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  • September 03, 2021 11:13 AM | Ashley (Administrator)

    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 (Administrator)

    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 (Administrator)

    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 (Administrator)

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

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

    That is why we are thrilled to welcome our newest 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

  • July 12, 2021 8:11 AM | Ashley (Administrator)

    So, last week I saw school supplies on display and for sale at the Tarjay (yes, pronounced Tar-jay). And the immediate reaction was, “$@^@$&*.” But after the excessive screaming stopped in my own brain, I took stock and remembered -- Teaching has afforded me my mission and fulfilled my passion to support learners and never stop learning myself. 

    I took a deep breath and began reflecting on how to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year. 

    Here are the goals I wrote on the inside of the gum wrapper found in my car after my Target run: 

    1. Finish two professional books.
    2. Jump back into podcasts to support my growth area for next year. 
    3. Participate in two Twitter Chats. 
    4. Attend one professional learning opportunity. 

    With these goals in my back pocket (literally), here is my game plan:

    The topic I want to focus on is cognitive research on how we learn, so I have ordered: 

    • Why Don't Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham
    • How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories Behind Effective College Teaching by Joshua R. Eyler

    Two books: Check!

    The podcast that is speaking to me lately is The Brain Science Podcast. I have been drawn to educational podcasts that are not focused on “school orientated” and learn to better coach in my building. As for Twitter Chats, I’ll be keeping a close eye on a few I can jump into as they happen. 

    Check and Check!

    Now, for the big one that may seem daunting -- the professional learning opportunity. I will be attending the ideaU Summer institute.

    This 100% virtual institute includes five whole days of live keynote speakers and watch-on-demand webinars. 

    As if that wasn’t reason enough to attend ideaU, here are 3 more solid reasons:

    1. As and Illinois Educator, I can earn 20+ PDHs.
    2. I am registering today, which means it will only cost me $29 - that is about $5 a day for priceless learning. (Early-bird pricing ends July 21st, so get on it.)
    3. By registering for ideaU, you'll automatically be entered to win two FREE tickets to IDEAcon 2022. That is a no-brainer. 

    Let’s learn together at ideaU-- while hanging by the pool or on our back porch.

    What are your back-to-school learning goals? Share with me in the comments. 

    See ya digitally at ideaU and fingers crossed at IDEAcon 2022. 

    - Kim D., Teacher and IDEA Volunteer

  • July 06, 2021 9:00 AM | Ashley (Administrator)

    How would you like to be our VIP guest at IDEAcon 2022 in February?

    Hopefully, that was an easy, “heck, yeah!”

    You can enter to win our IDEAcon Be Our Guest VIP Package by simply registering for Idea U this August or our July Playground! 

    That’s right – all you have to do is register for Idea U or our July Playground to be entered to win a FREE ticket to IDEAcon.

    The winner will receive: 

    • A FREE ticket to IDEAcon 2022
    • A two-night’s stay at the Renaissance
    • A special dinner with the IDEAcon committee
    • ALLLL the swag

    via GIPHY

    What is Idea U?

    Idea U 2021 is a great way to rekindle your spark for teaching! Our hope is to help launch you into the school year feeling inspired. We know last year was tough, but YOU are tougher.

    This 100% virtual conference includes five whole days of live keynote speakers and watch-on-demand webinars. Illinois educators can earn 20+ PDHs. If you register before July 21st, you can attend for just $29!

    Learn more about Idea U here and follow us on social for the latest updates and announcements. 

    We can’t wait to learn with you at Idea U! Click here to register and be entered automatically into our IDEAcon Be Our Guest VIP Contest. 

    What is the July Playground?

    You can also enter to win our IDEAcon Be Our Guest VIP package by registering and attending our July Playground. Illinois educators can receive up to 6 PDHs. Each pre-recorded session can be watched any time and any where between July 17 and 31st. 

    July’s theme is all about games and playful learning! Learn more and register here.

    We can’t wait for you to be our guest!  

  • June 25, 2021 8:07 AM | Ashley (Administrator)

    Avengers, Assemble!

    In November of this year, a small team of individuals gathered together to create a coalition with a common goal:

    To debunk the misconceptions of the term “computer science” and create a road map of examples for stakeholders to reference. Help educators capitalize on teachable moments and provide experiences that help teachers see how this work connects and supports what they are already doing.

    The group consisted of educators, former school counselors, administrators, media specialists, professional development coordinators, ISBE representatives and early childhood educator specialists. The goal was lofty, but these individuals were no stranger to pressure cooker intense situations in the education world because these individuals worked with pre-k students.

    In other words, this was a group of super human individuals shaping the world one tiny human at a time! Why did they devote their time to this group? The answer was simple: pre-k learning is foundational. If we could come up with a way to meaningfully integrate computer science standards into the pre-existing pre-k curriculum standards, we would be setting students on a lifelong relationship with computer science.

    At our earliest meetings we chatted about best pedagogical practices and resources to narrow down the vast curriculum standards that pre-k teachers are familiar with. We then went round robin style to share the work we were currently doing with students that were working with.

    What Is Already Working

    Children are naturally inquisitive and curious. It’s not a far jump then to take our little learners down the path of design thinking. Pre-k classrooms that are currently integrating computer science into their curriculum are seeing much success defining problems and being solution oriented. Teachers are able to develop opportunities to establish and teach empathy. Station based learning allows students who are already familiar with the process, experience new and exciting content in ways that make sense to them. By embedding CS vocabulary into their every day routine, our youngest learners are adopting a CS mindset early on. One example of this is from a preschool class. The students read the story 5 Little Pumpkins and then engaged in a conversation with their teachers. They identified a problem and a solution and were then tasked to build a gate to support a mini pumpkin in small groups. Another example is the Samantha Snail project where students were asked to adopt a perspective of a woodland animal. They then experimented with various learning tools like merge cubes, Quiver Vision and Cubetto in station based learning.

    Where To From Here?

    If you have ever been in a room full of preschoolers, it’s obvious that you’ll need some tricks up your sleeve to hold their attention and for retention of the content you are teaching. Your overall goal is to teach the pre-k standards, life skills, soft skills, capitalize on teachable moments and integrate technology. Easier said than done right? You know the old cliche, better together? There’s a reason why it is a cliche. The pre-k CS standards alignment team has taken the Illinois Early Learning & CS Standards and crosswalked them. Within these crosswalks we’ve also included sample activities or examples that you can embed into the work you are already doing. This will allow you to provide lessons rich with computer science knowledge that are tied to the learning target and overall pre-k goals you have for your students. These alignment maps are broken down into subject areas as well so you can see exactly what skills complement each other and what strategies for implementation work best. Best of all? These alignment maps were created by a group of teachers in the trenches just like you! But wait, it gets better! Also included on this team are ISBE professionals ensuring that the connections of content are strong enough to support the pre-existing learning targets. These alignments maps are your starting point for creating well rounded lessons that integrate much more than just computer science.

    Call To Action: Take A Look For Yourself

    The team broke into groups and made a total of eight alignment maps based on subject or content area. We then compared the Early Learning Standards for that specific subject with the Computer Science Standards and aligned them accordingly. Here is an example of the resources we’ve been diligently creating for you over the past nine months.

    Sample Pre-K ELL & CS Alignment Map

    Pending ISBE approval, each content area will have a unique alignment map like the one you see above. It will include the pre-k learning standard, CS standard and sample activities and lessons. If you are still feeling overwhelmed, never fear, IDEA has got you covered! Sign up for one of the amazing professional learning opportunities below:

    IDEA and the Pre-K CS Avengers are happy to support your classroom learning in any way possible. If you have questions or ideas, don’t hesitate to reach out!

    After all, when it comes to CS, it is inevitable.

    If you are looking for other grade level resources, don’t hesitate to contact us for support, learning opportunities, and resources. We have you covered!

    **The following blog was posted in June 2021 - public comment is now closed.


    The new Illinois Learning Standards for Computer Science are open for public comment. View them here (Pages 46 - 64), and send your feedback to rules@isbe.net before July 5. 

    Here at Illinois Digital Education Alliance (IDEA), we are proud to be working with a group of dedicated educators, professionals, and ISBE on the development of the Illinois Learning Standards for Computer Science

    Now, it is your turn to share your thoughts. But before you do, we wanted to provide you with some extra background. 

    First off, with the passage of House Bill 2170, school districts will be required to ensure that students receive developmentally appropriate opportunities to gain computer literacy skills beginning in elementary school. 

    The bill reads as follows:

    (105 ILCS 5/2-3.185 new)

    Sec. 2-3.185. Computer science standards and courses. On on before December 1, 2021, the State Board of Education shall:

    (1) develop or adopt rigorous learning standards in the area of computer science; and

    (2) analyze and revise, if appropriate, existing course titles dedicated to computer science or develop a short list of existing course titles that are recommended for computer science courses.

    Since fall of 2020, IDEA has been a participant in the working group for the development of the Illinois State Goals of Learning for Computer Science (CS) Standards. These standards are a modified version of the K-12 Computer Science Framework

    We are SO excited about the development of these critical standards and the impact it will have on Illinois students. The great news is that Illinois is no stranger to making big strides in computer science and STEM. 

    In 2017, the state of Illinois was the second largest producer of computer science graduates in the nation, awarding nearly 10 percent of the country’s computer science degrees. 

    “In 2016, Illinois institutions produced more than 40,000 STEM degrees, and about 50 percent of the degrees were earned by international and immigrant students.” (Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, 2017). 

    In addition, Illinois has added STEM jobs at a rate that is outpacing the national average with overall computer-related jobs having increased 5 percent annually. These rates are just going to continue to grow and with the adoption of the Illinois Computer Science Standards, we will have an opportunity to give our students the skills they need to be successful in these STEM jobs. 

    With all this in mind, we invite you to review the Computer Science Standards currently posted for public comment. You can find them here on page 46 - 64). 

    To provide your feedback, please email ISBE at rules@isbe.net by July 5. Instructions for public comment can be found here

    Your input is invaluable. We highly encourage you to take the time to share your thoughts and help continue to improve Illinois’ computer science standards.

    IDEA is already 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 soon!

    We look forward to supporting YOU!

  • June 21, 2021 11:14 AM | Ashley (Administrator)

    It’s time to rekindle your spark at #IDEAU 2021!

    Now is not the time to sugar coat things. If we are all being honest, the 2020-2021 school year brought with it a whole new set of stressors to the classroom. So, if you are like us and other fellow educators, you are glad it is in the past … 

    (via GIPHY)

    ^^ Us waving goodbye to the 20-21 school year.

    The good news is that no matter how tough it gets, YOU are tougher. 

    Next year will have its very own set of challenges, and we want to help you get ready! 

    We know you are probably thinking, “I don’t want to think about going back to school yet! It is time for some R&R at the pool.” 

    We totally agree! That is why we are providing a fun and convenient way to rekindle your spark for teaching.

    Idea U Summer Institute was such a success last year, we are bringing it back this August!

    This week-long, 100% virtual conference will be held August 9 – 13 and is a great place to learn and get inspired for Fall 2021.

    Each day will showcase a LIVE keynote speaker to kick things off for the day. After that, all break-out sessions will be available to watch on demand

    Psst… That means you can soak in the information while you soak up the sun on your back deck or by the pool!

    Topics will include:

    • Social emotional learning
    • Building relationships
    • Culture and community
    • Computer science standards
    • Certification programs available to educators
    These topics alone are reason enough to join. But, if you still need convincing, you can earn 20+ professional development hours (PDHs) by attending Idea U

    Intrigued? Don’t wait to register!

    You can rekindle your spark and get 5 whole days worth of learning under your belt for an early-bird price of just $29! But hurry – the price will increase after July 21st.  

    Click here to register now. 

    Follow us on social media for the latest details on the event, and join in on the conversation using #IdeaU.

    See you in August! 

  • May 27, 2021 10:05 AM | Lindsay (Administrator)

    Wordsmithing By: Casey Veitch, Emily Coklan & Jenni Labrie

    Come On: Talk Data to Me

    Bring up the word “data” in a group of educators, and watch what happens. Are you seeing skeptical eyes narrowing? Disgusted pushing away from the table? Or the opposite, leaning in and focusing?

    In this way, talking about “data” can be a lot like talking about “dating”. The incredible array of experiences people have had with data ranges from “dumpster fire” to “until death do us part”. Since the GLG never resists a good metaphor, let’s even frame this by talking about a specific type of story, particularly in the romantic comedy genre, where two people meet, cannot stand each other, but somehow end up deliriously happy together by the time the credits roll.

    Data: The Love Story

    Unless taken as an elective or it is part of a masters degree deep dive, analysis of instructional data is not something any of us (aka members of The Grounded Learners Guild) were exposed to in our teacher preparation programs. It is just something we are expected to use. This may be one reason teachers respond negatively to calls for “data-driven” instruction. Educators want to do well, and analyzing data for some might bring up feelings of insecurity. 

    The Meet-Cute

    There is a lot of pressure on educators to use data. It’s like a fix-up - an education professor, administrator, or team lead tosses a “data driven” or “data informed” out there and it sounds like this incredible, easy way to discover the secrets to improving instruction/student learning.
    But for a lot of us, our first real experience with it plays out like this: 

    From Bridget Jones Diary, 2001

    GIF by: https://i.gifer.com/BbhE.gif

    Data, especially for educators just starting out, can be not-so-impressive. It may start as numbers in a gradebook, or on a score on an assignment. Teachers need support and small wins in how to use that data to make instructional gains for students. For example, the quick sort and my favorite no are instructional strategies that leverage classroom data for determining teaching next steps. Providing a quick win that infuses data into daily practice is a great first date for the data novice. 

    Mistakes, Missteps, & Misunderstandings

    Those who have those visceral reactions to hearing the word data in educational circles probably have at least one sordid love affair from their past. Perhaps the school improvement plan for the past four years has shined a giant spotlight on the same underperforming grade level. Or the school board is raising alarm bells because the data they are being presented with lacks context or captures only one small piece of the narrative.  Or maybe even someone got hurt: someone lost their job or was remediated for not meeting expectations for student performance.

    When those mistakes, missteps, and misunderstandings happen, save yourself from the runaround that usually comes from those conflicts. Show the raw data and work with a group to unpack the meaning and come to conclusions together. If a misconception has already occurred, name “the thing” and clarify specific steps stakeholders WILL make to set it right. 

    There is always a second chance

    As with any rom-com where hating turns into dating, there’s always that moment where a major shift occurs in how someone is viewed. A lot of times it involves the previously misunderstood object-of-loathing stepping in to help or do something awesome and suddenly “BOOM” everything is different.  So how can educators get a “BOOM” moment with data?

    From 10 Things I Hate About You, 1999

    GIF by: https://thumbs.gfycat.com/OrganicLameAlleycat-size_restricted.gif

    Because of the instructional time we have lost, educators returning back to school in the fall will need regular and frequent time to create quality formative assessments as well as opportunities to review those results in teams to form their instructional decisions moving forward. They need data collection and analysis tools to streamline collection as well. Tools embedded within an LMS can help, but even conditionally formatted spreadsheet templates can help as well. 

    Outside of the classroom, when we are talking about a larger system’s data, use data to praise what’s working as much as you use it to identify what isn’t. It can even strengthen praise by making it specific and targeted.  “Your reading scores are up 18% - I know how much work must have gone into this” can be so much more meaningful than a “thank you for all your hard work!”  If leaders’ critiques and improvement plans are always informed by data, why not then apply this same methodology to compliments and expressions of gratitude?

    A Call To Action

    In your system, what stories are you creating when you ask your teachers, students, and leaders to use data?  How are you intentionally rewriting the narrative to transform your data “from the boyfriend who lives out of state”, to the “soulmate” that a strong, learner-centered educational community needs. 

    Data can be utilized to tell other stories as well in addition to a romance. To hear more authentic conversation about whether your data story is akin to a greek tragedy or an epic, hero’s journey, check our The Grounded Learners podcast episode called Data: A Twisted Love Story, on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or visit www.thegroundedlearnersguild.com

  • April 19, 2021 2:44 PM | Lindsay (Administrator)

    As a lifelong learner, we have to be open to learning new things every day. If you subscribe to this way of thinking, you might also agree that learning takes place everywhere. Let’s take a look at some incredible resources, tools and strategies I learned from a very unlikely place: Tik Tok. As they say: if you can't beat em, join em!

    By: Lindsay Zilly

    Director of Professional Learning for IDEA

    Adjunct Professor USF


    Teacher Tech Tok: 
    Seeking out Opportunities for Micro PD

    I am from the generation of My Space and Live Journal. If you know, you know. If those terms seem foreign to you, never fear. One day you too will identify as the Gram Generation and feel your age as heavy as I do now. 

    The point is, my social media experience came through a dial up connection, screeching computer screen and, if the stars aligned, a male computer voice, greeting me with “You’ve Got Mail”. Things have changed significantly since my AIM days but no matter what, the premise behind social media has always stayed true to form: we login toconnect with others. So I evolved with social media; from Facebook to Twitter. Snap Chat to Instagram, to where I am today: Tik Tok.

    Allow me the opportunity to attempt to get you to reconsider any preconceived negative notions associated with Tik Tok.

    I believe there are several different Tik Tok identities: 

    1. The head shakers. Nope, nope, so much nope.

    2. The fencers. Those who are not yet sold on even the idea of Tik Tok and are afraid to download the app itself.

    3. The lurkers (present!) Lurking through content to escape the day or find a quick laugh.

    4. The toe dippers. You are ready to get started using it and get a rush from posting that first video.

    5. All in. Making the Tiks. Dancing to the Toks and speaking the language.

    No matter where you fall in your Tik Tok identity, I believe there is something to be gained from this app. Consider this: If you were to have your own Tik Tok series what would it be called? 

    • Or perhaps, think of it this way instead: What is your personal impact statement?

    As an educational content creator, I think it is important to leverage universal learning standards in the work I do and the experiences I create. Therefore, I regularly use the ISTE standards as a baseline for the instructional practices I share. The standards that fit my work with Tik Tok are no exception and are as follows:

    • Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning.

    • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

    Or simply put,


    A Story

    My relationship with Tik Tok has been slow and hesitant. But I’ll share a story with you that got me hooked and keeps me coming back time and time again.

    Jimmy Choi is a popular Tik Tokker because of his posts about some incredible feats of athleticism. The catch is, Jimmy has Parkinson’s Disease. Most of his posts are about his incredible talents despite his illness, but one day he posted about his frustration with opening the bottle that held his medication. The very thing that was meant to help him, was an incredible source of aggravation and even pain. So, he did what most people do and took to his preferred social media platform, Tik Tok, to vent about. His video was seen by a videographer named Brian Aldredge. Brian saw a problem, one he has never experienced before, but was inspired by and formed an idea. He had the creativity to create a solution for Jimmy’s problem, by designing a 3D prototype of a new version of pill bottle for this with low muscle tone. But, he didn’t have the means to physically solve the problem by making the bottle himself. So Brian posted a Tik Tok recapping Jimmy’s story and the 3D design mockups he had created expecting a few people would see it. He woke up to his viral video being shared more than any other video he had ever made and to people who did have the means to solve the problem, printing his designs or iterating on them themselves and enhancing them. Eventually word got to an Engineer by the name of David Exler who connected with the project and is now able to mass print these bottles to whomever needs one. All he asks is that you donate $5 to the Michael J Fox foundation. 

    This is my why for Tik Tok and social media in general. Because when leveraged the right way, we can bring into focus problems that we normally wouldn’t encounter, connect them with creatives to solve said problems and finally find a way to bring about change. Tik Tok isn’t going away. It’s just going to evolve into the next thing. We can’t hide from it or ban it or pretend like we don’t belong on it. We must embrace it and all the good that can come out of it.

    The Micro PD We Never Knew We Needed

    So, how can we teachers benefit from Tik Tok? Sometimes being a teacher feels like you are all alone in your silo.

    Sure, the typical teaching experience is one where you are surrounded by other classrooms and maybe you even visit the teachers lounge from time to time. But once you close your classroom door, or log onto your individual Zoom session and it’s just you and your kids, that time can feel very isolating. It’s important for teachers to remember that we aren’t alone. The work we are doing is monumentally important and that there are so many other educators experiencing the same things we are at this very moment. 

    Using Tik Tok to seek out other educators that help you see you are not alone is necessary. These people, brave enough to throw open their classroom doors and share the good, the bad and the ugly are our life preservers. A few of these lifeguards that create some incredible content on Tik Tok and who you should follow today are listed here: bit.ly/TikTokDoc21 Feel free to add some of your favorite follows as well!

    Tik Tok in the Classroom? How Dare I?!

    Bringing Tik Tok into our classrooms is a big deal and because of this it requires careful consideration and planning. But the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. You may ask, how can we get used to the idea of using Tik Tok, or anything that is trending for that matter to capitalize on teachable moments? First, we have to see this as a means of connecting with our learners. I’m sure you have countless “getting to know you” activities or ways you develop relationships with your students. Leveraging Tik Tok is just one more way to do this, but I would argue, it is on a whole other level than your average ice breaker. 

    There are trends associated with everything. Fashion, social media, education. Most of these trends are cyclical and pop back up again years after their original popularity. Take Kagan Strategies for example. Isn’t that  just the method formerly known as cooperative learning strategies? Everything seems to come back around again and social media is no different. But, for us to be able to use this to our advantage, we must firstconsider the reasons why Tik Tok is so successful. This brings me to what I like to call, the Tik Tok Method.

    The Tik Tok Method

    • High Interest Topics

    • Engaging Presenters

    • Short, consumable VIDEO content

    • Few words/Word Choice

    • Entertaining

    Believe it or not, this method was adapted from an article I read about how to go viral on Tik Tok. You see, micro PD is everywhere; it just all depends on the lens you choose to look at it through. We are surrounded by teachable moments and life is so much better when we embrace them. But, I’m sure you are wondering how to embrace or at least employ the Tik Tok Method when it comes to teaching your students. I have a few thoughts to help get you started.

    Theory: Tik Tok is essentially flipped learning

    Enhanced Communication

    There are 5 things that Tik Tok promotes that we as educators could afford to take notes on. See if you agree with me.

    The content creators on any social media platform are generally using video content or high resolution graphic art to capture the attention of an audience not present at the time of the recording. The goal is, once they create this content and share it out, it will gain them a multitude of views and in turn new followers. So, why not use this strategy to our advantage in the classroom? This is essentially instructing students on how to do something or sharing information with them on a new topic when we are not providing them direct instruction. Maybe a year ago we would have shied away from the idea of making videos for our students, but we are living in a whole new world since Pandy took over. Let’s look at applying some Tik Tok strategies to the video content we are creating for students. 

    The Tik Tok 5 Essentials

    1. Kick off with a bang: Set the tone and topic of the video within the first few seconds so that people understand what they’re watching.

    2. Short and sweet: Most screencasting tools have a time limit. You only get X minutes with the free version and while that may seem unfair, generally speaking that’s usually more than enough time. Consider this: would you rather be assigned a 5o minute long video to watch at a staff meeting or 5 10 minute videos? The shorter the video, the easier it is to pay attention too and the more you retain. Instead of recording yourself for 50 minutes, which can be nerve racking and very time consuming, record yourself in smaller chunks. It’s easier on you should you make a mistake or get interrupted, it’s easier for the consumer to watch and it’s differentiation. You can pinpoint where your students went wrong in a video series and have them go back to the exact location of their error. You can have higher achieving students skip certain videos. And it’s a resource for studying when it’s time for the summative assessment. You can’t beat, short and sweet!

    3. Tell a story: The story can be anything. It can be something interesting that happened in your life, something random that happened during your day, a project you did, anything that connects to your content.  Students are more likely to remember the content you share with them if you tell a story because they connect that content to the personal piece of information you shared. 

    4. Call to action: It’s great to have a call to action in your caption and/or at the end of your video such as “like for part 2”, “follow for more”, or “don’t let this flop”. But that doesn’t exactly make sense for teachers. Instead, ask a question not specific to the content. Then, do something with their answers! For example, ask your students to find out what their parents favorite song was when they were their age then make a playlist of all the classic oldies and start tomorrow’s class with it. Or have kids identify an item that was in the background of one of your videos. Get creative! This really helps turn Incomplete assignments to complete, submitted assignments.

    5. Leave some questions unanswered: Make it so some of the aspects of the video need to be rewatched. If you’re posting a video and you can think of an obvious question people will have – DO NOT EXPLAIN IT. This is your accountability piece. It also promotes peer to peer feedback in the form of comments. Instead of thinking they can only go to you for answers, if you encourage them to comment on your videos, they will have an entire class to work through solutions with.

    How do educators AND students benefit?

    The Literal and the Theoretical Applications

    As lifelong learners it’s our responsibility to continue our own education so that we are not teaching students our past but their future. In my opinion, there are two paths to take when considering implementing the Tik Tok Method into your practice. You can take a literal approach or a theoretical approach. No matter the approach you take, the goal is the same: apply the changes for the benefit of both the students AND the teacher.

    Literal Approach

    Take the literal idea of Tik Tok, the structure, the look and the feel of it and apply it to an educational standard. Matt Miller has created a wonderful template based on this idea. If I were to ouse this approach, I would have students focus on a given standard and create a 90 second video summary explaining the content. When creating their “post” students can reflect on an appropriate caption, attention getting title, relevant background music and then package it all up using Matt’s template to share out in a safe and controlled platform like Google Slides. 

    Theoretical Approach

    The 4 C’s

    I am a frequent flyer when it comes to the 4 C’s: creativity, communication, critical thinking and collaboration. I think they are relevant regardless of the content you teach or the level students you have. Therefore, I use these four pillars as a base for many lessons I create. Sometimes I focus on one, other times I strive to leverage multiple skills. Here’s a breakdown that I would use when considering the Tik Tok Method.

    • Creativity: How can we hand the reigns over to students so that they have freedom to create on their own while being mindful of the learning targets?

    • Communication: What alternatives to traditional assessment strategies can you allow students to engage in to show what they know? Think about what technologies you could use to get students talking to each other and in turn listening!

    • Critical Thinking: If you pull apart the components of trending Tik Tok videos, what about them could students use to solve problems? Dancing? Recipes? Compare and contrast?

    • Collaboration: Are your students connecting with one another and even more importantly to the content? How are you developing teamwork and collaboration outside of the classroom walls?

    The End Beginning

    As lifelong learners it’s our responsibility to continue our own education so that we are not teaching students our past but their future. Applying these ideas to both the students AND the teacher demonstrates this to students. If all goes well, an amazing thing can be achieved: FAME! Just kidding! (Unless you count schoolwide fame, that is.) The amazing thing that happens is that it strengthens student and teacher relationships. Students are seeing their teachers taking risks, being vulnerable and exploring new avenues of learning. This provides a safe place for them to do the same. Teachers are connecting with their learners in a way that can’t be unpacked in a learning target or shared through Google Classroom. Relationships matter. The best way to get your students on board with what they are learning is to meet them where they are at. Pretty soon, they will start taking ownership over their learning because they truly see the value in what you are teaching them. Can you imagine a time where students no longer ask, “why do we need to learn this?” As my friend JP will tell you,


    So, what skills or learning targets can you teach using the Tik Tok Method? How about:

    • Poetry
    • Point of view
    • Summarizing
    • Narrative writing
    • Steps of an equation
    • Dialogue
    Vibe Check

    I’ll finish by asking you once more, what is your personal impact statement? How can trends help you accomplish your goals and learning targets this year? I hope I have helped you shift your mindset on Tik Tok or at the very least, I’ve put you onto something. 

      Some other trends have I played around with include:

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