes everywhere learning occurs. 

    Check out more about Edmentum here.

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