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  • December 01, 2021 2:38 PM | Ashley

    Walking the Talk: The Power of Dialogue

    by Jennifer Waldvogel

    Ever experience one of those ‘aha’ moments that leaves you wondering how you survived without this POV? Like the first time you sipped a great cup of coffee or sat in the good seats at a sporting event, once you’ve experienced the breakthrough, there’s no going back to ordinary life. 

    As a teacher, that ‘aha’ moment was when I let go of conversation control, and dove into dialogue.

    The Gift of Vulnerability

    Twenty-seven students gathered in a large circle on my classroom floor, cool tile grounding the conversation we were about to have. Twenty-seven faces stared back at their English teacher. 

    “Today, we’re going to practice feeling vulnerable.” 

    Instantly, I could feel my students' nervousness. Vulnerable is an uncomfortable word, especially when you’re seventeen years old, surrounded by peers. But my students were also curious, and I was banking on that. 

    “We’ve been talking about the human condition. About the feelings and experiences we share as human beings. And today, we focus on vulnerability.” 

    I reached behind me for a clear Ziplock bag full of tiny strips of paper. “This bag is full of personal questions.” I paused, smiling at them, “Not deep, dark, secret kind of questions.” A few laughed, but they were hardly sold on the idea: they needed to see what this was all about. “These questions are just about you, about what you think and what you like. We’re each going to draw a question from the bag, read it aloud, and answer. You can pass once, but we’ll come back to you. I’m here with you, part of the group, and I’ll go first.”

    That day in class, we focused on one person at a time. In our circle, we could see everyone and our conversation was a single thread. We discovered one another’s interests, friendships, and habits. We became closer as a classroom community. But we couldn’t have this conversation on the first day of class. And we couldn’t have it all without first building trust. 

    In the next few weeks of our World Literature class, we got to the good stuff, sharing thoughts about the big picture questions with no answers: What is truth? What is fair? What is beauty? I realized how much more exciting it was to watch my students in open dialogue than a carefully facilitated discussion. In that moment, I became a believer: in the battle between Dialogue and Discussion, dialogue is definitely the way to go.  

    Why should we engage our students and colleagues in close, connective conversations? Conversations like the one we had on the classroom floor are the avenue to dialogue, and dialogue is the ultimate goal for truly transformative communication.

    The Case for Dialogue

    Educators are strong discussion leaders. We know how to create engaging questions, connect students’ comments to one another, and keep a discussion rolling. But, do we offer our students enough chances to dialogue? As a high school literature teacher, all too often the talk in my class was a discussion with pre-determined questions and revelations to uncover. Our discussions had a goal, and in the name of text understanding, that was valuable, but if I wanted the learning to transform my students’ view of themselves and the world, what I really wanted was dialogue.                                    

    *Image courtesy of Sustained Dialogue Institute

    Dialogue is open-ended. Dialogue seeks understanding without conclusion. Dialogue is a space to learn about those engaged in the dialogue, not just the text or idea behind the speakers. 

    Unlike debate, [dialogue] doesn't involve arguing for a point of view, defending a set of assumptions, or critiquing the positions of others. Unlike negotiation or consensus-building, it's not a method of reaching agreement or arriving at decisions. And unlike discussion, it can only emerge when participants trust and respect each other, suspend their judgments, and listen deeply to all points of view. (Scott London, 2021)

    Setting the Stage for Dialogue

    Good dialogue requires a layer of trust among participants. We can help our students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings by starting with activities to help them clarify their values. As they learn about themselves, invite them to share small revelations with their peers: first in partners, then small groups. 

    In our World Literature class, we started the semester with an Ideology Survey,  began each class period with a Self-Awareness Journal Prompt, and just before our dialogue about aspects of the human condition, we engaged in the Johari Window. Practicing reflection was building the foundation we needed for the dialogue on the horizon. No matter how young our students are, they have the ability to uncover what is important to them, and practice sharing their opinions with peers, especially when we guide them through that journey. These reflective practices set the stage for the empathy and openness we need to engage in dialogue. 

    During the Dialogue

    That dreaded silence: watching students squirm under the weight of a conversation dead stop can be hard, but we can help them work their way through this without taking the lead. One technique that fuels dialogue is reflexive noticing. Anna Pauliina Rainio & Riikka Hofmann (2021) describe reflexive noticing as speech actions that avoid immediate closure, sustaining a puzzle, reflecting on it and connecting it to a need to change, in this way creating ‘a sense of the possible’” . We can help our students practice reflexive noticing during dialogue by first modeling this in our facilitated, whole-class discussions. When we repeat students’ comments that offer openness to a new idea, we bring attention to the value of open mindedness. Even the tiniest comment of wonderment or curiosity by a student can spark a connection among their peers and a feeling of “being seen”. After modeling in a whole group, allow students to practice reflective noticing in small groups. Start with sentence stems to help them find their words, encouraging students to slow down and really think about what their peers are saying. Listening and connecting are the goals, not arriving at a conclusion. 

    During a dialogue, interject when students need a reminder that every issue has multiple sides and every classroom includes multiple perspectives. A single individual can hold multiple perspectives. As facilitators, we can switch our role from discussion leader to dialogue supporter, giving students the reins for talk that focuses on making connections and arriving at a greater understanding of one another.

    The Takeaway

    Dialogue isn’t just for our students. Dialogue is for ourselves. Whether our role is in the classroom, in the school, or at the district level, dialogue has the power to break down barriers and bring people together. In the divisiveness of today, I can’t think of anything better than conversation meant simply for understanding.


    Anna Pauliina Rainio & Riikka Hofmann (2021) Teacher professional dialogues during a school intervention: From stabilization to possibility discourse through reflexive noticing, Journal of the Learning Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/10508406.2021.1936532

    Illinois Literary in Action (2016).  Collaborative conversation suggestions & sentence stems. ISBE speaking & listening kit. 

    Johari window model. November 2021.

    Scott London (2021) The power of dialogue: Creating common meaning and purpose. Scott.London. 

    About the Author: 

    Jennifer Waldvogel is an NBCT who spent over a decade teaching ELA in Yorkville Y115 before shifting into the role of Teacher on Special Assignment for Technology Integration. This is Jen’s 5th year as a TOSA, working alongside students, teachers, school & district leaders to guide blended programming, design professional development, and coach personalized instruction. Jen loves hiking, foodie adventures, Key West, and music you can dance to. Writing is her favorite hobby. Jen is also a published author who blogs about life and career at You can find her on Facebook (JenniferWaldvogelAuthor) and Instagram (@Jennifer_Waldvogel_Author).

  • November 29, 2021 2:40 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 Silver Partner, Rival5 Technologies!

    Rival5 Technologies Corporation "Rival5" is a Mokena, Illinois, based company that specializes in Managed Cloud Communications solutions. Since founding in 2011, Rival5 has partnered with a variety of businesses, healthcare facilities, educational institutions, and other entities to change the way they communicate.

    Rival5’s turnkey approach relieves the stress that comes with managing complex telecommunication solutions -- allowing organizations to focus on what they do best.

    Rival5 provides telecom and phone services to a variety of education-oriented bodies, including higher education, K-12, and parochial institutions. Rival5 offers desktop phones, web portal access, and mobile apps to allow teachers, administrators, and other staff to stay in touch with their students, parents, staff, and community.

    Check out more about Rival5 Technologies here.

  • November 17, 2021 3:36 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 Silver Partner, WeVideo

    WeVideo is the essential creative app that drives deeper learning and student engagement. With WeVideo, teachers can create engaging content while helping students deepen their own knowledge through the creative process.

    WeVideo gives teachers practical, fun, and effective teaching tools. Teachers can create multimedia content tailored to their lessons, assess student learning within the app, and foster connections in any learning setting.

    Easy to deploy and completely cloud-based, WeVideo helps districts of all sizes meet their goals. Compatible with your existing tech, WeVideo drives deeper learning and engagement across grade levels and subjects.

    WeVideo is on a mission to empower students to discover their voice and make an impact in the world. By using multimedia in the classroom, students develop collaboration, critical thinking, creative and problem-solving skills.

    Learn more about WeVideo here.

  • November 17, 2021 1:55 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 Bronze Partner, SMART Technologies!

    SMART hardware and software solutions are purpose-built for creating inspiring classroom experiences. Between high-quality interactive displays and software that helps instructors create engaging lessons, SMART products are easy to deploy, support, and are engineered for the simplicity that educators want.

    SMART's mission is to provide simple, intuitive and connected solutions to help customers inspire greatness in themselves, and the students, colleagues and teams they interact with. SMART solutions improve student engagement, performance and learning experiences through interactive displays for education, and easy-to-use education software that saves teachers time.

    Check out more about SMART Technologies here.

  • November 17, 2021 1:52 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 Bronze Partner, EVERFI!

    EVERFI helps teachers, schools, and districts bring real-world skills to students. We offer supplemental lessons for grades K-12 in Financial Education, Social-Emotional Learning, College/Career Readiness, STEM, Early Learning, and Health & Wellness. All of our courses are offered to the K12 network at no cost through different partnerships. EVERFI offers support through our local implementation team, from one on one trainings to district level PD's we are here to help support our teachers.

    Doing Education Differently…

    To us, digital learning isn’t just about realizing your potential—it’s about maximizing it. With our scalable learning solutions, we’re empowering organizations everywhere to instill knowledge around critical topics in the classroom, in the office and in the community. Together, we’re connecting education to the real world and opening new doors of opportunity for all.

    Check out more about EVERFI here.

  • November 11, 2021 10:03 AM | Ashley

    We’ve talked about our IDEAcon Thought Leaders who are focused on STEAM and DEI

    Now it is time for our thought leaders in SEL and digital literacy to shine! Although these themes are highlighted on Day 1 and 2, respectively, you’ll see these themes throughout the conference. 

    Click here to see the full session schedule. 

    Social Emotional Learning: Teaching is a Work of Heart!

    We know teaching is a work of heart! That is why teacher wellness is an important initiative at IDEA. Our thought leaders on this topic will help give you practical ways to implement SEL into your classroom. 

    Here are our thought leaders who will be presenting on SEL: 

    Evan Whitehead

    Evan was a thought leader for us this summer at ideaU. We are so excited to have him back for IDEAcon 2022! He will be presenting two sessions on Day 3 of IDEAcon. 

    Here is a sneak peek of the titles: 

    • Mental Health, Mindset, and Mindfulness and the Three Bs "Balance, Boundaries, and Breaks"

    • Prioritizing your Mental Health and Well Being: It's ok to be SELfish in order to be SELFless for others you serve"

    Evan also weaves in themes of DEI in his presentation as well, as he is a leader in education equity. Who else is excited for his sessions?!

    Courtney Orzel

    Dr. Courtney Orzel is the Associate Director for Professional Development for the Illinois Association of School Administrators. 

    She is giving three sessions on Day 1 of IDEAcon, and we can’t decide which one we are more excited for! 

    Check them out:

    • Are you REALLY INCLUSIVE in your School District? 

    • All Women are Leaders: Embracing Women in Leadership 

    • Re-Finding Your WHY

    Dr. Orzel has been honored with recognition from the AASA as a finalist for the national Women in Leadership Award in February of 2019 and has led the IASA SuperWomen initiative in support of women in leadership. She was named IASA’s South Cook Superintendent of Distinction in 2020 and has led hundreds of workshops, keynotes, administrators' academies and podcasts.

    Learn more about Courtney here

    Alberto and Mario Herraez Velazuez (The eTwinz) 

    Alberto and Mario are speaking on Day 1 and 2 of IDEAcon - with three sessions each day. They will be focused on SEL AND Digital Literacy! 

    Known as the eTwinz, Alberto and Mario are award-winning educators and international speakers originally from Spain that moved to Utah several years ago to teach 5th and 6th grade in a Spanish Immersion School. The eTwinz have presented in many conferences and events around the world sharing their expertise to help teachers transform their practice. The eTwinz were included in the "Top ten North America education influencers" by T4 Education and in the "30 K-12 IT Influencers to follow in 2021” by the EdTech Magazine. 

    Here is a sneak peek of their sessions:

    • The Power of Technology to Enhance Social and Emotional Learning

    • Fostering Self-Regulation Skills and Personalized Learning in Your Classroom

    • Every emotion matters: First steps to apply a SEL Program in your school

    • No more walls in your classroom: The Power of Global Collaboration

    • Learning by doing: Podcasting in your classroom

    • Junior movie directors: Filmmaking activities to enhance learning

    Learn more about the eTwinz on their website here, and check out the blog they did for IDEA all about podcasting here.

    Ali Hearn

    Ali is a national speaker, trainer, and coach. She loves igniting and shifting minds, while helping create ah-ha’s and ha-ha’s that lead to change and improved outcomes.

    Ali will be joining us on Day 1 of IDEAcon. She is hosting two breakout sessions and also a recorded session for those joining us virtually. 

    Learn more about Ali here

    Tell Your Story: Digital Literacy 

    Day 2 is dedicated to digital literacy and telling YOUR story! We are so excited to have a couple of amazing thought leaders diving deep into this topic. 

    Katherine Cho

    Kat Cho, a bestselling author of young adult fiction, is the IDEAcon keynote speaker for Day 2!

    Her session has a DEI undertone, with her keynote topic being on “Diversity in KidLit.” She will also host a Q&A session where you can ask her all your burning questions! 

    Kat is the co-host of the Write or Die Podcast, a podcast that interviews authors about the struggles of getting published and maintaining an author career with a focus on spotlighting as many diverse creators as possible. Kat and her books have been featured in Entertainment Weekly, NBC, Refinery 29, and Seventeen.

    Kerry Magro

    Hailing from New Jersey, Dr. Kerry Magro is an award-winning autistic professional speaker, best-selling author and autism consultant to the HBO series Mrs. Fletcher that aired in Fall 2019. 

    Kerry is presenting on Day 2 of IDEAcon, with a session titled, “Defining Special Needs: From Nonspeaking to Doctor in Education.” Kerry is an inspiring voice, and you won’t want to miss his session.

    Kerry has spoken at over 1,000 events, including two TEDxTalks and a 'Talks at Google' presentation. He is CEO & President of KFM Making A Difference, a nonprofit organization that hosts inclusion events and has provided 10 scholarships for students with autism for college and counting since 2011. Kerry’s best-selling books Defining Autism From The Heart, and Autism and Falling in Love have reached Amazon Best-Seller Lists for Special Needs Parenting.

    Learn more about Kerry here

    Marcus Belin

    Dr. Belin gave an amazing, awe-inspiring keynote on the last day of ideaU this summer. Attendees were so impressed with his enthusiasm and passion for education. So, we had to bring him back for IDEAcon!

    Dr. Belin is presenting two sessions on Day 2 of IDEAcon. His focus is all about relationship building -- he could honestly fit into each day’s theme. You’ll gain SEL and DEI knowledge at his sessions.

     You’ll walk away inspired - we promise! 

    We can’t stop obsessing over this lineup. So many amazing speakers with so much knowledge to share. 

    Will we see you at IDEAcon? 

    View the full schedule here, and click here to register for IDEAcon today! 

  • November 11, 2021 9:48 AM | Ashley

    At IDEA, we have three big initiatives: Computer Science, Equity, and Teacher Wellness

    And you will see these themes throughout IDEAcon in February. In fact, new for 2022 are daily themes

    Here is what you can expect each day: 

    • Day 1 (Monday, Feb. 14, 2022) is all about teaching with heart and social emotional learning. 

    • Day 2 (Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022) will focus on YOUR story through digital literacy.

    • Day 3 (Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022) is all about STEAM - learn more about our STEAM Thought Leaders here.

    • Day 4 (Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022) is dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)

    Although DEI has its own day, you will see this theme woven into the entire event. So, no matter which day you attend, you will be able to attend impactful sessions on DEI. 

    It is our thought leaders who are really going to make this theme come to life, and we are honored to have some incredible thought leaders making huge strides in equity in education. 

    Without further ado, here are the IDEAcon Thought Leaders presenting on DEI: 

    Paul Gorski 

    Paul Gorski is one of two keynote speakers on Day 4 of IDEAcon. 

    The founder of Equity Literacy and EdChange, Paul has spent the past 24 years in various educational capacities, always working with educators and educational leaders committed to strengthening their equity and justice impacts. He has written or co-written several books, including Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap and Case Studies on Diversity and Social Justice Education (with Seema Pothini).

    Can’t catch Paul on Thursday? He is also giving a session on Wednesday (Day 3) of IDEAcon. 

    Sheldon Eakins 

    Sheldon is also giving a keynote on Day 4 of IDEAcon! Host of the Leading Equity Podcast, he will be recording a podcast each day of the conference and has multiple sessions throughout IDEAcon. 

    Here is a sneak peek at the titles for his sessions:

    • Framing Brave Conversations About Race and Ethnicity 

    • Out of Sight, Out of Mind: How Implicit Bias Impacts the Way We Serve Our Students

    • I am no longer an Ally and here’s why… 

    With over 11 years in education, Dr. Eakins has served as a teacher, principal, and Director of Special Education. He has a passion for helping educators accomplish equitable practices in their schools. He has earned a B.S. degree in Social Science Education, an M.S. degree in Educational Leadership, and a Ph.D. in K-12 Education.

    We are so excited to welcome him to IDEAcon! Be sure to catch at least one of his sessions and click here to check out his podcast. 

    Principal Baruti Kafele

    Principal Kafele is giving the keynote on Day 1 of IDEAcon. His presentation is titled, It's Not Enough to "DO EQUITY."...You Must "BE EQUITY!"

    Principal Baruti Kafele, a highly regarded urban educator in New Jersey for more than 20 years, has distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As a middle and high school principal, Principal Kafele led the transformation of four New Jersey urban schools, including "The Mighty" Newark Tech—which went from a low-performing school in need of improvement to national recognition.

    You can check out Principal Kafele’s book, The Equity & Social Justice Education 50 here.

    Carol R. Collins Ayanlaja 

    Carole Rene’ Collins Ayanlaja, Ph. D. is an educational leader, teacher and researcher.  She serves as an equity partner to schools and organizations seeking to improve leadership and staff capacity to foster a climate of inclusion, anti-racism, and intercultural respect for better outcomes. 

    We are so excited to have her lead breakout sessions on Day 2, 3, and 4 of IDEAcon!

    After teaching in Chicago Public Schools, serving as a principal and superintendent, Carol joined the College of Education, Department of Educational Leadership, Eastern Illinois University.  As tenure-track Assistant Professor, she teaches graduate students in the Masters of Educational Leadership program and prepares pre-service Principals and Superintendents for leadership roles in the state of Illinois 

    Join Carol’s breakout sessions to become a leader in equity and education! 

    Sarah Said

    Sarah has been an incredible supporter and resource for IDEA. She presented at ideaU this summer and is not only presenting at IDEAcon, but is serving on the IDEAcon Committee. 

    Sarah is hosting two sessions on Day 2 of IDEAcon. Here are her topics:

    • Kicks and Kimonos: Leading As My Authentic Self To Cultivate Student Voice

    • JEDIs And Stumps: Social Justice Learning and Student Voice in An Elementary School Setting

    We are honored to have Sarah join us once again! Don’t miss her inspiring sessions. 

    Nyree Clark

    Nyree also joined us at ideaU and has been an incredible thought leader throughout this year. We are welcoming her back on Day 3 of IDEAcon for two sessions! 

    She is travelling all the way from California to be with us in February. Nyree is a Curriculum Program Specialist in EdTech PreK-6 for the Colton Joint Unified School District. Her journey in education began in 1998 and has been referred to as her “Dream Job” thereafter. She has been a Reading Recovery Teacher, Gifted and Talented Education Certified Teacher,  and Reading Specialist Teacher on Assignment.

    She is a member of Equity In Action CA, which is a group of educators researching and implementing ways to diversify Technology Conferences and Professional Learning settings. Learn more about Nyree here.

    Sawsan Jaber

    Sawsan will be presenting on Day 3 and 4 of IDEAcon, and has been instrumental in shaping DEI Day at IDEAcon. 

    Dr. Jaber is a Palestinian American global educator of 20+ years. She has held a variety of leadership positions both in the U.S. and abroad.  She is a high school English teacher at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park. She founded Education Unfiltered Consulting and works with schools both nationally and abroad. Sawsan focuses on curriculum mapping, strategic planning, custom tailoring a social justice curriculum for schools, and anti-bias training. She completed her Ph.D. with a focus on inclusion and belonging of students from marginalized communities. Dr. Jaber is a Board Director of Our Voice Alliance (OVA) charged with amplifying the voices of teachers of color to create more equity for students of color.  

    And that is just the beginning of Dr. Jaber’s impressive accomplishments. You won’t want to miss her sessions! 

    What do you think of this powerful DEI expert lineup?! 

    View the full schedule here, and click here to register for IDEAcon today! 

  • November 09, 2021 8:53 AM | Ashley

    Learning by doing: Podcasting in your classroom

    By Mario and Alberto Herraez-Velazquez (a.k.a. The eTwinz!)

    We all remember those tedious classes in which the teacher did all the talking and all we needed to do is to sit there and listen at what he/she was saying. That was one of the main reasons why we struggled in school through junior high. We were not made for that; we don´t learn by listening. We learn by doing, we learn by experimenting with the content, by creating meaningful connections and by researching interesting topics.

    One of our main goals when we joined education was to change this paradigm. We wanted to transform our classroom into a place where students learn by doing. A place where our students feel safe to drive their learning, make mistakes and grow.

    The world is changing, and we as educators must change with it. We must consider the direction it is taking and focus our efforts towards preparing our students for this new future. No one is going to ask you to fill the blanks of the project you need to finish by Monday or to choose between three words to complete the PowerPoint your boss have already created for you. Students are going to be asked to think critically, to solve problems and collaborate with people from all over the world.

    “We must teach looking at the future and stop teaching thinking about the past” - eTwinz

    We have attended many trainings in which we go home thinking that we learned a lot about the theoretical context of the approach or strategy, but practical examples were not shown or explained. For this reason, our sessions and trainings are not only based on research and theory, but they are full of examples of how to start your own PBL project in your class.

    Are we ready to enter the world of the podcast as an educational tool?

    The power of podcasting

    The popularity of podcasts has risen a lot in recent years. Many are the public figures who have started producing their own podcast. The rise of this popularity helped podcasts to become a powerful tool for many teachers around the world. Podcasts not only develop important skills for the future of our students, but it also stands out for their ability to deliver content.

    When we produce a podcast with our students, we can focus on any of the content that we are teaching in class: The destructive capacity of volcanoes, the biography of Pythagoras and its importance in history, the differences between the British and American vocabulary.

    There are many types of podcasts that can be used in class: interview podcasts, monographic podcasts, historical podcasts, discussion podcasts, rating podcasts (products, cities, cars, sports…).

    And it is not only the different types of podcasts that make them an exceptional tool, but also the grouping in which they are carried out gives us many possibilities. We can produce podcasts individually, in pairs, or in groups. We can produce podcasts with students in our class, connect with other classes in our school, around the world, or even have guests from our community or a different country.

    Our approach

    We break all our projects into three different stages: Pre-production, production, and post-production.

    • Pre-production: This stage is probably the most important one and includes all the actions we need to take before pressing the record button. Organization is crucial for a project like this. Students need to organize the steps they need to take, the different roles they will have throughout the project and create the rundowns and the scripts of the podcast. They will also need to do the settings of the platform or software we are using and create the music, intros, and outros.

    • Production: This stage focuses on creating the content of our project. Students will need to record the podcast using the software the chose. Normally, they need to record several audio clips before coming up with the final version. Each of the students have a different role in this phase from sound technician to the anchors or reporters.

    • Post-production: This stage houses all editing activities before delivering the final product. During this time, we can see students working on editing the podcast. They add the music, make changes to the audio clips and much more.

    There are many benefits of using podcasts in the classroom, but many times we do not know where to start or how to carry out such a big project.

    Would you like to know more about the three stages of the project?

    Do you want ideas of how to create roles for the students to be independent and drive their own learning?

    Are you excited about starting this project in your school, but you don’t know what is the best option for your podcasting equipment?

    Have you already started with this but would like more ideas for lessons, worksheets, and new materials?

    Don’t worry, we got you covered! Find our session during the 2022 IDEAcon conference!

    Register for IDEAcon 2022 here. Don't wait! Early-bird pricing ends Nov. 30

  • November 08, 2021 9:27 AM | Ashley

    Let’s Talk STEAM! 

    Introducing the IDEAcon Thought Leaders for a day dedicated to STEAM

    In honor of National STEAM Day on November 8, we thought it was a perfect time to announce our IDEAcon Thought Leaders for STEAM Day at the con. 

    That’s right - on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2021, IDEAcon is dedicated to all things STEAM (check out the other daily themes here).

    Drum roll, please!! 

    via GIPHY

    Dr. Kate Biberdorf 

    First up is our day 3 keynote speaker, Dr. Kate Biberdorf a.k.a. Kate the Chemist

    As seen on the Today Show and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Dr. Kate Biberdorf is breaking stereotypes and blowing stuff up—all in a good pair of heels. Through her theatrical and hands-on approach to teaching, Dr. Biberdorf is breaking down the image of the stereotypical scientist, while reaching students who might otherwise be intimidated by science.

    We absolutely CAN’T WAIT for Dr. Kate’s session! In the meantime, check out her website here - she has some awesome books and resources for your STEAM classroom. 

    Victor Hicks

    Does this name sound familiar? It should! 

    “Coach” Victor Hicks was one of our keynote speakers at ideaU this summer! He is back as a thought leader for IDEAcon, with a session titled, “Coding with Culture: Providing Culturally Responsive and Sustainable Computer Science Experiences in Computer Science.” 

    Coach Hicks  serves as a CS and STEM educator in Atlanta,Georgia  and is the founder and lead instructor of Coding with Culture, an organization designed to teach computer science and digital literacy through an “HBCU-Ready” lens to scholars in grades K-8.

    Check out his website here and stay-up-to-date by following him on Twitter @codingwculture.

    Jaime Donally 

    Jaime Donally describes herself as a passionate technology enthusiast. If her name sounds familiar, you may have read her blog with ISTE last year about creating AR with apps. It’s a pretty cool read … 

    Jaime provides staff development and training on immersive technology as an edtech consultant. She is an expert on ARVR, and she will be bringing her expertise to IDEAcon in February!

    Excited? Us, too! Learn more about Jaime here

    Jorge Valenzuela 

    We are lucky enough to have thought leader Jorge Valenzuela join us for multiple days of the conference!

    On STEAM Day, he will be leading a session titled: “Using Project Based Learning to teach STEM and Computer Science.”

    Jorge is an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University and the lead coach at Lifelong Learning Defined (LLD). Through modeling direct instruction in tandem with evidence-based strategies and educational protocols, Jorge provides sessions for educators that are inspirational, actionable, and fun.

    Read more about Jorge as we all anxiously await his sessions on his website here

    Bellen Woodard 

    Bellen is a super special thought leader. She may be young, but she is already making a big impact on the world.

    She realized that the “skin” color crayon did not represent herself and many others. Knowing that wasn’t right, she decided to take things into her own hands. That is when the More Than Peach™ Project was born. 

    Combining the art piece of STEAM with important equity discussion, this is one session you can’t miss. Learn more about Bellen here

    Victoria Thompson

    This name should also sound familiar! Victoria Thompson has been a thought leader for IDEA before, leading important discussions in equity. Victoria is a STEM Instructional Coach and ed tech consultant. 

    Victoria was kind enough to create a lesson plan just for IDEA to celebrate STEAM Day! It’s all about mathematical thinking and logic, and it is applicable to all grade levels. You can check it out here

    This is a thought leader you won’t want to miss!

    Who else is even more pumped for IDEAcon 2022?!

    You probably noticed that a lot of our speakers are not only STEAM focused, but are also making strides in equity.

    Here at IDEA, we have three big initiatives: Computer Science, Equity, and Teacher Wellness. You will see these themes throughout the conference - not just on these theme’s dedicated days. 

    For example, we have more thought leaders on STEAM Day that will be solely equity focused. We will be welcoming back Sarah Said, Nyree Clark, and Evan Whitehead - all were involved in ideaU this summer. 

    We also will have Sawsan Jaber, Paul Gorski, and Carol R. Collins Ayanlaja join us for sessions on Wednesday.

    So, even if STEAM isn’t your thing, we promise there will be something for you to learn on Wednesday!

    Check out the full schedule here, and be on the lookout for our next blog with more details on our IDEAcon Thought Leaders!

    Click here to register for IDEAcon today! 

  • November 03, 2021 3:40 PM | Ashley

    Jack Kinsella, the Director of Bands at Jerling Jr. High and Liberty Schools, has a passion for sharing music with the world.

    And it all started in the 7th grade.

    “I was inspired by my teachers,” said Jack. In middle school, “my band directors encouraged me to attend a military band concert. That was just an amazing experience.”

    That concert officially set Jack on the path to a career in music. After participating in band all through high school, Jack attended Northwestern University to study tuba and music education with a plan to teach and perform music for a living.

    He landed a teaching position immediately after college where he still teaches today, accomplishing his first goal.

    And then within his first year of teaching, he was also able to achieve his second goal - to perform - by joining the Illinois Air National Guard to play in their military band.

    “It’s been a tremendous experience over the past 21 years,” Jack said, referring to his time in the Air National Guard. “I’ve performed in multiple states across the country - from coast to coast. Our performances celebrate our nation’s history through music, while also supporting our troops, communities, and veterans.”

    It was important to Jack to pursue a position in a military band, inspired by that concert in 7th grade and the patriotic music of the late 80s.

    “It was that national pride and the power of music -- how it has influenced our country,” said Jack. “It was something I had to be a part of.”

    As a Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt) in the 566th Air Force Band, he most often is the tuba player, but plays a variety of other brass instruments depending on the mission.

    He has even played “Taps” on the bugle at the Abraham Lincoln National cemetery. Of course, as a band director, he plays a multitude of instruments - everything from brass to woodwinds to percussion.

    Jack has been teaching band for grades 5 through 8 since 1999. Over the years, he prides himself on not only sharing his love of music with students, but also creating a sense of community for the kids.

    “I, as a student, appreciated the applause, but I also appreciated the band community I grew up in,” he said. “Creating that sense of band community for our students and their families has been tremendous. I’m still in touch with many of my students after they graduate and get to see them perform in bands throughout the years.”

    Those bands have included Big Ten schools, like Illinois and Iowa, and also Notre Dame.

    This sense of community is also present in the military band. But with the community also comes connection, an important aspect of the military band for Jack.

    “Hopefully, the excellence that we execute through our music and performance represents the excellence of all the jobs that so many tremendous men and women are doing in the military,” he said. “When I appear in uniform, I am representing an untold number of men and women doing dangerous jobs that are necessary for our defense.”

    Jack is retiring from the Illinois National Guard this coming January.

    Thank you Jack for serving our country and the future leaders of this country!

    Jack stressed he feels he is a torchbearer in music, and that it is his job to pass the torch, so to speak. This photo is an awesome example of that! 

    Pictured is Jack, second from left, with his junior high school band director Ray Forlenza (far left), and his past student who is now a band director himself, Mike Roberts (third from left), and Ray’s son Nick, who was taught by Mike and is studying to be a band director, too!

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