2020 Words That Will Never Be The Same

2020 has brought a lot of unexpected changes, from the way we learn to the way we speak. Words like “meet,” “synchronous,” and even “zoom” have taken on new meanings this year, making it hard to remember a time before we used sentences like “We are meeting for a synchronous class over Zoom” on a regular basis.

To help you look back on this “unprecedented” year, our team has rounded up some of the words used most by remote learners and educators alike.

Click through the slide deck below to see what words have become commonplace in the education community during 2020:

This collection was created by the LTC’s Colleen Kaplan and Holly Kelly.

Colleen Kaplan (@cmostyn) is the Remote Learning Outreach Specialist at the Learning Technology Center. She can be reached at ckaplan@ltcillinois.org.

Holly Kelly is a Regional Educational Technology Coordinator with the Learning Technology Center. She can be reached at hkelly@ltcillinois.org.

Episode 7: Talking Toddlers with Susie Allison

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan sits down with Susie Allison, creator of the popular Busy Toddler Instagram account, to talk about all things toddlers and preschool.  Susie, an early childhood education expert and advocate, focuses on bringing hands-on, play-based learning back to families and classrooms using simple activities, many with objects you can find around your home.

During the episode, Colleen and Susie cover many important topics for parents of toddlers and preschoolers, including:

  • What is “Kindergarten Readiness”?  Is it something parents should be concerned about?
  • How can an activity like sensory bins teach my child the skills they need to enter school?
  • What can I do to encourage my child to play independently?

Episode Resources

Throughout the episode, Susie and Colleen share numerous resources, blog posts, and activities you can tackle with your family. For a quick infographic (with audio timestamps) of these topics, click here.

Interested in learning more about Susie’s approach to education and parenting?  Check out her new book Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting : From Their First No to Their First Day of School – and Everything in Between available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop.org, and BookDepository.com.

More information about Susie, her work, and her books can also be found on her website.

12 Days of Resources for Parents and Caregivers

As the holiday season approaches, many families are looking forward to the completion of a semester of remote and hybrid learning. 2021 will be here before you know it, though, and for many families, that means returning to a remote classroom environment.

A new year means new opportunities, so the LTC SPARK program wants to help you and your children start the next semester off on the right foot. That’s why, for the next 12 days, we’ll be highlighting some of our most popular resources for supporting remote and hybrid learning. Consider it a gift from us to you, the hard-working parents and caregivers who continue to make distance learning possible.


Day 12 – Winter Break Activities

Our final day of resources is all about getting you through your winter break!  Your days will fly by with these great activities from around the web:


Day 11 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 7: Talking Toddlers with Susie Allison of “Busy Toddler

Feeling stuck with what to do with your toddlers?  Wondering if keeping your child home from preschool this year was the right choice?  Trying to stay afloat while both working from home full time and parenting full time?  You are not alone!

In episode 7 of the SPARK Parent Podcast, host Colleen Kaplan talks with education advocate Susie Allison (@busytoddler on Instagram) about all things toddlers, preschoolers, and working from home.  The episode’s companion resources are packed full of great ideas to get your little ones learning and playing while giving you a few minutes to yourself.


Listen to the episode here and check out the resource list here.


Day 10 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 6: Exploring Sharenthood with Leah Plunkett

An interesting phenomenon is happening online.  As more and more millennials are becoming parents, they are sharing pictures and videos of their children on social media almost as often as they are sharing pictures of their lunch.  What does this mean for these children, though?  How might that child’s future job and education prospects be impacted by their parents’ premature creation of a digital footprint?

In episode 6 of the SPARK Parent Podcast, host Colleen Kaplan and law professor Leah Plunkett dig into all of these questions at the intersection of parenting and social media.  Leah, the author of Sharenthood:  Why we should think before we talk about our kids online, discusses the fine line parents have to walk in terms of sharing on social media and protecting their children’s privacy, as well as what parents can do to be proactive guardians of their children’s digital data.


To listen to the episode, click here.

Throughout the episode, Leah and Colleen mention many different resources for further reading and learning.  An infographic of these resources (with audio timestamps) can be found here.


Day 9 – Parent Video Library

Interested in watching a parent-specific webinar, but don’t have time in your busy work and home life schedule?  The SPARK Parent Video Library was built with you in mind.  This video library, which grows larger and larger each week, houses all of our parent webinar recordings, covering a wide range of topics. 

Interested in learning more about parenting or teaching students in the current generation?  Check out “Growing Up in a Digital Age: Understanding Gen Z Students”! 

Want to learn more about social-emotional learning?  Watch our two recordings with SEL coach Abby Lyons, titled “Social Emotional Learning: What Is It and Why Is It Important?” and “The Impact of COVID-19: Patterns of Stress and Brain.”

Still feeling lost navigating your student’s learning management system (LMS)?  Check out our “Get to Know Your LMS” series where we walk parents through everything that they need to know about Google Classroom, SeeSaw, Microsoft Teams, and Canvas!


Click here to visit the SPARK Parent Video Library.


Day 8 – Interactive Schedule Maker

Still feeling bogged down and scattered when it comes to remote or hybrid learning?  Are you forgetting Zoom calls or dropping the ball when it comes to synchronous or asynchronous learning days?  Many folks know that making a schedule could help immensely on this front. But even so, adding that to your weekly to-do list can feel daunting.

The SPARK Interactive Schedule Maker is here to help!  This schedule maker gives you all the tools you need to easily drag and drop items and create a schedule customized to your student’s specific needs.  The schedule maker can be used over and over again for multiple children or multiple daily schedules. Each schedule can be printed out as well, allowing for visible posting in an at-home learning environment.


Try out the Interactive Schedule Maker here (both word and picture-only schedules available).


Day 7 – Email Etiquette Infographic

While remote or hybrid learning may not be ideal, it is providing one unique opportunity for our students – the chance to advocate for themselves when it comes to their education. Some students, of course, have hit a stumbling block here, especially when it comes to communicating with their teachers via email.

The SPARK Email Etiquette infographic can help with that by providing students simple and clear instructions on how to craft an email message. This chart includes helpful reminders, including pointers on the use of a greeting and the utilization of a short, informative subject line.  While these elements may feel like common sense to parents and teachers, many students are never explicitly been taught how to craft these types of communications. 

Whether you print this infographic to hang in your school or home-based classroom or just post it on your class webpage, we hope your students are able to take its keys to heart as the need to digitally communicate with their teachers continues.


Find the infographic here, sized for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Day 6 – District Check-in Forms

SPARK resources aren’t just for parents. We also create resources for schools and districts to implement and better support their families.  The SPARK District Check-In form can make that happen for schools and districts across Illinois.

Available in both English and Spanish, these forms are designed to support schools and districts as they collect data on how the pandemic and remote/hybrid learning is impacting the families that they serve. 

Two forms are available, with two different end goals.  The first is a shorter form designed for administration on a weekly/biweekly basis.  This form focuses on family well-being and acts as a regular check-in, in hopes of preventing any students from falling through the cracks. 

The second form is longer and more in-depth, with an intended quarterly/semesterly administration.  This longer form aims to give school and district more overarching information about how their families are viewing the school year and learning in general.  This can be helpful in tracking trends in parent and caregiver sentiments on important topics, ideally giving the administration the information that they need to make informed decisions.  

Google Forms: Check out the forms here in English or in Spanish.

Microsoft Forms: Check out this multilingual form available in Arabic, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), French, Polish, Spanish, and Urdu.


Day 5 – Parenting in a Pandemic Self-Paced Online Course

After listening to Abby Lyons’ podcast episodes on social-emotional learning yesterday, are you fired up and ready to dig in for some more?  We have you covered with the “Parenting in a Pandemic” self-paced course!

This course, with all content designed by Abby herself, focuses on equipping parents with the skills needed to be their children’s best mental health advocate. In this course, you’ll learn how to develop learning spaces at home, support student engagement and self-regulation, and manage both parent and student social and emotional well-being.  Once you finish the course, parents will even receive a certificate of completion.


To enroll in this course, click here. Then, scroll down to find “Parenting in a Pandemic” and click “enroll now”.


Day 4 – Webinars and Podcasts with Abby Lyons

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of teaching social-emotional learning and well-being skills to our children – not to mention how important it is to learn those skills ourselves, as parents and caretakers.  With this in mind, the SPARK program created a webinar series on these much-needed topics, featuring social emotional learning educator and coach Abby Lyons.

Whether you watch the videos or download the podcast, Abby clearly and passionately lays out how parents, caregivers, and educators can work to make social-emotional learning a part of their daily routines.  Whether you are doing school in the classroom or in your living room, Abby has tips to help you make your learning environment a calmer, more focused part of your child’s daily schedule.

Watch the videos (part one and part two) or listen to the podcasts (part one and part two).


Day 3 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 3: “The Basics of Remote and Hybrid Learning”

Are you still struggling with your family’s remote learning routine?  Did your school recently make a switch to remote/hybrid learning and you’re finding it hard to settle into a groove?  SPARK has you covered with episode 3 of the SPARK Parent Podcast, which focuses on the basics your family needs to know as you begin (or continue) remote learning this winter.

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan, along with guest Jillian Pettenuzzo, a guidance counselor at St. Francis High School, focus on how parents and caregivers can “control the controllables” for their families during remote and hybrid learning.  The episode gives many practical and realistic strategies and resources, all of which can be quickly referenced in the episode’s companion resources (list or infographic).


Day 2 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 4: “The Importance of Reading During Remote Learning”

Are you already starting to worry about what your family’s winter break will look like?  Two weeks of no school and nowhere to go has some parents shaking in their snow boots. 

To help pass the time, consider starting a reading challenge with your family!  Who can read the most books or most words?  How many different kinds of books can you read?  Can you read a book about a different culture every day?  For more ideas and resources to help your family dig in and get reading this winter, check out episode 4 of the SPARK Parent Podcast.

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan, along with special guest Holly Kelly, highlights the importance of reading with your children, as well as the best ways to talk to your children about what they are reading. Holly also spotlights several free, high-quality reading resources for use at home while providing a few pointers for choosing the right books for your children.

Check out the episode’s companion resource as well, either in list or infographic form.


Day 1 – SPARK Parent Resource Hub

The mother of all resources is waiting for you!

The SPARK Parent Resource Hub is here to answer many of your parent- and caregiver-related questions, including those involving tech your student uses to learn remotely.  Through this interactive interface, you’ll be able to efficiently search SPARK’s catalogue of videos and how-to guides on topics from Google to Zoom. To start, simply choose the platform you’re using from the left-hand menu and then tap the orange boxes in the hub’s main interface that match your inquiry.

The SPARK Parent Resource Hub has been designed with schools and districts in mind, as well. As such, teachers, administrators, and technology leaders can embed this hub into their website and direct families there when they have questions about facilitating their student’s at-home learning environment. Multilingual households can even make the most of this hub, with some materials now available in Spanish.

To try out the SPARK Parent Resource Hub, click here. If you’re interested in embedding the SPARK Parent Resource Hub on your website, you can find the code for the hub here.

Episode 6: Exploring “Sharenthood” with Leah Plunket

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan sits down to discuss the intersection of parenting and social media with Leah Plunkett, law professor and author of Sharenthood: Why we should think before we talk about our kids online. Leah, a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and associate professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, breaks down the thin line parents have to walk when it comes to their use of social media and protecting their children’s data privacy. Questions tackled in this episode include:

  • What data are we giving up when we accept the terms of service on free social media apps?
  • How can we be vigilant about the data being collected about ourselves and our children?
  • Can the data, pictures, and anecdotes we post on social media now affect our children’s lives down the line?

Episode Resources

Throughout the episode, Leah and Colleen share numerous resources for additional reading and listening. Check out the list below to dig even deeper into these important topics!

For a quick infographic (with audio timestamps) of these topics, click here.

To learn more about Leah Plunkett’s work, or to buy her book, visit www.leahplunkett.com.

Episode 5: The Principles of Well-Being during Remote and Hybrid Learning

This episode is the third in a series loosely based on The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents by Rosalind Wiseman, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie. If you’re interested in learning more about the topics in this episode, you can purchase a copy here.

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan delves into the third chapter of The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents alongside guest speaker Sara Bates, a Diagnostic and Behavior Supervisor with District #87 in northeast Illinois. Bates brings a wealth of experience as both a licensed counselor and a therapist to the table to answer these important questions:

  • What is well-being and why is it important?
  • How can I help calm and regulate my anxious child?
  • What can my family do to feel less isolated from family and friends?

Along the way, the pair highlight a variety of other well-being-related topics, including several methods for promoting mindfulness in the home – even among young children. Parents and caregivers will also walk away from this episode with a few tips for prioritizing their own well-being in the face of daily challenges.

Episode Resources

During this episode, Colleen and Sara mention a variety of resources designed to help support families during remote learning.

For a detailed list of these resources, including full descriptions, click here.

This podcast was produced by LTC SPARK, a remote learning resource program from the Learning Technology Center of Illinois. For more information about SPARK, or to view our upcoming events, please visit our website or follow us on Twitter (@ltc_SPARK).

Episode 4: The Importance of Reading During Remote Learning

This episode is the second in a series loosely based on The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents by Rosalind Wiseman, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie. If you’re interested in learning more about the topics in this episode, you can purchase a copy here.

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan digs into the second chapter of The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents. This chapter focuses on reading, and why it remains important for students to continue sharpening their reading skills while learning remotely

Along with special guest Holly Kelly, the pair highlights the importance of reading with your children, as well as the best ways to talk to your children about what they are reading. Holly also spotlights several free, high-quality reading resources for use at home while providing a few pointers for choosing the right books for your children.

Holly currently serves as a Regional Educational Technology Coordinator for the Learning Technology Center of Illinois. Holly brings her extensive education experience as a former library media specialist and English teacher to the SPARK Parent Podcast.

Episode Resources

During this episode, Colleen and Holly mention a variety of resources designed to help support families during remote learning.

For a quick infographic of these resources, click here.

For a detailed list of these resources, including full descriptions, click here.

This podcast was produced by LTC SPARK, a remote learning resource program from the Learning Technology Center of Illinois. For more information about SPARK, or to view our upcoming events, please visit our website or follow us on Twitter (@ltc_SPARK).

Episode 3: “The Basics” of Remote and Hybrid Learning

This episode is the first in a series loosely based on The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents by Rosalind Wiseman, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie. If you’re interested in learning more about the topics in this episode, you can purchase a copy here.

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan tackles the first chapter of The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents. Along the way, she endeavors to answer some of the most pressing questions for parents and caregivers today, including:

  • How can I establish successful routines for my child(ren) during remote learning?  
  • What elements of self-care are important for myself and my child(ren) to do on a daily basis?
  • Should I be listening in on my child(ren)’s Zoom calls for class?

To help answer those questions and more, Colleen also welcomes guest speaker Jillian Pettenuzzo, a guidance counselor at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, IL.  Jillian brings her extensive education experience as an English teacher, special education teacher, and counselor to the table to help parents and caregivers tackle their ongoing remote learning challenges.

Episode Resources

During this episode, Colleen and Jillian mention a variety of resources designed to help support families during remote learning.

For a quick infographic of these resources, click here.

For a detailed list of these resources, including full descriptions, click here.

This podcast was produced by LTC SPARK, a remote learning resource program from the Learning Technology Center of Illinois. For more information about SPARK, or to view our upcoming events, please visit our website or follow us on Twitter (@ltc_SPARK).

Episode 2: Social-Emotional Learning: What is it and why is it important?

This episode’s recording was taken from a live webinar. To view the full webinar recording, click here.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) refers to a person’s ability to recognize and regulate their emotions, build relationships, and make responsible decisions. Now more than ever, a student’s SEL skills are crucial for participating in this socially and technologically changing world.

Practicing SEL skills while learning remotely can be challenging, though. That’s why we’ve welcomed back Abby Lyons, a Social Emotional Learning Coach for ROE #17 in Bloomington-Normal. In this episode, Lyons guides a discussion on the keys to SEL development, while providing parents and caregivers with the knowledge needed to model SEL skills in their home’s remote learning environment.

This event was hosted by LTC SPARK as part of an ongoing parent-focused webinar series. For more information about SPARK, or to view other upcoming events, please visit our website or follow us on Twitter (@ltc_SPARK).

Episode 1: The Impact of COVID-19: Patterns of Stress and Brain

This episode’s recording was taken from a live webinar. To view the full webinar recording, click here.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be feeling a little different from day to day. Chances are, your brain and your student’s brain have been impacted by the stress of this ongoing experience. Recognizing and understanding those changes remains as important as ever, especially as you try to facilitate a prosperous at-home learning environment.

In this episode, guest speaker Abby Lyons introduces key social emotional learning concepts and skills, including:

  • The impact of stress on the brain and body
  • Methods for building resilience against stressful experiences
  • Best practices for supporting emotional well-being for yourself and your student during remote learning

Lyons is a Social Emotional Learning Coach for ROE #17, and is based in the Bloomington-Normal area of central Illinois. In her work with both kids and adults, Lyons relies on a mindful approach to teaching social emotional learning skills and information.

This event was hosted by LTC SPARK as part of an ongoing parent-focused webinar series. For more information about SPARK, or to view other upcoming events, please visit our website or follow us on Twitter (@ltc_SPARK).

Back to School on a Budget

This post is part of the LTC SPARK Initiative, providing quality parent-focused resources and support for remote learning.

Are your kids ready for remote learning, but your house is not?

Are you dreading shelling out too much money for yet another piece of furniture (let alone where it is going to fit in your house!)?

Check out these creative workspace solutions for the at-home, remote learners in your life. Most importantly, each solution comes in at under $40.00 (including optional supplies)!

*designates an optional, but suggested supply.

Option One

Source: Diana Elisa Falcon

A simple TV tray table, supply cart, and lamp can fit just about anywhere in your house! The tray table can easily fit most computers and can be folded and stored away when the school day is done. The supply cart is a great addition, especially if it is on wheels since it can travel around the house with your student (or be easily moved to a closet when cleaning the house).

Folding Tray Table (Walmart): $8.94
Supply cart (Walmart): $15.88
Lamp* (Walmart): $6.88

Supply caddy* (Dollar Tree): $1.00
Writing supplies* (Dollar Tree): $5.00

Option Two

Source: Angelina Harper

Maybe you already have a great, centralized location for at home learning, such as a dining room or kitchen table. The table is big enough to fit all your children – however you can already anticipate the bickering and distractions that may occur. If that is the case, this solution is for you!

A tri-fold board (yes, like what you use for the science fair!), trimmed down and jazzed up can make a great divider and give each of your students their own personal remote learning nook, free of sibling distractions.

Tri-fold board (Walmart): $2.77
Clip on light (Dollar Tree): $1.00
Supply holder* (Dollar Tree): $1.00

Headphone hook* (Dollar Tree): $1.00
Writing supplies* (Dollar Tree): $5.00

Option Three

This option is specifically for your littlest remote learner. A small end table, paired with a child’s chair is the Goldilocks of workspaces for students in primary grades – not too big, not too small. Just right (and it won’t break the bank)!

Table (IKEA): $9.99
Supply holder* (Dollar Tree): $1.00
Writing supplies* (Dollar Tree): $5.00

Children’s chair-plastic (IKEA): $14.99
Children’s chair-plastic (Walmart): $14.31
Children’s chair-wood (IKEA): $19.99

Build Your Own Combination

Looking for something a little different? Or maybe you just need to supplement what you already have around your house? Check out these great, low-cost solutions to help you create a dedicated learning space for your student.