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  • November 02, 2021 9:18 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, CodeHS!

    CodeHS is a comprehensive teaching platform for helping schools teach computer science. They provide web-based curriculum, teacher tools and resources, and professional development. The mission of CodeHS is to empower all students to meaningfully impact the future.

    CodeHS believes that in the 21st century, coding is a foundational skill, just like reading and writing. That’s why they say: Read, Write, Code. CodeHS does this by providing great curriculum, tools, and resources to teachers, students, and schools to implement high quality computer science programs. 

    CodeHS believes that everyone should get the chance to learn coding, and that it’s a skill that provides limitless creative opportunity to students. They want to help make computer science education fun and accessible, and believe you need both great tools as well as a great community to make this happen.

    Check out more about CodeHS  here

  • November 01, 2021 2:29 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 our newest Gold Partner, Technology Resource Advisors, Inc. - TRA for short

    TRA specializes in assisting districts with planning, beginning, and maintaining their 1:1 initiatives with Chromebooks and Windows Devices. 

    Most districts seek TRA for their Chrome Care warranty. The Chrome Care warranty is a full accidental warranty offering for Chromebooks/Windows Devices. It covers drops, breaks, spills, manufacturer defects and hardware failures.

    Check out more about TRA here

  • October 19, 2021 10:40 AM | Ashley

    Work Smarter Not Harder: 

    Use these simple Smart Classroom Management Techniques to help your classroom run more smoothly.

    Blog written by Teresa Engler, K-12 Instructional Technology Coach

    Do you feel like a hamster in the wheel when it comes to classroom management?  Do you wonder why some teachers make it look so easy, but for others, it is a daily struggle?

    Follow these steps to help improve student behavior and bring calm and joy to your classroom

    Students are more likely to follow the rules they create.  

    Teachers have a set of standards and general practices they’d like students to follow, and those particular ideas should not be compromised.  During the first few hours of the first day of school, teachers review these standards and display them on charts or posters in the room.  To the students, the rules (and the poster) belong to the teacher, not to them.

    When students are asked to contribute to the rules and procedures for their classroom, they gain a vested interest in actually following them.  Take time to ask students to discuss what rules should be in place.  Ask what the expectations were the previous year, and add to them, or take away ones that no longer make sense.  Encourage students to write the rules on their own posters.  Let them decorate their posters and use the colors that mean something to them.  When the rules are broken, refer to their posters and remind them of the expectations they collectively agreed to follow.

    Students are more likely to behave when they are involved.

    Classroom jobs are common in elementary schools but are just as valuable in middle and high school classrooms.  

    Some examples of modern jobs could include the following:

    *Tech Assistant:  helping with simple tech issues

    *Charging Station Monitor:  assist with making sure devices are charged or helping students with finding the correct charging cord.

    *Safety:  regularly check the hand sanitizer, masks,  and paper products supply

    *Office Runner:  periodically take things to the office or pick things up from the office

    *Class announcements: compile a list of announcements and post them to a class chart or online

    *Class Ambassador greet any new students, show them around the building, explain class procedures

    *Transition Specialist  announce when there are 5 minutes remaining in class or when it is time to take a break (similar to a traditional class timer)

    *Gaming Yes, gaming.  (See the next section for more information)

    It’s important to include everyone by rotating the positions weekly or monthly.  Post the job descriptions to eliminate any confusion and to support accountability.  As with developing the class rules and procedures, be sure to get student input about specific jobs as well as the job descriptions.  This reinforces the importance of engagement, and it encourages students to take ownership of what happens in the classroom.

    Students thrive with consistency.

    The unknown is confusing and can cause chaos.  It also gives students the power to test the waters and to push boundaries.

    When clear, concise, and consistent rules are in place, students feel safe and secure, and the mystery of “What would happen if….” disappears.

    Make it clear:   Eliminate any gray areas when giving directions or defining expectations. Checklists help set boundaries, and, in turn,  give students a sense of security knowing that if  X occurs, then Y will happen.  

    Be concise:    Use very simple terms when giving directions or explaining procedures.  Less is best.  The more you write, the more confusing it becomes.

    Maintain consistency:  Start class on time, keep your routines exactly the same on a daily basis, and stick to the rules and procedures without wavering.  Unpredictable management of the classroom causes confusion and uncertainty which can be unsetting for students. 

    And, finally...

    Students respond positively to kindness.

    Do you know that old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?”  Well, it’s true.  The more kindness you show your students, the better behaved they will become. It’s a mutual respect, a collaborative effort, and the end result will be worth it!

  • October 15, 2021 1:32 PM | Ashley

    On August 18, 2021, the Illinois State Board of Education met and under the Consent Agenda for that meeting, they approved the “*Rules for Adoption- Part 1 (Public Schools Evaluation, Recognition, and Supervision) Computer Science Standards." For more information on that meeting and what was approved, please see the links below:

    In addition, there is currently a Computer Science working group that has been formed. This group is working directly with ISBE to design resources that will support the integration of the computer science standards into classroom instruction. 

    We look forward to continuing to support educators in the development of computer science skills and implementation of these standards into the work you are doing. Currently, we are offering the following computer science professional learning opportunities:

    In addition, we are excited to be offering a number of sessions on computer science, design thinking, computational thinking and more at IDEAcon 2022. We will have engaging sessions daily focused on these concepts as well as hands-on learning activities. On Wednesday, February 16, we will have specific thought leaders, presenters and even our keynote (Kate Biberdorf) who will share about everything STEM/STEAM and Computer Science! 

    We look forward to connecting with you soon!

  • October 13, 2021 10:20 AM | Ashley

    If you’ve checked out our event calendar lately, you’ve probably noticed how jam-packed it is. 

    Here at IDEA, we do our best to provide numerous (and fun!) opportunities for educators to earn their required professional development hours (PDHs). We have webinars, bootcamps, cohorts, and even playgrounds. 

    This month, you may have also noticed the word “academy” on the list. So, what is that all about?

    via GIPHY

    Well, we talk a lot about teachers, but IDEA is dedicated to ALL educators - including administrators and coaches! The IDEA Academies are for those educators who don’t necessarily fall into the “teacher” bucket. 

    IDEA is here to help you earn your professional development hours in a fun, interactive environment. 

    Here is what we have planned so far:

    • IDEA Admin Academy | Leveraging Ed Tech to Connect With the Future (AA #3019)

      This course, facilitated by Stan Gorbatkin, is designed to support district leaders in the development, evolution, implementation, and promotion of programs and initiatives which will best support students in the future. 

      Join us on Dec. 16, 2021 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Joliet, iL. Click here to register.

    • IDEA Coaching Academy

      Don’t worry, coaches -- We didn’t forget about you! Join us and our friends at TCEA November 11 and 12 for a two-day networking event dedicated to helping you be the best coach you can be. Check out the schedule here

      If you missed out on our Coaching Academy, you can catch the virtual replay through Jan. 1! Click here to register and earn PDHs on your own time. 

    Watch your inbox and follow IDEA on social (@ideaillinois) for more details on future academies. Click here to view all upcoming IDEA events. 

    Questions? Email our team at

  • September 22, 2021 1:52 PM | Ashley

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

    via GIPHY

    As a teacher-mom of school aged children myself, I struggle with this internal battle of “helping” my children’s teachers. You see, because there’s a fine line between helping and annoying. I’ll admit, there are times where I toe the line, but overall, I think I do a decent job of not overstepping. However, something that is incredibly important to me is my children's relationship with learning. The line fully disappears for me on this issue. If you asked me to come up with some phrases to characterize myself, the same one always pops up first: life long learner. I consider myself a lifelong learner because early on in my educational career I had some amazing teachers that took the time to establish a relationship with me, which in turn formed my relationship with learning. 

    While this idea of building relationships with students isn’t a new one, if we know anything in education we know that if it exists, we’re going to turn it into an abbreviation, hence the birth of SEL.

    What’s Trending

    A focus on SEL, or social emotional learning, is trending in schools. School leadership sees it as especially important to address being that some of our students spent an entire year learning from behind a screen and now many more are learning from behind a mask. So while the focus seems to be consistent throughout schools and districts, the approach to SEL has taken on quite a bit of variety. Let’s take a deeper look at what SEL really is, where we can find some good information to support implementation of social emotional learning and fun SEL distance learning activities.

    What is it?

    According to the leading SEL guru, CASEL, SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” Wow, pretty important, huh? Now, let’s unpack that, shall we? First, CASEL states that it is a process. This means that SEL isn’t a checkbox. You can’t schedule SEL into your daily routine and consider it done for the day. No, SEL needs to be embedded throughout everything we do. The link, or common thread in all content is that students are going to feel something about what you are teaching them. We have to address those feelings with them, in that moment, regardless of whether or not it was scheduled. Next, CASEL argues that  SEL is in fact a  pretty broad topic.

    • Acquire and Apply Knowledge

    • Healthy identities

    • Manage Emotions

    • Achieve Personal and Collective Goals

    • Feel and Show Empathy

    • Establish Supportive Relationships

    • Make Responsible and Caring Decisions

    When we break it down like this, it’s hard to argue that we shouldn’t be teaching SEL. In fact, it’s hard to argue that we don’t! But, how do we ensure that we are spending the time necessary to truly support our learners?

    Where Do I Start?

    Ok, before you work yourself up thinking you have one more thing to teach, relax, you don’t. As I said earlier, SEL should be the common lens through which all content is taught. Much of this can be accomplished through modeling and capitalizing on teachable moments. Engaging in conversations with your students instead of simply imparting pearls of wisdom into their empty vessels! For some, this may seem super, natural and easy to start. For others of us, it can seem like a superhighway of information and you’re not sure which on ramp to use. Never fear, I’ve curated some great resources to help get you started!

    SEL Activities for Distance Learning Hyperdoc

    Social Emotional Distance Learning Activities

    1. Getting Unstuck: Naming Emotions

      a. Have students start the day with you by naming the emotion they are bringing with them to class. Naming emotions helps bridge the gap between thoughts and feelings and allows teachers a peek into what’s going on in their students' world.

      b. Create a word wall where students can either add their emotions to or use to find a good fit word for what they are feeling. It could be a physical board in your room or a digital one!

    2. Pick a Prompt Emoji Slide

      a. Whole Hearted School Counseling frequently (like daily!) share free resources that can be used with your students instantly, like this pick a prompt guide. Share the images with your students as is, or cut them into individual cards and have them pick and respond. Responses can be gathered on a Padlet, Wakelet or Shared Google Doc.

    3. Rules of the Red Rubber Ball

      a. Kevin Carroll is one of my heroes. He’s an author, speaker and all around great guy! I’ve adapted his book, Rules of the Red Rubber Ball into a passion project for students to use to help them find their voice, discover their passions and achieve their goals. 

    4. The Purpose Challenge

      a. Imagine you are 40 years old and things in your life have gone as well as you could have hoped. What will you be doing? Who will be in your life? What will be important to you? Why? 

    Teachers Are Students Too!

    SEL doesn’t just end there though. In CASEL’s definition it clearly states that SEL is a process for young people and adults. I’m looking at you teachers! School leadership must also provide support for teachers--after all, they’re learners too. This article really helped actualize what adult social emotional learning both looks like, and can do for a school. Check it out!

    Call To Action 

    When in doubt, don’t stop asking questions. The right question can open up a whole new avenue for you to explore with your students. But maybe you don’t have the right questions just yet. That’s ok. Find someone who does. Above all, we need to show our students empathy but empathy alone is not enough. For students to take action, it’s important for students to hear stories from people like them. People they admire and respect. People they relate to. Don’t limit your students' experiences to the answers you have, provide students with opportunities to explore on their own through podcasts, articles, guest speakers and collaborations with each other. Be courageous in your adventure on building your own SEL Culture!

    -Lindsay Zilly, IDEA Director of Professional Learning

  • September 03, 2021 11:13 AM | Ashley

    Each year, the IDEAcon Conference Committee challenges ourselves to see how we can make our conference better than before.

    We have changed venues, re-branded the organization, even installed a wireless network on top of the venue’s network.

    Last year, similar to teachers worldwide, we had to create an online conference experience to continue honoring and celebrating the teaching and learning that was still going on during a tumultuous time.

    For 2022, our challenge is clear: We want to welcome you back to the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center with open arms (at a social distance, of course).

    There are numerous reasons to attend IDEAcon any year, but 2022 will prove to be a special one that you will not want to miss.

    Here’s why …

    1. IDEAcon All Access

      Like many educators, IDEA is applying the lessons learned from our remote learning conference to our traditional in-person experience.

      For the first time, we’ll have an “All-Access Pass” that will provide attendees with 4 full days of conference sessions along with dozens more sessions available for on-demand viewing. One simple price for one comprehensive experience: $399 available through the end of November.

    2.  Like No Other Conference

      Our history is filled with plenty of tech-laden sessions, presenters, and keynote speakers.

      However, IDEAcon has evolved to be more than just an edtech conference.

      We are committed to focusing on the best in teaching and learning. This is why you will see sessions that bring you not only innovative edtech practices, but also critical topics such as equity, SEL, and project-based learning. We are committed to bringing you a conference that no other conference can compare to.

    3. Welcome Home

      In 2020, IDEAcon was the last time many of us saw each other in person. We celebrated and learned with talented speakers such as Dwayne Reedand Gerry Brooks. The keynote and thought leader lineup is just as strong and talented.

      Why not make IDEAcon the place to reunite with your colleagues and return to familiar grounds?

      Come join us at IDEAcon 2022 - register today.

    -By David Chan, Conference Coordinator 

  • August 27, 2021 8:26 AM | Ashley

    How Birdbrain Technologies® is inspiring a sense of wonder in one teacher’s after-school and summer programs.

    When you hear the terms “coding” and “robotics,” do you feel overwhelmed?

    Excited? Intimidated? Curious?

    Or maybe a little like this …

    via GIPHY

    If you are like many educators, it is probably a mix of these emotions.  

    There is good news though -- robotics and coding is now more accessible than ever thanks to companies like Birdbrain Technologies®. Their Hummingbird Robotics Kits and Finch Robots are helping teachers around the globe inspire students to learn to code and dive into the fascinating world of robotics. 

    And one of those teachers is right here in Illinois

    Jodi Mahoney, a technology teacher at Chicago Public Schools, teaches kindergarten through 8th grade, meaning she has to have a variety of knowledge to share. Desiring to go beyond her skills to give her students more opportunities, she searched for a way to incorporate coding and robotics into her classroom.

    After discovering Birdbrain at ISTELive and again at a two-day workshop hosted by IDEA, she developed a plan to implement an after school program with the Hummingbird Kits and Finch Robots. 

    The next hurdle -- one you’ve probably faced too -- was funding. Accessible as these kits may be, they do have a cost as expected for anything tech. 

    Fortunately, she was able to get financial support from a parent fundraising group and had an amazing support system from her principal, Renee Mackin, and assistant principal, Gabriel Parra. So, in February 2020, she started her venture into robotics and coding with an after-school program. 

    The program began with a group of 7 middle schoolers for four weeks. The students worked with the Humminbird kits with the hope of developing engineering and design skills, computational thinking, problem solving, creativity, and collaboration skills. 

    “These kits allow you to help them access the kids’ confidence, especially the girls,” said Jodi. “What I try to focus on is inclusivity. I want everyone to see the creativeness in code. You don’t have to be super good at math or computer science. I tell my kids all the time I am not good at math, but can still do this.” 

    After the four weeks, these students were supposed to become mentors to a group of second graders that would be in the second session of the program. 

    But, unfortunately, it was cut short due to COVID. 

    After a year and a half of no hands-on learning, Jodi was presented with the opportunity to teach robotics once again in the summer of 2021.

    When her principal first asked her to do something for a summer camp, Jodi was hesitant. It had been an exhausting year for teachers, as you all know. She thought what she needed was a break.

    “A couple days later she (the principal) brought it up again,” said Jodi. “As soon as I said no, I knew the best thing to do was to get kids back and play with Hummingbird kits. I thought, ‘surely I'll feel better by June.’”

    Although her friends said she was crazy after the year they all just had, Jodi looks back on the summer camp and knows she made the right decision. 

    “Our principal targeted kids who hadn’t come into the classroom during hybrid learning,” she said. “One kid wept the first day because he saw the gym and said, ‘oh there’s the gym .. I remember the gym.’ The kids needed the community.”

    The mentoring model she had in place for the after-school program came in handy over the summer, too. Each group of kids were intermixed, ranging from first to eighth grade. 

    “The mentoring model works so well with this,” she said. “When the older kids are working with the younger kids, it is empowering for both when they realize how much they have learned and can accomplish.”

    Jodi says the true magic of these kits is how they connect the terminology and provide building blocks that give kids room to grow. Kids from kindergarten to high school can learn and develop their skills with just these two pieces of equipment.

    “When you show a kindergartener the Finch Robot, they notice it looks like a bird,” says Jodi. “And they get this sense of wonder when they learn they can make the bird move. There are multiple levels with the app. Eventually they figure out you can make your Finch Robot move forward faster. It’s cool when a 7-year-old can grasp that.”

    It’s moments like this that keeps Jodi humble.

    “I immediately get fearful and think, ‘what am I going to do with this kid when they are in third grade,’” she says. “I just open the door and follow them through it.”

    And even though the pandemic threw a wrench in Jodi’s initial plans, she knows positive things have come out of it.

    “The cool thing about covid is that you have a group of kids that are way more tech savvy now,” she said. “There are kids that are correcting me now. Many kids have made great use of this time to learn a bunch of stuff, especially in the technology world.”

    Jodi is hopeful to start her after-school program back up this school year. Eventually, her plan is to bring the Finch Robot and Hummingbird Kits into her classroom.

    After hearing Jodi’s story, we hope the words “coding” and “robotics” make you feel inspired and encouraged. 

    Are you thinking about implementing Birdbrain Technologies in your classroom or program? 

    If you are an IDEA member, contact us for pricing details and to place an order or click here to see what we have available in our store!

    Students enjoy learning about coding and robotics during Summer Camp. 

  • August 10, 2021 11:40 AM | Ashley

    Managing a Hybrid Classroom: Technology for Virtual Teaching

    Alright, teachers. Let’s be honest, when the 2020 - 2021 school year ended, you were hoping you’d never have to hear the term “hybrid classroom” again. 

    Go ahead and raise your hand if that’s you … 

    via GIPHY

    We see you, Pam Beesly! 

    We know that returning to school this year is going to be full of emotions for educators and students alike. And let’s face it, there were many things we learned in the last 18 months that were good...and not so good in the world of learning. So with that, let's focus on what we definitely learned - meeting the needs of all students includes creative uses of technology. 

    Whatever your new normal looks like, let IDEA help you prepare for an ever changing future as we are here to help arm you with some awesome tools and technology for virtual teaching. Let us help make your life a little bit easier. 

    Let’s start with a few of our favorite tools. 

    1. Get Visual with Google's Jamboard.
      How do you demonstrate a math problem or how to properly use an adverb if you don’t have a whiteboard or chalkboard to use with your kids learning from home?

      Of course, Google has an awesome solution for you -- Jamboard! This virtual whiteboard is easy to use, and it’s fun! All you need is a Google account to get started. 

    2. Utilize Online Quiz Tools.
      Why not make online learning fun? After all, who doesn’t love a game? There are many online tools where you can create fun, interactive quizzes to keep students engaged online. One of our favorites is Kahoot! (We also see nothing wrong with keeping it old school with a good ole Google form!) 

      If you want more great ideas like this, become an expert virtual educator through our online certification course! The course is centered around tools and strategies for your virtual classroom. The course is $29, and Illinois educators can earn 6 PDHs. 

    3. Get comfortable with screencasting.
      Have you ever thought to yourself, “it would be so nice if I could record what I am doing on my screen to show my students.” Well, the great news is that it is actually super easy to do, with tools like Loom! 

      In fact, we love screencasting so much, we created an online course that allows you to become certified in screencasting! Not only will you walk away a master at screencasting, but you will earn 12 PDHs (if you are an Illinois educator). The course is just $29 and can be done at your own pace. Check it out here

    4. Have some fun with creative tools like a green screen!
      Green screen teaching may sound difficult and impossible, but it may not be as far out of reach as you think. In fact, you can purchase a green screen on Amazon for just $14.11. 

      Check out this blog post from Edutopia all about how to incorporate green screens in your classroom. 

      If you are looking for more great tools to have on hand for your hybrid classroom, check out our Amazon shopping list for virtual learning, curated by our own Lindsay Zilly! 

      (And don’t forget -- shop with Amazon Smile using this link to support IDEA!) 

    This is by no means an exhaustive list. Luckily, there are a plethora of awesome tools for virtual teaching. We understand that can mean it is also overwhelming to know where to start. 

    How do you know what tools are right for you?

    To help you navigate the best of the best technology for your virtual classroom, we created a spot on our website for remote learning resources. Take a minute, or maybe 20, and browse through the many resources for your hybrid classroom. Check it out here.

    Remember, whatever this school year brings, YOU GOT THIS!

    via GIPHY

    P.S. What other virtual classroom tools do you love? Tell us on Twitter and tag us @ideaillinois. 

  • July 19, 2021 1:04 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, Kino by Kinetx

    Kino is a video chat platform built for conversations, bringing a real-life feel to the online experience. 

    Kino will give IDEA unique opportunities to engage with our members and community online,  while allowing a personal touch that is often missing from video chat services. 

    Not only will Kino be an amazing resource for us, but it has the potential to be an amazing tool for teachers as we all work to enhance the remote learning experience. 

    A little more about Kino ...

    Human interaction is organic and personal. Video communication should be too. Kino by Kinetx Co delivers a fluid environment where participants can communicate and shape their virtual experience as they see fit.

    Social interaction is predominately filled with many conversations happening at once. It's not some rigid experience where only one person is permitted to speak at any given time. Instead, when a person walks into a crowded room, there is a hum from all the conversation. They can choose to join a group, say "hello," focusing their attention. As time goes on, they can leave and focus on other individuals or conversations.

    Our focus feature empowers participants to join and create conversations while staying connected to the larger group. Try Kino today, and experience the freedom. Virtual never felt so personal.

    Check out more about Kino here

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