December 2019

IDEA Newsletter

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As a computer science teacher, this was truly the most wonderful time of the year for me. I would decorate my classroom over Thanksgiving break so that my students would come back to a winter wonderland. As they entered the computer lab, Andy Williams would belt out “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” on the speaker. There was a genuine excitement in the air because the kids knew that this meant that we would be coding for the rest of the month. To me, there was no “Hour” of Code… it was a whole month.

I caught the Hour of Code bug during its first year and on the very first day I knew that I had found a winner. My students were completely engaged, the classroom was silent for the entire 45 minutes, and every student left that class period exhausted because they had worked so hard. You see, it’s not that we expect every student to work for Google one day, but every student should benefit from practicing the problem-solving skills that computer science encourages. Moreover, computer science helps nurture creativity and problem-solving skills to prepare students for any future career.

If you have never coded yourself, please give it a try. Just go to and try out any of the hundreds of activities available for FREE. That’s right… for FREE! If you are not crazy about one, don’t despair; try another. At first, the coding activities may look like you are playing a video game. The learning has been disguised as a game, but trust me, the problem-solving skills that it takes to make it through the game are many. As you (and your students) progress, you will find limitless opportunities to not only hone those problem-solving skills, but also stretch your creativity. Computer science truly allows you to use both sides of your brain.

And, as I already said, the skills learned will prepare your students for any future career. As such, you can find ways to incorporate these same problem solving activities into any curriculum. You definitely do not have to be a computer teacher to try the Hour of Code in your classroom. You don’t even need a device to participate! I always introduced the idea of coding by asking my students to give me directions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As your students yell out the instructions, do exactly what they say - even if they skip a step. Then explain how a computer does the same thing… it can only do what you tell it to do. This is just a simple activity that you can use to explain the concept of computer science without a computer. You can find other activities like this on the Hour of Code website tagged “unplugged”.

If the Hour of Code activities page looks daunting, we’ve even narrowed down a few tried and true options to try in your classroom. As you can see in the image below, created by IDEA member @iTeacher5th, we’ve even indicated the experience level in an effort to make things easier for you. Simply click on the image to access this Thinglink. The links in the Thinglink will take you directly to the resources shown.

We hope that you join the millions of students and teachers in over 180 countries starting with an Hour of Code. The Hour of Code takes place every year during Computer Science Education Week, the first week in December. This year, the Hour of Code will happen December 9-15, 2019. Organize an Hour of Code event during December 9-15, and register it. Then check out this resource on “How to teach one Hour of Code with your class”.

Join IDEA and’s Jared Fritz for tonight’s #ILedChat

Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. But how do we get every educator to feel ready to even start? Let’s ask the questions we’ve been too afraid to ask. Join IDEA alongside Jared Fritz (@jaredfritz) from for this month’s #ILedChat on the Hour of Code. Let’s work through some of those hurdles together and find ways to integrate coding and computer science into our daily routines. Leave this chat with a few new resources, some amazing educators to get connected with and an idea of where to start!

Upcoming Events

Be sure to check out our full list of Upcoming Events at

#ILedChat | Hour of Code

December 2, 2019

IDEA & Class Intercom Webinar | Simple Design for your School’s Social Media

December 4, 2019

IDEA South Suburbs Chapter | Bots & Bevs

December 4, 2019

IDEA & MicrosoftEDU | Complete Classroom Collaboration with Microsoft Teams

December 5, 2019

IDEA Chicago | Sphero + Hour of Code Playtime

December 5, 2019

IDEA Two Rivers Chapter | Getting Started with CS First

December 5, 2019

IDEA Northern Suburbs | Problem Solving and Creativity in the Classroom: STEAM for All

December 5, 2019

IDEA & EVERFI Webinar | Sharpen STEM Skills and Increase Student Interest in STEM Careers

December 11, 2019

3D Printing in STEM Education

December 13, 2019

IDEA & Class Intercom Webinar | 5 Steps To Building A Student Social Media Team At Your School

January 8, 2020

ISTE Certification for Educators - Chicago, IL

January 9, 2020


Nomination Deadline Extended to Dec. 20th

Nominations are open for IDEA's Educator of the Year and ISTE's Making IT Happen Awards. Both awards will be presented at our annual conference, IDEAcon, February 24-27, 2020. Nominate a deserving educator today.

IDEA Educator of the Year

The IDEA Educator of the Year program honors current IDEA members who have made outstanding contributions integrating technology in education. The award is specifically designed to recognize IDEA educators at all experience levels—from the beginner to the advanced user. There are two categories:

  • IDEA Educator of the Year Award - K-12 Classroom teachers
  • IDEA Outstanding Technology Using Educator Award - Media Specialists, technology coordinators and coaches, school administrators, and college and university faculty

Please nominate a colleague who is deserving of this award. Nominee must be a member of IDEA in good standing. The nomination window, including submission of your narrative and any supporting materials must be received no later than 5:30 PM on Friday, December 20th.

ISTE Making IT Happen

IDEA members are eligible to receive the prestigious Making IT Happen awards which ISTE announces each year. Deserving members are nominated and approved by the members of the IDEA Executive Board, and the names are then submitted to ISTE for consideration.

ISTE describes the award as follows:

Making IT Happen is an internationally recognized awards program for educators and leaders in the field of educational technology integration in K–12 schools. The program identifies and rewards educational technology leaders around the world for their commitment and innovation.

Please nominate a colleague who is deserving of this award. Nominee must be a member of IDEA in good standing. Nominees will NOT submit information about themselves. The nomination window, including submission of your narrative and any supporting materials must be received no later than 5:30 PM on Friday, December 20th.

Help IDEA continue supporting the integration of technology in education by shopping at AmazonSmile.

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Thank you to our 2019 IDEA Business Partners for their continued support.

Illinois Digital Educators Alliance

2705 McDonough St, Joliet, Illinois 60436