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  • December 29, 2021 9:52 AM | Ashley

    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

    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

    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

    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

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

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

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

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

    Check out more about Book Creator here.

  • December 10, 2021 1:45 PM | Ashley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • December 08, 2021 8:06 AM | Ashley

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

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

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

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

    Skill Struck offers full K-12 computer science alignment. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Learn more about Skill Struck here.

  • December 07, 2021 2:45 PM | Ashley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Check out more about e2 Services here

  • December 07, 2021 9:04 AM | Ashley

    Capturing the Perfect Shot:

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

    By: Julie Powers, Business and Technology Teacher

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

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

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

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

  • December 07, 2021 8:41 AM | Ashley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Email: info@ideaillinois.org
Call: 630 628 1088

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